ILNews

COA dismisses attorney's appeal

Jennifer Nelson
December 11, 2009
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The Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed an attorney's interlocutory appeal of the order he pay attorney's fees as a discovery sanction because the attorney didn't timely file his appeal.

In Warren Johnson v. The Estate of Timothy P. Brazill, Brian J. Zaiger; Judy Hester; and David A. Anderson and Anderson & Associates, No. 29A02-0902-CV-126, attorney David Anderson represented Warren Johnson in his claim against the estate of deceased attorney Timothy P. Brazill. Johnson claimed Brazill hadn't repaid a loan to him, but it was later discovered Johnson owed Brazill money based on a promissory note.

Anderson tried to introduce certain e-mails sent between Brazill and Johnson that he got from one of Brazill's former law partners, but the trial court denied entering them as evidence. Anderson then tried getting the e-mails through a subpoena from Judy Hester, who was the last member of the Smyth Brazill Hester law firm before it split.

Hester then filed a motion to intervene in the action and sought attorney's fees for what she said were Anderson's continued discovery abuses. On Sept. 22, 2008, the trial court granted Hester's motion and ordered Johnson and Anderson to pay her nearly $2,500 in fees. The court also ordered the estate to submit an attorney fees affidavit within 10 days of the order. On Oct. 20, 2008, the trial court denied Anderson's motion to reconsider and ordered him to pay nearly $4,500 in attorney's fees to the estate. On Nov. 7, 2008, the trial court vacated its finding against Johnson, but upheld the ruling against Anderson. The court reaffirmed its findings against Johnson again in a Dec. 30, 2008, clarification.

Anderson filed a notice of appeal Jan. 22, 2009.

The parties didn't raise the timeliness of Anderson's appeal as an issue, but the Court of Appeals found Anderson's Jan. 22 appeal was untimely and dismissed the case. Anderson appealed from the Dec. 30 order, but he should have filed his appeal within 30 days of the Sept. 22 order if he wanted to challenge the award of fees to Hester, ruled the appellate court. With regards to the estate, Anderson should have filed his appeal within 30 days of the Oct. 20 order that dictated the amount of fees to go to the estate.

Instead, Anderson filed motions to reconsider, which the trial court denied, and asked the trial court to clarify its order, which it did Dec. 30. Even though the orders were modified with regards to Johnson and another attorney, the order that Anderson pay attorney's fees to Hester and the estate was constant and should have been appealed prior to Jan. 22, 2009.

"Otherwise, a party ordered to pay money could repeatedly move the court to reconsider or clarify its original order, and if the trial court then modified that order in a way that did not affect the moving party's obligations under the original order, that party could then appeal from the trial court's order denying the motion to reconsider," wrote Judge Paul Mathias. "This could allow a party to potentially delay compliance with the trial court's order, which is precisely what Trial Rule 53.4 is designed to prevent."

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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