Former family law judge named in legal malpractice suit
Lawrence Smith Nov. 13, 2009, 2:10am
CHARLESTON - A Charleston attorney and former family law judge is accused by a former client of representing his ex-wife's interests in their divorce case.
Trent A. Redman is named as a co-defendant in a legal malpractice suit by Charleston resident Alfred Hill. The other co-defendant in Hill's suit is Redman's law firm of Redman, Payne and Muldoon PLLC.
In his complaint filed on Oct. 29 in Kanawha Circuit Court, Hill, 58, alleges Redman, 39, not only failed to zealously represent his interests in his still-pending divorce, but also abandoned him thus putting him in dire financial, and legal straits.
Off to a bad start
According to his suit, Hill, citing "irreconcilable differences," filed for divorce from his wife, Toni, in 2005 after nine years of marriage. Initially, he was represented by a Dunbar attorney who is not named in the suit.
After he "amicably terminated the services of his initial attorney," Hill hired Redman on Oct. 10, 2006. That representation continued when Redman a month later formed his partnership with attorneys Michael D. Payne and James A. Muldoon.
Hill alleges Redman's lack of quality representation was almost apparent from the start. Redman did not challenge Toni's use of attorneys from Legal Aid of West Virginia despite the fact she "was working and earning a sufficient living to hire her own counsel."
Since they had no children, Hill says the only issue in their divorce was division of property including a vacation timeshare, and retirement accounts. What should have been an open-and-shut case, Hill maintains was anything but.
From bad to worse
On an unspecified date, Hill filed in Kanawha Family court a verified financial statement stating that the home he and Toni shared was his prior to the marriage. Since their marriage, he made all the mortgage payments.
Also, Hill made known to Redman that though the timeshare was considered marital property, he made the majority of the payments. Furthermore, each had their separate retirement accounts in which he exercised the option to take early.
In his suit, Hill alleges Redman voiced no objections to Toni's lawyer's "spurious assertion" that his home should be declared " 'marital' and therefore jointly held." Saving the home, Redman told him, meant conceding more to Toni.
This, Hill says, meant waiving all rights to her retirement benefits including pension and 401k. Also, Redman advised Hill to pay Toni a lump sum of $15,430 "as an equity share in his own home."
Additionally, Hill alleges Redman encouraged him to pay Toni an equitable portion of his retirement in the amount of at least $66,500. This recommendation came despite Redman's knowledge Hill "could not pay a lump sum amount of any kind given [his] financial condition."
Furthermore, Redman encouraged Hill to make other concession to Toni. He alleges these included waiving all equity in the timeshare, and making an additional back payment of $1,660, providing the title to his motorcycle to the court to act as security for the lump sum payments and carrying, at his expense, a $100,000 irrevocable life insurance policy made payable to Toni for the lump sum payments.
At one point, Hill says he asked Redman why he was having to make all the concessions, including deeming his home as marital. He avers Redman's only reply was " 'that's the way these things are done.'"
Though Redman assured Hill he "would work things out or that he would take care of [his] concerns," Hill says Redman, on an unspecified date, "admitted that he simply got too busy to address [Hill's] issues before the court." On March 27, 2008, Hill says he wrote Redman a letter expressing his frustration with the direction the case was heading.
When the letter went unanswered, Hill says he attempted to reach Redman several times by telephone. When those calls when unreturned, Hill sometime in April 2008, terminated Redman.
After dropping Redman, Hill says he obtained the services of another attorney who is not named in the suit. The new attorney's best efforts to address the "one-sided and horribly inequitable property settlement agreement" failed, but made matters worse for Hill.
Despite never being in a position to pay it, Hill was forced to address multiple contempt motions why he hadn't paid Toni the $66,000 lump sum. To keep from being held in contempt, Hill maintains he was forced to get separate loans totaling over $20,000 to pay both Toni her share of his home, and to pay off the motorcycle so he could give the court a clear title.
Also, he was ordered to agree to a qualified domestic relations order "in an amount now closer to $80,000 due to accumulated interest."
In his suit, Hill alleges Redman "acquiesced without argument to each and every demand made by Legal Aid of West Virginia regardless of the demand's reasonableness or fairness." Also, Redman's "representation simply collapsed all in favor of [Toni] and to [his] complete detriment." Because of this, both Redman, and Redman, Payne and Muldoon committed legal malpractice, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
Hill seeks unspecified damages, court costs, attorney fees and interest. He is represented by Charleston attorney Todd W. Reed.
The case is assigned to Judge James C. Stucky.
Public sector beginnings
Prior to entering private practice, Redman served as a family lawmaster/judge in Kanawha County from Jan. 1, 2001 until July 22, 2002, according to the state Supreme Court. Before passage of a 2000 constitutional amendment creating family law judges as part of a unified judicial system, family lawmasters handled most domestic relations matters, including child custody and support.
Redman officially became a family law judge on Nov. 20, 2001 when he was appointed by then-Gov. Bob Wise. Prior to his appointment, Redman served in the Wise administration as director of the Workforce Investment Office.
His salary as lawmaster/judge was $60,000.
In order to retain their seats, all family law judges had to run for election in 2002. Despite dropping out of the May primary in the hope voters would nominate Redman instead of him, Robert Montgomery rounded out the Democratic ticket.
Though Redman was eligible to remain on the bench until Dec. 31, 2002, he resigned to join the law firm of Haynes and Hall, according to The Charleston Daily Mail. After Wise appointed him early, Montgomery went on to win in the general election, and also re-election last year.
Before becoming a lawmaster/judge in Kanawha County, Redman worked as a magistrate and assistant prosecutor in Cabell County. According to the Supreme Court, Redman was appointed magistrate on May 3, 1999 and served until Oct. 22, 1999 before resigning to work at the prosecutor's office.
Initially, he was paid $33,000, and received a pay raise on July 1 of $37,000.
According to the Cabell County Clerk's Office, Redman was employed as an assistant prosecutor from Nov. 1, 1999, to Feb. 23, 2001, overlapping with his initial appointment as lawmaster in Kanawha County.
His starting and ending salaries were $38,5000, and $40,500, respectively.
Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 09-C-2032