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SNIDERMAN ESTATE (01/19/73)

decided: January 19, 1973.

SNIDERMAN ESTATE


Appeals from orders and decrees of Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, of Allegheny County, No. 3659 of 1970, in re estate of Mayer Sniderman.

COUNSEL

Raymond L. Brennan, for appellant.

Daniel Shapira, with him G. Donald Gerlach, and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 450 Pa. Page 134]

The Pittsburgh National Bank, administrator pendente lite of the estate of Mayer Sniderman, petitioned the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County to issue a citation against Raymond L. Brennan, Esquire, respondent (appellant here), and to require him to show cause why he should not be directed to pay to the estate of the late Mr. Sniderman a fee for legal services allegedly earned by Sniderman during his lifetime and collected by respondent after Sniderman's death. Respondent answered the citation on the merits, and a hearing was held on December 13, 1971. At that proceeding the court sua sponte raised the question of subject matter

[ 450 Pa. Page 135]

    jurisdiction of the Orphans' Court Division, it appearing from the evidence that the fee in question was in actuality unpaid monies in the hands of the client at the date of Sniderman's death, had never been in the hands of the personal representatives of the estate, and had been collected by the respondent directly from the client. Respondent replied that he doubted the "Orphans' Court had jurisdiction whatsoever", and the court then granted leave to file preliminary objections to the jurisdiction. Meantime, however, the hearing proceeded; both parties presented evidence and closed.

Respondent then filed preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the Orphans' Court Division. These were denied after argument by a court en banc. In an opinion accompanying the order denying respondent's preliminary objections, the court en banc, although recognizing that the merits of the issue "may not be before us", stated that the Sniderman estate was entitled to a portion of the fee in question and, absent production of evidence showing a more accurate method of dividing the sum, suggested that an award of 2/3 to the estate and 1/3 to the respondent would be equitable. The matter was remanded to the auditing judge for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.*fn1

On May 19, 1972 a hearing was held on remand for introduction of evidence as to the value of the services rendered by Sniderman and respondent Brennan respectively. The administrator indicated his willingness to accept the two-thirds -- one-third division proposed in the opinion of the court en banc. The respondent, however, stated that in his opinion the Orphans' Court Division lacked jurisdiction and he declined to produce evidence as to the value of his services. The court therefore entered an order and decreed "that the fee be

[ 450 Pa. Page 136]

    divided, one-third to Mr. Raymond L. Brennan and two-thirds to the Estate of Mayer Sniderman". From this order, and without filing exceptions, respondent appealed directly to this Court (No. 112 March Term, 1972).

The administrator then moved that the court enter a more definitive order and on May 26, 1972 yet another hearing was held with respondent present. An order of judgment was thereafter entered in favor of the estate of Sniderman in the amount of $1,277. From this order, and again without filing ...


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