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UNITED STATES v. STRAWSER

January 17, 1984

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MICHAEL G. STRAWSER AND RONALD STRAWSER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Waldo Ackerman, Chief Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On May 12, 1983, Attorney Richard Anderson was ordered by the Court to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed or why he should not be ordered to refund fees and costs paid him in this case. The facts causing the Court to issue this show cause order have been set out with great detail in the Government's brief. The Court has thoroughly reviewed these facts, and it is not necessary to repeat them here. Thus, I adopt the Government's description of the facts, with the following exception: Attorney Michael Kopec was paid $1,582.50 for his initial representation of Michael Strawser.

This case presents a difficult question involving fees of a lawyer in drug cases and what, if anything, this Court should or may do under these circumstances. To be fair to counsel, I take the salient facts, though disputed, in the light most favorable to him. Even so, those facts do not present a favorable picture of what generally is and always should be an honorable profession.

Attorney Richard Anderson was paid $45,600 in fees and $1,900 in expenses by Michael Strawser to represent Ronald Strawser in a drug case in this Court.*fn1 A plea agreement was negotiated shortly after indictment and Ronald Strawser received probation. Ronald Strawser was unexpectedly indicted a second time and represented by Attorney Anderson. Once again he pled guilty and was sentenced to one year. He preserved a double jeopardy theory for appeal.

The facts regarding the fees of Attorney Anderson came to the Court's attention when Anderson wrote that Ronald Strawser was indigent and needed appointed counsel on the double jeopardy appeal. This led to communications from the Strawsers which, in turn, led to this proceeding.

Although the Court primarily bases its authority to conclude that this fee is excessive on its responsibility to insure the federal treasury is not defrauded, the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility provides a standard for examining the propriety of the fee amount. Rule 2-106 of the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

  Rule 2-106. Fees for Legal Services (a) A lawyer
  shall not enter into an agreement for, charge, or
  collect an illegal or excessive fee.
  (b) A fee is excessive when, after a review of
  the facts, a lawyer of ordinary prudence would be
  left with a definite and firm conviction that the
  fee is in excess of a reasonable fee. Factors to
  be considered as guides in determining the
  reasonableness of a fee include the following:
    (1) the time and labor required, the novelty
    and difficulty of the questions involved, and
    the skill requisite to perform the legal
    service properly;
    (2) the likelihood that the acceptance of the
    particular employment would preclude other
    employment by the lawyer;
    (3) the fee customarily charged in the locality
    for similar legal services;
    (4) the amount involved and the results
    obtained;
    (5) the time limitations imposed by the client
    or by ...

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