Judge rewards flagpole lawyer


Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Michael Laforgia

Friday, December 01, 2006


Barry Silver took on a long shot when he agreed to represent a Jupiter man against a homeowners association in a tangled legal fight over a flagpole.

On Thursday, after five years of litigation, it paid off.

In a rare decision, a judge ordered the homeowners association to pay Silver twice his regular legal fees - a total of $126,225 - after he successfully argued the case against The Indian Creek Homeowners Association Phase 3B.

Originally, Silver agreed to represent George Andres, a 68-year-old veteran at odds with his neighborhood association over a flagpole he had put in his yard, for free. By the time he came on board, a judge had ruled against Andres, and he and his wife were ordered to pay about $30,000 in attorneys' fees.

An attorney for the association then filed a foreclosure lawsuit because Andres couldn't pay.

Silver got a temporary injunction that kept Andres' American flag flying and then won an appeal that reversed the rulings against Andres. As Silver made the case, he said, he saw a way to argue that the homeowners association should pick up the tab for his services.

"In Florida, homeowners associations are used to running roughshod over the rights of their clients. And the reason they can do that is once they decide to go after one of their own homeowners, it's virtually impossible for a homeowner to find an attorney to represent them," Silver said, explaining the crux of his argument.

Circuit Court Judge Edward Fine bought it, and as part of the decision awarded Silver twice his regular hourly fee, because of the risk involved in taking such a labor-intensive case without guarantee of payment.

Neither members of the homeowners association nor its attorney could be reached for comment.

Silver said he hopes the ruling will encourage other lawyers to challenge homeowners associations.

As for Andres, he said he was pleased with the ruling.

"It was good," he said. "We spent a lot of time, my wife and myself, in and out of court because of this."