Rita O. Nzingoula v. Jeffrey Bennett, Esq.

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Disposition: Award to Respondent

Issued by: Fee Arbitration Commission

Docket #: FAC #19-364

Dated: December 3, 2020

Bar Number: 007223

On November 5, 2020, the Board of Overseers’ Fee Arbitration Commission conducted a hearing in the above-captioned matter. The dispute concerned fee issues detailed within Petitioner, Nzingoula’s fee Petition. The members of the Commission were Chair Carrie Folsom, Esq.; Zachary I. Greenfield, Esq.; and public member Cheryl Brandt. The hearing occurred telephonically. The Petitioner was present by telephone and testified. The Respondent appeared by phone and testified. Based upon the evidence admitted, the Commission finds as follows:

There was a written fee agreement between the parties, dated July 12, 2018, in which a fee was agreed upon, to be paid at an hourly rate. Though Petitioner refers to various matters in her petition, the matter at issue was solely associated with issues Petitioner contended that she had with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS"). There was another matter for which Respondent provided legal services to Petitioner, for unrelated issues, but Petitioner was not charged for those services by Respondent, and therefore the sole matter before the Board was associated with the DHHS matter.

Petitioner paid Respondent an initial retainer of $5,000.00. Upon completion of Respondent’s legal representation of Petitioner, the total amount due was $5,362.50, less the $5,000.00 retainer, for a net balance due of $362.50. Respondent indicated that he was willing to waive the additional amount due, and thus was not seeking that additional payment.

Based upon the evidence presented by both Petitioner and Respondent, the Board finds that Respondent was hired to render legal services to Petitioner, that there was a written fee agreement regarding those services, and the $5,000.00 paid, with the $362.50 waived, was a reasonable fee for those services, and therefore no additional sums are due to Respondent from Petitioner, and no refund is due to Petitioner from Respondent.

Pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7(h), in order to preserve the confidentiality of the written materials and the testimony admitted at the hearing, the Commission has not enumerated its findings of fact and conclusions within this Award and Determination. The Award and Determination is accompanied, however, by a separate supplemental document which sets forth the findings of facts and conclusions of the Commission. By ruling of the Chair, the attached supplemental document shall not be considered part of the Award, which is a public document. In accordance with Maine Bar Rule 7(h), the supplemental document shall be confidential and shall not be open to the public or disclosed to any person except as otherwise set forth in Maine Bar Rule 7(h).

This Award and Determination is in full settlement of all claims submitted to the Fee Arbitration Commission.

The undersigned have subscribed to this award on December 3, 2020.

Carrie Folsom, Esq.
Chair, Panel 2
Fee Arbitration Commission