The issue of whether the attorney who took a major case pro bono (free), only to later change his mind and demand nearly $54,000 in fees, has been settled.
The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners—some grudgingly—unanimously approved the $25,959.45 settlement agreement during its Wednesday Oct. 23 meeting. Charlevoix County Board Chairman Joel Evans (R-District 4) and Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen (R-District 2) were both absent.
“When someone says we’re going to do something ‘pro bono’ that’s the way it should stand,” said Charlevoix County Commissioner George T. Lasater (R-District 1).
The lawyer in question, Daniel J. Hartman, had helped to defend Charles Merriman, who could not afford an attorney in his 2008 murder trial.
Hartman took over the Merriman case assuming it would last the scheduled 5 days. The trial ended up taking 16 days, and Hartman felt he should be compensated for 710 hours worth of work at a rate of $75 per hour.
Hartman was originally awarded $5,631.41 and appealed the payment to the Michigan Court of Appeals which ruled 2-1 that Hartman should receive more compensation and sent the matter back to Charlevoix County Circuit Judge Richard Pajtas to review and determine a reasonable amount of compensation for Hartman.
This issue was allegedly exacerbated by the failure of an appeal to be filed on Hartman’s request for additional fees.
In a February 2012 article in the Boyne City Gazette, former Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney John Jarema explained that he thought the Michigan Attorney General’s office would be filing the appeal and it was merely an oversight on his part.
As Jarema did with all appellate matters, he sent the paperwork for an appeal on the decision to the Michigan State Attorney General’s Office but was later informed that they would not be handling the case.
According to the county’s resolution agreement dated Oct. 23, the settlement was developed by Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof based on a consent order to be signed by Charlevoix County 33rd Circuit judge Richard Pajtas which was mutually agreed upon by the bankruptcy trustee, attorneys for the trustee, the prosecuting attorney and the county board of commissioners.
The funds to cover the settlement payment will come from the county’s contingency fund.