California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County,
No. SD030555 Marc D. Gross, Judge; Richard Montes, Judge
Office of John Derrick and John Gregory Derrick for
Petitioner and Appellant William Webb.
Deborah Webb, in pro. per., for Respondent and Appellant.
& DeCarolis and Patrick DeCarolis; Law Offices of Sandra
Segal Polin and Sandra Segal Polin for Real Parties in
Interest and Respondents.
appeal, we are tasked with interpreting Family Code section
271 which authorizes the trial court to award attorney's
fees as a sanction. The precise question for us is whether
the statute permits an award of sanctions to non-parties to
the litigation. The trial court concluded that it did,
awarding approximately $88, 000 to a party's former
counsel. We decide that section 271 does not authorize the
court to award sanctions to non-parties, but rather is
intended to promote settlement of family law litigation
through shifting fees between the parties
to the litigation. For this reason, we reverse.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND 
The 2009 Petition
Webb and Deborah Webb were married in 1997. On March 4, 2009,
William filed for divorce. Deborah was represented by Sandra
Polin and the Law Offices of Sandra Segal Polin in the
proceedings. The parties agreed to dismiss the action on
April 22, 2010.
The 2012 Petition
February 29, 2012, William filed for divorce again. In March
2012, Deborah retained Patrick DeCarolis and his firm Trope
& DeCarolis, as well as Polin, to represent her in this
William Opposes DeCarolis's Notice of Intention to
two months after Deborah retained DeCarolis, Deborah filed a
notice of intention to record a family law attorney real
property lien (“FLARPL”) in favor of Trope &
DeCarolis in the amount of $150, 000 on the parties'
residence (the Property). On June 14, 2012, William filed an
ex parte application seeking to stay the recording of the
lien pending an evidentiary hearing on the matter or, in the
alternative, to limit the lien to $50, 000. He argued the
lien amount was excessive given the parties had no children,
their assets were not complicated, and the parties had
already engaged in extensive discovery in the 2009 marital
dissolution proceeding. He further argued that Deborah needed
protection from her attorneys who were charging excessive
fees. The court denied William's application.
24, 2012, Deborah recorded the $150, 000 lien in favor of
Trope & DeCarolis. She also recorded a $250, 000 lien in
favor of the Law Offices of Sandra Polin based on a 2009 deed
of trust signed by Deborah in the prior dissolution action.
September 6, 2012, Deborah substituted Trope & DeCarolis
out of the case. Polin was not an attorney of record in the
second action, and the parties appear to acknowledge that
Polin stopped representing Deborah at this time as well.
William's and Deborah's 2012 Requests to Expunge
December 13, 2012, William filed an ex parte application
asking the court to expunge the liens recorded on the
Property. He stated that he received no legal
notice that Deborah intended to record the $250, 000 lien as
required by statute. He also argued that the liens exceeded
Deborah's community interest in the sale proceeds. He
noted that the Property was going to be sold and asked the
court to order the proceeds from the sale to remain in
and DeCarolis filed an opposition arguing that Trope &
DeCarolis had properly served William with notice of
DeCarolis's prospective lien; they did not dispute that
William had not been served with notice of Polin's lien.
Polin also filed a supporting declaration stating that she
had recorded the FLARPL “to secure my past and present
fees.” The court denied the application pursuant to
California Rules of Court, rule 3.1202(c).
December 31, 2012, Deborah filed an application seeking the
same relief. The court denied that application.
William's 2013 Request ...