Reasonableness of Guardian Ad Litem's Fee
Ex parte Sandra Shinaberry, [Ms. 1180935, July 31, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020). The Court (Bolin, J.; Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Sellers, Mendheim, Stewart, and Mitchell, JJ., concur) reverses on certiorari review the Court of Civil Appeals’s no opinion affirmance of the Shelby Circuit Court’s approval of a $7500 guardian ad litem fee. The Court holds
The parties entered into a settlement agreement, and the guardian ad litem was appointed to evaluate the settlement agreement and to determine whether it was in the best interest of the minors. ... Wilson states that he spent 32 hours working on this case; however, he failed to provide the parties and the court with a report giving his recommendation, nor do we know how he spent those 32 hours or whom he talked to or what he reviewed as part of his evaluation. He delayed the parties’ settlement by failing to communicate with the parties’ attorneys for a nine-month period. It also appears that Wilson took on tasks that were either unnecessary or outside his limited role. It also appears that the circuit court arbitrarily chose $250 per hour as a reasonable hourly amount for “work in circuit court” without considering the guardian ad litem’s limited role, the nature of the underlying action, or the guardian ad litem’s experience (or lack thereof) in such matters. Additionally, the fee awarded Wilson is almost twice the damages awarded the minor plaintiffs and almost twice the fee awarded the attorneys who represented the plaintiffs.