MOVING ON WITH NO REGRETS

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.

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Au revoir, mes amis. Tu vas me manquer.


Now it is time to go to France and close out my bank account, certainly before the Euro drops any further in relation to its value compared to the US dollar.

And to you out there researching my history – take your time; do it right; find out exactly who I am and what I can do.  What you find will not reassure you.

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16 Responses to “MOVING ON WITH NO REGRETS”

  1. So, your available then? is what I have taken away from this terrible impact. I have never read a legal case with as much interest as I did this one. Seriously its a gripping narrative. I always new you could write but its only when I read posts of your like this that I realise just how much you can accomplish for the powers of good with your talents.

    Or question who could stop you if you chose to use these talents for evil professor.

    Like

  2. paulboylan Says:

    Don’t think I haven’t been tempted.

    Like

  3. paulboylan Says:

    And, yes, I am available. I am looking for something in Melbourne. Seriously. It is the Old Vic Market that draws me there.

    Not to mention there Zombie Walk during the Melbourne Cup. Awesome on so many levels I don’t have the time to even begin.

    Like

  4. Wow! Paul! Well done.

    Like

  5. Greybeard Says:

    Well done indeed. As Barnesm said, gripping stuff and for once the good guys win.

    Like

  6. paulboylan Says:

    Sometimes they do win. But when they do, most often it is because someone like me is on their side. It shouldn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t take someone like me to force governmental agencies to begrudgingly turn over information the public has an absolute and unequivocal right to see. But more often than not, it requires not just an attorney but someone who is expert in this sort of law. Alone, John and Jane Q. Public don’t stand a chance against elected officials and bureaucrats who want to keep something they’ve done hidden.

    And that means this is a broken democracy.

    Like

  7. What a great post, a true narrative of legal victory married with personal sacrifice. ’tis a shame about that French gig, hopefully something as equally rewarding comes your way.

    Like

  8. paulboylan Says:

    Thanks, Nick. Time will tell. It’s funny, though – I didn’t really appreciate it quite as much as I do now that it is gone. I really hate when that happens.

    Like

  9. Bondiboy66 Says:

    What a story…crying shame you lost that sweet French gig too, but certainly a good result for you and the client. Still, things happen for a reason, and yours was ultimately a very good reason. I for one think it would be fabulous if you got the gig in Melbourne (I’ve only been there once, but I too was taken by the Queen Vic markets!). Of course you would have to do the odd trip up to Sydney too you know!

    Like

  10. Not to mention there Zombie Walk during the Melbourne Cup.

    I’ve been told that lawyers in Melbourne have to be grammatically correct.

    Like

  11. DrBunker Says:

    Con: lost professorship in France
    Pro: shit loads of cash

    A question, do you leave the court/end the case and move on or do you forever hold a grudge against the arsehole who tried to outwit you by using dubious tactics?

    According to TV/movies it’s all fair in love and war but I don’t think I could take the higher ground.

    Like

  12. bangarrr Says:

    I’m sorry to hear that you’re not teaching in France, perhaps you can regain it or replace it, still a shame. I hope you get well recompensed for your loss. I’m sure H would be willing to help mediate with the other lawyer.

    Like

  13. I like the way you think and also that you found a way to resolve this for your client’s benefit. I’m only sorry those kids will be missing out on your expertise.

    Like

  14. paulboylan Says:

    Bondi – I enjoy Brisvegas, Melbourne and Sydney equally. Melbourne just seems to be a good choice because it is central to the rest. And it has a large Greek population. Can’t discount that.

    Like

  15. paulboylan Says:

    Sibeen – I stand corected.

    Bunker – I am asking for payment. I may not receive it or, if I do, I may receive a fraction of what I am asking for. The law is the law, and an award is mandatory, but judges often dislike these sorts of motions.

    As for holding a grudge, I really can’t. It has nothing to do with taking the moral high ground. It has everything to do with understanding the pathology of what happened. All attorneys base their strategies on their experience. My experience taught me that the scorched-earth strategy works well in some cases, but is disastrous in others. I’ve used the scorched-earth strategy myself when dealing with really, really stupid and unreasonable plaintiff’s counsel who make unreasonable demands based on poor or nonexistent facts. And in those cases the strategy works well. But my experience taught me that this isn’t the case in public records cases.

    Also, inexperienced attorneys very often “step into the shoes” of their client. If your client hates someone, the attorney hates them, too. I warn my students (or warned them) about this error. You hire an attorney to give you good advice and to guide you to solutions to your problems. That requires an objective viewpoint. If a client wants an attorney who will essentially act as their surrogate, then they don’t really want an attorney.

    My opponent in this case showed every sign of committing this fundamental error. When we began negotiating for the release of information she admitted was kept back, but as the result of an accident, she justified not correcting that mistake by saying that my client was insane. Surely that is what her client, the City, believed. It was an enormous mistake adopting it as her own belief.

    So the bottom line for me is that my opponent may not have been acting out of any evil intent. She may have been acting according to her experience, or lack of it, or poor litigation habits engendered by easy victories in other cases against lesser attorneys. After this case she will know better. Her client will know better. We all make mistakes. The trick is learning from them.

    Bangarr – I hope I get compensated not for my loss, but for my time. As I said, it will be up to the judge.

    Melbo – of course you like the way I think. I think like you do.

    Like

  16. Dino not to be confused with Says:

    Hats off to you Paul.
    Here’s to new Pastures…

    Like

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