The Federal Trade Commission subpoenaed yesterday five D.C. Superior Court defense lawyers who are currently striking for higher legal fees to appear at hearings tomorrow and Monday aimed at trying to determine whether the lawyers are violating federal antitrust laws.
Karen Dixkoskoff, vice president of the Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association and a strike leader, said she and another lawyer were ordered to appear tomorrow before FTC lawyer Charles W. Corddry III and bring with them correspondence and other documents related to the strike of about 100 lawyers who normally represent indigent defendants.
She said that three other association members, including its president, Ralph Perrotta, were subpoenaed to appear before Corddry on Monday. She said the striking lawyers have retained the law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, which specializes in antitrust work.
Kenneth G. Starling, assistant director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, said last night that Corddry will gather facts at the nonpublic hearings about the lawyers' actions in their efforts to gain higher wages.
Starling described the lawyers as "independent contractors . . . who have agreed to take collective action to affect" the fees. "It may constitute a price-fixing agreement," he said.
The FTC official said that after the hearings, the FTC staff would make a recommendation to the five-member commission, possibly to seek a federal court injunction against the strike, in which they have declined to accept appointment for defendants who are too poor to retain their own lawyers.
The lawyers, who went on strike Sept. 6, are seeking a raise in fees that have not been changed in 13 years. They are paid $30 an hour for court appearances and $20 an hour for out-of-court work, under the city's Criminal Justice Act (CJA).
The City Council's judiciary committee is to consider a proposal Wednesday to raise the rates to $35 an hour for work in or out of court, a figure well below the rates the lawyers are seeking: $55 and $45.
The Public Defender Service, which oversees the CJA program, has been enlisting lawyers from local firms to represent indigents.