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CIVIL PROCEDURE - BAXLEY, DILLARD, DAUPHIN, MCKNIGHT & JAMES V. BURT

Baxley, Dillard, Dauphin, McKnight & James v. Burt, [Ms. 2110528, Aug. 3, 2012] __ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2012). The rules do not provide for a court to render an oral order. Representing a defendant in a civil action, the Baxley firm subpoenaed photographs from Steven Burt, formerly employed by their client. The court entered a written order instructing Burt to make the photographs available for inspection and copying. Burt apparently had an oral conversation with the judge to the effect that there were 40,000 pertinent photographs on his personal computer along with his wedding photographs and other personal photographs, and that Burt wanted to make copies rather than allowing the Baxley firm's lawyers to inspect them on his computer and copy them. According to Burt, the judge told him that he could do so and bill the Baxley firm and the plaintiff's law firm to pay equally for the costs. At a later hearing, at which the Baxley firm apparently was not present, the judge supposedly orally ordered the plaintiff's law firm to pay its half and a lawyer for another defendant to pay half. The bill to the other defendant was never paid, and Burt sued the Baxley firm for its half, $1,715.00. The district court in this small claims action ordered the Baxley firm to pay, and, on appeal to the circuit court, the circuit court also ordered payment. The Court of Civil Appeals reverses, noting that none of the actions of the judge were reduced to written orders and that, therefore, the judge's order that the Baxley firm pay half the cost of Burt's copying of the photographs was of no effect. Rule 58(a), Ala. R. Civ. P., provides five ways a judge can render an order, but all of them require a writing, at least in electronic form.
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