Just eight days after hearing oral arguments, the D.C. Court of Appeals has remanded a D.C. Superior Court judge's decision to remove Hogan & Hartson partner Robert Cave as trustee of a trust set up by a former client.
As The National Law Journal has previously reported, Cave was appointed trustee by Colleen Boland in January 2006, just months before she succumbed to breast cancer. Following Boland's death, Cave found himself at the center of a bitter dispute over how her estate should be used.
According to court documents, Cave said he had been instructed by Boland to spend whatever was necessary to ensure that Boland's ex-husband, Frank Benevento II, paid more than $680,000 in court-ordered judgments.
Boland's two sons, Andrew and Brendan Benevento, have sued Cave in two different courts for malpractice, saying that he and the firm pursued unnecessary legal action against their father that drove up fees and drained their inheritance. The most recent suit was filed in D.C. Superior court on Aug. 11 and seeks $120 million in damages.
Andrew Benevento also sued in 2006 to have Cave removed as trustee.
Throughout that case, Cave has maintained that he has only been acting on the instructions laid out for him in Boland's Declaration of Trust. In March 2008, D.C. Superior Court Senior Judge Eugene Hamilton removed Cave as trustee, saying he had mismanaged the trust by spending too much money on lawyers.
In a per curiam decision (.pdf) handed down on Friday, Judges Inez Smith Reid, Phyllis Thompson, and Senior Judge William Pryor remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing. The judges said in their opinion that because "the record on appeal does not include the document creating and containing the terms of the Colleen Boland Family Trust" they were unable to determine whether Cave had violated the terms of the trust.
William McDaniel, a Baltimore-based solo practitioner representing Cave, said in an e-mail, "The Court of Appeals recognized that the Probate Court had no factual basis whatsoever to remove Mr. Cave as Trustee of the Colleen Boland Family Trust. The speed with which the Court acted--we argued the appeal September 3 and the Order was docketed September 11--demonstrates the depth of the appellate panel's concern that the Probate Court acted without having any evidence supporting its decision. A full evidential hearing will establish that no basis to remove Mr. Cave exists."
Dale Cooter, a name partner at Washington's Cooter, Mangold, Tompert & Karas, who represents the estate and the trust, was not immediately available for comment.