Perhaps this is my final post on the Republican candidate for the 129th Missouri House seat, Shelly Dreyer, since the Republican primary is coming up very soon and since I am going on vacation on Thursday and will have limited access to a computer.
So, here goes:
As many of you may know by now, the Joplin Globe carried a story on its front page on Saturday which briefly explored the “legal dispute” involving Shelly Dreyer and her former law partner, Charlie James.
And as many of you may know, Globe reporters—like reporters everywhere in my opinion—are an overworked, underpaid lot. Debby Woodin, whom I don’t know, I am sure is no exception. She probably has many, many assignments and not nearly enough time to get them all done the way she would like.
Having said that, I want to take issue with an important assertion made by Woodin in the article she wrote, “Candidate involved in legal dispute over ex-partnership.” Here is the pertinent part:
Asked if the pending dispute could affect the outcome of the Aug. 3 primary, Dreyer said, “It shouldn’t. A lot of times when a law firm dissolves, you have to divide up cases and fees. We just haven’t been able to agree on that. It shouldn’t have anything to do with the candidacy.”
But Dreyer said someone has made comments directed at her character on political blogging websites.
“It’s nothing more than like a scorned ex-wife trying to bad-mouth somebody,” Dreyer said.
The comments allege that she hid her involvement in the case in which the fee is in question from her law partner and then arranged to collect after she left that firm.
However, depositions given in the lawsuit show that James was aware of the referral.
That reference to “political blogging websites,” of course, means this one, and that statement of fact by Woodin—that “depositions given in the lawsuit show that James was aware of the referral” is very much mistaken.
The fact is that the depositions do not show any such thing because depositions are recordings of testimony to be used later in court or for purposes of discovery, and they are not adjudications of fact. In other words, during her deposition, Dreyer claimed that she told Charlie James about the Lentz referral, but that doesn’t prove or in Woodin’s word, “show” that she did.
But besides that misstatement of fact in Debby Woodin’s article, there are two more things about the referral issue that should be made clear:
First, there are actually two referral cases involved in the lawsuit, as I have pointed out previously: The Wohldmann case and the Lentz case.
Charlie James acknowledges that he was aware of the Wohldmann referral, which resulted in fees due to the referrer of $21,997.80. That money is being held by the court pending settlement of the lawsuit.
But Mr. James explicitly denies knowing about the Lentz referral and he denies knowing—until after the fact—about Dreyer’s subsequent claim to the attorney who settled that case that the attorney’s fees due the referrer go directly to her and not the James & Dreyer law firm, where Dreyer worked at the time of the referral. Those fees, which amounted to $35,555.55, were paid to Shelly Dreyer, and Mr. James is seeking to recover that money.
That, you see, is the heart of the lawsuit and part of judging whether Shelly Dreyer is a worthy candidate for the 129th District seat.
Second, it was not only on the comments to this blog that the allegation was made that Charlie James was unaware of the Lentz referral. It was also in a filing with the court, Petition For Declaratory Judgment:
5. Shelly Dreyer never informed her senior partner, Charlie James, that she had undertaken to represent Mr. Lentz, or that she was performing any services for him in connection with the wrongful death of his mother.
7. Without informing Charlie James, and without his authority, consent, or knowledge, Shelly Dreyer, acting on behalf of James & Dreyer, referred Mr. Lentz to an Illinois attorney, Mr. Tom Dillon of Konicek & Dillon.
11. Tom Dillon [my note: the attorney to whom the case was referred] filed suit on the John Lentz case and eventually achieved a favorable settlement of Mr. Lent’s claim.
12. In August of 2009, Plaintiffs learned of the existence of the John Lentz case and of the referral of that case to Mr. Tom Dillon.
13 Through further investigation, Charlie James learned that Shelly Dreyer in June of 2009 had contacted a Trish Burns in the bookkeeping department of Mr. Dillon’s law firm and had Ms. Burns send a check made payable to Shelly Dreyer for the $35,555.55 to her home in Joplin, Missouri.
14. Trish Burns did mail to Shelly Dryer the check made payable to Shelly Dreyer for the sum of $35,555.55.
15. Shelly Dreyer never disclosed to James Law Group LLC or to any person associated with Plaintiffs that she had received funds belonging to the law firm.
