Judge John DiSalle appointed attorney Noah Geary to represent a local man accused of murder and attempted homicide, but Geary has been paid only partially, so he sued the jurist and Washington County in an attempt to recover what he said he is owed.
In an appeal of criminal convictions, Geary continues to represent Brandon Lee Wolowski, 26, of Washington, who was tried in March 2019.
A jury found Wolowski guilty of the first-degree murder of Matthew Mathias, 37, during a robbery attempt at Mathias’ house Jan. 8, 2013, in Washington’s West End neighborhood. Jurors also convicted him of shooting Mathias’ girlfriend, Michelle Powell, who survived.
Police said Wolowski was trying to steal guns from the victims. In trial testimony, Powell identified Wolowski as the culprit.
Geary, who has practiced law for 24 years, during which he has represented defendants in four death penalty cases, said DiSalle signed an order in 2014 appointing him to replace the Washington County public defender’s office in the Wolowski case at a rate of $75 per hour.
When Geary inquired about a payment of $5,081 from early January 2019, he said DiSalle told him he was reviewing it.
The defense attorney claimed the judge acted out of spite because Geary had asked DiSalle to recuse himself from the case and, when his request was denied, Geary unsuccessfully appealed the decision, first to Superior and then to the state Supreme Court.
DiSalle said Monday afternoon that he could not comment on the litigation, but said court administration is in charge of fees and contracts with appointed attorneys.
Court Administrator Patrick Grimm hadn’t seen the civil case Geary filed Friday.
“I haven’t seen his pleadings so I can’t comment on litigation, but as far as I know, he’s never contacted my office about outstanding bills,” Grimm said. “I’m not aware of any outstanding bills to my office. The general practice is not to submit bills directly to a judge, but to submit it to court administration.”
Geary said his co-counsel in the Wolowski case, Thomas N. Farrell, has been paid $27,000 for his work.
Geary is also making a claim under the wage payment and collection law, saying there is no dispute about his entitlement to the money because “he did the work.”
Geary has already been paid $8,171, he acknowledged in his complaint in arbitration and breach of contract.
Jurors in the Wolowski case chose not to return a death sentence and instead sentenced the defendant to life in prison without parole. According to a state Department of Corrections database, he is confined in Marienville at SCI-Forest County.