First Assistant Public Defender Demetrius Fannick has appealed a court ruling that ordered him to return $6,000 in attorney fees paid by a former Wilkes-Barre man who is serving a 12-year federal prison sentence on drug charges.
Gregory Woods filed a complaint in 2009 against Fannick, who was representing Woods through Fannick's private legal practice, alleging Fannick reneged on an agreement to return half of the $12,000 retainer Woods paid him to represent him.
Contacted Monday, Fannick denied he ever agreed to return any of the fee to Woods. He claims Woods is trying to use the system to obtain money to which he's not entitled.
Woods was among several people charged in February 2006 with operating a major drug ring in the Luzerne County area. He pleaded guilty in December 2009 to one count of intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine.
Fannick had represented Woods in the early stages of the case. He filed a motion in May 2008 to withdraw from the case, citing irreconcilable differences between him and Woods regarding the defense strategy. A judge granted the motion on June 10, 2008.
In court documents, Woods maintains he had a verbal agreement with Fannick that Fannick would return half of the retainer he was paid. Fannick failed to do so, despite repeated demands.
Woods filed a complaint with the fee dispute committee of the Luzerne County Bar Association. In an April 16, 2009 ruling, the committee sided with Woods and recommended Fannick return $6,000.
Fannick did not abide by the recommendation, which was not binding. That led Woods to file a complaint against him in Luzerne County Court. A three-member arbitration panel ruled in Woods' favor for $6,000 on Sept. 7, 2011.
Fannick on Monday said he performed a lot of work on the case, including meeting with Woods and prosecutors, reviewing extensive evidence and working out a verbal plea agreement that Woods later rejected.
It's true I did not return any of the money, because he is not entitled to have any of it returned, Fannick said.
He said he believes the arbitration panel ruled against him because he did not appear at the hearing due to a court conflict. He has appealed the ruling and said he is confident he will prevail in the dispute.