Disappointed divorcee's malpractice claim dismissed
Robert Ponte sued his attorney, after his divorce was final, arguing that the attorneys did not effectively represent him in the divorce. The trial court dismissed his claim and on appeal, the higher court agreed with the Circuit Court that the attorneys had "exerted [their] best efforts wholeheartedly to advance [plaintiff's] legitimate interests with fidelity and diligence." It held that the client's after-the-fact disagreement with tactics utilized by the attorney did not support a claim of malpractice, since the tactical choices were legitimate exercises of attorney judgment.
Furthermore, the court held that the client's criticisms and suggested conduct were either futile or would not have changed the outcomeof the divorce and property settlement. Examples discussed in the opinion were the attorney's inability to persuade the judge to overturn a prior ruling and the attorney's use of cross-examination to inform the adversary of settlement negotiations where the attorney was ethically precluded from directly approaching a represented party.