The grandson of animator Walt Disney is suing his former lawyer for allegedly conspiring against him and simultaneously billing him for it. Now, Bill Clinton‘s former special counsel is getting involved.
Attorney Lanny Davis announced he was joining the ongoing litigation in the State of Arizona on Wednesday, describing the circumstances surrounding the case as “the most shocking example of a lawyer betraying his client” in his “40-plus years as a litigator.”
“Lund fired Shumway when he found out he was going to the opposition and saying that if he were appointed conservator of the estate, he would flip on his client,” Davis told Law&Crime.
For seven years, Disney heir Bradford Lund fought a pitched legal battle against his estranged relatives over whether or not he was competent enough to inherit the family fortune.
Attorney Jeffrey Shumway represented Lund in those ultimately successful efforts against the controversial guardianship action. And, in 2016, Lund was found fully competent by the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona. Two years later, with all their appeals finally exhausted, Lund’s family was forced to accept the verdict.
“It was a brutal battle to say the least, but Lund prevailed,” a Wednesday press release from the cartoon empire scion’s legal team notes. “While it’s not uncommon and even expected to be fighting against one’s known adversaries, rarely does a person have to withstand such a battle while fighting against his own attorney who has secretly betrayed him.”
Shumway sued Lund in July 2018 for just over $200,000. The complaint sought legal fees incurred out of pocket by the attorney over the representation of his client as well as damages and late fees–alleging a violation of a fee agreement between the two.
“Under the terms of the fee agreement, Shumway Law agreed to provide legal services connected to certain guardianship, conservatorship and trust-related issues pending in the Maricopa County Superior Court,” the attorney’s lawsuit notes. “In exchange, Lund agreed to pay for such legal services at specified rates, as well as related costs.”
Shumway noted that some payments were made toward his representation of Lund but that no payment “ever brought the account balance to zero.”
In September 2018, Lund filed several counterclaims against Shumway–alleging several deficiencies with his legal work including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud. The heart of that lawsuit claims that Shumway went behind his client’s back to self deal with the same people he was working against in court.
Per the Lund lawsuit, in relevant part [emphasis in original]:
Shumway, beginning in March, 2014, began secretly meeting with the court-appointed guardian ad litem (“GAL”), Joseph Boyle, and the GAL’s attorney, Alisa Gray to conspire against Bradford Lund to have a conservator appointed over Bradford Lund. Shumway did not inform Bradford Lund of these secret meetings, nor did Shumway, Defendant ever receive consent or authorization from Bradford Lund to have these meetings. Not only was Shumway meeting with the GAL, and the GAL’s attorney, Shumway drafted documents against his own client, Bradford Lund, and gave them to the GAL, and the GAL’s attorney.
The ultimate goal, Lund claims, was for Shumway to be appointed the court-appointed lawyer.
“During these conspiracies against Bradford Lund, Shumway continued to bill Bradford Lund for services as his attorney,” the filing continues.
Davis, who lives in the District of Columbia, said he “rarely” does this kind of thing–noting that he is intervening in a case out of state.
“The grandson of Walt Disney has been screwed out of his money for 15 years,” Davis said in an interview. “This is the beginning of a much bigger story about the people who have abused Brad Lund because of the wealth he’s been unable to inherit.”
Characterizing Shumway’s alleged work toward establishing a conservatorship as a “betrayal” of his client’s interest, Davis said the attorney’s efforts were the “definition of ‘chutzpah.'”
A deposition of Shumway is scheduled for later this week, Davis added, and they expect the trial to occur this coming fall.
Davis, you may recall, represented the president’s former attorney Michael Cohen.
[Image via JOHN T. BARR/AFP via Getty Images]
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