• Report: #1078944

Complaint Review: Keefe Bartels

  • Submitted: Sun, August 25, 2013
  • Updated: Thu, April 21, 2016

  • Reported By: Anthony Raymond — Baltimore Maryland
Keefe Bartels
170 Monmouth Street Red Bank, New Jersey USA

Keefe Bartels, John Keefe, Jr.Stephen Sullivan Legal malpractice and unethical behavior Red Bank New Jersey

*Author of original report: Resolution and settlement

*Author of original report: Continuation

*Author of original report: Unethical conduct and malpractice

*Author of original report: Unethical conduct and malpractice

*Author of original report: Unethical Conduct and Abandonment

*Author of original report: Unethical conduct and malpractice

*REBUTTAL Individual responds: Stephen T. Sullivan, Jr.'s Response to Anthony Raymond's complaint "Keefe Bartels, John Keefe, Jr. Stephen Sullivan Legal malpractice and unethical behavior Red Bank New Jersey"

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I note the following areas of negligence:

 

1.     Failure to allege bailment which severely limited my chance of obtaining damages.

        1.1 The judge commented that he could not even consider

             damages since your firm had not addressed bailment.

2.     Failure to use my expert and fact witness who saw the condition of my cards before they were sent to Lifson.

2.1 The judge commented that this witness was necessary.

3.     Losing evidence.

3.1    I gave you several irreplaceable catalogs and other documents that were crucial to my case. Your firm lost them.

3.2    You firm lost my witnesses notes taken during his deposition.

4.     I went through at least three lawyers with your firm, each of whom had to be brought up to speed on my case. This leads me to conclude that you placed my case at the bottom of the barrel and merely assigned it to whichever inexperienced associate you happened to have hired.

4.1    Abandonment of a client’s matter and lack of due diligence.

4.2    Payment for duplication of effort by various attorneys

5.     Improper direct examination.

5.1    You failed to ask me about how I determined the condition and value of my cards at the trial.

5.2    There was no proper addressing at trial of the dozens of other cards which were trimmed and substituted. These were not indicated in his appraisal report(s) of my cards, the second of which was presented to the court.

5.3    No redirect or cross examination at trial where you promised to address the crucial issue of trimmed/replaced cards.

6.     Improper Cross examination of Lifson.

6.1    Failure to refer to evidence that would have contradicted his testimony, including but not limited to his solicitation of my high quality, high-grade cards, and the inconsistency of his communications to me.

6.2    Lifson’s letters to the Office of the Attorney General were never addressed. Lifson clearly lied, and clearly misrepresented the value of my high-grade cards.

7.     Lack of communications on a consistent basis as indicated by my letters and emails of 9/18/06, 12/18/06, 1/15/06, 7/23/07, 8/27/07, etc.

8.      Up until the very day of trial I was promised a jury trial. This was also indicated in my claim. Instead, I was told that we were

        using a judge because that’s what the Court wanted.

9.     My last bill was paid to you in September, 2006. On January 4, 2007 you informed me I would receive no further bills. Despite

your promises, in July, 2008, 21 months later and less than 2 months before the trial you send me another PAST DUE bill of

$23,637. It was then suggested to me that I should drop my lawsuit so I would not incur any additional bills.

The above is in addition to the lack of communication from your firm about which I complained numerous times.

In all, your tactics at trial cannot be attributed to trial decisions, but instead to negligence, lack of due diligence and inexperience. As I expected, without my witness my trail was just a waste of time and money. Many important issues were just ignored at my trial. Essentially, I was just set up to lose my case. I have spent much time and money sending and discussing the same information to different attorneys with your firm, which has resulted in duplicate billing. My efforts to seek justice have been compromised. The end result was I was forced to accept at trial a box of worthless trimmed cards which were not mine. My records will show I could have accomplished as much years ago without your firm’s representation.

I am very disappointed and very angry about the results of your firm’s representation. I believe your firm has negligently abandoned my case, and has violated professional ethics, as well as professional malpractice. My efforts to seek justice were compromised. More importantly, I have suffered the loss of all of my property.

Your firm has retained possession of my property as follows: various Mastro and Heritage auction catalogs and their auction results; various printouts of those catalogs auction results; some 1955 high-grade baseball cards; Sports Collectors Digest Certified Card Price Guide; the book Sports Collectibles Digest Baseball Cards Questions and Answers. I want the immediate return of my property.

 


This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/25/2013 03:02 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Keefe-Bartels/Red-Bank-New-Jersey-07701/Keefe-Bartels-John-Keefe-JrStephen-Sullivan-Legal-malpractice-and-unethical-behavior-R-1078944. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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REBUTTALS & REPLIES:
6Author 0Consumer 1Employee/Owner
Updates & Rebuttals

#1 Author of original report

Resolution and settlement

AUTHOR: - ()

Anthony Raymond

(((REDACTED)))

Baltimore, MD(((REDACTED)))

(((REDACTED)))

 

Keefe Bartels has resolved any and all issues between us to my complete and utter satisfaction. I hereby retract everything I have posted online about the law firm of Keefe Bartels LLP, and its individual attorneys, employees and principals.

 

Tony Raymond

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#2 Author of original report

Continuation

AUTHOR: Anthony Raymond - ()

As I have previously indicated, please read everthing written about the lawyers in this firm before choosing to retain them.

