On October 25, 2000, more than two weeks had passed since I had asked Mr. Smith to send my bill and I still did not have it. Since I knew they were billing me for requesting my bill again, I called their accounting office. As it was a norm, no one answered. I left a message with a clear explanation of what I had asked Mr. Smith. The next day Mr. Douglass had left a message on our machine that he was returning my call.
This was outrageous. First, I had clearly indicated that I had spoken to Mr. Smith. Second, it was not for Mr. Douglass at all. Third, I had clearly asked what I wanted and there was no need for returning the call. To this call I had to answer and as a result I had to pay several times for asking for my bill; twice for speaking to Mr. Smith, once for the message given to Mr. Douglass, once for Mr. Douglass’ message left on my machine, once for my returning his call, and finally for giving me the bill itself.
At around eleven forty-five in the morning I called Mr. Douglass and asked him about the reason for his message. He told me because I had called him. Then, I told him the call had not been for him why he had answered me. The answer was that he was following a procedure. Then, I asked if he was charging me for his message and my returning his call. Answer was positive. I asked in what way I was to pay several times for one service. The answer was that he had told my wife that he was billing us according to the amount of time he spent on the case.
I told him that he was the party with interests in the matter because he was not working on the case; and billing had nothing to do with the case.
“Now that you know you cannot get money you haggle over my fees,” Mr. Douglass said.
“You have lost the whole case,” I returned angrily, “Now that you know you are unable to recover any money why are you following the case then?”
Mr. Douglass mentioned that he was trying to recover some of our costs. I responded that he had misled us from the very beginning and he would recover nothing. As an example I mentioned his claim of wages for my wife that I told him there was no justification for a lawyer not to know in a partnership of that nature we could not claim wages. The answer was that my wife did not have enough documentation to show it had been equal partnership.
Mr. Douglass was claiming this while he had equally divided all the assets my wife had claimed and my wife never had mentioned she had received money as wage. Also, I mentioned that Mr. Smith had called us five times within two hours for the same matter. I concluded that my wife was sick of his way of handling the case; he was not allowed to contact her for any reason as they were misleading her; the case was dead; and I would not contact him unless I received my bill first.
After the unpleasant conversation, Mr. Douglass started exercising his skills in misinterpretation, misleading, hiding our documents, and pressurization in order to create the maximum confusion for us. Few days after the conversation, I received two letters from him accompanied with some documentation from Mr. Scot. In his letter related to the documentation, Mr. Douglass had written: “Please find enclosed a copy of a letter received from Mr. Scot, …”. I did not find any letter from Mr. Scot enclosed.
Still, those documents were not all documents. There was no receipt of the purchases in the package. No document related to the expenditures was enclosed. Let’s not forget that Mr. Scot had claimed he had sent “all source documents” related to the business in his letter of September. What were these documents that he was sending now? Were they related to the business? Was my wife entitled to having a copy of them? Were these the end of the so-called documents?
In his letter about my conversation with him, Mr. Douglass had taken the stand that I had objected to “every time our office telephones you the time for that telephone call is added to your account”. This was an obvious distortion of fact. I had not objected to every call. I had objected to the fact that they were charging us few times for the same service. To support this, I had given him the example of Mr. Smith’s five calls within two hours and his own irrelevant call which were intended to add to my bill only.
Also, he had encouraged us to find another lawyer; and he would not release our file until we paid the whole amount we owed him. Nevertheless, he had implicated we kept him to the completion of the pending application.
I reviewed his account that I am enclosing a copy with this letter. In one instance he had crammed several services and had put one big time. In this way, I could not follow what they specifically had done for me. Arithmetic problem showed up again. I have been charged 4.20 hours for the student-at-law while I added up .40 + .30 + .80 + .40 = 1.90 hour. Why on earth I have to pay 2.70 hours extra for his arithmetic problems and if I called him and informed him of his error I had to pay for that call as well? Why should I pay him while I had spoken to him about his mistakes on the Affidavit and I had not left him voicemail and he had not left me a voicemail and it had taken about ten minutes altogether and not twenty-four minutes and pay for calling him and telling him about this? As I feared another misinterpretation I kept quiet.
After eight months of lax working that seemed to be stemming from the fact that we were poor and could not pay him a big chunk of money to proceed fast with the case, we had lost trust in Mr. Douglass and the whole legal procedure. Perhaps, my accent and black hair contributed to the fact as well. We did not have the money to pay for the whole seventeen hundred dollars at once to get our file released. Where to turn?
It seemed Mr. Douglass was the only solution to the matter. After reviewing his letters, I spoke to him for about ten minutes. I expressed concerns that if he could get my wife’s share of the assets for three hundred dollars on top of what he had charged us already. His answer was that he was charging according to the time he spent on the case and there was no way out of it. Obviously, he was interested in spending more time than resolving the matter. He added that he was not sure if the assets were still there that he could ask for them; and if the other party was willing to release them. He added that he could write to Mr. Scot and put forward the proposal.
