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Green v. Beard and Beard Attorneys

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

December 8, 2017

Phil Green
v.
Beard and Beard Attorneys

         Appeal from Marshall Circuit Court (CV-16-30)

          MOORE, JUDGE.

         Phil Green appeals from a judgment entered by the Marshall Circuit Court to the extent that it awarded Beard and Beard Attorneys ("Beard and Beard") attorney's fees, pursuant to the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act ("the ALAA"), § 12-19-270 et seq., Ala. Code 1975. We affirm the judgment.

         Procedural History

         On May 16, 2017, Green, who is an attorney, filed, on behalf of Willodene Willard, a complaint in the Etowah Circuit Court against, among other parties, Beard and Beard, the law firm that had represented William Willard in divorce proceedings between William and Willodene. Willodene asserted a claim of libel against Beard and Beard and sought damages. The complaint specifically alleged that Beard and Beard had, on behalf of William, propounded to Willodene the following interrogatory in the Willards' divorce action:

"2. While married to your spouse, have you engaged in sexual relations of any kind with any other person? If so, please state the following:
"(a) State the date and place of each such occurrence.
"(b) State the name and address (or last known address) of each person with whom you have had such relations."

         According to the complaint, that interrogatory constituted libel.

         On June 29, 2016, Beard and Beard filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to change venue. On August 19, 2016, the action was transferred to the Marshall Circuit Court ("the trial court").

         On September 1, 2016, Beard and Beard filed, pursuant to Ala. Code 1975, § 12-19-272, a part of the ALAA, a request for attorney's fees against Green. Subsequently, Green withdrew from representing Willodene, and Alexander Smith filed a notice of appearance as new counsel for Willodene. On November 23, 2016, Willodene, through Smith, filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss her complaint against all the defendants. On November 29, 2016, the trial court held a hearing concerning the ALAA issue regarding Beard and Beard; that same day, the trial court entered an order granting Willodene's motion to dismiss and reserving ruling on the ALAA issue pending further hearing. After a subsequent hearing, the trial court entered an order on December 13, 2016, ordering Green to pay the attorney's fees of Beard and Beard, pursuant to the ALAA, and stating, in pertinent part:

"1. [A]fter argument of counsel, the presenting of testimony and evidence, the Court finds that the claim filed by attorney Phil Green against Beard and Beard Attorneys was frivolous.
"2. The claim for libel and slander was not authorized by Willodene Willard, and [was] filed by Attorney Green without [Willodene's] authorization."

          On January 11, 2017, Green filed a postjudgment motion challenging the award of attorney's fees to Beard and Beard. On January 22, 2017, he filed an amendment to the postjudgment motion. On March 21, 2017, the trial court entered an order reaffirming its award of attorney's fees with regard to Beard and Beard; the order also addressed the only other outstanding claim __ a separate claim by Stephen Williams, the attorney for William, among others, for attorney's fees pursuant to the ALAA. On April 20, 2017, Green filed a subsequent postjudgment motion ...


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