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In re Fordham

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
668 N.E.2d 816 (1996)


Facts

Laurence Clark hired attorney Laurence Fordham (defendant) to represent his son who had been charged with driving under the influence after he failed two breath tests and registered .10 and .12. At their first meeting, Fordham informed Clark that he had never represented a client in a criminal matter but that he would agree to the representation at the rate of $200 per hour. Thereafter, Fordham worked diligently on the case for several months. He filed four pretrial motions and a motion to suppress the breath tests on the unique theory that, although the two tests were exactly .02 apart from each other, they were not “within” .02 of one another as required by Massachusetts regulations. Clark’s son was later found “not guilty” of the offense. Fordham sent Clark a bill for $50,022.25 reflecting 227 hours of billed time, 173 hours by Fordham and 74 hours by his associate attorneys. Counsel for the Massachusetts State Bar (Bar Counsel) accused Fordham with charging an excessive fee under disciplinary rule (DR) 2-106. A panel of the disciplinary board (the panel) held in favor of Fordham. Bar Counsel appealed. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court granted certiorari.

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Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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