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03/10/95 RICHARD G. ALEXANDER v. COUNTY MOBILE

March 10, 1995

RICHARD G. ALEXANDER
v.
COUNTY OF MOBILE, ET AL. R. G. ALEXANDER V. MOBILE COUNTY, ET AL.



Appeals from Mobile Circuit Court. (CV-92-2920 and CV-94-1097)). Robert E. Lee Key, TRIAL JUDGE.

Rehearing Denied June 9, 1995.

Jones, Maddox, Shores, Houston, Cook, and Butts, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jones

JONES, RETIRED JUSTICE.

These appeals are the second and third appeals involving these parties. *fn1 In the first appeal, the Deputy Sheriffs Law Enforcement Association of Mobile County ("the Deputies"), represented by attorney Richard G. Alexander, appealed from the trial court's judgment 1) holding unconstitutional a local act that changed the method of compensation for Mobile County sheriff's deputies; and 2) disallowing the deputies' attempt to amend their complaint to add a cause of action to "revive" the compensation statutes invalidated by the enactment of the unconstitutional local act. This Court affirmed that ruling in Deputy Sheriffs Law Enforcement Ass'n of Mobile County v. Mobile County, 590 So. 2d 239 (Ala. 1991).

The opinion in Deputy Sheriffs Law Enforcement Ass'n contained the following footnote: "Our holding that the trial court did not err in refusing to permit the amendment should not be understood as holding that the appellants may not be able to allege a new and independent cause of action against the County Commission and the [Mobile County] Personnel Board." 590 So. 2d at 243, n.4.

Following the affirmance of the trial court's order in the first appeal, the Deputies, through new counsel, refiled their action, with a "Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Appropriate Relief." As a result of the second litigation, the parties were able to effect a settlement "resolving all issues and matters in dispute in this litigation." The trial court entered its judgment on December 22, 1993, approving and adopting the settlement agreement, which included proposed legislation that would govern the compensation of the Deputies. Pertinent to the instant appeals is the provision of the settlement agreement/order that reads:

"2. Upon passage of the [proposed] Act set out in 'Exhibit 1,' the County shall:

". . ..

"d) Pay $90,000.00 to Plaintiffs' [Deputies'] counsel in payment of attorney's fees."

One week later, on December 29, 1993, the trial court entered the following interlocutory order:

"This matter coming before the court on Attorney Richard G. Alexander's claim of equitable interest in attorney's fees and motion to intervene; . . . it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that disbursement of the ninety thousand dollars ($90,000) ordered as attorney's fees by the December 22, 1993, order be withheld pending a hearing . . . to determine the propriety of said claim to attorney's fees."

The court held an evidentiary hearing on Alexander's claims on January 20, 1994; at that hearing the trial court heard the testimony of 13 witnesses, including Alexander. On April 26, 1994, the trial court entered the following order, which gives rise to Alexander's appeal that is now before us:

"This case originally arose from a complaint filed in August 1992, seeking a declaratory judgment and appropriate relief on behalf of one hundred twenty-eight (128) individual plaintiffs who were employed as deputy sheriffs in Mobile County. The relief sought, essentiallly, was to have the defendants pay the ...


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