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#3 Author of original report

Unethical conduct and malpractice

AUTHOR: Anthony R - ()

 Keefe lost my evidence, and despite his promises refused to use my witness. The judge said I should have had a witness, which I did. My witness was deposed for over 8 hours. I was promised a jury trial. I was denied that the day of trial. I was charged many thousands of dollars for so-called jury preparation. There was no jury. The judge said since there was no bailment included in my counterclaim the Court could not award me damages.

Rather than refer me to another lawyer outside of KB, they went to trial without evidence and mhy witness. They knew they could not win my case and sabotaged all my efforts.

WOULD YOU WANT TO RETAIN THIS FIRM?

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#4 Author of original report

Unethical conduct and malpractice

AUTHOR: Anthony Raymond - ()

BEWARE OF KEEFE BARTELS

Anybody considering retaining Keefe Bartels should first read the following:

 I have many letters indicating my importance for my witness. These letters/emails/and telephone conversations were from Weisslitz, then Dvorak, then Keefe and finally Sullivan. My witness was deposed for over 8 hours. The day of trial Sulliavan refused me my jury trial as were indicated in his firms Motions. He said he decided he would not use my witness. My witness had already taken 2 unpaid  days off from work at his expense. Hesaid he wouldn't use my witness because" I know my witness and the judge will look unfavorably on it!" Does that make any sense to anyone.

My witness was never even contacted by Sullivan as noted in the following letter:

Tom Coleman

8663 ScortonHarbour

Pasadena, MD21122

410-439-9804

 

To Whom It May Concern:

In March, 2006 Tony Raymond asked me to be a witness regarding the theft of his sports memorabilia. In April, Mike Weisslitz, Tony’s lawyer with Keefe Bartels, asked me for a written statement, and my consent to a deposition. He said his attorney indicated that my deposition and testimony would be crucial to his case. Since I had personally viewed and evaluated his cards, I immediately consented.

On June 25, I was deposed for over seven hours by Lori Dvorak. She had replaced Weisslitz as Tony’s attorney. She indicated to me and to Tony that I had done a good job, and I would make an important and credible witness. She again emphasized my importance as a witness.

In 2007, I was asked by Tony to send a letter to Stephen Sullivan, another attorney with Keefe Bartels. This was the same information I had previously forwarded regarding valuations. Stephen Sullivan never spoke directly with me, nor did he or John Keefe Jr. respond to my email.

Tony had asked me to be available on September 23 to September 25, 2008 as witness in his trial. I took leave from work to await the call from Stephen Sullivan. This call never came. Tony called me on the evening of September 23, and informed me that Sullivan refused to call me. When I inquired why, Tony stated that Sullivan told him “You know your witness, and the judge would look unfavorable on Coleman’s testimony.”

I never at any time spoke with Sullivan. He never had the courtesy to inform me that he would not require my testimony at trial. Both Weisslitz and Dvorak and even Keefe indicated the importance of my testimony. Tony later told me Sullivan told him that I made a poor witness. How could he determine that when he never spoke with me?

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.

  

Sincerely,

Tom Coleman

 

Sullivan billed me many  thousands of dollars for so-called jury preparation. Only at trial did he inform me there would be no jury.

The following is a complete synopsis:

I note the following areas of ethics violations and malpractice by Keefe and his firm:

 

1.       Failure to allege bailment which totally eliminated any chance of obtaining damages in my counterclaim.

          1.1 The judge commented that he could not even consider

               damages since he and his firm had not addressed bailment.

2.       Failure to use my expert and fact witness who saw the condition of my cards before they were sent to Lifson.

2.1 The judge commented that this witness was necessary.

        2.2 Both Weisslitz and Dvorak strongly indicated the necessity

                of using my witness. Dvorak was particularly pleased at my

                witnesses eight hour deposition. Keefe and Sullivan later

                reaffirmed this by calls and emails, all of which were

                duplication of effort.

3.       Losing evidence.

3.1     I gave his firm several irreplaceable catalogs with prices realized, and other documents that were crucial to my case. They lost them.

3.2     His firm lost my witnesses notes taken during his deposition.

4.       I went through at least three lawyers with this firm, each of whom had to be brought up to speed on my case. This leads me to conclude that you placed my case at the bottom of the barrel.

4.1     Abandonment of a client’s matter and lack of due diligence.

4.2     Payment for duplication of effort by various attorneys

5.       Improper direct examination by Sullivan.

5.1     He failed to ask me about how I determined the condition and value of my cards at the trial.

5.2     There was no proper addressing at trial of the dozens of other cards which were trimmed and substituted. These were not indicated in his appraisal report(s) of my cards, the second of which was presented to the court.

5.3     No redirect or cross examination at trial where he promised to address the crucial issue of trimmed/replaced cards.

5.4     Sullivan refused to use me as expert witness for my own property.

6.       Improper Cross examination of Lifson.

6.1     Failure to refer to evidence that would have contradicted his testimony, including but not limited to his solicitation of my high quality, high-grade cards, and the inconsistency of his communications to me.

6.2     Lifson’s letters to the Office of the Attorney General were never addressed. Lifson clearly lied, and clearly misrepresented the value of my high-grade cards.

6.3     Sullivan never addressed grading standards, and the importance of trimmed cards.

7.       Lack of communications on a consistent basis as indicated by my

letters and emails of 9/18/06, 12/18/06, 1/15/06, 7/23/07, 8/27/07, etc.

