In what has been described as “a novel ruling” a New Jersey Appellate Court has held that, under appropriate circumstances, an attorney may be required to return a previously paid and even fully earned retainer to a client upon withdrawal as his/her counsel.

The New Jersey State Bar Association, in an amicus brief, argued that the Court had no jurisdiction over fee disputes between an attorney and his/her client. Conceding that the Court has the ability to set fees payable by one party to the other, the Bar argued that such authority does not extend to fees between the attorney and her/his own client.

The Appellate Court disagreed, finding that “under unusual and extraordinary” circumstances, the Court’s jurisdiction over fees does extend to such matters.