Attorney Sanctioned for Motions That 'Lacked Merit'
A former Smith Gambrell & Russell lawyer has been ordered to pay attorney fees relating to 10 motions that a magistrate judge said were "so lacking in merit" that their only effect was to extend litigation.
Joseph Pastore III, now an attorney at a Connecticut law firm, was sanctioned for bringing several motions on behalf of Nova Group Inc., an employee benefit plan trustee facing a $30.2 million judgment awarded to Universitas Education Inc.
"Individually, none of Mr. Pastore's motions had merit, and taken in aggregate, there is a strong inference that they were filed only to delay Universitas' enforcement efforts," said Southern District Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman (See Profile), in a report and recommendation adopted by Judge Laura Swain (See Profile) in Universitas Education v. Nova Group, 11-Cv-1590.
In an interview, Michael Barnett, an associate at Loeb & Loeb who represents Universitas, said his firm had not yet calculated the fees, but said it would be a "significant" amount.
Robinson, who ran unsuccessfully in Massachusetts for a U.S. Senate seat, was ordered to pay attorney fees based on a single amended motion to dismiss, Swain said.
The case involves the payout of two life insurance policies resulting from the death of Sash Spencer, who chaired a private investment firm. Spencer named Universitas Education as the sole beneficiary of the proceeds. Universitas is tied to a group with plans to start a retreat and meeting center for political leaders.
After Spencer's death in 2008, the life insurance carrier paid $30 million to a benefits plan in which Nova was the trustee and sponsor. Nova denied Universitas' claim to the money, asserting that Universitas had failed to submit a timely claim, and it had entered into agreements to share the benefits with third parties.
An arbitrator in 2011 found Nova liable to Universitas for about $26.6 million. Nova did not pay the proceeds, and Universitas filed suit to confirm the award, while Nova sought to vacate it.
The case was moved to the Southern District in March 2011, when Pastore was a managing partner at Fox Rothschild's Stamford, Conn., office. Later that year, he moved to Smith Gambrell, where he remained until November 2012. He represented Nova until September 2012, when Robinson replaced him.