“Unfortunately, since she is such a person…” he said, there was another solution to the whole matter. According to him, the solution was that he went to court, presented the situation to the judge, and asked my wife’s partner to give correct accounting. “It costs you three hours though,” he would continue. Three hours at what rate and with what consequence. Would the three hours bring the case to a conclusion? He did not mention.
“As you have mentioned there is a property that you can claim for your costs,” he would go on.
The idea of going to court and claiming the related costs was absurd. The idea had been sold to us eight months earlier. Now, Mr. Douglass was trying to recycle the same game. Had he forgotten about his previous sale? Further, he was suggesting that we could not recover anything of the assets unless we spent at least several times more than what he was able to recover.
With this, everything that Mr. Douglass had built crumbled. He had shown that he would not faithfully represent us in the court of law. The end of such a court would have been “unfortunately, because.”
I did not see any interest in justice in this conversation. If there were, he could have made the case affordable for us.
I opposed his idea of the court and asked him not to take any further action until I informed him first.
Meanwhile, a friend who had seen my wife’s distress and heard the story told her to go to court with a list of what they both shared and ask the judge about her share. She said it would cost us less than fifty dollars to do this. She had told her that the judge would see both of them twice. At the end of the second meeting if the other party did not give my wife’s share, the judge would lay charges against her. This way seemed to gain us, at least, some of what the lawyers had failed to gain. Lawyers’ work and advice would not go further than this either. After all, the last word in any case was with the judge, and not with the lawyers.
We were still considering my wife’s friend’s suggestion that I received a draft letter from Mr. Douglass. Another letter accompanied this letter. In that letter he had taken the stand that I had asked for the drafted letter.
I had not asked him for the letter. Now, I was working for him and we had to follow him. Sticking to him was showing more harm. So, I called him the same day and told him to close the file because we were unable to afford a lawyer and I would go to court myself. I asked him to send me the file so that I paid him on a monthly basis as I had done in the past. I specifically asked for the letter that Mr. Scot had sent him with his most recent package.
Mr. Douglass told me that he had to write a notice of act in person to Mr. Scot. To this, I said I would write a “note” to him. This conversation that took about three minutes was in the afternoon of November 14, 2000.
The same night I wrote a letter to Mr. Scot and my wife signed it. I wrote that my wife was going to represent herself in the matter. Next day, I sent the letter by registered mail. In less than a week, I received a letter from Mr. Douglass confirming the closure of the file. He had repeated that he was not going to release our file until we paid the whole amount we owed him. He also had stated that “you stated in our conversation that the letter to Mr. Scot which I drafted was not included in the letter to you, and therefore, I am enclosing it with this letter”.
I was baffled. We had put our trusted in him in the past several months. How could he change the course of conversation to that extent? While he was denying the whole file and the document that was related to the case, he was willing to send me a drafted letter. Thus, there was no use of verbal communication with him. He would charge me again and change the whole matter again.
On November 21, 2000, I wrote him a letter expressing my concerns about what he had falsely attributed to me. Also, I explained in detail that his policy of keeping our file hostage would cost me more time and money. At the end, I asked him to release our file while we were paying him. To assure that he had received the letter, I sent the letter by registered mail.
Later, I received a short letter dating December 01, 2000 that “I have different recollection of what transpired between the two of us” and that we could not reconcile our versions of communications. Of course, this was not the first time that Mr. Douglass had purposely tampered with what I had told him. Therefore, I could not accept it had been the result of an honest mistake. Reason for that was the fact that he ignored my plea and continued keeping Mr. Scot’s letter. He had repeated that he would not release our file until he received his money in full. Also “I note that we have provided you with most of the information that has been received by us from Mr. Scot…”.
What did “most” mean? This, I understood that the documents that we were not aware of were more than just that single letter. Where the rest of “the information” has been? What have they been? Why have they been hidden from us? Why should we be deprived of what we were supposed to receive? Was Mr. Scot’s claim true that he had enclosed all documentations? Out of concern of accumulating extra debt we had paid Mr. Douglass every months from the onset of the procedure. Why did we deserve such a treatment?
Again, Mr. Douglass had repeated that we served Mr. Scot with “notice of act in person”. Now, I was realizing what I had sent to Mr. Scot was not a notice of act in person. What this notice really was? His office had not told us what it had been. I had to go through a different procedure.
I believe, it was December 07, 2000 that I contacted Mr. Douglass’ office in order to find out what “notice of act in person” was. His assistant, who was a woman, told me Mr. Douglass was on vacations and was not coming back until December 14 and she could not give me further information. I asked her to, at least, tell me what “Notice of Act In Person” was. She did not answer. I asked her to tell me where I was to go. She was still reluctant. Finally, I asked if I had to go to court. The answer was “yes” with no further information.
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