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Protracted, high-profile legal malpractice case marches on

Former client Larry Austin of the now defunct law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP says there is a compelling reason why he lost a case against the California Franchise Board and was presented with an $8 million bill for unpaid taxes.

His contention: The firm's representation was flat-out shoddy. Moreover, Austin alleges that his attorneys freely turned over a voluminous amount of documents to tax authorities without ever consulting him, putting the firm's interests ahead of his.

And that "makes a mockery of attorney-client privilege and any lawyer's duty to the client," he recently stated in bankruptcy court, a venue he has now turned to in order to continue his claims and attendant demand for the release of relevant documents he says have been purposefully kept from him.

Austin is now continuing his battle against Dewey's liquidation trust, which serves as the firm's estate in bankruptcy. He says that, notwithstanding that he fruitlessly searched for 15 years to locate a massive amount of tax documentation he knew to be relevant to his case, the documents always existed and that the trust became fully aware that they did after even a "first pass" perfunctory search for them.

Indeed, the trust does admit to having found five boxes of materials. Austin contends that there are hundreds more.

The matter is of unquestioned urgency, given the trust's request to the court that it be allowed to destroy records it deems to be "of inconsequential value and burdensome to the estate."

His files hardly qualify as that, Austin counters, adding that they are imperative to his case with the tax board.

Austin has lost several malpractice cases regarding the matter over the years, first on time-barred grounds and then pursuant to a ruling in California that his contentions must cease because courts in other jurisdictions had already ruled upon them.

Austin says that the judgments against him must be viewed in light of the critically important -- and massive amount of -- documentation that exists and has long been denied him.

He is now asking the bankruptcy court to ensure the return of all his client records provided to Dewey & LeBoeuf.

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