The following is an article in the Courthouse News Service of May 13, 2013, in Detroit, Michigan.

This is indeed a sad story where court reporter indecently over manny years steals from their fellow court reporters who are all subcontractors. If you have worked for them, as you read this, you may discover you are also a victim and owed money.

Posted on LinkedIn in Court Reporter Net - and on other Linkedin court reporter forums - hopefully to be read by all court reporters who believe they have been violated as described below in detail.

DETROIT (CN) - Twenty-six court reporters claim Bienenstock & Associates, Michigan's largest court reporting firm, "stole" more than $1 million from them by lying about how much it charged clients, and "bullied their employees with temper tantrums and threats of termination" to keep "their unethical and unlawful business practices" hidden.

Susan Lowry and 25 other court reporters sued Lauren Bienenstock & Associates Inc., Lauren Bienenstock, and Samuel Bienenstock in Macomb County.

Twenty-three of the 26 plaintiffs are women. All the plaintiffs are all licensed court reporters who worked as independent contractors for Bienenstock & Associates.

"This case is about greed, deception and betrayal, the 27-page complaint begins. "Twenty-six licensed court reporters are suing Michigan's largest and best-known court reporting firm to recover over $1 million they believe has been stolen from them by Lauren and Samuel Bienenstock and their court reporting firm. Many more potential plaintiffs are waiting in the wings, so terrorized by the Bienenstocks' promises of retribution that they fear public identification.

All of these court reporters, many of who have provided services to the largest law firms and most prominent lawyers practicing in Michigan and throughout the United States, have one thing in common: the Bienenstocks have misled them, lied to them, and stolen huge sums of money from them for almost 20 years, all while pretending to act on their behalf and in their best interests.

"The Bienenstocks' scheme was simple: use every possible tactic to convert payments from attorneys and law firms for plaintiffs' court reporting services to their own use, despite their agreement with plaintiffs that at least 70 percent of those payments belonged to them.

The Bienenstocks sold plaintiffs' deposition transcripts without telling them, secretly charged higher rates for plaintiffs' services, and charged for myriad additional services, all the while keeping every penny of the additional income for themselves.

"Like most such schemes, this one also involved a cover up: the Bienenstocks employed elaborate internal processes and office protocols to conceal their unethical and unlawful business practices. The Bienenstocks bullied their employees with temper tantrums and threats of termination should they reveal the truth to plaintiffs, and they consistently denied their dishonest practices when questions arose.

The Bienenstocks used plaintiffs' money to fund an outlandish lifestyle replete with luxury homes, exotic cars, and extravagant vacations for themselves and generous gifts for the attorneys and law firms who unwittingly facilitated the Bienenstocks' corrupt business.

"Although startling enough on its face, the Bienenstocks' outrageous behavior is particularly execrable in light of the integral role licensed court reporters and court reporting firms play in our legal system. They provide the certified transcripts of sworn deposition testimony relied upon in nearly every case and nearly every court here and across the country, their activities are strictly regulated by Michigan statute and the Michigan Court Rules, and they are regulated by the State Court Administrative Office, the administrative agency of the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Bienenstocks' longstanding scheme to pocket the plaintiffs' income thus undermines the integrity of the vital process by which certified deposition transcripts are produced for the use of this and other courts."

The reporters add: "The customers generally ordered transcripts directly from the court reporters on the same day as the depositions. When this occurred, plaintiffs were aware that a transcript had been ordered and they expected to receive and, on information and belief, usually did receive what they believed was their agreed-upon share of the payment received by Bienenstock & Associates."

But when customers ordered transcripts after the day of the deposition, "defendants took calculated steps to conceal the existence of back orders and payments received for back orders from plaintiffs so that they could keep all of the customers' payments for themselves, including plaintiffs' share of those payments," the complaint states.

The Bienenstocks also charged customers a higher hourly rate than it paid plaintiffs and sometimes negotiated higher per page rates than the rates it disclosed to the reporters, according to the complaint.

The court reporters seek damages for conversion, breach of contract, fraud, fraudulent concealment, and unjust enrichment. They also ask the court for a declaratory judgment as to which claims are subject to arbitration agreements, because the Bienenstocks did not provide the reporters with a copy of their executed employment contracts.

