Attorneys' fees denied in unemployment case.

 
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Byline: Correy E. Stephenson

A magistrate judge has ruled that an attorney was not entitled to fees in a case in which the denial of unemployment benefits was upheld in the District Court but subsequently reversed by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, where the fees sought were for the lawyer's work on the initial appeal at the lower court.

District Court Magistrate Judge Joseph P. Ippolito Jr. interpreted the language of G.L. 1956 28-44-57(c)(2)(iii) "Any court appeal as a result of which the claimant is awarded benefits" as applicable only to the first phase of appeal in an unemployment benefit proceeding, not subsequent levels of appeal.

"As I read it, the reference is singular," he wrote. "It is patently not being used in a collective sense: it cannot be, since it could be referring to an appeal to the Supreme Court from a decision of the District Court."

Warwick lawyer Richard A. Sinapi, who represented the claimant, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did counsel for the Department of Labor and Training, Board of Review.

The 35-page decision is Beagan v. Department of Labor and Training, Board of Review, Lawyers Weekly No. 63-029-18. The full text of the ruling can be found here.

Appeal after appeal

Michael J. Beagan was discharged from employment by Albert Kemperle, Inc. because of his employer's belief that he violated the company's policy forbidding insubordination when he posted derogatory comments about his supervisor on Facebook.

He filed an application for unemployment benefits, but the director of the Department of Labor and Training deemed him disqualified because he had been terminated for misconduct.

Beagan appealed. After a hearing, a referee held that he was terminated for misconduct and therefore disqualified from receiving benefits. Beagan appealed again, and a majority of the Board of Review adopted the referee's decision as the decision of the board.

Next, Beagan filed a complaint for judicial review in the District Court. In June 2014, the court affirmed the decision of the board. Undeterred, Beagan appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Following oral argument, the court reversed the denial and remanded the case to the District Court with instructions to enter judgment in Beagan's favor.

In September 2017, the District Court entered an order reversing the board's decision. Days later, Beagan's counsel filed a petition for counsel fees and costs. He argued that he was entitled to fees as a matter of law...

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