Lawyer Slapped With $10K in Sanctions for 'Laundry List of Unethical Actions'
U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner's 10-page opinion in Holsworth v. Berg is packed with criticism of the conduct of attorney Philip Berg of Lafayette Hill, Pa.
"Other attorneys should look to Mr. Berg's actions as a blueprint for what not to do when attempting to effectively and honorably perform the duties of the legal profession," Joyner wrote.
"This court has grown weary of Mr. Berg's continuous and brazen disrespect toward this court and his own clients. Mr. Berg's actions ... are an enormous waste of judicial time and resources that this court cannot, in good conscience, allow to go unpunished," Joyner wrote.
In the suit, Berg is accused of legal malpractice by former clients who claim his failure to respond to an ERISA claim against them led to a default judgment.
But the sanctions against Berg stem from his decision to file a third-party counterclaim of fraud against a pension fund that had sued his former clients, according to court papers.
Joyner blasted Berg for filing the fraud claim, calling it an "irresponsible decision" because the claim was "utterly barren of any scintilla of legal principles."
In the ERISA suit, Berg's former clients -- Richard Holsworth and his company, Richard's General Contracting -- were sued by a group of pension funds led by the Carpenters Health and Welfare Fund of Philadelphia and Vicinity.
Carpenters Health claimed that Holsworth and his company had failed to make required payment of fringe benefit contributions.
According to court papers, Joyner found that Berg "neglected to file a response to [Carpenter Health's] claim or provide any legal defense whatsoever for his client."
Even after a default judgment was entered against Holsworth, Joyner found that Berg "remained silent."In April 2002 -- two months after the default judgment was granted and 11 months after the suit was first filed -- Joyner found that Berg "broke his silence" by filing a petition to strike the judgment or to open the default judgment.
Berg's motion was rejected and a default judgment of more than $5,300 was entered against his clients.The judgment swelled to more than $10,000 when Carpenters Health later successfully moved for a supplemental judgment to recover more than $4,700 in attorney fees for its efforts in responding to Berg's untimely motions.
Holsworth and his wife later filed a legal malpractice suit against Berg in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, alleging that Berg negligently failed to represent them in the Carpenters Health case.
A year later, in February 2005, Berg moved to join Carpenters Health as a third-party defendant in the malpractice suit, demanding more than $20,000 in damages.
In his counterclaim, Berg alleged that the ERISA suit filed by Carpenters Health in 2001, which led to the malpractice claim against him, was "a fraud upon the court and a fraudulent taking from the Holsworths."
Carpenter Health's lawyers removed the case to federal court and filed a motion to dismiss the claim.Joyner agreed, finding that Berg's fraud claim was "frivolous" and was motivated by an intent "to harass Carpenters Health and the Holsworths, as well as to delay and disrupt the administration of justice."
The claim was fatally flawed, Joyner found, because Berg had no standing to bring suit against Carpenters Health and had "failed to conduct even a minimally reasonable inquiry before filing his complaint."
FROM THE TIMES HERALD NEWSPAPER 8-25-08
To be eligible to serve as U.S. president, a person must be born in this country. According to Obama's birth certificate, which his campaign posted on its Internet site in June to quell rumors that he is foreign born, the Illinois senator was born in Hawaii on Aug. 6, 1961.
On Thursday, Philip Berg filed a temporary restraining order in federal court to bar Obama from running for president, claiming the Democratic candidate was actually born in Africa.
"We really don't believe he was born in Hawaii," Berg said. "We think he was born in Kenya."
The presidential candidate's father, Barack Obama Sr., was born and raised in a small village in Kenya, according to Obama's campaign Web site.
Berg's suit claims the senator's grandmother, brother and sister, who live in Kenya, believe they were present during Obama's birth in the African country.
Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, grew up in Kansas, and his parents met at the University of Hawaii when Dunham was a student there, according to the Obama campaign.
Eventually, Obama's father returned to Kenya, and his son grew up in Hawaii with his mother and for a few years in Indonesia after Dunham married an Indonesian man, Lolo Soetoro. Also, Obama lived with his maternal grandparents in Hawaii.
"If he was born in Hawaii, and he was adopted in Indonesia by Lolo Soetoro, (Obama) would lose his citizenship," Berg said.
The Obama campaign has a special section on its Web site, "Fight the Smears," that debunks the birth certificate story and other reports that have circulated about him during the campaign.
"It's part of a smear campaign," said an Obama campaign volunteer who identified herself as Rachel. "There are just so many lies out there."
The lawsuit claims three "independent" document forensic experts performed extensive tests on the digitally-scanned image of Obama's "Certificate of Live Birth" posted on the campaign's site and found the document to be "a forgery."
Jerome Corsi, author of the book, "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," has also deemed the birth certificate phony, according to The Annenberg Political Fact Check, www.FactCheck.org.
The Annenberg Political Fact Check, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, aims to expose deception and confusion in U.S. politics.
Recently, FactCheck.org staffers "touched, examined and photographed" the original birth certificate kept at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago and concluded the document is genuine.
"The evidence is clear: Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A.," FactCheck.org staffers concluded.
Sean Smith, Obama's Pennsylvania communications director, was contacted Friday about the suit but declined comment.
The civil suit filed by Berg will be reviewed by the U.S. Federal Election Commission, according to Patty Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.