Steven T. Budaj, P.C.

Cadillac Tower

 Law Offices of Steven T. Budaj, P.C.


 (313) 963-9330 Voice
 (313) 963-9185 Fax
 Toll-Free 1-86-66-COUNSEL


 65 Cadillac Square

 2915 Cadillac Tower

 Detroit, Michigan  48226

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 Cadillac Tower at Campus Martius 


By Charlie Cain / Detroit News Lansing Bureau Chief

    They lied, cheated, stole money, forged documents, failed to file critical legal work and even shut law offices without leaving a forwarding address for the clients who depended upon them.

    "The vast majority of the (31,850) men and women out there practicing law are honest people who worked hard to go to law school and pass the bar exam and who wouldn't do anything to violate their clients' trust," said Philip Thomas, administrator of the Attorney Grievance Commission, which prosecutes lawyers who run afoul of the law and court rules.

    Many involve fee disputes. Some, like the case of Sheryl Kwasniewski, are true horror stories. Kwasniewski, a 42-year-old Detroit health care worker, won a $75,000 judgment against a Roseville couple after she shattered an ankle when the front steps to their house collapsed in 1988.

    But she hasn't seen a dime, because the estate of the couple, who had both died by spring of 1991, was drained by the lawyer who oversaw it.

    Attorney, Martin Pavlock of Troy, was found guilty of 12 counts of misconduct last year in connection with Kwasniewski's case. He was order to pay back more than $120,000 he took from the deceased couple's estate.

    Pavlock twice sent Kwasniewski or her attorney a check for the settlement; both checks bounced.  For several years, Pavlock kept the couple's death a secret from Kwasniewski, who had provided home medical care to the aging couple.

    "It still hurts when I walk and I've got huge medical and legal bills. I've lost everything," said Kwasniewski, who was forced to move from Harper Woods into a Detroit house that still bears the scars of a firebombing last fall.

    "I don't even have a phone, and that's pitiful," said the single mother of two teen-agers. "I don't have a car and can't find work, yet I can't get anything from social services because, on paper at least, I got a $75,000 payment. "I live in a shack and can't provide for my kids what they need anymore." Kwasniewski said she's "bitter that the system didn't work."  "If you're a lawyer or a criminal, you'll make it," she said. "But if you're straight, you won't."

    Her current attorney, Steven Budaj, said he's still hopeful he can collect $50,000 from the bonding company that insured Pavlock. But he said the disbarred attorney has fled the area, making that task more difficult.

    Pavlock could not be located for comment on the case. 
Copyright 1996, The Detroit News

Steven T. Budaj was able to collect the $50,000 from the bonding company that insured Pavlock as the personal representative of the estate. Also, Pavlock was disbarred from the practice of law and charged criminally with writing a bad check (with insufficient funds).

 Todd McInturf / The Detroit News
 Sheryl Kwasniewski hugs her son, Robert, in their Detroit home in a high-crime area. Robert keeps a bat handy because the front door lock is broken. Kwasniewski won a $75,000 judgment, but attorney Martin Pavlock took it.

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