Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Praise But No Recompense

The New Jersey Appellate Court affirmed the denial of fees in a guardianship matter

In this guardianship action, which was initiated by the Office of Adult Protective Services (APS), court-appointed attorney Steven J. Kossup, Esq., and court-appointed temporary guardian Brian C. Lundquist, Esq., appeal from an order denying their respective applications for fees and costs. Having consolidated their appeals, we now affirm.

Can't put this in the bank

Although pursuant to Rules 4:42-9(a)(3) and 4:86-4(e), the judge may have had the authority to grant a fee application "in such other manner as the court shall direct," the judge did not have the authority to grant appellants' fee applications in the manner – payment by APS – appellants had requested. Accordingly, we perceive no misapplication of law or abuse of discretion in the judge's decision, and we affirm the order denying appellants' fee applications.

In reaching that conclusion, we are mindful of the temporal and financial sacrifices appellants and their firms made in their laudable efforts on behalf of Hank, the court, and the legal profession in this case. We acknowledge in particular Lundquist's firm's payment of Dr. Williams's fee. We join the judge in her praise and expressions of gratitude, but given the applicable statutes and court rules, we can do no more. Like our Supreme Court, we "have no license to amend" statutes, and, unlike our Supreme Court, we have no constitutional authority to create court rules "to make our civil justice system more fair." DiFiore, 254 N.J. at 228.

(Mike Frisch)

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