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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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