Amid allegations of breached ethics rules, conflicts of interest, as well as myriad of objections, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge postponed yesterday the scheduled ruling on whether or not to award $90 million in attorneys' fee in the case of Benjamin Fogel v Farmers Group.
Judge William F. Highberger has ordered further hearing scheduled for December 20, 2011.
Hon. William F. Highberger, who presides over the case of Benjamin Fogel v Farmers Group. Judge Highberger is part of the Los Angeles Superior Court Complex Civil Litigation Program in the CCW Courthouse.
Previously, the judge was asked to reject the settlement or, in the alternative, to award no attorneys' fees and shift the proposed $90 million attorneys' fee award to the pool available to the class. The request was made in connection with an ongoing controversy surrounding the concurrent legal representation by Farmers Group, Inc.'s legal counsel (Law Offices of Skadden Arps) of Thomas Girardi and Girardi & Keese in the Ninth Circuit matter of In Re Girardi throughout the entire time the Fogel v. Farmers Group, Inc. matter was being litigated.
According to an ethics complaint submitted to the State Bar of California, despite their respective roles as plaintiffs' counsel and defendants' counsel in Fogel v. Farmers, Girardi & Keese and Skadden Arps entered into a wholly separate agreement by which Skadden Arps represented Girardi & Keese and Thomas Girardi before the Ninth Circuit in the matter of In re Girardi ( Ninth Circuit case number 08-80090) following that court's issuance of an order to show cause why Girardi & Keese, Engstrom Lipscomb & Lack, Thomas Girardi, and Walter Lack should not be suspended, disbarred, or otherwise sanctioned as a result of the massive fraud which took place in litigation pursued by them against Dole Food Company.
Separately, and somewhat preposterously, Mr Jerry Flanagan (advocating on behalf of Harvey Rosenfield's Consumer Watchdog) has urged the court to order unclaimed funds in the settlement to help offset a $350 million in the court own budget shortfall.