They are represented by Kevin O'Shea of Miller Law Group of Rochester, Michigan.

"Is it possible that this is not an isolated case? NCRA, should follow this story. Its ethics committee especially.

Ask yourself. If NCRA is going to try to police its members on ethics why wouldn't it - if there is indeed one or more verdicts against the Bienenstocks, then should not there be some form of recrimination exacted on them for theft and running a continuing fraudulent scheme to deprive their lifeblood, their subcontractors, what is clearly theirs?

If NCRA has no bite, it has no gumption, it has no ability like the ABA or other national associations to suspend one's membership, then ask yourself as a working stiff, what good is the NCRA anyway? The Bienenstocks frankly could care less what NCRA does - if anything.

Where they will most assuredly hurt will be in lost business, from a booming business to a shell of a business. No doubt one or two heads rolled but not the Bienenstocks. Therefore what promises they make to their reporters is still shrouded in continued deception.

The NCRA should at least publicly rebuke the Bienenstocks in the JCR for three months warning the unsuspected that working for this former illustrious reporting agency may spell trouble for their pocketbook.

Regardless, my gut feeling is the Giant is climbing down this Bienenstock but this time he makes it all the way down safely to the ground to exact the punishment befitting the crimes.

Tags: Bienenstock, Lawsuit

Views: 3507

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

It would be nice if the case goes "all the way" and doesn't settle with a gag order.

We, in Michigan, are watching this closely, too.  Bienenstocks tried to get the locale of where the Complaint was filed without success.  How many hard-working, hands-on court reporters do you know have a home in Paris, Francis, what has been reported to be a mansion on the water here in Commerce Twp, and a home in Vale, Colorado?  And one of their cars is a Bentley.  It's sickening what this one firm has done single-handedly to our business in Michigan.  Our rates are so low here, due to the competiveness.  Friends of mine that have worked there have been treated very, very poorly and some have quit the business.  Bienenstock's are scrambling to cover their work, and they still have the audacity to call reporters to do the work under their name!!  Really?   Get out there and hoof it, Lauren.  Work in this environment that you created.  I'm just shocked that any ethical attorney would even still schedule their depos with that firm.  I don't know of anyone here locally that will feel bad for them.  Greedy.  And Karma prevails.

In civil cases like this very case, gag orders are only observed if both parties agree and the plaintiffs will not accept that. Only the Bienenstocks would ask for that in a written motion. Let's see if they do thinking that a judge might lean towards entertain such a motion. The court would first take evidence on the issue, and if that happened, it would be taken in open court, for all to see and hear. The plaintiffs would have a perfect chance to destroy the credibility of the Bienenstocks at the very commencement of the discovery process thereby at the beginning allowing the "B's" to use their own shovels to dig their own graves setting the tempo for the rest of the case. The Bs are not masochistic. Requesting a gag order is not realistic.

But like you I am only a court reporter but in my 43rd year. So I have picked up a few pointers here and there.

Wouldn't be the first time this type of case has settled with a gag order; but with so many plaintiffs having to agree, it is unlikely--thank God.

On the contrary, it's very conceivable that the filing of the case may be the only public element of the lawsuit.

Since the case is about Defendants' billing practices and pay/fee structures, they will surely ask for a confidentiality agreement/order; and I can't see why one would not be agreed upon/entered.  Discovery may reveal many things, but we are unlikely to hear about them.

And since this kind of dispute rarely goes all the way to trial, the likely outcome is a settlement with a confidentiality agreement (which is what I believe Amanda meant by "gag order").

-------

As far as NCRA is concerned, its ability to act is governed by its constitution and bylaws.  It can only act after receiving a complaint, can only discipline members after investigating and evaluating same.  If a member is found to have violated the NCRA Code of Ethics, notice of said finding may be placed in the Journal of Court Reporting.  (However, "warning the unsuspected that working for this former illustrious reporting agency may spell trouble for their pocketbook" would be a waste of our dues dollars since it would likely result in NCRA itself being sued.)

adm

Thanks, Adam, for excellent post, albeit discouraging. :(

Nobody is crying fire in a congested room in the Bienenstock case as opposed to somebody else having malicious fun watching people scrambling to save themselves with possible serious injury as a consequence. That behavior is criminal.

