Professional ethics

I retained an attorney to represent me in a civil matter where I was the defendant. My attorney repeatedly over-billed me and

nevertheless I paid his bills so as not to affect having non-problematic representation. But then this attorney made unthinkable legal mistakes. The matter ended up with a judgment entered against me. When I tried to hire an appellate attorney to file an appeal, I found out that my previous attorney should had but did not ask for something called statement of decision. Even though there was a court reporter, I was told that oral decision cannot be used to impeach the judgment (Tyler v. Children’s Home Society (1994) 29 Cal.App.4th 511, 551-552).

Do I have the right to sue my previous attorney for malpractice? And if I do, will I have hard time finding an attorney in the future as I might be labeled as a problematic client?

Can an appeal be won without a statement of decision?

Nathan’s Answer

An appellate court may presume that the trial court found all facts necessary to support the judgment. This is the doctrine of "implied findings." In this event, the issue on appeal becomes whether or not the "implied findings" are supported by the evidence.

You can sue anyone for anything, but in the case of legal malpractice, you would have to demonstrate that you would have won had the attorney not made the errors he allegedly made. This is a tall order and why it is advisable to focus on securing an appeals lawyer as soon as possible.

Do keep in mind that as mentioned, parties that appeal suffer a bias in that few judgments are overturned in comparison to those upheld. This is because the appellate court gives deference to trial court judges as arbiters of the legal processes below.

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