Willis Bar Complaint Alleges Willis Betrayed Client
(APN) ATLANTA — A State Bar of Georgia complaint filed by Angela Hammond, owner of Ragazza Motorsports, Inc., against Atlanta City Councilman H. Lamar Willis–a private attorney with the Willis Law Group–makes several stunning allegations against Councilman Willis.
As previously reported by APN, Willis is currently under investigation by the State Bar of Georgia in response to Hammond’s complaint. Willis is alleged to have violated Bar Rules governing diligence, communication, confidentiality of information, conflict of interest, and expediting litigation.
APN has now obtained a copy of the complaint and interviewed Hammond.
According to the complaint, Willis promised to represent Ragazza Motorsports in a lawsuit against the Credit Union of Atlanta.
The complaint alleges that Councilman Willis failed to provide promised legal assistance for Ragazza Motorsports; and that Councilman Willis communicated with the Defendant, the Credit Union of Atlanta, without Ragazza’s permission.
Hammond told APN that because of Willis’s failure to pursue the case as promised, that Ragazza lost out on the ability to pursue two specific legal claims due to the time that had elapsed, pushing the litigation beyond the time limits established by the relevant statutes of limitations.
“Attorney Willis was untruthful, unethical, and ineffective as counsel. Nevertheless, his actions lead one to believe that he conspired with the Credit Union of Atlanta to derail the possibility of a lawsuit and the exposure of the Credit Union of Atlanta’s pay to play culture,” the complaint states.
The complaint alleges that Hammond met with Willis on June 21, 2011, and that he agreed to provide legal assistance for Hammond in connection with a separate case, and that Hammond told Willis about Ragazza’s dispute with the Credit Union of Atlanta.
Willis arranged to meet up on June 24, 2011, to discuss the case, the complaint states.
On June 24, Willis showed up one hour late. “He stated he was late because had [sic] been on the phone talking with City Councilman C.T. Martin (Board member for Credit Union of Atlanta) and with Deputy Chief of Staff Katrina Parks (Mayors office) asking them questions about my companies issue with the Credit Union of Atlanta,” the complaint states.
“He stated to me and my partner Catherine Alston that Katrina Parks told him to settle the issue,” the complaint states.
On June 24, 2011, Willis agreed take the case on contingency, the complaint states. “He stated he would send the Credit Union of Atlanta a letter of demand for $1.2 million. Willis stated that he would start with a demand letter because he knew all of the key players.”
The complaint provides a timeline, including numerous attempts to reach Willis to receive a copy of the contingency agreement.
On July 20, 2011, they signed the contingency agreement, the complaint states. “Met with Willis-stated that he would email the demand letter to me by 7pm… I signed the contingency agreement. However, the agreement does not state what he was hired for. Willis did not give me a copy of the agreement.”
The complaint alleges numerous attempts to reach Willis regarding the demand letter.
On August 01, 2011, Willis said the demand letter was sent, according to the complaint.
Hammond made numerous requests to receive a copy of the letter, but did not receive it, according to the complaint.
On August 26, 2011, Willis rescheduled an appointment for August 27. On August 27, “Willis failed to show up. He did not call. I waited for one hour and twenty minutes.”
On August 30, 2011, Hammond called Willis from a different phone number and he answered, she said. “He never apologized for not showing.”
On September 01, Hammond emailed Willis to reschedule the meeting, and Willis responded to say that he “is contemplating whether or not this case is a good fit for his law firm.”
On September 08, Willis provided Hammond with a copy of the purported demand letter, and it demanded several hundred thousand dollars less than what Hammond had agreed to, the complaint states.
The complaint states that on September 14, 2011, “Sent an email to Willis because I received a confidential call regarding Willis being in contact with the Credit Union of Atlanta’s Board Chairman Calvin Tucker (Atlanta Police Sergeant). The person that provided the confidential information stated that Tucker bragged about Willis not pursuing the case.”
Hammond made numerous attempts to reach Willis. On November 01, 2011, Willis said he was going to file a lawsuit against the Credit Union of Atlanta because they were not willing to settle.
Hammond attempts to reach Willis numerous times in November and December, 2011, including to discuss what she says is her contact with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigations regarding Ragazza’s case against the Credit Union of Atlanta.
On January 23, 2012, Hammond finally fires Willis.
“Upon terminating his services, Willis stated that he had already filed a lawsuit on my behalf. I advised him that I was unaware of the filing. Then Willis changed his story… he stated that the suit may not have been filed. He needed to check with his assistant,” the complaint stated.
A review of DeKalb County case records shows that Willis did not file a complaint on behalf of Ragazza.
Then, on January 24, 2012, the complaint alleges, “I received a call from the Mayors [sic] Deputy Chief of Staff-Katrina Parks. She wanted to know if Willis could get back on the case. She also wanted to know if I would be willing to let Willis act as co-counsel.”
It is not immediately clear why Taylor-Parks would be calling Hammond regarding Willis’s role in litigation with the Credit Union of Atlanta.
As previously reported by APN, Ragazza Motorsports did eventually file suit against the Credit Union of Atlanta, with the help of a different attorney, and that lawsuit is currently pending in DeKalb County Superior Court.
Hammond also told APN that Willis financed a vehicle through the Credit Union of Atlanta and otherwise did business with the Credit Union of Atlanta, thus raising questions about whether there was a conflict of interest in the first place for Willis to take on a client to pursue litigation against a company that Willis does business with.
Willis currently has about thirty days to respond under oath to the investigator who is investigating the case on behalf of the State Bar of Georgia.