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The Further Amazing Courtroom Adventures of Joe Francis; Default Judgment

PANAMA CITY — from – “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis has lost one $100,000 lawsuit over unpaid legal fees and now he’s being sued by a second attorney for about $500,000 in back pay.

U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak ordered Francis to pay local attorney Jean Marie Downing $99,555.99 earlier this month. Downing had sued Francis, saying she represented him successfully in a local case but he failed to pay her fees. Francis did not acknowledge the suit, filing no responses with the court and failing to hire an attorney to represent him.

Since he did not respond to repeated requests to defend himself, Smoak awarded a summary judgment to Downing on April 14. In court filings, Downing wrote that she is owed $77,558.15 in original contract fees, $18,023.89 in interest, and various arbitrations costs and processing fees.

Meanwhile, Tallahassee attorney Rick Bateman has filed a complaint against Francis for failing to pay his legal bills. Bateman was representing Francis in a still ongoing lawsuit filed by four local women who say Francis and his company, Mantra Films Inc., filmed them in various stages of undress while they were underage. The women are all now adults. Bateman left the case in February because of the alleged unpaid bills.

According to Bateman’s complaint, Francis last paid the firm in September 2009. He also paid a $200,000 retainer to the firm.

Since the September payment, Francis has racked up $491,108.55 in legal bills, Bateman wrote. Those bills include $229,127.50 for Bateman’s time on the case. Bateman was charging Francis $350 an hour, he wrote. The bills also include payments for two other $350-an-hour attorneys and for the work done by an intern and five paralegals, of whom charge $125 an hour.

According to Bateman, he and his firm successfully defended Francis against two attempts for default judgments, took depositions and defended Francis during a two-day deposition, researched and filed more than 40 motions, and filed 15 responses to motions made by the plaintiffs.

Bateman and his attorneys “were in near daily contact with defendant Francis regarding the status of the litigation and their efforts on his behalf,” Bateman wrote. He added that his work “directly resulted in favorable outcomes for” Francis.


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