Costigan v. Stewart

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Kansas
Citation76 Kan. 353,91 P. 83
Docket Number15,169
PartiesW. J. COSTIGAN v. ANNA B. STEWART et al
Decision Date05 July 1907

91 P. 83

76 Kan. 353


No. 15,169

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 5, 1907

Decided July, 1907.

Error from Franklin district court; CHARLES A. SMART, judge.

Judgment reversed and remanded.



ATTORNEYS--Fees--Lien on Fund Recovered in a Bastardy Proceeding. An attorney who is employed by the mother of an illegitimate child to assist in the prosecution of bastardy proceedings, under a contract by which he is to be paid an attorney's fee out of the fund recovered, is entitled to a lien upon such fund for his fees.

Benson & Harris, and Ferry & Doran, for plaintiff in error.

J. W. Deford, for defendant in error W. B. Kiler.

OPINION [91 P. 84]


The only question here is whether an attorney employed by the mother to assist in the prosecution of bastardy proceedings is entitled to a lien for his fees upon the money judgment recovered in the proceeding against the father.

Emanuel B. Stewart was convicted in the district court of Franklin county of being the father of a bastard child born to Anna B. Stewart. Defendant was required to pay the sum of $ 1200 for the support and maintenance of the child. On the order of the court, W. B. Kiler was appointed trustee of the fund, [76 Kan. 354] which defendant at once paid into court. W. J. Costigan was employed by the prosecuting witness to assist the county attorney in the prosecution, and appeared in the proceedings before the justice and in the district court. She agreed to pay him as an attorney's fee one-third of the amount recovered. It appears that an offer of $ 500, made by defendant while the case was pending, would have been accepted by the prosecuting witness in full settlement of the matter except for the advice of Mr. Costigan, and there is no question that he performed the services for which he was retained. When the order was made appointing a trustee for the fund Mr. Costigan informed the court of his contract and asked to have his fee paid out of the fund. The court stated that the fund was still in the hands of the court and required Mr. Costigan to make a formal application, with proof. This was done, and a hearing was had upon affidavits, the trustee resisting any allowance of fees, while the mother of the child filed her affidavit stating that she had employed Mr. Costigan with the understanding that he was to receive one-third of the amount recovered and that she desired the fee paid to him. The court refused to make the allowance and held that the attorney was not entitled to any lien upon the fund for his fees. Mr. Costigan has brought the case to this court on error.

Courts have never doubted their authority to allow, nor hesitated to give, to an attorney a lien for his fees upon a fund which his labors have created or assisted to bring into existence, unless some consideration of public policy or other special reason stood in the way of such an equitable allowance.

There is nothing analogous in the doctrine of the cases which refuse an attorney a lien, upon money paid as alimony, for his fees for procuring the allowance. We have no quarrel with the principles announced in the case of Jordan v. Westerman, 62 Mich. 170, 28 N.W. 826, 4 Am. St. Rep. 836, or Lynde v. Lynde, 64 N.J.Eq. 736, 52 A. 694, 58 L. R. A. 471, 97 Am. St. [76 Kan. 355] Rep. 692, which are cited by defendant in error Kiler. There are valid reasons which control cases of that character but have no application to the present case. In the former case Westerman, the attorney, collected $ 4500 alimony, allowed to the wife by the court, and retained one-half. In the Lynde case the amount was $ 41,000 and the attorney claimed and retained one-half. In each case the court compelled the attorney to relinquish his claim upon the fund and pay the whole sum to his client, because public policy will not uphold a contract which tends toward the separation of husband and wife and which seeks to prevent the adjustment of marital difficulties. Besides, the court always has power to award fees to the attorney for the wife, and, in each of the above cases, it was held that a fraud had been practiced in withholding from the court the object and purpose for which the allowance was to be used.

While the proceedings are carried on in the name of the state, and the statute provides for the arrest and imprisonment under certain circumstances of the person charged with being the father of an illegitimate child, the rules of evidence and the procedure are governed by the law regulating civil actions. The proceeding is therefore more in the nature of a civil action. The right to prosecute has been held optional with the mother. (The State, ex rel., v. Young, 32 Kan. 292, 4 P. 309.) Not only this, but she controls the prosecution and may without let or hindrance accept satisfaction and dismiss the proceedings. (Moore v. The State, ex rel., 47 Kan. 772, 28 P. 1072, 17 L. R. A. 714; Poole v. French, 71 Kan. 391, 80 P. 997.) In the opinion in the latter case it was said:

"The prosecution is under the direction of the relatrix; she may accept satisfaction and dismiss the action. (Gleason, Sheriff, v. Comm'rs of McPherson Co., 30 Kan. 492, 2 P. 644; The State v. Baker, 65 Kan. 117, 69 P. 170.) The money judgment is collectable by her, and her only, if she be alive. Whether it be called an action or a...

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19 cases
  • State v. Sax, 34891.
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • April 21, 1950
    ...Ind.App. 162, 70 N.E.2d 430;State v. Pratt, 40 Iowa 631;McAndrew v. Madison Co., 67 Iowa 54, 24 N.W. 590;Costigan v. Stewart, 76 Kan. 353, 355-358, 91 P. 83, 84-85, 11 L.R.A.,N.S., 630; Everett v. Allen, 125 Me. 55, 56, 130 A. 858, 859;State ex rel. Glasgow v. Hedrick, 88 Mont. 551, 294 P. ......
  • State v. Sax, 34891
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • April 21, 1950
    ...162, 70 N.E.2d 430; State v. Pratt, 40 Iowa 631; McAndrew v. Madison Co., 67 Iowa 54, 24 N.W. 590; Costigan v. Stewart, 76 Kan. 353, 355--358, 91 P. 83, 84--85, 11 L.R.A.,N.S., 630; Everett v. Allen, 125 Me. 55, 56, 130 A. 858, 859; State ex rel. Glasgow v. Hedrick, 88 Mont. 551, 294 P. 375......
  • Hoover-Reynolds v. Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • November 18, 1996
    ...fn. 5, ante ), reasoning either that the mother was not a "trustee" and therefore could grant liens on the fund (see Costigan v. Stewart (1907) 76 Kan. 353, 91 P. 83) or that the mother had a sufficient separate beneficial interest in the recovery to permit her to grant a lien against the p......
  • In re The Application of William Bolman for A Writ of Habeas Corpus
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • November 8, 1930
    ... ... Petitioner, supra, although that case was not cited. On ... the venue point it is cited approvingly in Costigan v ... Stewart, 76 Kan. 353, 357, 91 P. 83. It is also cited in ... 3 Enc. Pl. & Pr. 270; 7 C. J. 968; 3 R. C. L. 751, 758, ... 760; State v ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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