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In re KMO

Supreme Court of Wyoming

September 27, 2013

In the Matter of the Attorney's Fees and Costs in the Termination of Parental Rights To: KMO, DMO, CMO, AKO, DKO, MTO, ABO, EEO, and JBO, Minor Children,
v.
State of Wyoming, Department of Family Services, Appellee (Petitioner). Donald Lee Tolin, Attorney for HJO, Natural Mother, Appellant (Respondent),

Page 828

Representing Appellant: Donald Lee Tolin, Law Offices of Donald Tolin, Casper, WY.

Representing Appellee: Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General; and Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Before KITE, C.J., and HILL, VOIGT, BURKE, and DAVIS, JJ.

HILL, Justice.

[¶ 1] Attorney Donald Tolin challenges an order awarding him a substantially reduced fee in a termination of parental rights case. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the district court.

ISSUE

[¶ 2] Tolin states his single issue as follows:

Whether or not the district court's order cutting attorney's fees for indigent mother's attorney from $121,530.00 to $25,000.00 was an abuse of discretion, arbitrary, and capricious.

FACTS

[¶ 3] The underlying facts of this case are presented in HJO v. State (In re KMO), 2012 WY 99, 280 P.3d 1203 (Wyo.2012)( KMO I ) and need not be repeated here. However, parts of the procedural history leading up to this appeal are new and thus need mention.

[¶ 4] In KMO I, this Court affirmed the district court's order terminating mother's parental rights. After KMO I was published, Mr. Tolin filed a fee motion with this Court for his time spent as mother's appointed attorney on appeal. This Court reduced the request by one-third.

[¶ 5] Meanwhile, father's attorney filed a motion for attorney's fees in May of 2012, almost one year after the underlying trial. The court eventually requested a fee motion from Mr. Tolin as well and on December 21, 2012, he filed his fee motion and requested $121,530.00 in fees and $3,468.84 in costs. Mr. Tolin billed at the rate of $100/hour but his motion stated that his hourly rate would increase to $200/hour if the Department of Family Services (DFS) objected to the payment of the fees.[1]

Page 829

[¶ 6] On January 30, 2013, the district court entered an order awarding Mr. Tolin attorney's fees in the amount of $25,000.00, and $3,468.84 in costs.[2] The court noted in its order that it could not " in good conscience, approve the requests for fees." A section of the order ...


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