Defending the PFA — Going the Extra Mile

June 28th, 2010

Recently, I appeared at a Protection from Abuse hearing on behalf of a client in Delaware County.   The circumstances of the case led me to the conclusion that the filing was retaliatory in nature and ultimately frivolous (i.e., there was no actual abuse warranting the petition).  My client appeared on time and appropriately dressed for the hearing.  The plaintiff did not appear.  After ample time passed for the plaintiff to arrive, I addressed the judge, informing her honor that my client was present and that plaintiff had not arrived.  I requested that the matter be dismissed.  Without hesitation, the judge said “case dismissed.”

At that moment, my client and I could have walked away with an order dismissing the plaintiff’s petition.  However, the Protection from Abuse statute (23 Pa.C.S. sec. 6101 et seq.) allows for an award of attorney’s fees where the petition is brought in bad faith.  Thus, I requested that the judge, in addition to entering an order dismissing plaintiff’s petition, make an award of attorney’s fees to my client.  Her honor found my request to be somewhat humorous and asked me how my client intended to collect on such an order.  I explained to the judge that collection was not an imminent concern of mine but that the statute allows for an award of attorney’s fees where the petition is brought in bad faith. 

The judge then asked me to present the bill that I had sent to my client, which I did not have with me.  However, as an officer of the court, I was able to attest to the amount of my legal fees charged for the appearance.  The judge then allowed me to submit an order dismissing the petition for PFA and granting an award of attorney’s fees in favor of my client.

There was no reasonable expectation of collecting on the award of attorney’s fees.  However, I always try to look into a client’s future.  What if a future prospective employer, during a routine background check, finds a petition for PFA against the client?  How will the client explain the circumstances giving rise to the petition for PFA?  By requesting attorney’s fees for the bad faith filing of the petition, the client can use that order to explain away the circumstances.  Instead of an order that simply says “Petition dismissed,” the client should have an order that says “Petition dismissed and attorney’s fees awarded in favor of the defendant as the plaintiff filed the petition in bad faith.” 

Needless to say, my client was thrilled with the results.  She never thought she would be entitled to recoup her attorney’s fees.  Going the extra mile made her grateful and may also provide her with future benefits. 

When a judge says “dismissed,” it is not always best for an attorney to simply walk away.  Know what your client is entitled to and ask for it.  If you do not ask for it, you definitely will not get it.

Welcome

June 24th, 2010

Welcome to the Law Office of Brian M. Andris, a general practice law office based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Andris is an experienced litigator and legal counselor who practices throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He has litigated hundreds of cases for clients ranging from individuals to multi-million dollar corporations.