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Morris House Condominium Association, Inc. v. Hirschfield

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

October 26, 2018

Morris House Condominium Association, Inc.
v.
Alex Hirschfield

          Appeal from Jefferson Circuit Court (CV-16-901018)

          THOMAS, Judge.

         Morris House Condominium Association, Inc. ("the Association"), appeals from an order of the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the trial court") finding it in contempt of an earlier order and granting an attorney's lien to Alex Hirschfield. We dismiss the appeal.

         Background

         In March 2016, the Association filed a complaint in the trial court against Mark Hannon, JoAnne Hannon, 2325 Morris Avenue, LLC, and Hannon Group, Inc. (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the Hannon defendants"), alleging, among other things, that they owed unpaid dues associated with a condominium located within the Association's governance; the Association also sought injunctive relief. The Association was represented by Hirschfield. The litigation between the Association and the Hannon defendants proceeded with responsive pleadings, discovery, and a dispositive motion filed by Mark, JoAnne, and Hannon Group, Inc. 2325 Morris Avenue, LLC, also asserted a counterclaim against the Association. In September 2017, the trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Mark and JoAnne regarding all of the Association's claims against them.

         On January 3, 2018, Hirschfield filed a motion asking for the trial court's permission to withdraw as counsel for the Association, citing breakdowns in communication and the attorney-client relationship. Hirschfield also filed a "notice of attorney's lien and motion for attorney fees," citing as support § 34-3-61, Ala. Code 1975. On January 11, 2018, the trial court entered an order indicating that it had conducted an evidentiary hearing at which all parties were present; granting Hirschfield's motion to withdraw; ordering that, in accordance with an October 2017 agreement between Hirschfield and the Association, the Association was required to pay Hirschfield $3, 000 "for compensation that was due on or before December 1, 2017, and January 1, 2018"; and withholding adjudication regarding Hirschfield's request for an attorney's lien until the Association could obtain counsel to assist it with Hirschfield's assertions. The trial court ordered the Association to pay Hirschfield $3, 000 within seven days.

         On January 29, 2018, Hirschfield filed a motion asking the trial court to hold the Association in contempt for failing to pay him $3, 000. On February 7, 2018, the trial court entered an order scheduling a hearing regarding Hirschfield's motion. On February 22, 2018, the trial court entered an order that provided, in relevant part:

"The above entitled matter came on before the Court on February 20, 2018, on ... Hirschfield's motion for contempt, for sanctions, and to make attorney's lien final. After due consideration, the Court finds the motion well taken and the same is hereby GRANTED.
"It is ORDERED and ADJUDGED:
"1. [The Association] is in contempt for failing to comply with this Court's order of January 11, 2018, requiring the payment of reasonable attorney's fees in the amount of $3, 000.00 to ... Hirschfield.
"2. ... Hirschfield's Motion for Attorney Lien is hereby GRANTED."

         The next day, the trial court amended its order to specify that the amount of the attorney's lien awarded to Hirschfield was $7, 400.

         The Association retained new attorneys, who filed notices of appearance. On March 9, 2018, the Association filed a motion asking the trial court to set aside its finding of contempt against the Association and its award of an attorney's lien to Hirschfield. In its motion, the Association asserted that it had not received adequate notice of Hirschfield's motion seeking attorney fees, his motion seeking a finding of contempt against the Association, or the trial court's hearing regarding Hirschfield's contempt motion.

         The Association further asserted that it had already paid Hirschfield $3, 000, as ordered by the trial court. The Association's motion was accompanied by an affidavit of its president and an affidavit of the president of RMS Management, which was the entity providing third-party management services for the Association. The Association also provided a copy of a check made to the order of Hirschfield in the amount of $3, 000 and dated February 28, 2018. The Association also argued that "the grant of an attorney's lien is premature at this stage in the proceedings" and that "an attorney lien is only enforceable following entry of [a] final judgment." The trial court scheduled a hearing regarding the Association's motion. Before the ...


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