16. Shelly Dreyer converted $35,555.55 belonging to James Law Group, LLC to her own use.
So, it’s just not accurate at all to say that “depositions…show that James was aware of the referral.”
For your information, and because blogging permits such lengthy excursions into an issue, here are a few excerpts of the Dreyer deposition where the Lentz referral issue is discussed (Charlie James is the questioner). Pay close attention to the “don’t recalls” and the “don’t remembers“:
Q. You state in one of your responses to discovery that you told me about the John Lentz case; correct?
A. I did.
Q. About the John Lentz wrongful death case?
A. I did.
Q. That you referred to a Chicago lawyer or Chicago area lawyer, a Mr. Tom Dillon?
Q. How did you tell me about that case, Miss Dreyer?
A. I don’t recall whether it was orally or by e-mail but I would have discussed that with you before doing that.
Q. Do you have a specific recollection of discussing that with me?
A. The best I can recollect it was in person in your office but I don’t — I could have followed up with an e-mail, I don’t know.
Q. Do you remember what you said to me in person in my office?
A. I don’t remember the exact conversation, that would have been years ago. But it certainly was not a secret, it would have all been in Legal Files.
Q. Did you ever consult with me about referring the John Lentz case to a Chicago lawyer?
A. Yes. The best I can recall we dismissed it.
Q. I gave you permission to do that?
A. Yes, the best I can recall you did. What I can recall is we discussed it wasn’t a real strong case on liability, it had some issues, and because of the location of the venue being close to Chicago we felt that somebody up there would be better than us running up and for — back down the highway to handle it.
Q. That was during the partnership time?
A. During the LLC, correct.
Q. No, it was before the LLC.
A. Okay. Maybe so.
Q. It was 2005, was it not?
A. I don’t recall the exact year.
Q. Do you — do you remember one in September perhaps in 2009 where I specifically said, How about the John Lentz case? Do you remember that?
A. I remember at that time saying I didn’t remember because at that time you — we had — were talking about something else, I was upset and then we had a subsequent conversation where we discussed it.
Q. When did we have that subsequent conversation?
A. I would say within a week maybe. I don’t remember.
Q. And what did we discuss about the Lentz case within a week?
A. I said maybe a week, I don’t remember.
Q. You said what?
A. I said maybe a week, I don’t remember. I do know we had a subsequent conversation, it also too got heated, and we talked about what was owed to me, we talked about the Wohldmann case, we talked about the Lentz case, you said send me a letter about your position and I did send you a letter. You said to send you what I thought I was entitled to.
Q. On the Lentz case?
A. On everything.
Q. And when did we have that conversation?
A. I told you I don’t remember. Perhaps a week later, perhaps two weeks later. I don’t remember. This was a very, very busy time. I had back to back trials, I was going back and forth to Arkansas. I don’t remember. Could have been a month. I don’t know.
Before Dreyer left James & Dreyer in March of 2008, she gave Charlie James a proposal of “fee divisions” in response to Mr. James request to “come up with a proposal” on the resolution of how the parties would handle what was due Ms. Dreyer after she left the partnership. Here is Mr. James questioning Shelly Dreyer relative to that document and whether Ms. Dreyer could prove that the law firm knew of her referral of the Lentz case to an attorney in Illinois (Mr. Dillon):
Q. (By Mr. James) Now, in looking at that exhibit, Miss Dreyer, Exhibit 8, the proposed agreement that you generated on 3/27/08 — I believe you left — I believe 3/31/08 was your last day, wasn’t it?
A. It was the end of March. I don’t know if that fell on a weekend or not, but yeah, it was the end of March.
Q. All right. If you’d look on that you see the Wohldmann case on there, second from the bottom?
A. I do.
Q. Where’s the Lentz case?
A. It’s not on here.
Q. Why not?
A. I don’t know.
Q. Is there — is there anything, to your recollection, where you specifically told either myself or Mr. Marty, who was a member of the — of the corporation at the time, or anyone else that Mr. Dillon was handling the case pursuant to an agreement with you that he would pay us attorney fees?