8.      Up until the very day of trial I was promised a jury trial. This

          was also indicated in my counterclaim. Instead, I was told on the

         at trial that we were having a bench trial because that’s what

          the Court and the other attorney wanted.

9.       My last bill was paid in September, 2006. This bill continues to indicate my sports memorabilia/collectibles as postcards. On

January 4, 2007 Keefe and Sullivan promised me I would receive no further bills. Despite these promises, in July, 2008, 21

months later and less than 2 months before the trial they sent me another PAST DUE bill of $23,637. It was then suggested to

me that I should drop my lawsuit so I would not incur any additional bills.

9.1 I was billed for thousands of dollars for so-called jury preparation. There was no jury preparation.

9.2 Keefe now has sued me. This suit includes charges which exceed the New Jersey Statute of Limitations, since Keefe

      includes charges dating back to 2006.

9.3 In addition he refused to credit me for at least $2,400 which were never deducted from the balance paid. So now he can

      expect to get paid twice. This is fraud.


I am very dissatisfied with the services provided by John Keefe and his lawyers in my case.  This firm negligently handled my case, and I believe intentionally sabotaged my case rather than returning my monies paid. Stephen Sullivan was the third lawyer assigned to represent me by Keefe Bartels. Both he and John Keefe, Jr. told me Lori Dvorak abandoned both me and the firm without any notice. I was not given my legal right to have Lori continue her representation should I have chosen. I only recently learned that Lori was literally locked out of the firm. I asked for my money to be returned. Keefe apologized for my treatment but refused. However he told me that there would be no further charges since I had paid enough ($18,000). Twenty-two months between bills, and two months before trial, he sent me a bill for another $22,356. This bill includes charges dating back to October, 2006. They then tried to get me to simply drop my case. Again, I asked for my money returned and reminded him that his firm lost evidence. They declined. In addition, I paid at least $2,400 in 2006 which was cashed by Keefe, and I was never credited.

Almost immediately after Sullivan was assigned to me, I stopped receiving replies to emails and calls. More importantly, Both Keefe and Sullivan indicated that communication and evidence was lost. After 4 emails and many calls Sullivan finally admitted that they lost my witnesses notes taken during his 8 hour deposition. He had taken 2 hours of important hand-written notes of all of my cards which were supposed to be used at trial. In 2007, I met with Sullivan for what was supposed to be a trial. I noticed that all of my Prices Realized from my auction catalogs were missing. The catalogs by themselves were worthless without these at trial. He just said he was sure they were around. These were to be used in support of my valuations of property. My many emails to him reminded him of their importance. He ignored them. Apparently, he did not care, since he never intended to use any catalogs or anything else as evidence at trial.

On the day of trial, Sulllivan told me that “we have decided to have a bench trial. I asked him who “we” was. He said the other attorney, the judge, and himself. I reminded him I had been promised a jury trail as indicated in my attachments to you. He refused my request. I then asked him which day my witness was coming. Sullivan said he decided to not use my witness. I asked why, and reminded him all the letters and emails indicating his importance to my case. He said, “You know your witness, and the judge won’t look favorably on it.” My witness took off from work two days, and Sullivan never even had the professionalism nor the courtesy to contact him.

Neither my witness, nor any of his statements were used at trial, despite the firm’s insistence that his appearance was crucial to my success. During my trial, Sullivan said I could not refer to my witness, nor to the value of my cards. I was badgered by the opposing attorney about the lack of my witness. Sullivan also never mentioned the value of my property. He said he would do so at cross examination. At cross examination he said “no questions.” I was literally hung out to dry!

At the conclusion of the trial, the judge specifically stated that I should have had a witness, even if he saw the cards a year or so before. I provided this witness. Sullivan would not use him. The judge also said that bailment was not indicated on my claim, so he could not even consider damages. Clearly, this was an instrumental part of my claim. My counterclaim was not valid. Isn’t my attorney responsible for this neglect?

Immediately after the trial, I asked Sullivan how he could possibly not include bailment. He smiled and said “Oh well, we would have probably lost anyway.” I asked him for my catalogs, books and cards returned. He refused, and said he would return some of my property, but not all of it. I never did get everything returned, including some cards.

The judge was presented with very little information to give me a positive verdict. I had witness who Sullivan wouldn’t use because he lost the evidence. The judge also said he could not award me any damages since my counterclaim did not include bailment.

In all, Sullivan’s tactics at trial cannot be attributed to trial decisions, but instead to negligence, and lack of due diligence. Without my witness, without my evidence, and without bailment included in my counterclaim my trail was just a waste of my time and money. All of the important issues were just ignored at my trial. Essentially, I was just set up to lose my case.

I am very disappointed and very angry about Keefe’s representation. I believe he negligently abandoned my case, and he has violated professional ethics, as well as professional malpractice standards. My efforts to seek justice were totally compromised. More importantly, I have suffered the loss of all of my property valued at $126,000. The end result was I was forced to accept at trial a box of worthless trimmed cards which were not mine. Instead of being valued at $126,815, the trimmed and damaged cards I was forced to accept after trial are worth $3-5,000 market value.

Keefe Bartels admitted that they lost evidence. Rather than return my $18K paid, and refer me to another attorney, and risk legal actions for malpractice, they chose to try my case without evidence. They knew they could not win my case. He is guilty of unjust enrichment, as well as breach of contract.

