Monday, March 06, 2006

Nebraska Supreme Court (J Miller-Lerman) allows tort claim against Lancaster County District Court clerk for disregarding perfected attorney lien when distributing judgment client's adverse party paid into court.Stover v. County of Lancaster, 271 Neb. 107 March 3, 2006. No. S-04-1108. Attorney handled divorce case and filed attorney lien per 7-108 with client's adverse party and the court file. Adverse party paid a property settlement into the court, see §25-2214.01. District Court clerk disregarded attorney lien. Trial court dismissed attorney's tort claim ruling that attorney should have filed a complaint for intervention to seek claim to property settlement funds. Supreme Court in an issue of first impression holds that perfection of attorney lien in accordance with 7-108 preserves lien through adverse party's transferring judgment debt to the court clerk, notwithstanding 25=2214.01.. Problem: Apparently attorney also filed a copy of her lien in the District Court file, court does not state that this was a necessary step in perfecting her attorney lien. Furthermore not discussed in opinion, decision assumes this was a negligence case against the County court, what if the court distributing a judgment intentionally disregarded an attorney lien?
Given our decisions regarding attorneys' liens, and harmonizing §§ 7-108 and 25-2214.01, we conclude that when an adverse party pays into the clerk of the district court such sums as will satisfy a judgment awarded against that party, and prior to the payment of such sums into the court, notice is given and an attorney's lien has attached, the district court clerk who has notice of the lien by virtue of its filing has a duty to retain that portion of the deposited funds to which an attorney's lien has attached until the "rightful owner" of the sums retained can be determined. Under such circumstances, when the funds cannot be fully paid out, as part of the clerk's duty to "manage" such funds, the clerk of the district court should notify those entities of whom the clerk is on notice who have claimed an interest in the funds, of the retention of the funds, to effectuate the determination of the "rightful owner." § 25-2214.01

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