Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

If the Butler Did It, the Butler Pays for It

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

If the Butler Did It, the Butler Pays for It

Article excerpt

Repeating that bon mot from a district judge's report and recommendation, the Fourth Circuit has affirmed an award to General Motors Corp. of $190,541 in legal costs against James E. Butler Jr., a Columbus, Georgia, plaintiff's attorney.

Butler has represented numerous plaintiffs in actions against GM involving gasoline tank explosions in C/K pickup trucks. In one of those actions, Judge G. Ross Anderson of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina recused himself, but as a part of his recusal order he made a finding that a review of documents in the case revealed "a substantial likelihood that perhaps perjury and the systematic destruction of documents involving gross misconduct by General Motors' regional counsel occurred." On review, however, the Fourth Circuit struck those charges from the recusal order and stated that they "should not be hereafter cited as authority."

Nevertheless, Butler cited the stricken passages in a Georgia state court and a Kansas federal court. The Fourth Circuit then found him in contempt and awarded GM "reasonable costs for its efforts to correct Butler's misconduct." The court referred the matter to District Judge Robert G. Doumar of the Eastern District of Virginia for a determination of the amount to be assessed against Butler. 61 F.3d 256 (4th Cir. 1995).

After wading through what the Fourth Circuit termed the "murky waters of legal billing," Judge Doumar came up with $24,894 for GM's legal costs in correcting the effects of Butler's misconduct and $165,647 for the legal costs of the contempt proceeding. …

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