Attorney’s Fees on Appeal

May 1, 2019 § Leave a comment

Last month I posted about the long-standing practice in Mississippi to allow the prevailing party an attorney’s fee equal to one-half of that awarded at trial. You can read that post at this link.

Mentioned in the previous post is the MSSC’s decision in Latham v. Latham, decided January 17, 2019, which makes it mandatory to file an MRAP 27(a) motion to seek that award. I thought it would be helpful to provide that portion of the opinion here:

¶21. The chancellor ordered Roger to pay $2,500 in attorneys’ fees as part of the contempt judgment. Buried at the conclusion of Michele’s brief is a one sentence request that the Court award her one-half of the attorneys’ fees that had been awarded by the chancellor. Specifically, without any citation of authority and without any citation of the record, she writes, “Further, Appellee requests to be awarded one-half of the attorney’s fees awarded by the trial court, or twelve hundred and fifty dollars ($1,250).”

¶22. When a prevailing party requests attorneys’ fees on appeal, “[t]ypically, th[e] Court awards attorney fees on appeal in an amount equal to half the amount awarded at trial.” Huseth v. Huseth, 135 So. 3d 846, 861 (¶ 47) (Miss. 2014). Because such an award may not be fair and equitable in all cases, the Court has written that the “better practice” would be for a party seeking attorneys’ fees on appeal “to file a motion in th[e] Court, supported by affidavits and time records that establish the actual fees expended on appeal.” Hatfield v. Deer Haven Homeowners Ass’n, Inc., 234 So. 3d 1269, 1277 (¶ 30) (Miss. 2017).

¶23. While the Court has declared that the better practice would be for a party seeking attorneys’ fees on appeal to file a motion in the Court, we now clarify that Rule 27(a) of the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure requires it. Here, Michele did not file a motion requesting attorneys’ fees on appeal; rather she buried a one sentence request in her brief. Such requests do not comport with the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure. Rule 27(a) provides, in pertinent part,

(a) Content of Motions; Response. Unless another form is elsewhere prescribed by these rules, an application for an order or other relief shall be made by filing a motion for such order or relief with proof of service on all other parties. The motion shall contain or be accompanied by any matter required by a specific provision of these rules governing such a motion, shall state with particularity the grounds on which it is based, and shall set forth the order or relief sought. If a motion is supported by briefs, affidavits, or other papers, they shall be served and filed with the motion.

M.R.A.P. 27 (emphasis added).

¶24. Because Michele failed to make a viable request for relief under Rule 27, we decline to consider her request. While the Court has suggested that the better practice for a party seeking attorneys’ fees on appeal is to file a motion pursuant to Rule 27(a), we hold that, henceforth, such requests must comply with Rule 27(a).

In the Brown v. Hewlett case cited in my previous post, COA Judge Jack Wilson added that, ” Any such motion should be filed before the mandate issues.”

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