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B.B. v. Mell

New Jersey Appellate Division

November 23, 2020

In B.B. v. Mell, after Mell was convicted in a federal criminal court for victimizing B.B., who was 15 years old, B.B. sued Mell for damages and quickly sought a prejudgment writ of attachment of Mell’s vast assets. After the trial court entered an order compelling the payment of $26,026.50 to Mell’s attorney from B.B.’s attorney’s trust account, B.B. appealed. The Appellate Division held that Mell did not have a legal or equitable right to the payment of his counsel fees–incurred in a civil action brought by his victim–from funds that had been attached for his victim’s benefit. The Court concluded that B.B. had a higher priority to the attached funds than Mell or his attorney; that nothing in the statutes or rules governing attachment actions creates an exception from attachment for a defendant’s counsel fees; and that neither Mell his attorney demonstrated an equitable right to the attached funds greater than B.B.’s right to the security provided by the attachment.

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