`100% of people surveyed admit they have no idea how to tell if their divorce lawyer's bills are accurate.
Divorce lawyers are notorious for stealing money. In Silicon Valley, the most nefarious lawyers take millions from a single divorce case. Few people understand that their attorney's bills often contain evidence of crimes committed by lawyers, judges, court appointed "experts," and court reporters working in divorce cases.
Q goes undercover with one of the most crooked divorce lawyers, Bradford Baugh, to demonstrate just how divorce lawyers act as criminal enterprises to steal your money.
Fraudulent Billing Practices
Q has obtained former bills, fee agreements and correspondence Baugh had with other lawyers, judges, cops, court reporters and experts. Baugh's worst abuses come when clients agree to use experts, private judges, or "stipulate" to commissioners, and cases fall out of the public eye. Of particular importance is how Baugh has secreted his bills and fees for over 40 years, while courts have awarded him fees without reviewing any of his bills or fees he charged to get those fee awards.
Here is how we get to criminal conduct:
#1 Retaining the Client - Before the First Meeting
Formal representation of a client in a divorce case is very important. Prior to your arrival a law office will likely run a credit and background check on you through their Lexis Nexis program to see what assets you have.
If you own a home, with equity, you are ripe for representation. In Baugh's cases he adds looking for businesses started during a marriage, where money can easily be hidden in a long drawn out divorce case.
Home equity used to be the most important consideration for a lawyer in a divorce case, because a lien can be placed on a home for unpaid attorney fees. Today, lawyers like Baugh go for businesses owned by husbands and wives where attorney fees can be taken through misappropriation of business expenses and tax fraud.
Lawyers can file a law suit for unpaid fees, and the people who decide these cases are either lawyer "mediators", appointed through the local bar association, or local judges who likely cheated on their bills when they were lawyers.
#2 First Meeting
Court records and interviews with Baugh's former clients indicate that Baugh, with the knowledge of his business partners, Liz Goodley, Valerie Tarvin, Leah Amini and Bill Dok, set forth a plan to convert community property into legal fees and engage in unjust enrichment to ruin lives. Often Baugh will delay clients signing formal fee agreements that legally retain Baugh, setting up an unsuspecting spouse to lose in a divorce case.
Baugh instructs clients to hide assets prior to formally filing for divorce, by changing title and moving money off shore, according to court records and interviews.
Before Baugh is formally retained he uses other lawyers to draft documents, keeping Baugh's crimes off the court's radar. Baugh also presents written information to new clients , giving an illusion his conduct is prudent and legal. These documents include information such as :
Finally, Baugh instructs clients to meet with, and pay, other lawyers he wants formally conflicted out of a case.
A review of Baugh's fee agreements show that retainers for Baugh, and opposing lawyers vary greatly, and indicate secret deals that are prohibited by law. Donelle Morgan claims she collects an extra $50,000 in retainer in cases involving Baugh, which she insists will not be released until the case is over. Baugh's retainers appear to vary based on the judge he appears before, where some judges routinely award Baugh more in fees than others.
Bad Bills that Cheat You
Delayed Billings: Initially some lawyers delay their fees and costs. This can give an appearance that you are saving money. More often bills will be delayed to initially suppress fees that have to be reported on an income and expense declaration.
Concealed Fees: Some lawyers will insist that bills are subject to attorney client privilege, they are not. In fact, lawyers are supposed to present bills to the court in divorce cases when asking for fees and sanctions. A review of 50 cases where Baugh was awarded millions in attorney fees awards show that Baugh never produced his bills. a current appeal pending in the Sixth District court of appeal shows that Judge Mary Ann Grilli awarded Baugh $100,000 in fees, where Baugh never presented his bills to confirm the fees were legally incurred when the award was made.
Judges are dumb, lazy and underpaid, most could never properly review legal bills, and most never do before they award Baugh millions in fee awards.
Fees that are concealed are often monies paid in cash, monies paid to court reporters and fees incurred when lawyers are engaged in illegal conduct, such as ex parte communications with judges and experts. Not charging for this work keeps it off the bills and out of discovery.
Secret Deals: Charges for transcripts are dictated as a matter of law, but also up to the discretion of a court reporter. Baugh, and lawyers like him make secret deals for favorable pricing on transcripts, have clients pay for those transcripts separately ,then selectively attach the transcripts to court filings to avoid the charges. Records also show Baugh shares transcripts with some lawyers while drafting orders after hearings, but refuses to share transcripts with other lawyers, or pro pers, which drives up income for court reporters who work for the judges and whom Baugh regularly appears before. This is prohibited by Antitrust laws.
Padding Bills : An audit of Baugh's bills shows 80% of his fees are generated not from work that must be done in a divorce, but work Baugh generates to block settlement of cases. Most family law lawyers encourage divorcing couples to talk and reach agreements, Baugh on the other hand tells clients not to settle, or talk to the other side, even about custody and care issues related to their children. Baugh then represents to the judge the parties are feuding, and experts are needed.
Lawyers create more than 50% of their revenue communicating with experts. Baugh uses the same experts over and over in cases, and has even sent agreements from other clients to use in a current case, charging the current client for work to produce the copied document.
Burying opposing counsel in letters, also creates a financial boom for divorce lawyers, and Baguh makes the majority of his income from this conduct, failing to note on his bills who the letters are to and what purpose the letter is intended to serve.
Baugh was disqualified by Judge Persky in a divorce case where Baugh represented internet dial-up pioneer Drew Perkins. Baugh assisted Stanford University Professor David Cheriton engage in fraud to avoid child support and Baugh got caught stealing appeals lawyer Garrett Dailey for the benefit of Evan Brooks. Baugh has routinely used criminally indicted attorney Valerie Houghton in cases, so Baugh's bills evolved to conceal many of these conflicts that could be found in discovery.
In reviewing Baugh;s bills, it appears he billed for work he could not have done as he was billing in another case, or at an educational or social meeting that precluded work on the day for which he billed.
Looking at Baugh's bills in isolation may not expose RICO and Antitrust activity,but when compared with other clients, and cases,. Baugh's fraud is clear, as is the fraud perpetrated by those who assisted , or were complicit in speaking up to expose Baugh's crimes.
(Yes, Jeff Rosen, we mean you). District Attorney Jeff Rosen has had multiple complaints against divorce lawyers, which Rosen ignored and where his office repeatedly prosecuted innocent citizens set up by crooked lawyers like Brad Baugh and their clients.
10 former clients of Baugh, all women, report that during his representation, Baugh was verbally abusive, told them to lie in court, became violent and used his wife and staff to harass them for payments they could not afford to make. It is becoming clear that Bradford Baugh has been one of the most violent and abusive lawyers in Silicon Valley, as he collected money while engaging in criminal conduct.