I was told that before making an ethics complaint, I first had to go to fee arbitration. In October, 2012 I did so. One arbitrator was over an hour late, and then I was told he could only stay for about 1 ½ hours. As I expected it was a waste of time. They ignored all of my evidence as indicated in this letter, and would not acknowledge that I did not get my property returned. Now, Keefe has entered a formal judgment for $36,926 against me which include charges which exceed the New Jersey Statute of Limitations, as well as the checks I indicated above. His contract clearly states he would terminate representation if a bill is 60 days past due. I wish he had! So, Keefe now chooses to destroy my good credit. Since I cannot afford an attorney to contest this judgment, I am now forced me into bankruptcy.

His actions have cost me nearly $200,000 in loss of property, legal fees, and travel and other expenses.

 

Anthony  Raymond

973 Circle Drive                                

Baltimore, MD 21227

Email: traymond51@hotmail.com

(410) 247-0837

 

 Should anyone haave any questions or concerns I invite them to contact me.

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#5 Author of original report

Unethical Conduct and Abandonment

AUTHOR: Anthony Raymond - ()

 BEWARE OF SULLIVAN AND KEEFE BARTELS.

 

I was looking for an honest attorney to represent me regarding legal malpractice. I was a victim of consumer fraud. The company/person refused to return my property to me, and they sued me for $7,500. I initially hired two attorneys, both of whom took my retainer and did nothing. Both times I found out from the court I was represented pro se. The second attorney did not even show up for a hearing, and a judgment was entered against me for the $7,500. I hired Keefe/Bartels to vacate the judgment, and to counterclaim for the value of my property. I had a witness who was deposed for 9 hours. The firm switched lawyers on me 3 times, and in the transition lost important evidence, both from my witness, and also important prices realized related to the valuation of my property. I contacted Patrick Bartels when I was told Lori Dvorak no longer was employed by him. He said he would call me the following day.  I never heard from him again. I only found out in February, 2013 that Lori Dvorak did not abandon me and the firm, but she was locked out and could not represent me. Keefe lied about the circumstances of her departure.

 

When Keefe forced me to use Stephen Sullivan, Keefe said I would incur no other charges. During that time he processed thousands of dollars of my checks without ever deducting them from my bill. My #45 refers to these checks. At the time I did not care because of his promise of no other billing. He lied. Twenty-two months later, two months before the trial Keefe sent me a new bill for $22,356. They then tried to get me to simply drop my case.

 

 

Stephen Sullivan was the third lawyer assigned to represent me by Keefe Bartels. Both he and John Keefe, Jr. told me Lori Dvorak abandoned both me and the firm without any notice. I was not given my legal right to have Lori continue her representation should I have chosen. I only recently learned that Lori was literally locked out of the firm. I was told that there would be no further charges since I had paid enough. Twenty-two months between bills, and two months before trial, they sent me a bill for another $22,356. They then tried to get me to simply drop my case.

 

Keefe switched lawyers on me 3 times. He lost important evidence from my witness, and also regarding my valuations. The day of trial I was refused a jury trial as promised. The day of trial I was told they would not use my witness "because you know your witness and the judge will look unfavorable on it." I could not win my case without any witness. The judge said I should have had a witness. He said the Court could not award damages since my claim did not include bailment. His counterclaim was worthless. I lost over $100,000 in property and I was charged $57,000 to get a $7,500 judgment vacated. 

 

I feel Sullivan/Keefe Bartels either never cared about winning my case, or intentionally lost it rather than returning my fees to me, and subjecting themselves to immediate malpractice claims.

 

I believe Keefe Bartels are guilty of unjust enrichment, as well as breach of contract. His counterclaim was worthless. I lost over $100,000 in property and I was charged $57,000 to get a $7,500 judgment vacated.  They were supposed to counterclaim at treble damages. According to the Judge, the Court could not award any damages since my counterclaim neglected to include bailment, and I should have presented a witness. Please note that I have hard copies of all files, including all motions, and some sample catalogs and their auction results which were supposed to be have been used at trial.

 

Now he has the audacity and lack of ethics to issue a judgment against me for $37,000. He and his firm betrayed my trust, and I will now have to file bankruptcy later this year.

 

 WOULD YOU WANT TO HIRE THIS LAWYER?

 

 

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#6 Author of original report

Unethical conduct and malpractice

AUTHOR: Anthony Raymond - ()

How would any client like their firm to promsie to vacate a judgment, and counterclaim for the value of my cards and retain this sleezy lawyer and his sleezy firm.

They vacated the judgment easily since other unetical lawyers did not even enter their appearance. They then changed lawyers on me 3 times. They swore that since I had already paid $18,000+ they would charge me any more. Eighteen months later, a month before the trial Sullivan sends me a bill for $23K! It included thousands of dollars in duplication of effort and jury preparation.

The entire time Keefe and his other minions told me how impportant my witness was. The day of trial Sullivan refused my jury trial as I was promised and indicated in all motions. I protested, but he said then I have to return to Baltimore, I asked about my witness. He said he was not going to use my witness. He didn;t even have the courtesy or manners to contact my witness who took off two days of work at his expense.

Sullivan and his firm lost my evidence. I have emails asking for my evidence repeatedly. So without a witness and evidence I could not possibly win my trial. Then he has the audacity to initiate a judment against me.

