California Judge Censured For Ordering Lawyers Be Paid In Gift Cards

Best Buy gift cards (AP)

It was a decision those who are not fans of plaintiffs’ lawyers would applaud.

A judge ordered lawyers in a class action case be paid the same way their clients would be — in $10 gift vouchers to a local clothing store. 

The plaintiffs were suing clothing chain store Windsor Fashions, claiming the store violated a California law by asking customers for identification when they were paying with a credit card.  

At $10 each, the plaintiff would receive 250 gift cards ($2,500) and the lawyers 12,500 ($25,000), The Recorder reported. 

California’s Commission on Judicial Performance was not amused, and instigated an investigation into the behaviour of retired Los Angeles Superior County Judge Brett Klein. The commission announced this week he would be publicly censured and that he was barred from future judicial assignments, the Recorder said. (Of course, he is already retired, so the second part will likely have little impact.)

For his part, Klein said he thought such reviews were best left for the appellate courts and that he was just doing his job.  The commission obviously disagreed, finding his conduct in the case displayed “bias and embroilment” and said he was “grandstanding” by sending the original order to the local newspaper.

Whether such a ruling was the correct one is not really our call to make, but paying an attorney the way the clients will be paid is certainly a new twist on the alternative fee agreement.

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