HOUSTON — Trial is under way in an acrimonious contract dispute between a former associate at the Houston firm of Berg & Androphy, who claims he is owed $32,000 in back pay, and the law firm, which contends the ex-associate is “unhinged” and a “vexatious litigant” who “harasses all whom he claims have wronged him.”
Opening statements are to take place Tuesday morning before a jury in the court of Harris County District Judge Cory Don Sepolio.
The former associate, Justin Pfeiffer, sued Berg & Androphy and founding partner David Berg in 2022, demanding the pay he says he was owed when he resigned under duress in 2018, plus the legal fees he has expended to date in his attempt to obtain the money he claims he’s due.
Berg & Androphy says it owes Pfeiffer zilch.
During jury selection Monday, John Zavitsanos, a co-founder of AZA who is representing Berg & Androphy, acknowledged that the money at issue is small potatoes compared with what’s at stake in most cases that go to trial in state district court.
The case isn’t about money, Zavitsanos suggested in a November 2022 court filing; it’s about stopping a “malicious campaign” by Pfeiffer, who, Zavitsanos wrote, is “morally bankrupt, unbound by the Rules of Professional Conduct and Texas procedure, or the rules of common decency that bind us as lawyers and ordinary citizens.”
Since Berg’s firm sought and obtained Pfeiffer’s resignation in 2018, the filing said, Pfeiffer has unsuccessfully pursued his wage claim before state workforce agencies in Texas and California, lodged complaints against Berg before state bar organizations in both states, and sued Berg in California Superior Court before filing the Texas suit that is now before Judge Sepolio.
While at Berg & Androphy, Pfeiffer represented U.S. Olympics gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi in litigation in Orange County, California, brought by victims of serial sexual predator Larry Nassar, a doctor for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.
Pfeiffer’s suit says he served as attorney of record in those cases because he was the only Berg & Androphy attorney licensed to practice in California at that time; and that it’s work on that case for which Berg has refused to pay him.
Pfeiffer is representing himself, with co-counsel Louis Benowitz of West Hollywood, California.