So I spent over $18 to get a $7,500 judgment vacated. What a deal. Sullivan should be ashamed of himself, not give excuses. He is a disgrace to his profession.

BEWARE THIS ATTORNEY AND KEEFE BARTELS, WOULD YOU WANT TO BE TREATED LIKE THIS?

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#7 REBUTTAL Individual responds

Stephen T. Sullivan, Jr.'s Response to Anthony Raymond's complaint "Keefe Bartels, John Keefe, Jr. Stephen Sullivan Legal malpractice and unethical behavior Red Bank New Jersey"

AUTHOR: Keefe Bartels - ()

I am the attorney complained about by Tony Raymond as having committed purported (and unsupported) unethical and negligent acts.  I submit this rebuttal in response to Mr. Raymond scurrilous attacks against my Firm's and my representation of him.  

In his complaint, Mr. Raymond fails to provide any background regarding either the underlying dispute between Robert Edward Auctions, LLC ("REA") and Robert Lifson and himself or the extensive and contentious litigation between these parties.  Mr. Raymond also inexplicably fails to discuss an impartial Fee Arbitration Panel's finding that my Firm and I diligently and competently represented him.     

Throughout the underlying litigation, REA and Mr. Lifson were represented by aggressive counsel, resulting in thorough litigation of all contested issues.  He also ignores this Firm's success, among other things,  in having a default judgment against him vacated, defeating several substantive motions by REA and Mr. Lifson and in having their affirmative claims against him dismissed at trial.  His disappointment in the trial court's decision, which he did not appeal, does not support any of his frivolous claims.

SUMMARY OF UNDERLYING FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On or about June 12, 2003, Mr. Raymond received correspondence from REA and Robert Lifson stating that they conducted periodic national auctions of sports cards, memorabilia and other collectibles.  In response, Mr. Raymond sent Mr. Lifson an email inquiring about the auctions.  Initially, Mr. Raymond indicated that he was interested in selling a 1955 Topps baseball card set and a Three Stooges set.

Thereafter, in mid-June 2003, Mr. Lifson contacted Mr. Raymond at his home to discuss the possibility of including some of his sports cards in an upcoming January 2004 auction.  As a result of this conversation, Mr. Raymond sent REA several cards from his collection, including a 1955 Topps Rhodes, a 1955 Topps Koufax, a 1955 Topps Killebrew, a 1952 Bowman Large Football Card set (without numbers 36, 90 and 135), a 1955 Topps set and a 1959 Fleer Three Stooges Set.  Mr. Raymond sent the cards via United States Mail.  Prior to sending them, Mr. Raymond did not take pictures of the cards, have them independently, professionally appraised  or record the cards' conditions.  In fact, there was no independent documentation regarding the alleged quality of Mr. Raymond's cards -- even though he believed them to be worth tens of thousands and later over a hundred thousands dollars.   

Although he insured the cards, the insurance was for significantly less than Mr. Raymond's perceived value.  In fact, Mr. Raymond could not recall the exact amount of  insurance that he purchased, but it was far less than value he claimed during the litigation.  During trial, REA and Lifson focused on the extreme differences between Mr. Raymond's values before and after litigation began.  During its oral decision, the Court also strongly emphasized Mr. Raymond's failures to properly document his cards, given the purported value that he ascribed to them.             

On or about July 21, 2003, Mr. Lifson acknowledged receipt of these cards, and forwarded a consignment agreement, which Mr. Raymond signed.  On or about July 24, 2003, Mr. Lifson contacted Mr. Raymond and suggested that he separately sell three cards from the 1955 Topps set (numbers 1, 123 and 124).  Mr. Raymond shipped these cards to REA.  As with his previous cards, Mr. Raymond did not take pictures of the cards, have them independently, professionally appraised  or record the cards' conditions.     On or about July 28, 2003, REA returned the three cards to Mr. Raymond.  Upon review, Mr. Raymond believed that they had not been returned in the same condition that they had been sent.  Consequently, Mr. Raymond communicated with Mr. Lifson regarding the purported damage to the cards.  A lengthy and antagonistic exchange of emails commenced between Mr. Raymond and Mr. Lifson regarding the purported condition of the cards and responsibility for the alleged damage.

On October 6, 2003, Mr. Raymond revoked his authority for REA to sell any of his cards and demanded their return.  Another lengthy and antagonistic exchange of emails occurred between Mr. Raymond and Mr. Lifson.  In the emails, Mr. Raymond and Mr. Lifson disagreed about the quality of Mr. Raymond's cards and the terms of their return to Mr. Raymond.  In particular, Mr. Raymond alleged that REA and/or Mr. Lifson damaged or altered the condition of his cards and substituted his for lesser quality cards.  As a result, the cards remained in Mr. Lifson's possession until the underlying litigation's conclusion.  

On or about December 9, 2003, Mr. Raymond filed a Complaint against REA and Mr. Lifson in the District Court of Maryland.   In the Action, Mr. Raymond alleged that the value of his cards were $20,800 and sought this amount in damages.  Again, when he originally sent the   cards to REA and Lifson, Mr. Raymond did not insure their value for $20,800.  REA and Lifson moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of jurisdiction, which the Court granted on May 25, 2004.  

