from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast
Central Judicial District, the Honorable Stacy J. Louser,
DeWayne A. Johnston, Grand Forks, ND, for petitioner and
Stephen R. Hanson II (argued) and Robert G. Hoy (on brief),
West Fargo, ND, for respondents and appellees.
1] Johnston Land Company, LLC, appeals from an order denying
its petition to invalidate an alleged lien filed by attorney
Sara K. Sorenson in the form of an affidavit regarding
property in Grand Forks County. Johnston argues the district
court erred in holding the affidavit was not a nonconsensual
common-law lien and in not granting his petition to
invalidate the lien. We affirm the order as to the
affidavit's nature, reverse as to remaining issues and
remand for additional proceedings.
2] A dispute over excessive attorney fees led to the present
case. John E. Widdel, Jr., represented the trustees of the
Donald G. Amundson Trust. Estate of Amundson, 2015
ND 253, ¶¶ 2-3, 870 N.W.2d 208. In 2013
beneficiaries of the estate petitioned for court
determination of attorney fees. Id. The district
court ordered Widdell to refund $95, 000.00 in attorney fees.
Id. at ¶ 4. We affirmed the district
court's determination. Id. at ¶ 27.
3] During litigation over the fees, Widdel's family's
limited liability partnership, Bell Fire LLP, transferred
property to a revocable living trust in the name of his wife.
In a deposition related to the debt Widdel testified he has
essentially no assets, lived rent-free in an apartment owned
by the Widdel trust, and drove a car owned by his wife. The
Widdel trust currently seeks to sell the property at issue to
Johnston, which has offices on the property. Beneficiaries of
the Amundson trust filed suit in 2017 regarding other
allegedly fraudulent transfers by Widdel to avoid paying the
4] Ohnstad Twichell, P.C., and Sorenson represented the
beneficiaries of Amundson's estate. On March 16, 2015
Sorenson recorded an affidavit in Grand Forks County:
"Sara K. Sorenson, being duly sworn, deposes and states
"I am an attorney with the law firm of Ohnstad Twichell,
P.C., who represents petitioners Andrea Rebman Green, Carolyn
Rebman, Charlene Leibold, Colin Leibold, Eric Rebman, Glen
Rebman, and Jacob Leibold, in the estate entitled 'In the
Matter of the Estate of Donald G. Amundson, Deceased.'
Petitioners have obtained a Judgment against John E. Widdel
Jr., a/k/a/ J.E. Widdel, a/k/a/ Jack Widdel, and Law Offices
- North Dakota, P.C., jointly and severally, in the amount of
$95, 000, a true and correct copy of which Judgment is
attached hereto as Exhibit 'A.'
"On March 10, 2015, the undersigned deposed John E.
Widdel Jr., a/k/a/ J.E. Widdel, a/k/a/ Jack Widdel, in an
effort to obtain information about the nature and extent of
assets held by him. At the deposition, the undersigned
discovered that John E. Widdel Jr., a/k/a/ J.E. Widdel,
a/k/a/ Jack Widdel, previously had an interest in the real
property described herein, which real property may be pursued
to satisfy the attached Judgment.
"This affidavit is to make it known to the public that
the following real property may be subject to future legal
proceedings regarding said Judgment:
Lot Eight (8), Block Thirty-three (33), Original Townsite to
the City of Grand Forks, according to the Official Plat
thereof and on file within the office of the ...