GLORIA LEWIS MARTIN, SETH H. MARTIN, JR. AND NELWYN M. MARTIN
MARY JEAN WHITE MARTIN, THE ESTATE OF LUKE MARTIN, LUKE MARTIN, JR., HARRIET MARTIN YOKUM, ROSEMARY MARTIN, JEFFERY MARTIN AND CALVIN MARTIN
ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 682-127, DIVISION " A" . HONORABLE RAYMOND S. STEIB, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING.
ANUNDRA MARTIN DILLON, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Metairie, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR APPELLANTS, GLORIA LEWIS MARTIN, ET AL.
Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Jude G. Gravois, and Stephen J. Windhorst.
SUSAN M. CHEHARDY, J.
[14-749 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] This appeal stems from the imposition of sanctions on appellants, Gloria Lewis Martin, et al., and their attorney, Anundra Martin, in a suit for the enforcement of a mortgage. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.
On January 8, 2010, appellants, represented at the time by counsel Carol A. Newman, filed a " Petition for Enforcement of Mortgage on Real Estate." In this petition, appellants alleged that in 1981, Seth Martin Sr. loaned $50,000.00 to appellees. Contemporaneous with this loan, a promissory note was executed reflecting this debt. To secure this debt, an Act of Mortgage was executed in which appellees' property, located at 1324 Myrtle Street in Metairie, Louisiana, was encumbered with a mortgage for a term of twenty-five years in the amount of $50,000.00 in favor of Seth Martin, Sr. Mr. Martin died in 2006. Appellants, as the surviving spouse and heirs of Mr. Martin, inherited this mortgage and sought to recover the unpaid balance of $49,750.59, plus interest.
[14-749 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] As this litigation proceeded, discovery was conducted, following which Ms. Newman learned for the first time that her clients could not locate the promissory note. As a result, in a September 4, 2012 letter, Ms. Newman explained to her clients that without the promissory note, they did not have a cause of action and advised them to have the case dismissed.
Meanwhile, also on September 4, 2012, appellee Calvin Martin filed exceptions of vagueness, ambiguity, prematurity, no right of action, no cause of action, prescription, and laches.
Following Ms. Newman's September 4, 2012 letter, the record reflects that Ms. Newman received a telephone call and a series of e-mails from Nelwyn Martin regarding payment of legal fees, but did not receive any instructions regarding resolution of the case. Then, in a December 4, 2012 e-mail, Ms. Newman agreed to a payment plan for outstanding legal fees, provided she could withdraw as counsel of record from the matter. She further advised her clients to obtain other counsel, and in the event they had, she informed them of her intention to file a motion to substitute; if they had not, she would file a motion to withdraw.
In several e-mails over the next month, Nelwyn Martin conveyed to Ms. Newman her desire to have the matter " closed," without further instruction. Ms. Newman continued to seek a conference with her clients to determine a course of action and continued to encourage them to obtain other counsel. On or about January 16, 2013, Ms. Newman received a hostile telephone call from Seth Martin, Jr. Then, in a January 22, 2013 letter, she again advised her clients of her intention to file a motion to withdraw. On March 23, 2013, Ms. Newman filed her " Motion to Withdraw as Counsel of Record," which the trial court granted that day.
Nothing further occurred in the matter until August 28, 2013, when Barbara Madere--as court-appointed curator ad hoc to represent absent appellees, the [14-749 La.App. 5 Cir. 4] Estate of Luke Martin, Luke Martin, Jr., Harriet Martin Yokum, Rosemary Martin and Jeffery Martin--filed a motion for status and settlement conference in an effort to close out the case. On October 18, 2013, Anundra Martin, the daughter of Seth Martin, Jr. and the granddaughter of Gloria Martin, enrolled as counsel of record for appellants.
The status conference was held on December 19, 2013, wherein Anundra Martin noted her objection to Ms. Newman's withdrawal from the case and advised the court of her intention to file a written objection. The court set the next hearing for February 11, 2014 to take up this matter among others. On January 15, 2014, Anundra Martin filed her " Objection to Motion to Withdraw by Carol Newman."
On February 7, 2014, Ms. Madere, the curator representing the absent appellees, filed exceptions of vagueness, ambiguity, prematurity, no right of action, no cause of action, prescription, and laches, adopting Calvin Martin's ...