Manhattan Civil Court Judge Frank P. Nervo recently ordered attorney Ronny Buni to repay his former clients, Gerald and Vivian Klienerman, over $21,000 of the $22,000+ in fees they paid him, plus interest. Attorney Buni had filed a civil suit to collect an additional $6,200 in outstanding fees for representing the Klienermans in litigation against their co-op board regarding apartment renovations.
In a July 11, 2013 article titled Manhattan Lawyer Who Sued For More Fees Ordered To Pay Back $21,000 To Client, the New York Daily News reports that after three months of representation and over $22,000 in paid fees, Buni refused to do any more work until the Klienermans paid an additional $6,200 in fees. When they refused to pay the additional fees, Buni refused to continue representing them. Non-binding fee arbitration followed, and the arbitrator found for the Klienermans, ordering Buni to repay them $5,000 of the fees paid. Dissatisfied with the ruling, Buni filed a civil suit against the Klienermans in Manhattan Civil Court, Judge Frank P. Nervo presiding.
Judge Nervo found for the Klienermans, ruling Buni improperly charged for: “legal research,” which the judge found was brushing up on basic law that “[Buni] should have known”; “innumerable emails” Buni sent to the Klienermans, some “berating” them for input into their case; hours of arguing with the presiding judge and his clerk over scheduling; and time talking with another lawyer for advice on the case. In the end, Judge Nervo found the total value of Mr. Buni’s services to be $750. Judge Nervo stated in his opinion:
Once (Buni) determined that he was incapable of representing defendants, rather than bill these clients for his own lack of legal knowledge, he should have moved to withdraw at that time and not continued to build up legal fees.
Kudos to Judge Nervo for not rubber stamping Mr. Buni’s bills or protecting “one of his own.” LPR applauds Judge Nervo for taking an unbiased look at the attorney’s billings and for having the courage and conviction to put those findings in writing and into the public domain.
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