Annapolis attorney David A. Levin has told a federal jury that his law firm cheated several of his clients on hours billed for legal work and often billed at senior partners' rates for work done by lesser-paid associates and junior partners.
But Levin, on the witness stand in U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday, adamantly denied that he ever overcharged clients and denied participating in billing schemes perpetrated by his now-convicted former partner, Edward S. Digges Jr.
In one instance, Levin grudgingly acknowledged that one of his clients was billed for 10 hours of preparation and deposition-taking at his senior partner's rate of $125 an hour.
The deposition transcript said neither Levin nor anyone from his law firm attended the deposition hearing.
"There were three depositions taken that day," Levin said. "I don't recall whether I stayed around for that one."
Levin testified in a civil case filed by St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co. St. Paul is trying to convince the jury that the company should not have to pay some $3.6 million in negligence judgments against Levin and James T. Wharton, the third partner in the former Annapolis firm of Digges, Wharton & Levin.
Dresser Industries Inc., a former major client of Digges', won the judgments nearly two years ago in a civil case of its own against the three senior partners and their firm, which is now Wharton, Levin & Armentrout.
St. Paul dropped Digges from the law firm's professional liability policy when his criminal acts became public, but will have to pay the negligence judgments for Wharton and Levin unless it can prove that they knew of Digges' fraud when they applied for the coverage.
Digges is serving a prison term for mail fraud tied to millions of dollars in false billings he sent to Dresser Industries, which he represented in asbestos cases in Maryland courts.
Levin, whose testimony repeated what Wharton told the jury last week, said Digges, the firm's managing partner, handled all the firm's billings.
Levin said Digges gave him "pre-bills" that he reviewed and passed on to an employee, who put the information into a computer and printed out the final bills.