In or about May 2004, Mr. Raymond complained to Krause Publications claiming that REA falsely advertised with Sports Collectors Digest, that REA and Lifson damaged his cards and that REA and Lifson failed to return them.  Similarly, in or about June 2004, Mr. Raymond contacted Mastro, an REA competitor, and claimed that ERA and/or Lifson stole his cards and replaced them.  In the same letter, Mr. Raymond accused Mastro of "unethical and illegal action."  Further, he threatened "to notify all industry and collectible publications about this transaction."   These statements, and others, ultimately caused REA and Mr. Lifson to file defamation claims against Mr. Raymond, which this Firm defended and persuaded the Court to dismiss at trial.   

Thereafter, on August 30, 2004, Mr. Raymond complained to Maryland's Attorney General about REA and Mr. Lifson.  In the letter, Mr. Raymond claimed that REA and Lifson breached their agreement with him and damaged and/or replaced his cards.  Again, he valued his cards at $20,800.  Of course, he did not tell the Attorney General that he insured the cards for far less value.  

On or about November 30, 2004, REA sent Mr. Raymond an invoice for storage of the cards in the amount of $3,890.00.  Mr. Raymond refused to pay the storage fees.  Litigation then ensued in the New Jersey Superior Court.  

SUMMARY OF UNDERLYING NEW JERSEY LITIGATION


I.     Prior to Keefe Bartels, Mr. Raymond Retained Two Other Law Firms

On December 15, 2004, REA filed a lawsuit against Mr. Raymond in the Essex County Superior Court, Special Civil Division, ESX-DC-30339-04.  The suit alleged that Mr. Raymond breached the Consignment Agreement and demanded damages in the amount of $6,000.00.  Mr. Raymond retained a New Jersey attorney (not connected to my Firm), who allegedly filed a Counterclaim and Third Party Complaint.  Trial was scheduled for May 24, 2005.

On May 10, 2005, Mr. Raymond discharged this attorney.  As stated by Mr. Raymond:

I decided to discharge [the attorney] due to they fact that I was dissatisfied with his representation of me in connection with the Complaint, namely that he (1) insisted that I travel to New Jersey to inspect and retrieve my cards; (2) was extremely tardy and inattentive in responding to my inquires and representing me; (3) filed a Counterclaim and Third Party Complaint that failed to state the true value of my damages, which far exceed the jurisdictional limit of the Special Civil Part; (4) refused to return my telephone calls and emails regarding the case; (5) never provided me with a written, signed legal services agreement; and (6) misrepresented to me that he intended to pursue the Counterclaim/Third Party Complaint against Plaintiff under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

Mr. Raymond retained new counsel (not connected to my Firm) and the trial was adjourned to June 29, 2005.  

Prior to the June trial date, REA voluntarily withdrew the lawsuit and filed a new complaint, ESX-DC-01642-05.  In the new lawsuit, REA demanded $7,030.00 in damages.  The new attorney purportedly failed to file an Answer or Counterclaim to this new lawsuit.  As a result, the Court entered judgment against Mr. Raymond in the amount of $7,030.00.
 
II.     Keefe Bartels Enters Its Appearance and Diligently Represents Mr. Raymond During Discovery

After the Court entered Default Judgment against Mr. Raymond, he contacted this Firm and retained its services (Mr. Raymond's third firm in a very short period of time).  The Firm immediately moved to vacate the Default Judgment, permit Mr. Raymond to file an Answer, Counterclaim and Third Party Complaint and remove the matter to the Law Division.  REA's and Mr. Lifson's counsel vociferously objected to vacating the Default Judgment.  Despite the onerous R: 4:50 standard for vacating default judgments, on March 3, 2006, the Honorable Eugene J. Codey, J.S.C., granted the requested relief.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

REA immediately moved for an Order for leave to appeal. This Firm opposed the appellate motion.  Keefe Bartels successfully defended the motion and the Appellate Division denied the requested relief.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

On March 28, 2006, this Firm filed Mr. Raymond's Answer, Affirmative Defenses, Counterclaim and Third-Party Complaint.  On or about June 9, 2006, REA and Lifson filed their Answer and Affirmative Defenses to Counterclaim and Third-Party Complaint and Fourth-Party Complaint.  In the Fourth-Party Complaint, REA and Lifson alleged that Mr. Raymond defamed their business and interfered with their business opportunities.  REA and Lifson sought compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.  See id.  On July 10, 2006, Keefe Bartels filed Mr. Raymond's Answer to the Counterclaim and Fourth Party Complaint and Affirmative Defenses.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

After this Firm spent considerable time restructuring the matter's procedural deficiencies, merits discovery commenced.  The parties propounded and exchanged written and document discovery.  This Firm faced significant factual and legal hurdles regarding Mr. Raymond's failure to document his cards, his potentially injurious statements to various third-parties and his refusal to accept return of his cards.  Additionally, in his answers, Mr. Raymond claimed that his cards were now worth $126,815.00, an approximately one hundred thousand dollar increase from his previous valuation of $20,800.  This drastic revaluation by Mr. Raymond was a source of significant motion practice by REA and Lifson and ultimately factored into the Court's decision to dismiss his affirmative damage claims.  Again, despite Mr. Raymond's claims that his cards were worth in excess of $20,000 and over $126,000 when litigation began, he did not insure them for either amount.  Instead, he simply mailed them.  