In my case, doing a little research on the First Amendment, we have the right to say and write anything we want. But as one former Supreme Court Justice said, "But it does not come without consequences."

What distinguishes me and my writing on the Bienenstocks and their alleged misdeeds as presented in a public filing in our judicial system, is my comments are devoid of malicious intent and other elements of egregious intent to malign and impugn false accusations of such ilk that demands by the Binenstocks retribution to restore their supposed good names.

Since I love to make predictions, first, this case will become national in scope, much will be written about it as people "talk at the water cooler" and on their cells in bumper to bumper traffic.

Second, only a few will start blogs, but eventually members inside NCRA and non-members outside the NCRA, former disgruntled members who left for other reasons long ago, as well as in the recent past, will "run to the fight" and contribute their comments from bordering on absolute silliness and embarrassing to our profession to very relevant and focused opinions that most certainly could well help the plaintiffs to present their case as we on this side of the issue feel the pain they suffer, and like public galleries in the courtroom, there are seats on both sides of the courtroom, filled with passionate observers who support the plaintiff and likewise those who support the defendant. Let's have at it!

"Your honor, we have selected our jury. All have professed under penalty of sanctions by the court they previously have not heard about our case or the facts about the case and are impaneled as fair and open-minded, untouched by any newspaper article and Internet side shows."

Does anybody know law professor Bill Lederer at William & Mary College of Law in Williamsburg, VA. I worked with him on that Courtroom 5J project in Fairfax, VA last year, the remote court reporting gig where I accessed the courtroom from my remote location providing real time to a packed courtroom of federal and state court judges.

He teaches lawyers and profs all over the world on technology in the courtroom. However he also points out that in today's world of Internet and social media, iPhones and tablets, it is unreasonable to believe that notwithstanding admonitions to jurors not to do their own research on the facts of a case is ludicrous, "They do it all the time," and in this high-speed electronic age, it is to be expected that jurors have already and most certainly will do their personal research and not tell anybody. "It would be insane to seize their devices, and their home computers to retrace the history of their activity." We are not in Russia or some other totalitarian state like Iran.

So there are the rights of the many and the rights of the few and sometimes they are in conflict. You can deny it, but you take the ultra conservative approach. That is your choice. The rest of the non-court reporting world, who are in fact the jury of our peers in this case, take a broader scope approach to following newsworthy events.

Otherwise, now learning about this situation, I ask that you contribute as only a wise literate person you are, who can write where the pen is mightier than the sword, not put in just your 2 cents worth, but your full dollars worth on how you feel this should be handled.

Right now nobody is accused of a crime as no crime has been charged. We can only speculate if it goes that far and I am entitled as so can others who follow my strings here on CSRNation, LinkedIn, Facebook, we all can reasonably comment on what are the ifs and in doing with no intent of malice or casting aspersions that are not founded in both reasonable language as written in the Complaint.

So who would like to comment? Remember, be kind in the choice of your words, but expressed your opinion. Yes, you are entitled to your opinion. How many zillion times have we herd that expression.

Any news on this case?  

Lisa Mig posted this Motion to Dismiss.  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1769019/AZ%20Motion%20to%20Dism...  That's the latest I've heard.  There's an occasional mention on fb.

M.A.

Mary Ann, the copy pasting you inserted above is NOT the Bienenstock lawsuit filed in Macomb County Circuit Court. The one you posted is the Magna Legal Services et al case filed in the US District Court in Arizona. As I have mentioned on LinkedIn in Court Reporters Nationwide, I have requested a certified copy of the complete file folder in the Bienenstock case and as I get these documents I will be sharing this information. If anyone is interested in a free copy of the pleadings in the Biennstock case just email me at tshubbardjr@gmail.com.

My bad.  Watching both.

Kelley, 

I agree with what Amanda Leigh said in another post.  Offer to take the job for yourself and not bill it through them.  There are getting to be so few court reporters, I think this is going to be possible.  I am getting last-minute calls on a regular basis from big firms.  I have been in the business for over 30 years and in the "old" days they just gave the job to you.  I don't mind working for a firm that pays a fair wage, but if this firm is paying such low rates, offer to take the job and bill it out yourself or take the day off.

RSS

© 2014   Created by Kelli Combs (admin).

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service