to preclude other employment. He makes the naked and
unsupported contention that he had to relinquish the
opportunity to represent others, but any representation causes
one to relinquish other opportunities. Because it was readily
apparent that Ronald Strawser was not going to trial in either
case and the cases against him were not complex, it is
unlikely that Attorney Anderson would have had to turn down
Attorney Anderson's fee grossly exceeds the fee charged for
similar services in this community. When the fees for Ronald
Strawser's codefendants are examined, Attorney Anderson's
charges have an additional character of unreasonableness. Of
the defendants who went to trial, the highest fee was $12,000.
Considering all of the fees charged and the work performed by
the various attorneys, the Court can draw no conclusion except
that Attorney Anderson's fee was unreasonable.
The result obtained in this case does not warrant the
unusually high fee. Attorney Anderson set his fee before he
had obtained any results, although he may have realized that
a negotiated plea was his client's most sensible option. The
counsel's main function was to negotiate as favorably for his
client as possible. The plea agreement was a rather routine
and ordinary result in this case.
This case imposed very few, if any, time limitations. Plea
agreements were negotiated shortly after indictment, and
Attorney Anderson's requests for continuances were routinely
granted. His conferences with Ronald Strawser and the
Government attorneys could be scheduled at convenient times.
A great deal of the work in this case could have been
performed when Attorney Anderson was not required to pursue
The nature and length of Attorney Anderson's client
relationship indicate Ronald Strawser should have been charged
a lesser, not a greater, fee. There is no indication that
Attorney Anderson had been his attorney in the past, and it is
not likely that Ronald Strawser will utilize his services in
the future. Both of the cases virtually were concluded with
the plea agreements entailing an active client attorney
relationship of about four months. Essentially, this was a
brief attorney-client relationship.
This case required a lawyer of ordinary ability and
experience and Attorney Anderson, while he has had ample
opportunity to outline his credentials, has not shown that he
possesses extraordinary ability and experience. The Court,
under no circumstances, wishes to imply that Attorney Anderson
was incompetent. Rather, this was a routine case that was
handled by an attorney who rendered average services.
Anderson received $47,500 for negotiating two fairly simple
guilty pleas. It is inconceivable, and the Court does not
accept counsel's assertions to the contrary, that a competent
attorney could utilize 800 hours on this representation.
Accordingly, the Government had to pay for Michael Strawser's
representation because Anderson charged Ronald Strawser an
exhorbitant and unreasonable fee. Such a practice might
reasonably be viewed as a fraud on the Treasury of the United
States which this Court refuses to condone. In short,
receiving $47,500 for two guilty pleas and aiding the person
paying the fees in obtaining the in forma pauperis appointment
of counsel to be paid from tax funds shocks this judicial
While Attorney Anderson relies heavily on United States v.
Vague, 697 F.2d 805 (7th Cir. 1983), that case is clearly
distinguishable from the current controversy. In Vague, no one
complained about the attorney's fees. In this case Michael
Strawser, the individual who paid the fee, complained of the
excessive fee and contended that he believed the $47,500 was
paid for the representation of both he and Ronald Strawser.
Hence, an actual controversy exists in this case — a
controversy that the Vague Court perceived as being absent in
that case. In this case the United States Treasury was effected
because Michael Strawser required appointed counsel after he
paid the excessive fee charged Ronald Strawser. As a result of
Anderson's fee, the Government had to pay for Michael
Strawser's defense. The Government would not have been
required to undertake this burden if Attorney Anderson would
have charged a reasonable fee.
Additionally, excess fees charged by Attorney Anderson would
deprive the United States Treasury of monies properly
belonging to it for another reason. Michael Strawser testified
that the monies paid Attorney Anderson were the receipts of
drug sales. These excessive payments may eventually find their
way to the United States Treasury as a result of a forfeiture
proceeding. A convicted drug dealer should not be allowed to
pay an excessive, unethical fee with drug profits and thereby
deprive the Government of its rightful penalty. Such a shelter
is indistinguishable from a drug dealer being allowed to
insulate his profits from Government forfeiture by making a
gift to a friend.
Considering all the facts, including the fact that this
Court required Attorney Richard Anderson to handle the appeal
of Ronald Strawser without further payment, the Court orders
that Attorney Richard Anderson reimburse the sum of $1,582.50
to the Treasury of the United States, this being the amount
paid to court appointed counsel for Michael Strawser, and the
sum of $25,117.50 to the Treasury of the United States pending
the outcome of forfeiture proceedings. After payment of these
amounts, Attorney Anderson will be left with $20,000 as his
fee in this case which the Court considers a generous
compensation under the circumstances.