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Howard v. Adams

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

December 14, 2016

GARY HOWARD, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ODIS HOWARD, DECEASED APPELLANT
v.
LAUREN ADAMS, DON BRADY, TODD MAZZANTI, AND BRADY & JACKSON, PLLC APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04-P2003-461-5] HONORABLE XOLLIE DUNCAN, JUDGE

AFFIRMED

          Harry McDermott, for appellant.

          Tamra Cochran, P.A., by: Tamra Cochran, for appellees.

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge.

         This is the fifth appeal in a dispute between appellant Gary Howard and appellee Lauren Adams over attorney's fees.[1] In the most recent appeal, Howard IV, we affirmed the circuit court's decision to foreclose on forty-six acres of property in order to satisfy Adams's attorney-fee lien and other matters. While Howard IV was pending, the foreclosure sale took place and was confirmed by the circuit court. The court also awarded additional fees to Adams for the work of her attorney Tamra Cochran, who has represented her throughout this dispute. Gary now appeals from the order confirming the sale and the order awarding additional attorney's fees. We affirm.

         I. Background

         The lengthy history of this case is set forth in our earlier opinions. To summarize past events, Adams represented Gary in a lawsuit to recover forty-six acres of property that had been owned by Gary's late father, Odis Howard. Adams obtained a successful outcome, which resulted in the forty-six acres being placed into the Odis Howard estate. Gary was the administrator and sole beneficiary of the estate, subject to the dower interest of his stepmother, Mabel Howard.

         Afterward, Adams sought a one-third contingency fee from Gary in accordance with her representation contract. When Gary refused to pay, Adams filed an attorney-fee lien on the forty-six acres and a claim against the estate for thirty-three percent of the property's value. Following a lengthy period in which the forty-six acres remained unsold, Adams began seeking foreclosure of her attorney-fee lien through a judicial sale of the property.

         In November 2014, the circuit court ordered foreclosure and public sale of the forty-six acres. The order provided that Adams would receive one third of the sale proceeds in satisfaction of her attorney-fee lien, less $110, 500 distributed to Mabel Howard for her dower interest; and that Adams would receive another $18, 529.09 from the sale proceeds for fees payable to her lawyer, Tamra Cochran. We affirmed these rulings in Howard IV, supra.

         While the appeal in Howard IV was pending, the foreclosure sale was held, and Adams and her law partner bought the forty-six acres for $450, 000. The circuit court confirmed the sale and awarded Adams additional fees of $69, 037.50 for the Cochran firm's representation. Gary appeals and raises five arguments for reversal.

         II. Judicial Sale of the Property

         Gary argues that three errors occurred in connection with the sale of the forty-six acres. As explained below, we find no error in the sale process.

         We begin by recognizing that we accord great discretion to the circuit court in matters pertaining to judicial sales. The circuit court is the vendor in judicial sales, and, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, it may confirm or refuse to confirm a sale made under its order. Williams v. Hall, 98 Ark.App. 90, 250 S.W.3d 581 (2007). In determining whether the circuit court abused its discretion, we do not substitute our decision for that of the circuit court; instead, we merely review the case to see whether the circuit court's decision was within the latitude of decisions that it could make in the particular case. See Kellett v. Pocahontas Fed. Savings & Loan Ass'n, 25 Ark.App. 243, 756 S.W.2d 926 (1988).

         Gary argues first that notice of the sale was not published the requisite number of times in the newspaper. The circuit court's ...


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