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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Alabama Supreme Court says lower court didn't treat lawyer fairly during dissolution of his firm

State Supreme Court

By Charmaine Little | Oct 3, 2019


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - A lower court’s failure to hold a hearing in the dissolution of a Mobile, Ala., law firm resulted in the Supreme Court of Alabama reversing summary judgment against one of its now-former lawyers.

Chief Justice Tom Parker of the Supreme Court of Alabama authored the Sept. 20 opinion that reversed the ruling from the Mobile Circuit Court. Justices Michael F. Bolin, Aisa Kelli Wise and Jay Mitchell concurred.

“Because we hold that the trial court should have held a hearing, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand the case for further proceedings,” said the Supreme Court.

Jerome E. Speegle and Anthony M. Hoffman of Zieman Speegle LLC asked the lower court to approve the disbanding of the firm. 

Thomas T. Zieman, Jr., who also used to work for the firm, filed a counterclaim against the firm and a third-party complaint against Speegle and Hoffman. But the lower court did not hold a hearing before it granted the firm, Speegle and Hoffman summary judgment. 

The lower court said they were the equity-holding members of the firm and provided for the distribution of the assets of the law firm.

Zieman ultimately appealed and “identified only the law firm as an appellee, thus indicating that he did not appeal from the portion of the judgment disposing of his third-party complaint,” said the Supreme Court.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said that Zieman didn’t immediately take issue to the lower court not including a hearing in its briefing schedule on the pending motions. Still, things changed when Zieman filed a request to the lower court that if the motion to dismiss was changed to a motion for a summary judgment, that he should get a hearing. 

He added that a hearing still had not been set, and that the motions against him should be denied. He also asked for an oral argument. Considering this, the Supreme Court said, “we conclude that Zieman sufficiently notified the trial court that he was seeking a hearing on the law firm’s motion.”

The Supreme Court chastised the law firm, saying the firm inaccurately argued that Zieman was “deceitful” and was wrong in alleging his actions during the litigation sparked an error on the lower court’s end. The Supreme Court reiterated that Zieman filed the requests weeks before the trial court actually made its judgment.

The Supreme Court said that Zieman properly showed he was owed a hearing.

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