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Haeg v. Cole

Supreme Court of Alaska

January 30, 2009

David S. HAEG, Appellant,
v.
Brent R. COLE, Appellee.

Rehearing Denied Feb. 23, 2009.

Page 318

David S. Haeg, pro se, Soldotna.

Brent R. Cole, pro se, Anchorage.

Before : FABE, Chief Justice, MATTHEWS, EASTAUGH, CARPENETI, and WINFREE, Justices.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

David Haeg appeals the decision of the superior court that affirmed an arbitration award regarding fees charged by Haeg's former attorney, Brent Cole. Haeg hired Cole to represent him in a criminal case and paid for most of Cole's services. When plea negotiations broke down, Haeg fired Cole and refused to pay the outstanding balance of Cole's fee. Haeg hired another attorney, went to trial, and lost. Haeg then filed a fee arbitration proceeding with the Alaska Bar Association, arguing that Cole's services were defective and that Cole should return the fees Haeg had paid. The arbitration panel decided in Cole's favor and awarded Cole the fees still outstanding. Haeg appealed to the superior court. The superior court modified the amount of the award to remedy a clerical error and otherwise affirmed the panel's decision. Haeg now appeals the superior court's decision to this court. With one exception, we affirm the decision of the superior court for the reasons expressed in the written decision of the superior court.[1]

The exception concerns the arbitration panel's affirmative award to Cole of fees still due him. This amount, as corrected by the superior court, was $1,689.19. Under the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act applicable in Alaska, a reviewing court is required to modify or correct an award if the arbitrator has made the award on a claim not submitted to the arbitrator.[2] This statute is applicable to attorney fee arbitration awards under Alaska Bar Rule 40(t).[3] Cole did not present a claim for unpaid fees to the arbitration panel. The award to him of unpaid fees was therefore an award on a claim not submitted.[4] On remand we direct that the order of

Page 319

the superior court be modified by deleting the affirmative award of fees in favor of Cole.

For these reasons the decision of the superior court is MODIFIED in one respect and as so modified, the decision is AFFIRMED. This case is REMANDED with directions to the superior court to modify the decision in accordance with this opinion.

APPENDIX

IN THE SUPERIOR COURT FOR THE ...


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