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Court orders attorney’s fees following bad faith appeal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found a Colorado attorney and his brother engaged in procedural bad faith in appealing the third amended final accounting of their deceased mother’s estate and ordered them to pay appellate attorney’s fees to the estate.

Attorney Robert New and his brother James appealed the St. Joseph Probate Court’s denial of Robert’s combined motion to correct error, motion for relief from judgment, and motion for reconsideration of the court’s approval of their mother Martha’s estate’s third amended final accounting. The estate sought appellate attorney’s fees and wanted the Court of Appeals to dismiss the brother’s appeal.

Robert, instead of seeking pro hac vice admission to practice in Indiana, pursued the appeal pro se. He and James appealed the division of certain assets of the estate among the four siblings; whether James was improperly deprived of reimbursement of costs advanced on behalf of the estate; whether the probate court erred in approving the estate’s attorney’s fees; whether the personal representative properly accounted for certain debts owed to the estate; and whether the probate court failed to give James and Robert adequate notice and time to respond to the estate’s third amended accounting.

In James and Robert New v. Personal Representative of the Estate of Martha New, No. 71A04-0912-CV-744, the appellate judges found the two brothers waived all of their arguments for appeal except for whether the probate court gave them adequate time and notice to respond to the accounting. The brothers’ presentation of the other issues didn’t comply with Indiana Appellate Rule 46(A)(8)(a), lacking citations to the record or to applicable authority.

James and Robert argued that the final accounting was approved by the probate court nine days after it was submitted and without notice to the parties, and thereby the court erred as a matter of law. The third amended final accounting approved is a final order subject to challenge under Trial Rule 59 or on appeal, because it constitutes a final judgment, wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey. Therefore, the brothers had no right to notice or an opportunity to be heard on it after the estate submitted it for court approval.

James and Robert argued that logic means they would have to accept whatever was reported in the final accounting without benefit of any review and pointed to errors in the second amended final accounting that were corrected as examples of the type of errors they claim would be avoided by their approach.

“This argument is simply not credible,” wrote the judge. “Moreover, under James’s and Robert’s interpretation of the statute, every accounting would require notice and a hearing. Thus the only way an estate could be closed is if all interested parties agreed to the accounting with no objection. … We refuse to adopt an interpretation that would lead to an absurd result that is so contrary to the purpose of Indiana’s probate scheme: to close the estate ‘as promptly as possible.’”

The appellate judges also found the brothers engaged in procedural bad faith. Their appellate briefs failed to present an appropriately framed statement of facts or proper argument on many points, and they presented a statement of facts littered with argumentative statements that don’t comply with the standard of review. The judges remanded for the assessment of attorney’s fees in favor of the estate.

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  1. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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