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Bushman v. State Bar of California

11 Cal. 3d 558 (1974)

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Bushman v. State Bar of California

California Supreme Court

11 Cal. 3d 558 (1974)

Facts

Barbara Cox was 16 years old when her husband, Neal Cox, filed for divorce and custody of their infant. Neal also sued Barbara’s parents, the Strouds, and Ralph Hughes in the same action. Neal accused Hughes of having a sexual relationship with Barbara and suspected that the Strouds had custody of Neal and Barbara’s child. Hughes was facing the possibility of statutory-rape charges, and Barbara was facing a possible juvenile-court action. Barbara, the Strouds, and Hughes retained attorney Ted Bushman (defendant). Barbara and the Strouds were poverty stricken. Barbara and Neal’s marriage was short, and there was no community property to divide, simplifying the divorce. Nevertheless, Bushman required a down payment of $300 with $50 monthly payments, secured by a promissory note for $5,000. Bushman explained that the hourly charge was $60 but his fee was $5,000 regardless of the time spent on the matter because Neal’s attorney, Gertrude Chern, was known to file excessive pleadings. Ultimately, there were no criminal charges or actions in juvenile court, and the parties settled all issues in Barbara’s favor. Chern charged Neal $300, and the trial court ordered Neal to pay the same amount to Bushman for his clients’ fees. Bushman did not tell the court about his clients’ down payment, monthly payments, or promissory note. Bushman supposedly spent 100 hours on the case but billed the defendants $2,800, less than half the amount the charge would have been for 100 hours of work at $60 per hour. Bushman had little more to show for his fee than two court appearances, some very simple pleadings, and some meetings. The State Bar of California (the bar) (plaintiff) found that Bushman charged and attempted to collect an unconscionable fee and recommended a one-year suspension.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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