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Ex-California law firm accused of overbilling police organization

A California law firm that once represented several police unions is now out of business, after a series of legal problems. In one of the latest developments, Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir has been sued by the Peace Officers Research Association, or PORAC, for grossly overbilling the organization for several years.

The law firm accused of malpractice was mostly made up of former police officers who had become attorneys. Several of the attorneys served on as panel attorneys for PORAC’s Legal Defense Fund, starting in 2006.

But when PORAC had an audit conducted earlier in 2013, it was discovered that the defendants committed a lengthy fraud, according to the lawsuit.

According to the auditors, for years the defendants billed suspiciously high numbers of hours to PORAC. The billable hours often stretch the imagination in retrospect. For example, one attorney billed the LDF for 4,275 hours in 2012. That would be more than 48 percent of the hours in a year. Another defendant billed more than 3,000 hours that year. A third defendant is accused of billing more than 70 hours for a single day’s work.

Though the firm’s billing practices may have been extreme, it was not until the auditors began using new software that the alleged fraud was discovered. PORAC fired the firm back in September.

Besides this legal malpractice suit, the defendants have been accused of intimidating city council members in Costa Mesa. They also allegedly put a GPS tracking device in one of the council member’s vehicles.

Source: San Bernardino Sun, “Attorneys from now defunct Upland law firm sued for fraud, malpractice,” Joe Nelson, Dec. 19, 2013