Lawsuit against lawyer, firm on hold until judge appointed | NevadaAppeal.com
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Lawsuit against lawyer, firm on hold until judge appointed

A lawsuit accusing Carson City lawyer Steve Hartman of violating ethical rules and cheating his partner in the Silver Oak development is on hold until a judge is named to handle the case.

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 15, charging that Hartman and the Allison/MacKenzie law firm violated rules governing how lawyers are supposed to operate, used deceptive trade practices and acted maliciously after the partnership was dissolved.

It was filed by longtime Carson builder Garth Richards and says Hartman received $3.3 million when the partnership dissolved, with the law firm getting another $903,000.

Hartman and Allison/MacKenzie have filed a motion asking that the lawsuit be dismissed, but have issued no response on the case’s merits. Attorney Dominic Gentile of Las Vegas, who is representing Richards, has opposed the motions to dismiss the case.

No action has been taken because the case was put on hold after Carson District judges Bill Maddox and Mike Griffin removed themselves from hearing the case.

Griffin asked the Nevada Supreme Court on March 15 to appoint another judge from outside the district with no potential conflict.

The Supreme Court has yet to name a judge so the motion for dismissal, the response and a separate motion from Hartman arguing for dismissal have yet to be acted on.

The motion filed Feb. 20 by Allison/MacKenzie’s lawyer V. Andrew Cass of Las Vegas argues the violations alleged by Richards “necessarily occurred more than five years prior to the filing of said complaint.” Therefore, the motion argues, the statute of limitations has expired and the case must be tossed out.

It says Richards and Hartman entered the agreement in late 1992 or early 1993 after Richards asked Hartman to leave the law firm and join him as a business partner.

Richards, however, alleges “specific continuing wrongful actions by defendants” from March 1993 “to the present.” He says those include actions by Hartman and the law firm designed to insulate them from liability in the case and to continue hiding “the conflicts which enriched themselves at the expense of plaintiffs.”

Hartman’s response in March rejected that argument.

“Under this reasoning, any legal wrong could be deemed ‘continuing’ so long as the defendant did not disclose that he was committing the wrong,” he argued.

He said all 10 claims in the original complaint are essentially attorney malpractice claims which are barred by the statute of limitations.

Contact Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.