Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Marriage of Novak

Supreme Court of Montana

March 7, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: MICHAEL NOVAK, Petitioner and Appellee,
v.
TERESA NOVAK, Respondent and Appellee, and JOSEPH C. ENGEL, III P.C., Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: December 21, 2016

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. CDR-10-501(a) Honorable Gregory G. Pinski, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant Joseph C. Engel, III (Self-Represented), Great Falls, Montana

          For Appellees Daniel Flaherty, Patrick Flaherty, Flaherty Law Office, Great Falls, Montana, Jeffrey Ferguson, Attorney at Law, Great Falls, Montana

          Michael E Wheat Justice

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Michael and Teresa Novak were married in 1988. In March 2010, Teresa sustained a serious head injury and has been unable to maintain gainful employment since the accident. Moreover, she faces continued medical expenses as a result of her injury. Michael sought a divorce in July 2010. The marriage was dissolved in October 2012. In response to initiation of the divorce proceeding, Teresa hired Joseph Engel as her attorney. He represented her through her appeal to this Court. In In re Marriage of Novak, 2014 MT 62, 374 Mont. 182, 320 P.3d 459, decided on March 11, 2014, we reversed and remanded the matter to the Eighth Judicial District Court for evaluation of whether Teresa was entitled to maintenance and attorney fees. We affirmed the District Court's valuation of Michael's share of a business enterprise entered into during the marriage.

         ¶3 On April 7, 2014, shortly after remand, Engel, on behalf of Teresa, filed a motion to substitute the judge which the District Court denied on April 16, 2014. Shortly thereafter, Teresa fired Engel and obtained successor counsel.

         ¶4 On July 8, 2014, Engel filed notice with the District Court that he was asserting an Attorney's Statutory Charging Lien and a Common Law Retaining Lien in the Novak dissolution proceeding in the amount of his unpaid legal fees and costs totaling $70, 056.66, accrued while representing Teresa. Engel's fees and costs originally totaled $102, 694.80 but Teresa reduced this amount by paying him $32, 638.14 from an earlier settlement he had obtained for her following her injury.

         ¶5 In June 2015, Engel filed a motion to intervene in the dissolution proceeding under M. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2) (Rule 24), attempting to assure that "the issue of attorney fees will be properly and fully considered by the [c]ourt." On October 29, 2015, the District Court held an evidentiary hearing during which Michael, Teresa, and Engel testified and submitted exhibits, including substantial documentation pertaining to Engel's legal fees. Michael and Teresa informed the court that they had reached an agreement on maintenance; consequently, the only remaining issue for the District Court to resolve was Teresa's legal fees.

         ¶6 On January 5, 2016, the District Court entered its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order Denying [Teresa's] Motion for Attorney Fees. In this Order, the District Court also denied Engel's motion to intervene, reviewed the parties' financial positions, analyzed Engel's fees and costs, reduced them after finding them unreasonable, and ultimately denied Teresa's motion for fees concluding that, based upon Michael's negative net monthly income, he could not afford to pay Teresa's fees. ¶7 Engel appeals. We affirm.

         ¶8 The issues on appeal are as follows:

Did the District Court err by denying Engel's motion for ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.