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Friday, April 25, 2008
Dannielynn's Trust charged $415/hr. for 2nd Miami attorney to attend Anna Nicole's funeral
I've enjoyed her cogent, fair-minded and fact-based stories ever since returning to South Florida from D.C., and her story Wednesday really got to me.
Maybe I'm missing something, having tuned out the Anna Nicole news around the time baby Dannielyn went to Louisville with her father Larry Birkhead after the funeral, to finally meet her grandparents, but, if the article below is true, and I know that it is, how did this news about the attorney billing patterns in this case of Richard Milstein at Akerman Senterfit -Florida's largest law firm- stay under the local radar for so long?
(Or was it just me?)
As if lawyers don't have bad enough P.R.?
I've highlighted below in red the most offensive excerpt of the Mishory piece.
While my own experiences working for some of America's largest law firms in Washington, D.C., in various capacities, made me congruent with the sometimes absurd billing numbers there, I have to admit, up 'till now, I'd always thought of Mr. Milstein as the one consistently good guy throughout most of that very sad story last year, but reading this story about the billing just gives me the creeps.
I'm glad the firm finally did the right thing.
(Cinematic counterpoint to the below: Kirk Douglas paying out-of-work actors to be mourners at his father's funeral in Hollywood, in South Beach Hoosier's favorite all-time film, The Bad and the Beautiful. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044391/ To watch the great original film trailer go to: http://www.tcm.com/video/videoPlayer/?cid=24322&titleId=67941 )
The day the Anna Nicole news broke, I was over near the Hollywood City Hall, preparing some comments and questions I'd be making later at a Broward County Charter Review Commission subcommittee meeting.
When I went outside to get some air and have a Coke, I put on my Walkman, and within five minutes I heard the very first report that Anna Nicole had been rushed from The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to the hospital.
Logic dictated that they go to Memorial Regional Hospital, just down the road from where I was on Hollywood Blvd. http://www.memorialregional.com/
(I was very much against their expansion plans last year and the Hollywood City Commission's foolish positive vote, but that's a whole 'nother post.)
It's a hospital I'm very familiar with because of all the many trips I took over there my first year back here, with my late and sickly step-mother in tow, before she passed away.
I changed my evening plans, made some quick phone calls and then headed immediately over to the hospital, where I got there well before most of the local reporters and he myriad entertainment "hosts" and talking heads showed up. http://www.nbc6.net/news/10966027/detail.html
As you can imagine, despite all the technology present, and the PIOs, it was like Rumor Central. Times ten!!!
And me, unfortunately, with just a disposable camera in my bag, otherwise I'd have had a ton of great shots I'd have downloaded here that very first night to illuminate or amuse you.
Having been a regular at the Marv Albert trial circus back in Arlington County, outside the Arlington County Courthouse -even getting interviewed about a half-dozen times, along with some friends, by NY-based TV and radio reporters for the obligatory, "What does it all mean?' question- I had a very clear idea what the Anna news would mean -and I wasn't disappointed.
A 24/7 media feeding frenzy.
Something I didn't know until today, not that it changes anything about the billing issue:
Gay leader embraces a raft of charities
Prominent lawyer lends his time and influence to help the neediest -- people with AIDS, children and the elderly.
By Steve Rothaus
November 18, 2005
FYI, Herald news reporter Steve Rothaus was a classmate of mine in certain classes at North Miami Beach High School in the late '70's, probably including A.P. English, with former national teacher of the year Barbara Goleman, from whom I learned much my sophmore year; as I later did as well with my A.P. English teacher my last two years at NMB, the brilliant Henry Greenfield.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Goleman_High_School and http://www.ccsso.org/Projects/national_teacher_of_the_year/national_teachers/220.cfm
If you read her letter here, you'll get a sense of how fortunate I was to have her as a teacher, and why so many of her lessons are embedded in my brain: http://www.ccsso.org/Projects/national_teacher_of_the_year/voices_for_the_future/1065.cfm
[That junior year A.P. English class with Mr. Greenfield was perhaps my favorite non-French class. Among my classmates was Nathaniel "Nat" Singer, the brilliant math genius, NMB baseball captain, '79 NMB valedictorian, and future Princeton Tiger and finance whiz.
