by Structured Settlement Watchdog
It is quite apparent (and has been apparent for some time) that something very bad is going on in Virginia concerning an alleged victim of predation by
several structured settlement factoring companies and the welfare of a black man is at stake. The alleged victim is an amputee burn victim for whom a structured settlement was established when he was a minor.
"Sword and Taylor"
Where is the justice when you balance how little time it took for Portsmouth judges to approve the petitions of Structured Asset Funding/123 Lump Sum, several related companies and others to consummate 10 structured settlement factoring transactions in Portsmouth Virginia, in less than 2 years) against a legal matter that has already stretched out more than 6 years and is likely to get deep into 7. The case is only at the preliminary motion stage after all this time. Terrence Taylor's story was documented in a December 2015 Washington Post expose by Terrence McCoy, a follow up to his award-winning commentary concerning abuse of other black annuitants by another factoring company in Maryland.
White Lawyer Wielded "Legislative Privilege" Over and Over Resulting in Massive Delays in Black Man's Litigation For Years
If SAF et al had such a good case why would they employ such delay tactics? The Taylor case is terrible for the public perception of the structured settlement secondary market, a perception that is already jaded.
In October 2021 SAF/123 Lump Sum attorney Steve Heretick, who was disqualified as counsel for 123 Lump Sum Defendants, wielded his continuance privilege (while a member of the Virginia House of Delegates), indiscriminately to delay that litigation for years, according to a motion by Taylor to have 123's new counsel Bill Stanley disqualified. Bill Stanley is a Virginia state senator who "was invoking the same legislative privilege that Heretick had relied on heretofore to obtain an unconscionable sequence of continuances and delays, namely Va. Code §30-5". According to the Virginia Bar website, there are more than 29,000 lawyers admitted to practice in Virginia. There have been 40 lawmakers in the Virginia State Senate for over 120 years.
Taylor's December 14, 2021 motion to disqualify, chronicles for readers just how often Steve Heretick exercised privilege that served to delay the Taylor case for a time frame replacement judge Charles Maxfield described as shameful. 25 motions remained pending. Some motions have been pending for 6 years!
• Attorney Heretick sent a letter on January 11, 2016, stating that he would not be available
until mid-April of 2016 (Taylor Motion Ex. A)
• Attorney Heretick sent an email on February 23, 2017, cancelling a hearing set for April
2017 (Ex. B)
• On March 17, 2017, Attomey Heretick postponed a hearing date set for June 27, 2017
until June 29, 2017 (Ex. C)
• On November 21, 2017, Attomey Heretick emailed the parties stating that he would be
unavailable in 2018 until late March of that year (Ex. D)
• On April 25, 2018 Heretick responded to a request for his ability stating that he would
likely not be available until after July 1, 2018 (Ex. E)
• On December 7, 2018, Attorney Heretick continued a hearing set for December 17, 2018
• Attorney Heretick sent an email on December 18, 2019, in response to a request for dates
stating that he would not know his availability until early January (Ex. G)
• On October 9, 2020, Attorney Heretick continued a hearing set for October 19, 2020 (Ex.
Taylor argued Rule 3.4 (j) of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct, states:
A lawyer shall not... delay a trial, or take other such action on behalf of the client when the lawyer knows or when it is obvious
that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another. Id. That admonition is further explained in Comment 6:
Paragraph (j) deals with conduct that could harass or maliciously injure another. Dilatory practices bring the administration of
justice into disrepute. Delay should not be indulged merely for the convenience of the advocates, or solely for the purpose of
frustrating an opposing party's attempt to obtain rightful redress or repose. * * *Va. Rules of Professional Conduct R. 3.4, Cmt. 6 (emphasis added).
As then-Circuit Court Judge D. Arthur Kelsey observed two decades ago: Implicit in § 30-5 is the good-faith duty of a lawyer-legislator not
to accept representation 'where it is clear that a party may be seeking out a legislator to act as a lawyer simply to have the
opportunity to take advantage of the legislative continuance for purposes of delay.
In Commonwealth v. Foulks, 56 Va. Cir. 449,455 n.l (Suffolk Cir, Ct., Oct. 19, 2001) (quoting Guidelines on Legislative Continuances, House of Delegates Committee on Rules^ (April 21, 1998)). Judge Kelsey emphasized that, "[t]he lofty purposes behind § 30-5—as historically sound and jurisprudentially valid as they may be—are not furthered by defendants who deliberately seek out legislator-lawyers as a means of tapping their near-automatic delay
powers." Id. at 455 n. 1.
By retaining Stanley Taylor argues, SAF has done exactly what Judge Kelsey decried, when he also explained a common misconception concerning the ambit of Va. Code §30-5, noting that the granting of a right to a continuance is bestowed upon the party^ not the lawyer-legislator. "[T]he continuance right...
is not simply for [the attorney's] personal convenience," Id. at 465, n.6. It is up to the party to seek a continuance, not the attorney.
At the October 2021 hearing, Judge Maxfield (the 3rd judge on this case) admonished SAF, "I'm of the opinion that justice delayed is justice denied." Oct. Hr'g Tr. 56: 10-56:12. The Court expressed its intention to get the case moving, stating, "Let's act as if our job is to facilitate in getting a dispute into the courtroom fairly and honestly and do that in a professional manner.... Let's get it on track, and let's get it resolved within a year, okay?" Oct. Hr'g Tr. 66:4-66:7, 66:10-66:11. This Court also explicitly forewarned SAF to retain counsel prepared to participate in the December hearing: "/ expect [SAF] to be able to find counsel and be prepared,'' Oct. Hr'g Tr. 57:6-57:7 (emphasis added), and specifically instructed SAP, "you have to find counsel to be prepared on that day, Sir," Oct. Hr'g Tr. 60:2-60:3
SAF retained Stanley only a week before a long pending interpleader motion was to be heard on December 17, 2021. Taylor argued that SAF's conduct in knowingly retaining an unavailable legislator, practicing law 200 miles from the courthouse, the very day substantive responses to the pending motions were due, was obviously solely for the purposes of invoking Va. Code §30-5 in a direct and flagrant challenge to Judge Maxfield's authority to control the pace of this heretofore shamelessly delayed case. Justice delayed is justice denied. Download Taylor Mot Ntc Memo is Supp to Disqualify Attorney Stanley
So what happens? Judge Maxfield grants the continuance!
Instead of acting like a responsible "bartender" and cutting Taylor off after a couple of deals (rounds), structured settlement factoring companies kept "serving" more rounds and kept Taylor "drinking" from the "poisoned chalice" and eroding his structured settlement, aided by retired Judge Sword's figurative rubber stamp. The discounts at "Sword &Taylor" lasted two years and SAF & Co took full advantage. It seems that the games of continuance are set to continue. In my opinion, the Taylor case is an indictment of structured settlement protections in Virginia which have been stacked against Taylor by wealthy well-funded white folk working in a system that has little of the controls of any other financial services industry segment.
The fact that the case is still in a preliminary motion stage in after 76 months ( with 25 motions pending) speaks volumes. Is that supposed to inspire consumer confidence in doing business? I think not.