PAMELA B. STUART, Appellant,
BARBARA J. WALKER, Appellee.
February 2, 2016
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Civil
Division (CAB-7923-08) (Hon. Judith N. Macaluso, Trial Judge)
B. Stuart, pro se.
Barbara J. Walker, pro se.
Fisher and Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judges, and Pryor,
case came to be heard on the transcript of record and the
briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration
whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it
is now hereby
and ADJUDGED that the order denying appellant's motion to
vacate the arbitration award is affirmed.
Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judge
se appellant Pamela B. Stuart, a member of the District
of Columbia Bar, appeals the trial court's granting of a
motion to compel arbitration, pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XIII,
resolve a fee dispute with her former client, pro se
appellee Barbara J. Walker. Ms. Stuart contends that this
court lacked the authority to promulgate Rule XIII under the
District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act
of 1970 ("Court Reform Act"), D.C. Code §
11-2501 (a) (2012 Repl.), the Home Rule Act, D.C. Code §
1-206.02 (a)(4) (2012 Repl.), and the United States
Constitution. We have already upheld Rule XIII as valid and
constitutional in BiotechPharma v. Ludwig & Robinson,
PLLC, 98 A.3d 986 (D.C. 2014). In this post-arbitration
appeal, Ms. Stuart challenges Rule XIII, and she raises
essentially the same arguments, save two, that this court
addressed in BiotechPharma. After a brief review of
the arguments raised and this court's holding in
BiotechPharma, we address the two new challenges Ms.
Stuart raises. For the reasons discussed below, we reject Ms.
Stuart's arguments and affirm.
Stuart represented Ms. Walker in a lawsuit against her former
employer, and entered into an oral fee agreement, which did
not specifically discuss arbitration of fee disputes. Ms.
Walker contested the amount of fees billed and refused to
pay, prompting Ms. Stuart to file a civil claim for fraud and
breach of contract against Ms. Walker for unpaid legal fees
and expenses (including accrued interest) in the amount of
$127, 928.30. In response, Ms. Walker filed a request to
arbitrate the dispute with the District of Columbia Bar's
Attorney-Client Arbitration Board, pursuant to Rule XIII. Ms.
Stuart objected to arbitration, but the trial court issued an
order compelling the parties to arbitrate.
arbitration panel rendered a decision ordering Ms. Walker to
pay Ms. Stuart $6, 860 within 90 days and requiring each
party to bear her own costs for the arbitration. Ms. Stuart
filed a motion to vacate the award and set the matter for
trial, arguing that Rule XIII is invalid and unconstitutional
and that the $6, 860 award was arbitrary and capricious. The
trial court held a hearing and denied Ms. Stuart's motion
to vacate the award based on this court's recent decision
in BiotechPharma, which affirmed the validity of
Rule XIII under the Court Reform Act, the Home Rule Act, and
the United States Constitution. The trial court also found
that Ms. Stuart's contention that the award was arbitrary
and capricious was not a cognizable basis for review.
See D.C. Code § 16-4423 (a) (2012 Repl.)
(listing the available grounds for reviewing an arbitration
award). This appeal followed.