Tuesday, April 7, 2009
A law firm appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the State of Missouri in a matter arising out of a drug arrest. The sheriff had seized $4,421 from the defendant at the time of arrest. The state had sought forfeiture of the seized funds. The defendant signed a release that directed that the seized funds be released to the law firm as fees. The defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in jail. The State then dismissed the forfeiture petition and sought "incareceration reimbursement" from the funds. The law firm intervened and appealed after summary judment was entered in the State's favor.
The Missouri Supreme Court reversed and remanded. There was an issue of material fact whether the funds were not subject to incarceration reimbursement after assigned to the law firm. The client averred that he entered his plea on the understanding that the State had agreed to release the funds to the law firm. The prosecutor agreed. The client's intent to transfer his rights to the firm was clearly expressed in writing. Thus, the court concludes, there is an isuue whether all or part of the money had been earned as legal fees and exempt from incarceration reimbursement. (Mike Frisch)