Earlier this year, John Boyd’s motion to respond to class counsels’ attorney fee motion was denied by the Court. In the Court’s order, Judge Friedman noted that any claims Mr. Boyd had against Class Counsel would have to be litigated in a separate action because he is not a party to Pigford II.
It has come to our attention that Mr. Boyd had just such a suit in mind while waiting for Judge Friedman to rule on his motion, and he in fact filed a separate lawsuit against certain class counsel on November 21, 2012. How does this relate to the Black Farmers Discrimination Class Action Settlement?
Mr. Boyd’s complaint basically argues that class counsel made him do all the heavy lifting work of getting the settlement finalized and funded, while they claim all of the monetary compensation and give him nothing.
His complaint states, “In a shocking display of unmitigated greed and self-interest, not to mention betrayal of their own client, defendants have refused to compensate Boyd for work he did at their request, have sought compensation for themselves for work done by the plaintiff, and have failed and refused to seek compensation from the Court for thousands of hours of work done by Boyd.”
Mr. Boyd claims that for seven years he worked alone to get relief for the late filers of Pigford I, before any lawyers were even involved in the case. He states, “Boyd organized rallies, met with members of Congress and White House staff, mobilized farmers and farm advocacy groups, sought and obtained publicity for the cause and more. Through these efforts Boyd ultimately was responsible for the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill provision that allowed Pigford II to proceed through the filing of a complaint in court.”
The lawsuit names as defendants two class counsel attorneys who were retained by Mr. Boyd to represent the National Black Farmers Association as one of the lead plaintiffs.
Mr. Boyd claims that once the Pigford II complaint was filed, his attorneys hired him as a consultant to advise them on and help them with a legislative strategy to help finalize and fund a settlement.
Obviously, it is unusual if not a violation of professional conduct for an attorney to hire his own client and this issue will be key in the lawsuit.
The 34 page complaint mostly details his efforts over last decade to meet with congressional leaders and rally black farmers to help get the 2008 farm bill passed which helped lead to the Black Farmers Discrimination class action lawsuit, and ultimately, settlement.
Mr. Boyd also alleges that the defendant lawyers agreed to compensate him for his efforts and one defendant did pay him some money.
He further states that Class Counsel Hank Sanders, a member of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, sought and received $200,000 in implementation costs to pay the Federation for approximately 6 months of outreach work, while Mr. Boyd was not paid for his own efforts over 10 years.
Finally, Mr. Boyd states that when he confronted his lawyer about his promised payment, the lawyer indicated that he “believed it would ‘not be legal’ to pay Boyd for the work he had done because it would amount to an illegal fee agreement with a non-lawyer.”
The class counsel fefendants have each filed motions to dismiss which are pending.
Will this affect the timing of the distribution of checks to class members?
It’s hard to say at this point. Technically, this is a separate, though related, lawsuit and any remedy that Mr. Boyd has would be against the lawyers. The class members should not be affected. Still, what is taking so long on the motion for attorneys’ fees? It is certainly past mid-February…