ATTORNEY BILLS – ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED?
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published January 13, 2018
One of the fights over record requests has a special meaning: FOR ATTORNEYS!
Florida statutes are very clear: All financial records are public and have to be shown to owners on demand. And that includes the legal bills from the association attorneys. But there are still some attorneys out there trying to make a meal out of telling owners – and board members – that these bills are attorney-client privileged because they contain “work-product”.
If some of these bills do, it’s in my opinion the fault of the attorneys. If they are “stupid” enough to add “work-product” into bills they know will be public record they are in reality to blame for these problems. Or are they even charging for “reviewing” the bills to eliminate any “suspicious” statements from the bill – or are even willing to go to arbitration or court in order to prevent owners from seeing these bills?
In his recently published “ASSOCIATION ROUNDUP” Jeffrey Rembaum from the law firm of Kaye Bender Rembaum discussed the topic at length and is even trying to make the case that these legal bills should not be considered public records.
Honestly, I have seen many legal bills and I can sure understand why certain attorneys don’t want their bills being seen by the public. Some of these bills are just horrific!
Rembaum cited the case of “Jandebeur v. Marine Terrace” in which the Kaye Bender Rembaum law firm took over the case from the prior association law firm (Robert Kaye's former partner Randall K. Rogers) and “succeeded” in getting the arbitrator to state that certain parts of the bill could be redacted.
But in all reality the arbitrator ruled that the owner who demanded to inspect the attorney’s legal bills was the prevailing party and awarded him $500 in statutory damages. Furthermore the arbitrator stated (quote): “the Association shall provide Petitioner access to the legal invoices from Randall K. Rogers & Associates for the periods of January 2014 through June 17, 2014."
All these legal costs could have been easily avoided if the attorneys dealing with this case would have used common sense and would not have added “attorney-client privileged work product" into a bill they should have known would be public record.
I always get the feeling in cases like that that certain attorneys like to make some extra bucks by complicating things unnecessarily.