From what you say, it sounds like the attorney breached the retainer agreement. If you signed an agreement saying you'd pay him a flat fee to appear in court and he failed to do so, and the court ruled in his absence, you should be able to get part of your money back at least.
Your retainer agreement should say something about the terms on which you can cancel the representation. Make sure you have all receipts and documentation, including court orders, the attorney's letter, when you go to small claims court.
The advice offered in this answer is provided for reference purposes only and does not create an attorney client relationship. If you want to follow up on your issue, you should contact the Law Office of Matthew C. Heerde. Mr. Heerde is a licensed New York attorney with offices in Brooklyn, NY. Phone - 917 626 9540, Email - firstname.lastname@example.org.