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View That Your Lawyer Mishandled Your Case May Not Be Malpractice

Establishing legal malpractice can be challenging. In this case the plaintiff would have had to prove that her case would have turned out differently if another judge had presided.

Mobile judge tosses malpractice suit by Kenny Stabler's ex-wife, but she continues fight.

May 06, 2014. By Brendan Kirby via

MOBILE, Alabama – A judge has tossed a legal malpractice lawsuit filed by former NFL star Kenny Stabler’s ex-wife, but she has vowed to continue her fight.

Rose Burch Stabler sued attorney Jeff Deen, who represented her on a criminal matter in Baldwin County in 2011, arguing that he failed to challenge the judge who presided over the case. Mobile County Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart ruled in favor of Deen last month after deciding that Stabler failed to file an affidavit from an expert regarding what legal standard of care Deen failed to provide.

t a hearing last month.

Stabler, who moved to Wellington, Fla., in January, said she waived the hearing and relied on her written arguments. She argued that she had no legal duty to offer expert witness testimony.

“It is so well-established in Alabama case law that expert witness testimony is not necessary when it’s a common sense question,” she said in an interview.

In a filing on Monday asking Stewart to set aside her ruling, Stabler pointed to a 2004 Alabama Supreme Court case that recognized a “common knowledge” exception to the expert witness rule.

Deen’s attorney, Joseph Dennis, said the case Stabler cites involved a lawyer who missed a filing deadline. The case against Deen, he said, involves more complex matters that cut to the heart of a lawyer’s responsibilities.

“In this case, expert testimony is required for a claim to stand,” he said. “This case is not as simple as someone missing a filing deadline.”

Then-Baldwin County Circuit Judge Charles Partin, after a pair of district judges recused themselves, presided over Stabler’s nonjury trial and found her guilty of disorderly conduct based on an incident that occurred in a women’s bathroom at the courthouse in Bay Minette.

Stabler contended in her lawsuit that Partin was improperly appointed to the case and that Deen should have sought his recusal based on the fact that judge presided over her divorce case against Kenny Stabler from 2002 to September 2009.

Deen said he saw no grounds to ask Partin to step aside.

“I don’t see any dagum thing wrong with Judge Partin hearing the case,” he said.

Dennis said Deen acted appropriately. In order to prevail, he said, Stabler would have had to prove that the case would have turned out differently if another judge had presided.

“Jeff Deen didn’t commit malpractice. He’s one of the finest lawyers in this state,” Dennis said. “She was convicted of disorderly conduct. She’s looking for someone to blame.”

The Deen lawsuit continues Stabler’s high-profile battles with lawyers in Alabama. She unsuccessfully sued her divorce lawyer, Mark Ryan, for his handling of the case against her husband. She also unsuccessfully sued Kenny Stabler’s lawyer, Robert Galloway, accusing him of misleading her into accepting a deal to sell her Ono Island home as part of a settlement of a tax case against the former University of Alabama and Oakland Raiders quarterback.

Jerry Blevins, one of the few lawyers in the state who handles legal malpractice claims, originally represented Stabler in the suit against Deen. But he withdrew in February, citing “irreconcilable differences.” She said he told her it was due to her failure to respond to his communications.

Stabler said the claim is untrue and said Blevins made it after she had paid him $17,000.

The bathroom incident that sparked the disorderly conduct charge involved a different judge questioning whether she was using drugs. Stabler had no needle marks on her arms or drugs in her purse. A urine test was negative.

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