The parties also took party and witness depositions, including Tom Coleman.  Mr. Coleman, who was a friend of Mr. Raymond, was initially offered by Mr. Raymond as a fact and expert witness because he previously viewed Mr. Raymond's cards at a card show in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania in 2002.     When Mr. Coleman reviewed the cards, he did not take any notes or photographs or prepare a written appraisal.  In fact, there was no contemporaneous documentation that Mr. Coleman reviewed the cards or that Mr. Raymond possessed them.

During his deposition, Mr. Coleman candidly conceded that he did not know the conditions of Mr. Raymond's cards when Mr. Raymond mailed them to REA.  He also was unable to state whether Mr. Raymond's cards were damaged or replaced, or if they were the cards that he viewed in 2002, one year before Mr. Raymond mailed them to REA.  

This Firm thoroughly discussed the limitations and dangers of Mr. Coleman's testimony  and his lack of knowledge regarding the condition and identification of Mr. Raymond's cards when they were mailed to REA.  Specifically, in addition to the fertile grounds that his personal relationship with Mr. Coleman would provide on cross-examination, this Firm emphasized that Mr. Coleman had not viewed the cards for several months.  He could not testify that the cards he viewed were the same cards sent by Mr. Raymond.  He also could not testify as to the condition of the cards that were actually mailed.   We expressed our concern that, if called as a witness, REA's counsel would exploit these weaknesses and have Mr. Coleman admit that there was sufficient opportunity for Mr. Raymond to have damaged or switched the cards after he saw them.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

Based upon these deficiencies, we recommended that Mr. Raymond retain an expert with significant qualifications and experience in sports and entertainment memorabilia.  As discussed with Mr. Raymond, the expert would rely upon Mr. Raymond's personal knowledge of the cards' conditions at the time they were mailed and provide an opinion as to their values.  Mr. Raymond declined to retain the expert.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

After completing discovery, REA and Mr. Lifson filed an extensive motion for summary judgment.  In the motion, they sought to dismiss Mr. Raymond's claims and, alternatively, to limit his testimony on the value of his cards to the amounts provided in the previous Maryland litigation and to the Maryland Attorney General.  The motion and this Firm's draft opposition were forwarded to Mr. Raymond for his comment and review.  After extensive oral argument lasting approximately two hours, the Court denied the motion in its entirety.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

Thereafter, REA and Mr. Lifson moved for reconsideration and, alternatively, to stay the action pending leave to appeal.  This Firm filed another exhaustive opposition brief.   After another extensive oral argument, the Court denied the motion for reconsideration and request to stay in its entirety.  Mr. Raymond again did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  


III.     Keefe Bartels Diligently Represented Mr. Raymond During the Trial and REA's Mr. Lifson's Post-Trial Motion for Frivolous Litigation.

After successfully defending and defeating REA's and Mr. Lifson's motions for summary judgment and reconsideration, this Firm focused on preparing for the trial.  The Firm prepared a Trial Brief, Proposed Deposition Read-Ins of Robert Lifson, Deposition Summaries of Witnesses, Brief in Support of Motion in Limine to Bar Certain Evidence or Testimony, Proposed Jury Charges and proposed exhibits, including valuation charts to assist Mr. Raymond in his testimony, among other things.  I tried the matter and prepared and drafted an Opening Statement, Direct Examination of Mr. Raymond and Cross-Examination of Mr. Lifson.  The proposed Direct Examination and Exhibit List were provided to Mr. Raymond prior to trial.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

Trial was scheduled for September 22, 2008.  When the parties appeared, the Presiding Judge for Essex County requested that Mr. Raymond consent to a bench trial.  The judge indicated, if consent was not provided, the matter would be adjourned.  After consulting with Mr. Raymond and discussing the "pros and cons" of a  jury versus bench trials, Mr. Raymond consented to proceed as a bench trial.  At all times, Mr. Raymond was advised that he did not have to consent to a bench trial and the Court could not force his consent.  Mr. Raymond was present when the decision was placed on the record and did not attempt to withdraw his consent.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

Trial began on September 23, 2008 and was completed on  September 25, 2008.   During the trial, Mr. Raymond testified extensively about the quality and condition of his cards, the damage, changes or substitutions to his cards and how he was able to recognize such differences.  Despite numerous objections by REA's counsel, the Court permitted Mr. Raymond to describe how REA and/or Mr. Lifson damaged, substituted and/or altered his cards.  Additionally, contrary to Mr. Raymond's recollection, Mr. Lifson was significantly cross-examined about his receipt and review of Mr. Raymond's cards, the storage of the cards and the purported damage to REA's and Mr. Lifon's business reputations.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

After closing arguments, the trial judge carefully evaluated the three days of testimony and numerous pieces of evidence.  At several times during his oral decision, the trial judge  criticized Mr. Raymond on his lack of documentation and strongly questioned Messrs. Raymond's and Lifson's recollections of the conditions and values of the cards.  Consequently, the trial judge dismissed Mr. Raymond's claims against REA and Mr. Lifson.  He also dismissed REA's and Mr. Lifson's affirmative claims against Mr. Raymond.  Mr. Raymond did not complain that this Firm was inadequately representing him.  

Upon conclusion of the trial and the dismissal of all claims against all parties, REA and Mr. Lifson filed a motion for attorneys' fees and costs under this State's Frivolous Litigation Statute.  This Firm filed a Brief opposing the motion.  After hearing oral argument, Judge Goldman denied the motion.   Thereafter, this Firm reiterated in writing to Mr. Raymond about his right to appeal and our opinion that an appeal would not be successful.

