Contingency Fees and the Yacht

By July 7, 2008Briefly Legal

From Stuart Taylor, National Journal, Feb. 19, 2003, “Perverting the Legal System: The Lead-Paint Rip-Off.

[Attorney General Sheldon] Whitehouse signed an unusual “retainer agreement” with Ness Motley and another firm. It not only guaranteed the lawyers a contingent fee of 16.67 percent of any money recovered, plus all litigation expenses; it also gave them considerable control over whom to sue, what to claim, whether to settle, and on what terms. In other words, Whitehouse delegated a share of the state’s sovereign power to a law firm whose best-known partner, Ronald L. Motley, had vowed that he would bring the paint industry to its knees within three years or give up his 156-foot yacht.

And here’s the Themis, docked at Hilton Head, April 15th, 2008 (Recorded by the blogger dlauderdale at the Island Packet online.)Themis doesn't block the sun

Mr. Motley’s yacht was ranked No. 99 in the America’s top 100 largest yachts, 2007, from Power and Motoryacht magazine. The shipbuilder, Trinity Yachts, has a wonderful site devoted to the vessel, with lovely photos.

For more on the R.I. Supreme Court’s ruling on contingency fee arrangements between the state and private attorneys — they’re OK, but watch out! — see this post at

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