FR is covering the CT lawsuit Nusbaum v. Riordan. The suit concerns CT attorney Edward Nusbaum’s attempt to convert $64,000 he holds in his escrow account to his account.
The money came from the sale of Karen Riordan’s home in Westport. He wants the entire sum as rightfully earned legal fees.
Riordan objects. She claims Nusbaum charged her for fictional emails and phone calls. She claims he accomplished not one of her legal objectives. He never once appeared in court or filed a single motion.
Instead, he billed her more than $98,000 over four months for phone calls, emails, and texts. Evidence uncovered by FR shows many emails and phone calls are fraudulent.
Nusbaum billed, based on his retainer agreement, at $750 per hour. At the core of the lawsuit is Nusbaum’s retainer agreement.
The attorney arranged for Riordan, then involved in a divorce and custody dispute, to sign an unusual retainer agreement.
According to the agreement, a novel, no-rules arbitration mediates fee disputes. It ensures the arbitrator is a lawyer of Nusbaum’s acquaintance.
This retainer is different than most. Most permit disputes to be adjudicated by a jury trial or mediated by standard arbitration.
Nusbaum’s retainer does not permit recognized arbitration associations like the AAA. His retainer agreement limits arbitrators to family law attorneys in Fairfield County, CT.
The same lawyers who appear in case after case with him.
Family law works like that: In one case, a family law attorney will represent the husband and, in another, the wife. And on another occasion, the children. They all switch around, and family law attorneys who practice in Family Court in a county all know each other. Cooperation is essential to maximize billings.
A fee dispute resolution provision requiring a Nusbaum’s colleague to arbitrate can green light excessive billing.
There are no set rules for the Nusbaum arbitration, other than what the Nusbaum crony decides. The fact that the retainer agreement requires a sealed record can help preserve an overbilling scheme if there is one.
Nusbaums’ retainer agreement also includes a provision that decrees there can be no discovery.
“Discovery,” in civil litigation, is a period during which the parties ask for and receive from the “other side” information about the facts and opinions relevant to the issues underlying the litigation.
Discovery encompasses “fact discovery” and “expert discovery.”
Fact discovery is when the parties disclose all “relevant” non-expert facts. Many seasoned litigators say a case is won or lost during discovery.
With the Nusbaum no discovery provision, the client cannot seek facts from Nusbaum that could prove overbilling or fraud.
For instance, if Nusbaum were billing for fictitious phone calls, Riordan would have no right of access to his phone records, which would show if he never made the calls.
In a normal lawsuit, the parties would have access to phone records if the dispute concerns possible overbilling or fraudulent phone calls.
Despite the suspect retainer, Riordan is not surrendering to the hot-tempered Nusbaum.
This writer experienced his rabid temper. Nusbaum once called this writer, then in Nashville, to chastise him. Nusbaum threatened him physically and made other extra-legal threats to harm him.
This writer captured Nusbaum’s angry 40-minute call on an audio recording. A transcript was made.
Riordan is challenging the retainer, as it violates due process and informed consent. Nusbaum, she claims, never told her of the unusual aspects of the retainer.
Her present goal is to find out how cozy the relationship is with the other family law attorneys.
Fairfield County family law attorneys are the only ones who can arbitrate.
How many family law attorneys in Fairfield County are in on this no-rules arbitration? Is a group of lawyers covering up their overbilling?
Do other family law attorneys in Fairfield County use the Nusbaum clauses of rules-free arbitration conducted by fellow practitioners, with no discovery and a sealed record?
Riordan sent the following email to 33 family law attorneys in Fairfield County. It will be interesting how many respond to her email.
- Melissa Needle
- Alexander J, Cuda
- Thomas P. Parrino
- John Aldrich
- Nancy Aldrich
- Marianne Charles
- Michael T Meehan
- Paul H. McConnell
- Frederic J. Siegel
- Anthony L. Cenatiempo
- Jill Heitler Blomberg
- Ross Kanfman
- Carole Topol
- Jacqueline F. Barbara
- Annmarie P. Briones
- Jane B. Emons
- Lauren M. Healy
- Andrew M. Eliot
- Kieran J. Costello
- Christopher P. Brennan
- Aidan R. Welsh
- Katherine Bakes
- Jonathan Von Kohorn
- Tara Von Kohorn
- Jenna A. Shankman
- Claire DeVidas
- Edward L. Sinclair, III
- Deena Lynn Gans
- Myrna Gans
- Matthew J. Broder
- Andrew M. Eliot
- Carole Topol Orland
- Jocelyn Hurwitz
Here is the email:
RE: Fairfield County Family Lawyers Arbitration Panel
Informal Request for Information
I am a litigant in a matter against Attorney Edward Nusbaum. The case number is FST-CV-21-5024907-S.
Attorneys Edward Nusbaum and Alex Trembicki have made it known that they and other Fairfield County attorneys compel clients to sign contracts of adhesion mandating participation in a private arbitration process.
Arbitral panelists must maintain a family law practice within Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Additionally, Edward Nusbaum’s retainer agreement contains a highly unusual “no-discovery” clause.
Litigants are not entitled to discovery in the arbitration proceedings. This is an unusual provision, because the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and every other bonafide arbitral body has published rules and regulations, including for the discovery process.
Unlike the Connecticut Bar’s program or the AAA, this private Fairfield County Arbitration group appears to have no written rules or guidelines, nor any oversight. There are also no fees provided anywhere.
The outcomes of this arbitration must also be sealed.
Connecticut Supreme Court precedent suggests that Attorney Nusbaum’s retainer agreement is unconscionable and void as against public policy. [See Hanks v. Powder Ridge Restaurant Corp., 276 Conn. 314, 885 A.2d 734 (2005).]
Additionally, this Fairfield County Family Court Arbitration group appears to be operating in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. § 1).
The Fairfield County Family Court Arbitration group’s conspiracy and agreement to allocate this market may be actionable by the US Attorney for the District of Connecticut.
There is also a private right of action, which may be brought in the Connecticut Federal District Court.
The elements of the crime and the civil action have been met. The conspiracy comprises an agreement, understanding, and meeting of the minds between Edward Nusbaum, Alex Trembicki, and others, competitors and/or potential competitors, for the purpose or with the effect of unreasonably restraining the family court market in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
If you could be so kind as to answer these questions:
Can you tell me if you have participated in the Fairfield County Family Court Arbitration process?
Can you provide me with a copy of the Fairfield County Family Court Arbitration written rules and procedures?
Please provide me with what you charge if you are an arbitrator in the Fairfield County Family Court Arbitration program, and how the process works.
Can you explain how a no-discovery clause works?
Does the Fairfield County Family Court Arbitration process have discovery rules that address this apparently commonplace situation?
Has the Fairfield County Family Court Arbitration process considered whether a “no-discovery” clause is a violation of due process?
Are certain Connecticut Superior Court and Family Court Judges familiar with the practices of the Fairfield County Family Court Arbitration process?
Are said judges involved in the operation of the Fairfield County Family Court Arbitration process?
Thank you in advance for your time and cooperation.
Very truly yours,
The Transformation of Ed Nusbaum
How Attorney Nusbaum progresses in his representation of clients. The photo on the upper left shows how he looks when he first asks for his retainer. The bottom right is when Nusbaum takes his client to his private arbitration based on his retainer agreement.