RESPONSE TO MR. RAYMOND'S UNSUPPORTED CLAIMS

Although Mr. Raymond alleges that the Firm did not adequately represent him, the previous summary establishes that this Firm thoroughly prepared his case and acted with the upmost professionalism.  Mr. Raymond purposefully ignores the numerous motions won by this Firm, including the motions to vacate default judgment, for summary judgment and  reconsideration and for leave to appeal.  He also fails to recognize that he was a defendant at trial and faced a significant judgment if REA and Mr. Lifson had prevailed on their claims, which they did as a result of this Firm's efforts.   

Throughout the litigation, the parties clashed on numerous substantive issues, including whether Mr. Raymond was permitted to testify about the conditions of his own cards.  These issues resulted in hundreds of pages of briefing and  numerous court appearances.  At trial, contrary to Mr. Raymond's recollection, he was extensively questioned by both the Court and me regarding his evaluations.  More to the point, Mr. Raymond would not have been able to provide an opinion about the value of his cards without providing a sufficient basis of or for his opinions.  Similarly, I thoroughly questioned Mr. Lifson about accepting Mr. Raymond's cards and his various statements about the cards' conditions.  Notably, this cross-examination caused the Court to reject REA's and Lifson's claims.    

As previously-indicated, the decision to not call Tom Coleman was thoroughly discussed with Mr. Raymond.  After Mr. Coleman's deposition, it was apparent that his testimony had significant, material limitations and dangers.  Because New Jersey law permits the owner of property to testify as to its condition and value, I made the strategic decision to rely upon Mr. Raymond's personal knowledge and experience in sports and memorabilia collecting and his own cards.     

Other than Mr. Raymond's subjective disappointment that the trial court dismissed his claims, he fails to present any credible evidence that this Firm inadequately represented him.  Mr. Raymond misconstrues an unfavorable trial result with inadequate representation.  At all times, this Firm was prepared and aggressively represented Mr. Raymond's interests.  No attorney can guarantee successful litigation and litigation is inherently risky.  

Moreover, neither my Firm nor I ever proposed that Mr. Raymond withdraw his claims because of this Firm's bill.  Instead, REA's counsel proposed that the parties withdraw their respective claims against each other and end the litigation.  This proposal was discussed with Mr. Raymond and he refused to withdraw his claims.   Again, neither my Firm nor I ever pressured Mr. Raymond to withdraw his claims because of his outstanding bill.  Even if this were true, which it is not, Mr. Raymond suffered no prejudice because the matter continued to trial.  Mr. Raymond is complaining about a moot (and fictitious) issue.  

AN IMPARTIAL FEE ARBITRATION PANEL FOUND THAT THIS FIRM ACTED DILIGENTLY AND COMPETENTLY

Notably absent from Mr. Raymond's complaint is his unsuccessful Fee Arbitration.  In or about August 2012, four years after the trial ended, Mr. Raymond filed a Request for Fee Arbitration demanding return of the fees he paid the Firm and cancellation of any outstanding fees.  In his submission, Mr. Raymond made the same unsupported claims in this current complaint.  On October 9, 2012, the Fee Arbitration Panel conducted a hearing and accepted testimony and voluminous documents from Mr. Raymond and my Firm.

On October 19, 2012, the Fee Arbitration Panel unanimously rejected Mr. Raymond's similarly unsupported claims and ordered that Mr. Raymond, pay $36,926.71 to my Firm.  It  served its Arbitration Determination on Mr. Raymond, on or about November 9, 2012.  In its Statement of Reasons, the Panel concluded that Keefe Bartels "diligently and competently represented" Mr. Raymond. (emphasis added).  Mr. Raymond did not appeal the Panel's Determination.

On January 29, 2013, Honorable Travis Francis, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court, Middlesex County entered Judgment against Mr. Raymond, in the amount of $36,926.71 along with post-judgment interest from October 19, 2012 until the Final Judgment is paid.  Mr. Raymond has not paid the Judgment against him and it remains outstanding.  Mr. Raymond did not appeal the Judgment.

CONCLUSION

In his complaint, Mr. Raymond frivolously disparages my Firm's and my zealous representation of him.  His unsupported rants conflict with my Firm's successful vacation of  default judgment against him, successful defeat of several pre-trial motions and successful dismissal of REA's and Mr. Lifson's affirmative claims.  My Firm and I provided significant and competent representation to Mr. Raymond.  His disappointment that the trial court found his testimony less than credible does not mean that my Firm and I acted unethically or committed malpractice.  At some point, Mr. Raymond must look at his own mistakes and conduct in the underlying matter, including his failure to properly document  and insure his sports and memorabilia cards, and take responsibility for them.

Mr. Raymond's belated complaint, five years after trial, ignores the reality of what transpired during the underlying litigation.  If not for my Firm's efforts, Mr. Raymond would still have a Default Judgment against him and have faced significant additional damages, including compensatory and punitive damages, for his purportedly defamatory statements to various memorabilia entities and accumulating storage costs -- a tactic that he has now inflicted  upon my Firm and me.

Mr. Raymond's claims against My Firm and me are simply unfounded.  Again, when an impartial Arbitration Fee Panel reviewed the same claims that Mr. Raymond makes in this complaint, the Panel rejected them in their entirety and awarded my Firm its outstanding fees. Mr. Raymond's complaint and any associated bylines or addresses should be removed.      

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