Reconsideration dismissed April 14, 2015.
Disqualification of counsel. Cobb Superior Court. Before Judge Stedman, pro hac vice.
Larry C. Oldham, for appellant.
Harold D. Ehrman; Phillips Law, Amelia T. Phillips, for appellees.
Addis International Money Transfer, LLC (the " LLC" ), and a majority of its members (collectively, " Addis" ) sued Tsega Befekadu for conversion and misappropriation of the LLC's assets and for breach of fiduciary duty. During the first trial of those claims, the trial court disqualified Befekadu's counsel and declared a mistrial. Befekadu proceeded pro se at the second trial, and the jury awarded Addis compensatory damages for the conversion claim, attorney fees and expenses, and punitive damages. The trial court subsequently entered an order and final judgment based on the jury's verdict. Befekadu appeals that order and the disqualification order from the first trial. We conclude that the trial court did not apply the correct legal standards when disqualifying counsel for Befekadu and therefore vacate the judgment and remand the case to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion. With respect to Befekadu's appeal of the final judgment, we conclude that he has abandoned the errors he enumerated with respect to the second trial because he failed to support them with argument or citation of authority.
The LLC was formed in 2006 as a small money transferring company that was principally involved in transferring funds between the United States and Ethiopia. There were originally four members of the LLC -- Mesfin Shibeshi, Befekadu, Thomas Teshome, and Woinshet Desta. Shibeshi was the president, Befekadu was the treasurer, Teshome was the secretary, and Desta was a cashier. All of [332 Ga.App. 104] the members had contributed at least $7,000 to become a part of the LLC. The LLC conducted business without a written operating agreement.
In 2010, Befekadu wrote several checks on the LLC's account that were allegedly not authorized, including a payment of approximately $20,000 to himself. According to Shibeshi, he contacted Befekadu numerous times asking him to explain the unauthorized transactions, but Befekadu did not respond. In April 2011, before the lawsuit was filed, counsel for Addis contacted Larry Oldham, the attorney who had set up the LLC, asking for a copy of the operating agreement. Oldham responded that his work on behalf of the LLC consisted of filing the articles of incorporation and obtaining an employer identification number, and that he never prepared an operating agreement for the company. Oldham also notified counsel for Addis that he would be representing Befekadu in the dispute. In December 2011, Addis filed suit against Befekadu, seeking to recover the amounts allegedly taken from the LLC, plus attorney fees and expenses, and punitive damages.
During the first trial, Shibeshi was the first witness and Oldham was cross-examining him when the trial court excused the jury for the day and the following transpired:
THE COURT: Mr. Oldham
[COUNSEL]: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Tell me why you are not disqualified from representing the ...