Attorney Misconduct, Bankruptcy, Benchslaps, Federal Judges, Legal Ethics, Litigators, Screw-Ups

Benchslap of the Day: A Cooley Law Grad’s ‘Epic Fail’ in Court

Judge Bruce Markell

Were there ever a time to use “fail,” as the contemporary vernacular permits, it is now, and in reference to this deplorable display of legal representation: it was an epic fail.

— Judge Bruce Markell, in a recent opinion in a Las Vegas Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding, which concluded that the debtors’ attorneys, Barry Levinson and Jeremy Mondejar, should be sanctioned for their ineffective representation.

(What did these Cooley Law graduates allegedly do to irk Judge Markell in this way? Take a look, after the jump.)

Before we dive into the details of Judge Markell’s benchslap, our tipster offers us some context about post-recession bankruptcy filings in Vegas:

The global recession hit Las Vegas particularly hard. As a result, numerous failed Las Vegas PI attorneys decided to become bankruptcy attorneys. Las Vegas bankruptcy judges, and Judge Markell in particular, seem irritated by the ability of the new bankruptcy practitioners. Judge Markell often makes the newspapers with something like this.

And now, back to Judge Markell’s epic smackdown of attorneys Levinson and Mondejar, of Barry Levinson & Associates. According to the opinion, lawyers from this firm had failed to show up for court and had submitted frivolous filings in the past. That’s not a good thing when your judge is known for taking lawyers to task.

Again according to the opinion, in this particular case, Mondejar walked into Judge Markell’s courtroom 15 minutes late for a hearing on a Rule 9011 Order to Show Cause. Mondejar then allegedly gave a performance described as “painful for all in the courtroom.” Here’s more from the good judge (citations omitted):

Similarly disappointing was Mr. Mondejar’s explanation for why Mr. Levinson’s office had filed a motion, to be heard on shortened time, that was identical to a previous motion, which the court had denied, and why the later filing contained no mention of the previous denial. He had none. All he had was what he could read from his computer screen. This was the lowest moment in attorney representation the court has ever witnessed.

Having an admonishment like that on the record has got to sting, but wounds to one’s pride can heal in time. What about wounds to one’s wallet? Judge Markell’s got some thoughts on that:

Given the poor quality of the services rendered by Mr. Levinson’s office in this matter, the court finds that the reasonable value of those services is zero, that is, $0.00.

Thanks for the clarification, Judge. But come on: despite the fact that Levinson and Mondejar attended the second-best law school in the country, we already knew that a Cooley grad’s services weren’t worth that much.

In re: James Spickelmier and Katherin Spickelmier: Opinion [U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nevada]

(hidden for your protection)

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