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COA holds law firms are judgment creditors, owe restitution

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In a dispute over whether two law firms should have to repay money from a judgment they received by way of attorney liens, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that the law firms are judgment creditors, so they are liable to pay restitution to the state of Indiana.

The issue arose in Debra Minott, Faith Laird, Patti Bailey v. Lee Alan Bryant Health Care Facilities, Inc.; Parkview Residential Care Center, L.L.C.; Parke County Residential Care Center, L.L.C., et al., 49A05-1305-PL-213, in which several residential care facilities that provided services funded by the Family and Social Services Administration’s Residential Care Assistant Program sued the FSSA after it suspended funding for new RCAP residents and imposed fixed reimbursement rates. The providers were awarded $176,664.25 in damages. The money was disbursed among two banks and two law firms – Lewis & Kappes in Indianapolis and Chicago firm Williams Bax & Saltzman P.C., which had filed attorney liens. The firms received $72,399.22 of the damages award.

But the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and ordered more proceedings. At the trial court level, the final judgment order entered Nov. 8, 2012, did not address restitution to the state for the damages paid out. The state sought reimbursement from the law firms and the banks, but the trial court denied the state’s motion.

The law firms argued that the state’s motion for restitution was untimely and, even if it wasn’t, restitution following a reversal on appeal cannot be extended to non-party creditors.

The Court of Appeals was not persuaded by the firm’s claims, ruling first that the state’s motion for restitution is timely.

“The issue of restitution arose only after this court’s decision to reverse the trial court’s judgment. The trial court’s November 8th order neither addressed nor disposed of that lingering issue. Therefore, it was not a true final judgment,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote.

The judges then ruled that the law firms and banks are liable for restitution of the funds paid by the state to the providers. The banks and law firms are judgment creditors or their lawful equivalent, so they are liable. The COA pointed to an agreed order entered by the trial court in 2011 that gave the law firms and creditor banks the right to enforce the judgment.

“Because the creditors had the power to enforce the judgment in their own favor, they are judgment creditors and should be treated as such for the State’s request for restitution,” she wrote.

 

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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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