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Law Firm Wins Round Against State

(CN) - The Missouri Supreme Court remanded to the trial court a summary judgment to the State of Missouri in a dispute over fees with a law firm. The money was seized in a drug possession case, and the man who was arrested signed it over to his attorneys to pay for his defense.

The case centers around $4,421 that was seized from Lorne Bass after he was arrested for drug possession in Cole County on March 29, 2006. The law firm of Hanrahan Trapp represented Bass and on April 13, 2006, Bass signed an authorization to release the $4,421 to Hanrahan Trapp to pay for his defense.

After Bass pleaded guilty in June 2006 and was sentenced to 3 years in prison, the state filed a petition for incarceration reimbursement of $4,421. The circuit court granted the state summary judgment.

Hanrahan Trapp appealed, claiming the state failed to reply to its counterclaim and that there was a genuine issue whether the money was an asset belonging to Bass because he had assigned it to Hanrahan Trapp before the state filed its petition.

The Missouri Supreme Court agreed.

"Here, two months elapsed between Bass' execution of the authorization and the State's filing of its MIRA petition, and an additional year passed before entry of Judgment on that petition," Judge Zel M. Fischer wrote. "During that period, Hanrahan Trapp performed legal services for Bass, through conclusion of the criminal proceedings against him. In these circumstances, a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether all or part of the seized funds had been earned by Hanrahan Trapp and were no longer Bass' property at the relevant time."

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