Two events prompt this blog entry:
The first event is my need to travel to France – not to teach as I have done every year since 2005, but to withdraw my Euros from my Credit Lyonnais bank account, close the account (which I must do personally) and fly home. These Euros were deposited into that account by the University of Poitiers to compensate me for serving as an adjunct professor of law at University.
[I used this account to transact all of my business in Europe. Why pay the cost of converting Dollars to Euros?]
The second event involves an interesting and very unusual pattern of sudden Internet activity. Since May 24th someone has been feverishly searching for websites using the following search terms:
Paul Nicholas Boylan Poitiers
“Paul Nicholas Boylan” Poitiers
Most, if not all, of these search attempts lead the person investigating me here,5here,/here,, heref(page 16), here,/here,/here1and here.y
I cannot, of course, be 100% sure why there is this sudden interest in my professorship, but I have a fairly good idea. On May 24th I filed and served a motion for an award of attorney’s fees and costs in Mecum v. City of Lindsay,Tulare County Superior Court Case No. 11-243461. In that case, I represented Steven Mecum, a guy who is concerned that the City of Lindsay - a small town in Central California where Steven lives - is spending public money improperly.
In summary, here is what happened: Steven asked for access to records dealing with areas of City spending he wanted to examine. The City gave him some of these records, but not all of them. So he sued to get what was being withheld.
Ordinarily, these sorts of disputes get resolved very, very fast. Usually, opposing counsel work together and come to an agreement as to what can be released and what should remain confidential. The reason for this cooperation is because the California Public Records Act (CPRA) is a “fee shifting” statute. The CPRA states that, if a judge orders a governmental agency to turn over records or information the agency is withholding, then the agency must pay the petitioner’s attorney’s fees and costs.
So an agency faces a bigger and bigger potential liability for fees and costs the longer a dispute lasts, and it is this risk that prompts most agencies to work to resolve CPRA disputes as fast as possible.
That didn’t happen in Mecum v. City of Lindsay. The City, through its attorney, deployed what is known as ae“scorched-earth”/defense strategy, which means the City refused to so much as discuss an amicable resolution and fought tooth and nail to win.
So instead of a fast resolution, this case was a long, slow slog ending in a hearing where the trial judge ordered the City to turn over documents and information to the petitioner, Steven Mecum. And this meant that the City must pay me what I would have charged Steven if I were billing him on an hourly basis.
As these things go, the arguments are fairly straight forward: Steven asked for records; the City said no; Steven sued to get them; the Court agreed with Steven and ordered the City to give Steven more records; this makes Steven the prevailing party; and Steven now asks the Court to pay his fees and costs to me.
So what does all of this have to do with my professorship? Everything. In addition to my “base fee” (hours multiplied by my hourly rate) I am asking for what is known as a “multiplier.” As the Memorandum shows, although the Court has no discretion to deny the motion, under some circumstances, the Court has the discretion to increase the fee award by multiplying the base fee by whatever number the Court feels is just. One of the factors justifying a multiplier is harsh litigation tactics that caused the case to be needlessly complex, time consuming and expensive.
That’s what happened here. Defense counsel was very, very aggressive – so aggressive that I was forced to choose between teaching in France and staying home just in case defense counsel attempted to manipulate my unavailability against my client.
Here is what happened: I notified defense counsel that I would be unavailable during the entire month of March 2012 because I was scheduled to teach in France during that time. Knowing this, defense counsel arranged for a briefing schedule that would require me to respond to her arguments against my client’s petition while I was away from my office in France teaching. I decided to withdraw from my teaching commitment that year and stay home to be ready for whatever happened in the case rather than be far away and less able to respond to actions opposing counsel might take knowing I was overseas and less able to respond.
It turned out to be a good idea. Although I had arrangements for opposing counsel to serve papers on me via email, she nevertheless served her Opposition Brief on me via ordinary mail service, which meant that if I was teaching I would not have received that brief until I returned from France, which would have provide me only a few days to respond.
But because I stayed home (and didn’t tell her) my client’s position wasn’t disadvantaged by my absence and I was able to draft one of the best Reply Briefs I’ve ever drafted in a CPRA case and, because of it, the Court agreed with Steven’s position and ordered the City to give him access to what amounted to approximately 7,100 pages of records.
But staying home also meant I lost my professorship. And I told this to the Court as part of my argument justifying application of a multiplier, hopefully increasing the eventual fee award.
And this is why someone is frantically investigating my teaching history. Someone is looking for anything that might contradict my story, throw question on my claims, and hopefully minimize my client’s claim for fees and costs.
It isn’t going to work, but they are welcomed to try.
I am very sad. I loved teaching those kids, and the University provided me with students from all over the world. I had a chance to influence future policy makers. I had the chance to make a real difference.
I don’t blame the University. And, even though I cherished my teaching position, I have few regrets. When confronted with a choice between my duties as an attorney and my desires to travel and teach, I chose my client over my personal desires. I did what I had to do to best serve the interests of my client. That’s my job as an attorney.
And what the hell, really? I can still call myself “professor” and I am now free to seek out a position with another university if I really want to do that.
But I sure will miss those kids. So bright. So eager to learn what little I had to teach.