In re FeldmanAnnotate this Case
Robert Feldman ("Feldman") and the law firm of Haddon, Morgan & Foreman petitioned for relief from a probate court order requiring the firm to provide information to the special administrator concerning its representation of Feldman in a criminal prosecution for the murder of his wife Stacy, and to deposit funds held in its client trust account into the registry of the court. In response to the assertion by the special administrator that Colorado’s “slayer statute” applied to the funds at issue as proceeds of the decedent’s life insurance policy, the probate court determined that if Feldman were later found, in the manner prescribed by the statute, to be the decedent’s killer, he would be ineligible to receive those proceeds. Against that eventuality, the probate court found that compelling the return of the unearned funds in the firm’s client trust account would be the only way to protect the children’s interests, and that the court’s equitable powers permitted it to do so. The Colorado Supreme Court determined the probate court abused its discretion by issuing its order without weighing the considerations inherent in preliminarily enjoining the law firm from expending further funds in the representation of Feldman. In addition, however, because the slayer statute expressly protected third parties who receive a payment in satisfaction of a legally enforceable obligation from being forced to return that payment or from liability for the amount of the payment, no finding of a reasonable likelihood of success in attempting to force the return of the insurance proceeds would have been possible. Given this resolution, the Supreme Court found the disclosures ordered by the probate court would not have served their intended purpose.