A. Yes, I believe there was a written agreement.
Q. You believe there was a written agreement. Did you show that to anybody?
A. I don’t recall. But you knew that I was referring that case out. I remember discussing it with you.
Q. That’s what you say. Do you have any evidence other than what you say that I knew about that?
A. No. I didn’t make notes of our conversation. Mr. Dillon came to this office and sat right in here.
Q. Mr. Dillon did come to this office; right?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. Did he sit here with you and Mr. Lentz?
A. He did, in that first conference room.
Q. Was I there?
A. You were not at the meeting. I don’t recall whether you were here that day or not but you were not in the meeting.
Q. Was I in town, do you know that?
A. I don’t know.
Q. (By Mr. James) We had a — After — And we talked about this a little — this a little bit before, I want to talk to you a little bit more about it, but when Dwayne Johnson settled the Wohldmann case– and he settled that either at the end of August 2009 or in early September 2009. Can we agree on that, close?
Q. And in that conversation I asked you about the Lentz case and you said you didn’t remember. Do you recall that?
A. I may have.
Q. That was in September that we had that conversation; correct?
A. I don’t remember. We —
Q. You don’t —
A. We spoke numerous times. I don’t remember the dates.
Q. You had just gotten a check for $35,555 at the end of June of that same year just two or three months previously and you didn’t remember the Lentz case?
A. I don’t know whether I said that or not if I –
Q. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.
A. I don’t re — I remember having a heated conversation with you and I remember subsequently discussing the Lentz case. I don’t know — I could have said I don’t remember, I don’t know.
Q. You believe you said that, don’t you?
A. I don’t know.
Q. Why would you have said you don’t remember?
A. I don’t know.
Q. Did you say I don’t remember or did you not?
A. I don’t remember the conversation every word, Charlie. Obviously you have recorded it so apparently you believe that. If I did I may have. But I also remember our conversations being extremely heated.
Q. That’s your recollection.
By now, it should be clear that the issue of whether Charlie James knew about Shelly Dreyer’s referral of the Lentz case—and the subsequent effort she made to get the attorney’s fees associated with the settling of that case sent to her—is at the center of both the lawsuit and Ms. Dreyer’s worthiness to represent us in the Missouri House. It is by no means a settled issue.
Now, since this is a blog of opinion, on to my opinion:
By Shelly Dreyer’s own admission in the deposition for the lawsuit, Charlie James taught her how to handle personal injury cases and made her a junior partner in his law firm. In other words, Shelly Dreyer owes the way she makes her living today at least in part to Charlie James.
A reading of Shelly Dreyer’s own responses in her deposition reveals the following to me—I repeat, it reveals it to me: Shelly Dreyer, even if she had a legitimate legal reason to do so (which is the nature of the dispute, from her side), did not have a sound moral reason to attempt to take the attorney’s fees for the Wohldmann case or to keep all of the attorney’s fees she has already received in the Lentz case.
When those cases were referred to outside attorneys, Dreyer was a partner in James & Dreyer, and notwithstanding her weak reliance on a legal doctrine known as quantum meruit, at best she is an ungrateful, avaricious lawyer and at worst she has intentionally deprived her former partner, Charlie James, of what is due him and his law firm.
That is my opinion based on what Shelly Dreyer admitted to in the deposition, and what she told Debby Woodin.
I have also previously expressed my opinion about Dreyer’s dubious claim that she knows what it’s like to be a small business owner and to be “her own boss.” I am also still trying to obtain information relative to Lynne James’ claim that the Shelly Dreyer she knew (only two years ago and for ten years) was a liberal Democrat. A commenter, Juan Don, raised the point of how easy it would be for Shelly Dreyer to disprove the liberal Democrat charge made by Lynne James by showing her Republican Party registration. That, of course, is up to her.
Finally, the issue arises as to the motivation of Lynne James in making Joplin people aware of the lawsuit against Shelly Dreyer and in making critical statements about her.
I can only refer you to Mrs. James’ previous comments (which can be found here and here) and forward on part of her latest statement to me:
I just felt people should know about Shelly. There are ongoing investigations regarding this matter…This is someone I thought was a friend, at one time. This has been hard for me to realize [how] much I had misjudged someone I thought I knew for ten years. This is not my character to bad mouth people. I truly do not believe Shelly should be elected. The people of the 129th will just have to decide for themselves what to do about her.
“The people of the 129th will just have to decide for themselves what to do about her.”