Then, the following Saturday and Sunday, first Johnson and then Endress were fired by Ashcraft and Gerel.
After consultation with D.C. Bar Counsel Fred Grabowsky, Johnson and Endress notified their clients that they had left Ashcraft and Gerel. Some clients decided to remain with the two associates. On Sept. 19, in the same suit that named Koonz, Johnson and Endress were sued by Ashcraft and Gerel.
Meanwhile, Koonz alleges in court papers that on the same weekend that Endress and Johnson were fired, somebody went into his office and "rummaged through" the records. Koonz also asserts that Johnson's and Endress' offices were cleaned out.
When asked later if partners or others from Ashcraft and Gerel had entered those offices, Gerel said, "I believe perhaps they may have." David Kanter, a lawyer for Ashcraft and Gerel, said that the files belong to the partnership, which wanted to make a list of cases handled by Koonz.
On Sept. 18, Koonz told the partners he was out, and the next day he too was served with the lawsuit. On Sept. 24, each side signed an agreement, filed with the court, which set out who could use what stationery and how to answer the telephones and pick up the mail at the two different firms. Johnson and Endress got their desk calendars back. Koonz got his furniture, his secretary's furniture and her typewriter -- but he had to pay for it.
Most important, each side agreed on a "Dear Client" letter to resolve the question of who represented whom now that Koonz had left.
"If you want Ashcraft and Gerel to represent you, place a checkmark after their name. If you want Mr. Koonz to represent you, place a checkmark after his name. When you have done so, please place your choice in the appropriate envelope and mail it promptly," the letter said.
Then, on Oct. 4, Ashcraft and Gerel asked the court to set up an escrow account to hold the fees from cases transferred to Koonz as a result of that agreement. A substantial number of those cases were worker's compensation decisions, the firm said, and the payments will be made in the law firm and Koonz's name.
In response, Koonz said that by attempting to freeze the fees, Ashcraft and Gerel was trying to wipe out Koonz's new firm -- Koonz, McKenny & Johnson -- before it even got off the ground.
"It was an attempt to starve me out, plain and simple," Koonz said in a later interview. Gerel said the firm was simply trying to protect its share of those fees.
As of last week, the $500,000 lawsuit was no longer an issue and lawyers on both sides said that the differences between Koonz and the firm had been settled privately and out of court.