A case turned personal, it’s what Fallon attorney Martin Crowley said is the driving force behind his recent run-ins with the State Bar of Nevada.
Crowley, whose license was suspended by the Nevada Supreme Court in July, also takes issue with that ruling and the subsequent complaint filed against him. Crowley is under fire by the bar and Reno attorney William Jeanney for allegedly practicing without a license.
Crowley’s attorney, Jeffery Dickerson, is appealing the suspension and Crowley vigorously disputes any accusations of violating the suspension order.
The LVN obtained an affidavit and letter Jeanney filed from Crowley’s firm, American Legal Services, to an insurance company, which Jeanney accuses Crowley of wrongdoing.
“He’s just burned up because of that whole lawsuit back in ’09,” Crowley said of the Senicia Burke case, which is on appeal. “He spent three years on a case that should’ve went to small claims. He’s really being vindictive about the whole thing.”
Burke filed the suit in 2009 in the Third (now Tenth) Judicial District Court after alleging Crowley did not perform services and reimburse her $650 (Crowley’s original fee) as required by an arbitration order.
She was awarded $36,150 after a civil hearing last year.
“We actually did all the court papers and then she wanted the money back,” Crowley said. “I said, ‘That’s cheating.’ You want to fire us and then get the money back after we filed papers with the court.”
As for the new allegations, Crowley said he has not practiced since the suspension and a secretary, as part of routine protocol, mailed the letter.
“It was simply a form letter … written by my secretary,” Crowley said. “I didn’t even write the letter. She’s written dozens of those letters when someone has been in an accident. (It) just summarizes the facts and it lists the medical expenses and how much the client is willing to accept to settle their case.
“These guys are saying it’s practicing law. Well, no, my secretary is not practicing law and I’m not practicing law. Neither (Patrick) King (assistant bar counsel) nor Jeanney bothered to check the facts.”
The action stems from a car accident in December 2012 between Anne Tyler and Melissa Wortham that prompted Jeanney to send a complaint to the bar.
Crowley said attorney Dave Neidert took over the case and the dba (Doing Business As) of American Legal Services. Crowley said Neidert’s name was accidentally omitted from the letter to the insurance company.
“He’s my boss,” Crowley said. “I filed those papers with the Supreme Court.”
Neidert, according to Crowley, started signing documents under the American Legal Services name in July and formally filed the dba in August.
As for the allegation by the bar of Nicole Raymond’s name on the business license, Crowley said that allegation is false.
“All they have to do is check with the county,” he added. “They are misleading the public. It’s so easy to find.”
Another source of frustration for Crowley, though, is the communication of the rules of suspension from the Supreme Court and the bar. According to Crowley, the bar counsel misled the Tenth Judicial District Court administrator of proper protocol. The Supreme Court stipulates a suspended attorney has 15 days to notify clients and to wrap up any cases.
“However, for 15 days from the entry date of the order, the attorney may wind up and complete, on behalf of any client, all matters pending on the entry date,” the rule reads.
The miscommunication, meanwhile, cost Crowley thousands of dollars in legal fees. In addition, Crowley said the bar counsel told his secretary a letter of instruction about his suspension was forthcoming. He received the letter on Aug. 13, 22 days later.
“They screwed me over,” he said. “Not only did my clients cases get frustrated at the court because of misinformation provided by bar counsel, I lost a lot of money.
“I could have went to those hearings because I was wrapping those cases up. People who are supposed to be governing the bar are not providing the correct information either to me or to the court.”
Crowley’s appeal, meanwhile, stems from a suspension ruling in the case against him concerning Floyd Edgemon. The suspension order details “Crowley’s improper business relationship with a client (Edgemon).” In short, the ruling said Crowley violated conflict of interest rules.
Crowley’s business, Moroni Corporate Investments International, Inc. (MCI), took over mortgage payments in 2006 for the property after the owner and Edgemon’s girlfriend, Althea Cottam, died, in 2005.
The home was on the brink of foreclosure, but Crowley and MCI made payments in attempt to help Edgemon during a difficult period.
Crowley said he should have had Edgemon review the contract or waive the rights to have contract reviewed by another attorney. Crowley’s appeal says the omission was not to “hoodwink” Edgemon because it had been established he entered a “business agreement with his attorney.”
“I figured that should have been covered since his CPA friend (Don Nichols) looked at the contract said it was a good deal, and even testified to that,” Crowley added. “We were making all the payments until the house was going to be sold.”
Nevertheless, the appeal states Edgemon’s own testimony indicates he knew Crowley was covering a majority of the mortgage payments as a representative of MCI.
Crowley’s deal with Edgemon was to make mortgage payments for four to six months, but those terms never made it into the contract after a secretarial mistake, he said. Crowley said the plan was to make payments for a limited time and then sell the property, which would have benefited both Edgemon and MCI.
“We paid about 18 months worth of payments in 2006 and 2007,” Crowley said, “and put up approximately $20,000. We also paid the mortgage, taxes and insurance through now … another $50,000 has been paid out. Floyd didn’t tell us the insurance wasn’t being paid. It was much later we found out.”
As a result, the insurance payments were raised $250 by Countrywide Insurance, Crowley said, increasing the total payment to $1,050 per month.
“MCI had a legal right to bail out, so why was he (Judge William Rogers) thinking we had to stay in,” he said of the ruling judge in the initial suit. “That’s what I don’t understand.”
Adding to the frustration, when the home was listed on the market at $174,900, Edgemon said he would not accept lower than $174,000.
“There was not one single offer on the property in two-and-a-half years,” Crowley said. “There’s only one thing you can do after that, and that is lower the price.”
The appeal also states Edgemon lived on the property for two-and-a-half years for about $66 per month or $2,000. According to the appeal, the property is worth $40,000 less than the sale price MCI won during an auction. One other party made a bid of about $121,500, but MCI won the home for about $122,000, according to Crowley.
“I haven’t made one single dime,” Crowley said. “I’m in the hole (on the property).
His appeal also alleges Edgemon lied about his income and has not provided proof to the Supreme Court or bar counsel of “any” investment of the property for six years. Edgemon’s income, according to the appeal, was $1,700 per month when he was deposed, while Edgemon originally told Crowley and Nichols it was $800.
The bar counsel, meanwhile, initially recommended to disbar Crowley. The recommendation, however, was amended to one year, but the Supreme Court ruled a six-month and one-day suspension was sufficient.
“All the things we raised, they (the Supreme Court) didn’t even touch them,” Crowley said of his argument during the suspension hearing.
Also, the state bar, in its critical finding of the initial suspension recommendation states Crowley “did not engage in an(y) fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”
“So my position is, if I didn’t engage in an(y) fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, then why is my license suspended?” Crowley asked. “I was just trying to help the guy.”
Clarifications: In the Nov. 1 story, a list of restrictions concerning Crowley’s practice, profit and employment status was attributed to the suspension order. A letter from Janeen Isaacson, assistant bar counsel, detailed the specifics in a letter to attorney Jeffrey Dickerson.
Crowley did return a call seeking comment for the Nov. 1 story, left a message, and a follow-up call was made, but the LVN could not reach Crowley before deadline. Crowley did speak for 45 minutes with the LVN last week about the allegations.