Nat was one of the world's greatest Chicago Black Hawks fans ever, a point this math genius emphasized in the mid-to-late '70's by his wearing of the classic red Black Hawks jersey more times than I can count, back before people wore sports jerseys as casually as they do now, and they were sold everywhere.
Almost a generation before the Florida Panthers came into formal existence, back when I subscribed to The Hockey News, Nat was alone among the non-Quebecois born students at NMB whom I could talk about hockey with fairly intelligently, since unlike them, he didn't think that ALL the best hockey players were from la Belle Province.
Nat was also the only other person I ever spoke to in those days who ever grasped the potential of this Gretzky kid. our age, playing with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Nat was not only one of the smartest persons I ever met in my life, he was also among the most unassuming, especially considering how truly pure his gift was: numbers.
Last I heard, Nat, formerly in charge of municipal derivatives at Bear, Stearns & Co., before shifting to the firm's asset management division, is a Partner and Managing Director at Swap Financial Group, the nation’s leading independent swap advisor.
I'm sure if you ask him to talk about CMS -constant maturity swaps- he's so bright and engaging that he can make it sound like poetry he's describing, not financial techniques.
Trust me when I tell you, if someone like Nat was involved in the ownership of the sad-sack Florida Marlins, that organization would be infinitely better run, structured and successful -on and off the field.
And they most assuredly wouldn't be extorting the South Florida community like Loria & Company, by holding a gun to their own head -and everyone else's wallet- but instead be a responsible and active community partner -not a parasite.
And because it made financial sense, they'd have solid and logical plan for a privately-built, state-of-the-art ballpark (near mass transit) that would be an architectural jewel that made South Florida proud every time a camera captured the scene.
Daily Business Review
Anna Nicole SmithParties settle fees for baby’s attorneyby Jordana Mishory
April 24, 2008
Miami attorney Richard Milstein agreed to settle his $200,000 bill for his guardianship role in the highly publicized court fight over Anna Nicole Smith’s body for less than half that amount, a source knowledgeable about the case said.
A settlement notice that did not specify the dollar amount was filed last week by Milstein, who at a judge’s direction determined where the former Playboy Playmate would be buried. The move effectively closes the Smith saga in Broward County...
Smith’s boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, and her daughter’s father, Larry Birkhead, initially contested the fee before agreeing to the undisclosed settlement. The details are not confidential, but attorneys in the case refused to release the amount, and the figure does not appear in court records...
In court documents, Milstein listed his rate at $475 an hour for his work at the hearing and a brief appeal. He also charged for time spent planning Smith’s funeral, overseeing the trust set up in Dannielynn’s name and responding to paternity issues. The $198,493 bill also included work done by his colleagues at Akerman Senterfitt, including shareholder Christopher Carver at $415 an hour, of counsel Mary Swayze at $360 an hour and associate Mia Martin at $250 an hour. Carver attended Smith’s funeral on assignment in the guardianship case.
“It is unconscionable for a trust established for a baby to be billed at a large firm hourly rate, which includes time not only for the guardian but also other attorneys in the firm,” Birkhead and Stern contended in a motion last October challenging Milstein’s bill.
Milstein declined to comment.
In court documents, he said he was required “to devote significantly all of his professional and personal time and attention to the interests of Dannielynn for a period in excess of two weeks to the exclusion of [his] normal and usual practice of law.”
Birkhead’s attorney, solo practitioner Susan Brown in Hollywood, said the parties never contested Milstein’s right to be paid — just the amount... But Birkhead and Stern contended last October that Milstein’s request would have sucked the child’s $200,000 trust dry...
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