One of Washington’s best-known divorce lawyers, Rita Bank, has been in the courtroom for the past several weeks. However, not as a lawyer.
She was the accused.
Joseph Stiglitz, a New York-based Nobel laureate and a former client, sued Rita Bank for legal malpractice in 2005.
The verdict was delivered on Wednesday afternoon, in Bank’s favor. According to Stiglitz, the case increased financial claims from his ex wife and it cost him millions in litigation fees and other expenses.
He added, Bank should have advised him to get a divorce in DC instead of New York to lower the cost.
Another well-known Washington divorce attorney, Glenn Lewis, was also in the course of the trial.
He was the “expert witness” on the plaintiff’s side. He aided the case in proving that Bank’s bad counsel had cost Stiglitz unnecessarily.
In 2009, Lewis sued a former client, Steve Firestone. Allegedly, Firestone owed him an additional $500,000 for handling Firestone’s divorce. But Firestone countersued.
Ultimately the case was settled. Lewis ended up paying Firestone more than $100,000.
In Lewis’s statement, he said that Stiglitz could have paid lesser in DC in terms of legal expenses than in New York. During the cross-examination, Bank’s lawyer, Richard Simpson, focused on the Firestone case. He questioned Lewis’s credibility as an authority on legal expenses. When asked if the $627,000 he charged Firestone was reasonable, Lewis replied, “Absolutely.”
Stiglitz’s lawyer, Maryland-based David Whitworth Jr. said, they hired Lewis because he is a former president of the Virginia Bar Association and equally well-known.
But that’s not the only reason.
Bank is one of DC’s top divorce lawyers. According to Whitworth, there are a lot of divorce attorneys who know her personally and who would not have been comfortable in testifying against her.
In the case, Rita Bank wasn’t the only winner.
According to court documents, Lewis billed Stiglitz $500 an hour for consultation and document review and $700 an hour for testimony. Simpson said, the jury would have decided for Bank anyway, regardless of who was the expert witness on the other side.
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