Collateral Attack in Probate Court on Prior Circuit Court Judgment


Ex parte Huntingdon College, [Ms. 1180148, Mar. 27, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020). In a per curiam opinion, the Court (Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, Sellers, Mendheim, Stewart, Mitchell, and Bryan, JJ., concur; Shaw, J., dissents) grants a petition for writ of mandamus filed by Huntingdon College, one of the beneficiaries of the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation, directing the Mobile Probate Court to dismiss an action filed by Foundation’s Trustees seeking to modify a 2003 judgment entered by the Mobile Circuit Court incorporating a settlement agreement between the Trustees and all Foundation beneficiaries.

The opinion explains

Because the trustees sought to revise the circuit court’s judgment approving the terms of the 2003 Amendment, they were required to file in the circuit court a motion for relief from that judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P. See Hardy v. Johnson, 245 So. 3d 617, 621 (Ala. Civ. App. 2017)(noting that, generally, a motion filed pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5), Ala. R. Civ. P., “must be directed to the judgment in the case in which the motion was filed”); see also EB Invs., L.L.C. v. Atlantis Dev., Inc., 930 So. 2d 502, 508(Ala. 2005)(noting that the “typical approach for attacking a judgment under Rule 60(b) is by filing a motion in the court that rendered the judgment”). Rather than filing a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from the judgment in the circuit court, the trustees initiated an entirely new proceeding in the probate court seeking review of the entirety of the Foundation, its operations, and its distributions, as if the previously negotiated 1981 Agreement and 2003 Amendment were of no effect. This action was procedurally improper as a matter of law.

Ms. *13-14.

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