If two lawyers solicited your business, would you feel they had a duty to inform you of any unsavory actions in their backgrounds?
What if one of the lawyers had recently threatened to kill a man, and the other had served as his defense counsel? What if one of the lawyers had been slapped with a restraining order because of the death threat, as part of a divorce case? What if one of the lawyers was part of the divorce case because, according to court documents, he had cheated with another man's wife?
And that's not all. What if one of the lawyers had gone through a relatively recent bankruptcy and might have the motive to make extra cash by selling you down the river? What if one of the attorneys had been arrested twice for DUI, driving left of the center line, and carrying a concealed weapon?
Would you trust such a person to represent your best interests in court? How would you feel about such a person if you discovered all of this after the fact--not only after your case, but after he and his partner had ruthlessly cheated you and your spouse?
This is where Mrs. Schnauzer and I stand with Birmingham lawyer Allan L. Armstrong and his partner, Darrell Cartwright. In July 2009, they solicited our business in a lawsuit against unscrupulous debt collectors. How did they know to contact us? They had read my blog posts about our experiences with a number of corrupt entities connected to the debt-collection field--Ingram and Associates, NCO, and the National Arbitration Forum (NAF).
We agreed for them to represent us in two cases--a nationwide class-action against National Arbitration Forum and our lawsuit against Ingram and Associates and NCO for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and a number of state-law claims.
Armstrong and Cartwright did a horrible job in both cases. In the NAF class-action, they shuffled us off to a lawyer named Brian Clark at the Birmingham firm of Wiggins Childs Quinn and Pantazis. I originally was a named plaintiff in the case, but was dropped from that role without my OK, and my wife and I wound up not making one penny from a case that was settled in plaintiffs' favor.
I turned over all sorts of documentation that showed how NAF had acted in a fraudulent matter, and that probably helped force a settlement. But none of the three local lawyers involved even bothered to contact me when the case was resolved. I had to call Clark to be informed that we weren't getting a dime. He also told me none of the local lawyers made anything on the case either. Do I believe that? You might say I am slightly skeptical.
As for the FDCPA case, Armstrong and Cartwright cheated us so flagrantly I will need to write a series of posts to explain it. According to the written words of judges in the case, our lawyers' mistakes cost us the case. Suffice to say that we have filed a legal malpractice case against Armstrong and Cartwright. And not surprisingly, they tried to avoid and refuse service--proving that they are both con men and cowards. (They've been served anyway, via Rule 4(e) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, so the refusing service gambit didn't work.)
We provided tape-recorded evidence of the FDCPA violations, and Armstrong/Cartwright still managed to screw things up. You have to try pretty hard to lose a case like that--and our lawyers did.
What about all of the ugliness we discussed at the outset of this post? That's all in Allan Armstrong's fairly recent past, and Cartwright served as his defense counsel in the criminal case involving the death threat. Did either one of them breathe a word to us about any of it? Nope, they led us to believe we were being represented by a couple of honorable, trustworthy guys.
For the record, I don't believe Armstrong and Cartwright made "mistakes" in our FDCPA case; I believe they screwed us intentionally in order to protect the debt-collecting scoundrels on the other side. I also believe our "attorneys" probably got compensated nicely for their troubles. Finally, I believe both Cartwright and Armstrong know exactly who cheated Mrs. Schnauzer out of her job at Infinity Property and Casualty--it happened in the midst of our FDCPA case--and they are violating their duty under ethics rules to report what they know to the "proper tribunal." I also would not be surprised if Cartwright and Armstrong know who cheated me out of my job at UAB--and they are staying quiet about that, too.
How did I uncover all of the sleaze about Allan Armstrong? It was mainly because I stumbled upon a Jefferson County divorce case styled Johnny Jefferson Scruggs III v. Michelle Ann Scruggs. According to court documents, Armstrong was Ms. Scruggs' "paramour" and left a death threat on Mr. Scruggs' voice mail. As a result, the divorce-court judge issued a restraining order against Armstrong, which can be viewed at the end of this post.
This was in spring 2008, a little more than a year before Armstrong and Cartwright solicited our business with the following e-mail:
From: Darrell Cartwright
To: Me, Allan
Mr. Shuler, I read with great interest your comments on the National Arbitration Forum and the means by which they perpetrate a fraud on consumers. If possible, I would very much like to speak with you concerning these matters. Allan Armstrong and I are investigating possible action here in Alabama over the tactics employed by the NAF and others. If you are willing, you may contact me at this email address, and Allan Armstrong at the email address above, or you may contact me by telephone at 205-222-5900 or Allan at 205-201-1529. We pursue a number of consumer cases together and are very interested in looking at this one further. Thank you, and keep up the good work with your blogs.
We had never heard of these guys, but they went out of their way to con us into becoming their "clients"--then they brazenly cheated us. In a profession that includes the likes of William E. Swatek, it's hard to say who is the "lowest of the low" among lawyers. But Armstrong and Cartwright are strong contenders for the title.
How shady is Armstrong? In both 2000 and 2001, he was arrested for DUI, driving left of the center lane, and carrying a concealed weapon. In 2004, he went through a bankruptcy.
As clients, Mrs. Schnauzer and I had a vested interest in knowing about all of this. Did Armstrong and Cartwright tell us? Not on your life.
And in a series of upcoming posts, I will show you exactly how they cheated us and earned the title "lowest of the low" among lawyers--and God knows, they faced stiff competition for that "honor."
Armstrong Restraining Order