Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Alabama Lawyer Bill Swatek Has a Habit of Abusing His Own Clients, Especially Women In Divorce Cases

William E. Swatek, Bill Swatek, corrupt Alabama lawyer with strong ties to Republican Party
William E. Swatek

Most of my reporting on Alabama attorney William E. Swatek has focused on the bogus lawsuit he filed on behalf of our criminally inclined neighbor, launching 10-plus years of legal torment for my wife and me. But Swatek's abusive actions go way beyond our case; after all, public records show he has been disciplined multiple times for ethical violations, including a suspension of his license, over roughly 30 years.

The victims of Swatek's misconduct are not always opposing parties, such as myself. Quite often, it appears, the victims are his own clients.

In fact, Swatek seems to have a special knack for behaving badly toward women he has represented in divorce cases. I've heard from several of them, and their complaints range from poor courtroom performance, to deceitful billing practices, to failure to answer questions or communicate with clients.

In at least one case, a former client says Swatek engaged in highly unethical behavior that ranges well outside the courtroom.

For now, let's look at issues regarding Swatek's performance as a lawyer. And for that, we turn to a woman who hired Swatek to represent her in a divorce case about five years ago. This woman has a  good job in a technical field, makes an excellent salary, and probably will wind up OK on the financial side. But she still faced a legal bill that was way more than she had been led to expect and received a poor result in terms of child custody--and she blames much of that on Swatek.

We are talking about a woman who obviously is bright; you don't get a degree in her field without having some serious brainpower. But even she fell victim to Swatek's scam. Perhaps that will be of some solace for those of us who must deal with legal con artists while using relatively modest brainpower.

Several of Swatek's former clients have told me that he has a habit of dumping unexpectedly large bills on them at the end of cases. If a lawyer follows the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct (see rules 1.4 and 1.5), that shouldn't happen. But Swatek has been breaking ethics rules for 30-plus years, so there is no reason to think he will start following them now.

Most reputable lawyers that I'm aware of charge an up-front amount to take the case, then keep track of hours billed and notify the client when more fees might be needed. That system is supposed to avoid unpleasant surprises for the client, and if the client suddenly cannot pay, the lawyer is likely to withdraw from the case or try to work out a payment plan. Swatek, it seems, does not work that way--and that probably explains why public records show he has filed about 20 lawsuits against former clients.

Swatek apparently has a tendency to have clients pay a relatively small retainer up front and tell them that everything will be fine regarding his fees--but then he dumps a big bill on some of them at the end. My source asked not be identified, but when I mentioned what public records seem to show about Swatek's billing practices, here are her words from one of several e-mails we exchanged:

Swatek did the same with me regarding his billing. I paid him $500 when I first filed. I repeatedly asked his office for a billing statement and they assured me that everything was fine and it would come at the end. Once he even told me that most likely my ex would wind up paying for my attorney fees. When the bill came, it was over $10,000. I knew I wanted to appeal the case and felt I couldn't fight two battles at once. In order to give me my records his office insisted I pay the bill in full (which I found out later they are required to give you your records regardless if the bill is paid). I had no real choice as a deadline for the appeal was approaching so I put it on my credit card which I am still paying off.

What kind of performance did she get for her money? When I noted my impression that Swatek was lazy and disinterested in his cases, here was her response:

As for Swatek acting lazy and unprofessional in court--I had the same opinion and I was his client! I remember him sitting slouched in his chair leaning way back. He didn't really seem to be listening either. He asked the same questions over and over again, never really making a clear point. Sometimes I thought he was trying to prove arguments for them!

I've already written extensively about what it's like to be on the receiving end of a bogus lawsuit from Bill Swatek--and it's not very pleasant. Now, we are learning that it's not very pleasant to be one of his clients either.

We will have more on that subject in upcoming posts.


Anonymous said...

by Tony Cartalucci:


The current state of the world is a result of the summation of our collective beliefs, aspirations, work, spending, education, and morality. While the problems facing the world, especially those that are the result of monolithic, seemingly impervious corporate-financier ELITISTS seem insurmountable - in reality the key to changing this balance of power begins with something as simple and as practical as reforming ourselves.


Yes without self reformation or call it "self consciousness" there is no such idea of America reborn to be what we were co-created as, land of the free and home of the brave.

LS is brave enough to tell the real story and without the whole truth, there are only more of the lies that got us into this unbelievable nightmare.

James Greek said...

This post makes me hate him even more. The Swatek bys are/were sorry excuses for attorneys. If he idn't seem interested why did he even become a lawyer to begin with?!

legalschnauzer said...

Good question, James. Before becoming a lawyer, Swatek was a Jeffco Sheriff's Deputy. By becoming even a crappy lawyer, he probably enhanced his take-home pay several times over. He also probably acquired plenty of dirt on various judges, prosecutors and other legal types, and that allows him to do pretty much as he pleases. If a lawyer has the right connections, he can make a nice living while putting forth very little effort. And you don't have to be smart either. Some of the dumbest statements I've ever heard have come from the mouths of lawyers. All of these sleazy lawyers have dirt on one another, and that's why the tribe closes ranks when a member is about to be exposed. They have a legal duty to report wrongdoing in their ranks, but almost none of them do it.

James Greek said...

And the majority of his complaints ace during the Iwglan administration, then after Bobby Riley took over,he could get away with anything because of his boy Dax!

Also, it's a wonder he's sill married! Shoot if I was in Mrs. swatek's shoes I would have divorced him a long time ago!

legalschnauzer said...


I'm guessing that Mrs. Swatek enjoys the lifestyle that comes with being married to a corrupt lawyer. She reaps the benefit of what he steals--both from his own clients and from other parties. Plus, I'm guessing Mrs. S is not aware of some of Billy's activities. Billy has a lot of experience at covering things up. He tried to cover up Chace's drug/alcohol/huffing problems--until Chace wound up dead by the side of a highway. Billy's cover-up efforts aren't going to last forever. I've got numerous sources on what's really been going on behind the scenes in Swatek Castle.