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In re Marriage of Evans

Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Division II

May 8, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: JANA DRUMMOND EVANS, Petitioner/Appellant,
v.
GEORGE EDWARD EVANS, Respondent, and KIRK & CHANEY, PLLC, Appellee.

          Mandate Issued: 07/25/2018

          APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA HONORABLE RICHARD C. OGDEN, TRIAL JUDGE

          Christopher A. Wood, CHRISTOPHER A. WOOD & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Appellant

          Thomas J. Daniel, IV, Allen Campbell, KIRK & CHANEY, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Appellee

          JERRY L. GOODMAN, JUDGE

         ¶1 Jana Drummond Evans (Client) appeals an April 29, 2016, order granting Kirk & Chaney's (Law Firm) motion to enforce attorney's lien. Based upon our review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 This is one of three companion appeals assigned to this Court arising from a divorce action. In Appeal No. 114, 270, Client seeks review of the trial court's August 10, 2015, order denying her motion to correct, open, modify, or vacate the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. In Appeal No. 115, 600, Client seeks review of the trial court's November 9, 2016, order granting Law Firm's application for an attorney's fee, which sought fees incurred in enforcing the attorney's lien. In the present case, Appeal No. 115, 034, Client seeks review of the trial court's April 29, 2016, order granting Law Firm's motion to enforce attorney's lien.

         ¶3 Briefly, Law Firm represented Client in a divorce action which culminated in a divorce decree entered on May 11, 2015. On April 7, 2015, Law Firm filed a notice of attorney's lien pursuant to 5 O.S.2011 and Supp. 2014, § 6. On September 1, 2015, Law Firm filed a motion to enforce attorney's lien, asserting Client owed Law Firm $47, 891.82. Client filed multiple objections, asserting Law Firm's fee was excessive and unreasonable because Law Firm made legal and mathematical errors during the legal representation resulting in a reduced division of the marital estate.

         ¶4 On December 4, 2015, Client filed a counterclaim for negligence. Client sought reimbursement of excessive fees paid and damages. In addition, on December 9, 2015, Client filed an objection to jurisdiction of special judge and motion to transfer to district court. Client asserted the special judge's jurisdiction was limited to $10, 000.00 pursuant to 20 O.S.2011, § 123 (A)(1). Law Firm responded, asserting the attorney-lien enforcement was an equitable proceeding ancillary to the original divorce proceeding. Thus, the special judge may decide this proceeding pursuant to 20 O.S.2011, § 123 (A)(9). Finally, Law Firm asserted Client should file a separate action for alleged malpractice. By order filed on January 15, 2016, trial court denied Client's objection to jurisdiction and motion to transfer to district court. The court further dismissed Client's counterclaim as not properly filed with the court.

         ¶5 An evidentiary hearing was subsequently held on December 11, 2015, January 15, March 11, March 30, and April 4, 2016. By order entered on April 29, 2016, the trial court granted Law Firm's motion to enforce attorney's lien in the amount of $47, 891.82. Client appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6 When the appeal raises an issue of the reasonableness of an attorney's fee awarded by the trial court, then the standard of review is whether there has been an abuse of discretion by the trial judge. Green Bay Packaging, Inc. v. Preferred Packaging, Inc., 1996 OK 121, ¶ 32, 932 P.2d 1091, 1097; State ex rel. Burk v. Oklahoma City, 1979 OK 115, ¶ 22, 598 P.2d 659, 663. To establish an abuse of discretion, the appellant must show the trial court made a clearly erroneous conclusion, which resulted in a judgment against reason and evidence, before such an award may be reversed. Green Bay ...


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