United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
JULES P. SLIM, Plaintiff,
JOSEPH ABUZAID and MUAMAR ANANI, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lindsay United States District Judge
the court is the Motion of Joseph Abuzaid for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 27), filed May 22, 2017; and Plaintiff Jules
Slim's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35), filed June
16, 2017. After considering the motions, briefs, objections,
admissible summary judgment evidence, and applicable law, the
court denies the Motion of Joseph Abuzaid
for Summary Judgment (Doc. 27); and denies
Plaintiff Jules Slim's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
35), as it determines that a genuine dispute of material fact
exists regarding Plaintiffs entitlement to the declartory
relief requested in this action.
and Procedural Background
Jules Slim ("Slim" or "Plaintiff) originally
brought this action by intervening in a state court action
filed by Defendant Joseph Abuzaid ("Abuzaid" or
"Defendant") against Muamar Anani
("Anani") in the 95th Judicial District Court,
Dallas County, Texas. Slim was Abuzaid's former counsel
in the state court action before moving to withdraw as
counsel on December 8, 2014. Slim intervened in the state
court action to enforce his right to payment under a
contingency fee agreement ("Agreement") executed
between him and Abuzaid in March 2014.
asserts that Abuzaid formally and constructively terminated
his employment as counsel in the state court action. Slim,
therefore, contends that he is entitled to recover his
contingency fee pursuant to the Agreement because he did not
voluntarily withdraw as Abuzaid's counsel in the state
court action. Abuzaid denies firing Slim.
asserts that, instead of seeking to enforce his right to a
25% lien interest under the Agreement against any other
attorney's fee award, he seeks a declaration of his
rights as a judgment creditor with respect to his contractual
lien interest to secure his interest in any money transmitted
to Abuzaid in satisfaction of the state court judgment. In
this regard, Slim requests that:
he be granted judgment creditor status in the
abovereferenced cause, and that he may order execution,
writs, and all other remedies available for collection of
same, for up to and including 25% of Abuzaid's recovery,
not including attorneys' fees of other attorneys, plus
Mr. Slim's own attorneys' fees incurred in
prosecution of this intervention, any postjudgment matters,
appeal to the Dallas Court of Appeals, or petition for review
to the Texas Supreme Court, plus costs. Plaintiff Slim
further prays that this Court declare his contractual and
equitable lien in full force and effect against both
defendants such as to protect his interests.
Pl.'s Am. Compl. 5.* Slim clarifies that he "does
not seek attorneys' fees against Anani provided Anani
does not contest the factual allegations or position asserted
[in the Amended Complaint]." Id. Slim does,
however, seek to recover attorney's fees against Abuzaid
"in prosecution of this declaratory judgment [action] in
enforcement of lien interest." Id. at 4.
March 30, 2016, a jury entered a verdict in Abuzaid's
favor against Anani in the state court action. Slim's
action in intervention against Abuzaid was severed from the
state court action so that the judgment entered in that case
could become final. On June 24, 2016, Slim removed the
severed action to federal court based on diversity
jurisdiction. Slim added Anani as a "Nominal This
portion of Plaintiff s Amended Complaint appears to have been
taken from a prior state court pleading.
in this case on April 13, 2017, out of concern that Abuzaid
was attempting to reach a settlement with Anani to forego all
attorney's fees and any lien interests by attorneys with
respect to the amounts owed under the state judgment. As
noted below, Abuzaid and Slim both moved for summary judgment
with respect to the relief requested by Plaintiff.
Summary Judgment Motions
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment shall be granted when the record shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S.317, 323-25 (1986); Ragas v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline
Co., 136 F.3d 455, 458 (5th Cir. 1998). A dispute
regarding a material fact is "genuine" if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When
ruling on amotion for summary judgment, the court is required
to view all facts and inferences in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party and resolve all disputed facts in
favor of the nonmoving party. Boudreaux v. Swift Transp.
Co., Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005). Further, a
court "may not make credibility determinations or weigh
the evidence" in ruling on a motion for summary
judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc.,
530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Anderson, 477 U.S. at
the moving party has made an initial showing that there is no
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the party
opposing the motion must come forward with competent summary
judgment evidence of the existence of a genuine dispute of
material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio,475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). On the other hand,
"if the movant bears the burden of proof on an issue,
either because he is the plaintiff or as a defendant he is
asserting an affirmative defense, he must establish beyond
peradventure all of the essential elements of the
claim or defense to warrant judgment in his favor."
Fontenot v. Upjohn Co.,780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th
Cir. 1986) (emphasis in original). "[When] the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine
[dispute] for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S.
at 587. (citation omitted). Mere conclusory allegations are
not competent summary judgment evidence, and thus are
insufficient to defeat a motion for ...