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HUNT v. BITTMAN

January 9, 1980

E. HOWARD HUNT, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM O. BITTMAN, ET AL., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH

MEMORANDUM

This is an action for legal malpractice brought by E. Howard Hunt, Jr., a convicted Watergate burglar and conspirator, *fn1" against his former counsel, William O. Bittman and the general partners of Hogan & Hartson. Defendants move the Court for a dismissal on the ground that plaintiff's action is barred by the statute of limitations. Defendants Mintz Et al., the general partners of Hogan & Hartson, also move for a dismissal on the ground that plaintiff suffered no legal injury in connection with defendants' representation of him. Plaintiff opposes defendants' motions, and also moves for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability. Defendants oppose plaintiff's motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Court treats defendants' motions to dismiss as motions for summary judgment, *fn2" enters summary judgment for defendants, and does not reach plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

 BACKGROUND

 On June 17, 1972, District of Columbia police arrested four men from Miami, *fn3" who were found inside the headquarters of the Democratic Party's National Committee in the Watergate office complex. "Arrested with them was James McCord, *fn4" a former CIA agent who was then employed as a security officer by the Committee for Re-Election of the President (Richard M. Nixon) (CRP); the next few days brought the arrest of their immediate supervisors in the bizarre enterprise: (plaintiff) E. Howard Hunt, *fn5" a former CIA agent who was then, or had recently been, employed as a "consultant' to the White House, with an office in that building, and G. Gordon Liddy, *fn6" a former White House employee who was then employed as General Counsel to the Finance Committee for the Re-Election of the President (FRCP)." *fn7"

 On July 3, 1972, plaintiff Hunt retained defendant Bittman and the law firm of Hogan & Hartson to represent plaintiff in connection with proceedings arising out of the Watergate break-in. In September 1972 the grand jury charged plaintiff in a six-count indictment with conspiracy, burglary, and illegal interception of oral and wire communications. In December 1972, shortly after his wife was killed in an airplane crash, plaintiff decided to plead guilty to any or all of the charges against him. His decision to plead guilty was based on the overwhelming amount of evidence against him and the emotional strain he was suffering as a result of his wife's death. *fn8"

 On January 10, 1973, Bittman announced in open Court that Hunt wished to plead guilty to three of the six counts of the indictment, and represented that the Government agreed to allow Hunt to plead guilty to these three counts and to dismiss the remaining three counts. *fn9" The prosecutor indicated that Bittman's representation was accurate, and that such a disposition was acceptable to the Government. *fn10" Judge Sirica took the matter under advisement. *fn11" On the following day, January 11, 1973, Judge Sirica refused to accept Hunt's plea to only three counts. *fn12" In view of this ruling, Hunt agreed to plead guilty to all six counts. *fn13" Judge Sirica accepted this plea after determining that Hunt understood the charges against him, had committed the crimes with which he was charged, was entering the plea voluntarily, and had discussed the plea with and was entirely satisfied with the services of his attorney, Bittman. *fn14"

 On March 23, 1973, Hunt appeared for sentencing before Judge Sirica. On that date, Judge Sirica provisionally sentenced Hunt to prison, and advised Hunt to cooperate fully with the authorities; *fn15" Hunt was incarcerated immediately thereafter. In July 1973 the Watergate Special Prosecutor indicated that there was a possibility of a conflict of interest between Hunt and Bittman. As a result, on August 16, 1973, Bittman and the firm of Hogan & Hartson withdrew as Hunt's counsel. Succeeding defendants as Hunt's counsel were Sidney S. Sachs and the law firm of Sachs, Greenebaum & Tayler.

 In September 1973 Hunt, represented by new counsel, filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea and to dismiss the indictment. In November 1973 Judge Sirica denied this motion. Two days later, on November 9, 1973, Judge Sirica imposed a final sentence on Hunt of from thirty months to eight years in prison and a fine of $ 10,000.

 Hunt appealed the denial of his motion to withdraw the guilty plea and to dismiss the indictment. On January 2, 1974, by Order of the Court of Appeals, Hunt was released from prison pending resolution of his appeal. In February 1975 the Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, unanimously affirmed Judge Sirica's decision. *fn16" Two months later, on April 25, 1975, Hunt returned to prison, where he remained until he was released on parole on February 23, 1977.

 Plaintiff Hunt filed this action on September 30, 1977, seeking $ 5 million in compensatory damages and $ 5 million in punitive damages. His amended complaint sets forth four counts. The first count alleges that defendants were negligent in their representation of Hunt. This count further alleges that defendants' acts and omissions directly and proximately caused Hunt's imprisonment, loss of reputation, loss of earnings, and distress.

  Each of the remaining three counts incorporates the allegations made in count I, and sets forth a different legal theory for recovery on the same allegations. The second count alleges that defendants committed the acts and omissions complained of in count I "recklessly, willfully, fully knowing and foreseeing the consequential damages to (Hunt), and with intent to injure (him)." *fn17" The third count alleges that defendants "conspired with other attorneys, individual and corporate persons, and public officials" to commit the acts and omissions complained of in count I. *fn18" The final count alleges that defendants' acts and omissions complained of in count I deprived Hunt of his civil rights.

 The factual allegations set forth in count I and incorporated in the remaining three counts can be summarized as follows: (1) that defendants provided inadequate representation to Hunt in the Watergate case in several respects; *fn19" (2) that Bittman engaged in a conspiracy with White House and CRP officials and other lawyers to protect individuals in the White House at the expense of the interests of Hunt and other Watergate defendants; and (3) that Bittman's loyalties became divided between himself and Hunt after Bittman became the target of a criminal investigation as a result of his transmitting payments to Hunt.

 DISCUSSION

 A. The "Injury" ...


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