Trial Judge Rightly Found Set Aside Issue Needed To Be Addressed In A Separate Proceeding.
In Sheen v. Sheen, Case No. B268762 (2d Dist., Div. 8 Mar. 10, 2017) (unpublished), relieved attorneys representing a trust successfully recovered an attorney's fees judgment by which moneys were received from the trust. Trust beneficiaries then moved to impose a constructive trust against the former attorneys, arguing that the fees paid by the trust to the former attorneys were ill-gotten fees. The trial judge denied the motion, reasoning that a set aside of the fee judgment should be addressed in a separate proceeding.
The 2/8 DCA, in a 3-0 decision authored by Presiding Justice Bigelow, affirmed.
The appellate court was swayed by the fact that equitable relief against a judgment is ordinarily given in an independent action. Although some support for the notion that a motion seeking a constructive trust could be utilized might found under different facts in the older case of Estate of DeBarry, 43 Cal.App.2d 715, 731 (1941), the 2/8 DCA panel found no cause of action or petition was pending against the former attorneys such that due process concerns required a fully adjudicated separate proceeding to set aside a fee judgment presumptively valid in nature.