DBR reporter Billy Shields does a nice job capturing the feel of this fun hearing before Judge Stettin yesterday:
“I’m not going to give this man a nickel,” the judge said. Wingate “went behind my back.”
An angry Stettin repeatedly told Rivkind at the hearing. “I see Mr. Wingate peddling these cases in return for your firm signing up to pay him some money, that’s what I see.”
Attorney Peter Sotolongo filed court papers Friday saying the three-way fee agreement “had been vetted, sanctioned and explicitly approved by Mr. McGrane and The Florida Bar” after Wingate’s departure.
McGrane of McGrane Nosich & Ganz in Coral Gables said at the hearing that the first time he ever saw the agreement was when Stettin attached it to his order calling the hearing.
After the hearing, McGrane said, “There is no provision in The Florida Bar to send up a fee agreement in advance and get approval for it. The Bar doesn’t do that, and that proves his statement is false.”
But then there’s this:
Admiralty lawyer Ross Toyne of Toyne & Mayo in Miami offered Stettin a letter dated last March 24 from Rivkind to Wingate and McGrane. In the letter, Rivkind refers to a fee agreement signed by Wingate, Sotolongo and Rivkind, noting Royal Caribbean is entitled to know about the agreement but not its details. The attorneys who signed the agreement were named in the show-cause order.
Toyne appeared on behalf of two of the 77 injured crew members whose claims have settled.
Rivkind made no reference to Stettin’s order in the letter but said Wingate should file a charging lien with the court.
McGrane repeated after Wednesday’s hearing that he saw the fee agreement for the first time when it was attached to Stettin’s order.. . . .
After Toyne handed out the letter, Royal Caribbean attorney Curtis Mase of Mase Lara & Eversole in Miami noted the letter was addressed to McGrane. That would appear to contradict his continued assertions that he had not seen the fee agreement until Stettin attached it to his Jan. 15 order. It remains unclear how Stettin became aware of the agreement.
Oy. Anyone have any idea what’s going on here?
I have another court hearing this morning (no, not in front of Judge Stettin) but I’ll be back in a little bit.