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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Dimeff v. Estate of Robert Merle Cowan (5/3/2013) sp-6779

Dimeff v. Estate of Robert Merle Cowan (5/3/2013) sp-6779

        Notice: This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC  REPORTER . 

        Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, 

        303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, email 

        corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us. 



                THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA 



SUZANNE C. DIMEFF and                            ) 

THE OLETA COWAN TRUST,                           ) 

                                                 )   Supreme Court No. S-14060 

                       Appellants,               ) 

                                                 )   Superior Court No. 3KN-04-00052 PR 

        v.                                       ) 

                                                 )   O P I N I O N 

ESTATE OF ROBERT MERLE COWAN) 

and DALE DOLIFKA, PERSONAL                       )   No. 6779 - May 3, 2013 

REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE                     ) 

OF ROBERT COWAN,                                 ) 

                                                 ) 

                       Appellees.                ) 

                                                 ) 



               Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third 

               Judicial District, Kenai, Carl Bauman, Judge. 



               Appearances:  Suzanne C. Etpison, Dimeff Law Office LLP, 

               Rancho Santa Fe, California, and Suzelle M. Smith and Don 

               Howarth,   Howarth   &   Smith,   Los   Angeles,   California,   for 

               Appellants.     Michael     W.   Flanigan,   Flanigan   &   Bataille, 

               Anchorage,     for Appellees. 



               Before:      Carpeneti,    Chief   Justice,   Fabe,   Winfree,    and 

               Stowers, Justices. 



               WINFREE, Justice. 



I.      INTRODUCTION 



               This case involves a dispute over the disposition of a deceased Alaska 



attorney's interest in attorney's fees from his participation, through a joint venture, in the 


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Exxon Valdez oil spill litigation.           The attorney's sister, individually and on behalf of 



their   mother's   trust,   asserted   claims   to   the   attorney's   fees,   and   the   attorney's   estate 



opposed   those   claims.       The   parties   settled   the   dispute   by   agreeing   that   the   right   to 



attorney's   fees   was   an   estate   asset,   and   the   settlement   was   approved   by   the   Alaska 



superior court in the deceased attorney's probate proceedings.  The attorney's fees were 



ultimately   paid   to   the   joint   venture.   Both   the   estate   and   the   sister   then   sought   the 



deceased attorney's interest in the joint venture's attorney's fees.                 The estate requested 



that the superior court enjoin the sister's claims as violations of the settlement agreement. 



Around       this  time,   the  joint   venture    deposited     what    it  calculated    as  the   deceased 



attorney's share of the joint venture's attorney's fees in a federal interpleader action in 



California. 



                 The superior court ruled that under the settlement agreement, as between 



the estate, the   sister, and the mother's trust, the estate had the right to the deceased 



attorney's share of the attorney's fees held by the joint venture.                     The superior court 



therefore enjoined the sister from pursuing claims to the deceased attorney's share of the 



joint venture's attorney's fees.  The superior court later modified the injunction to allow 



the sister's participation in the federal interpleader action. 



                 The sister appeals, arguing that the superior court exceeded its jurisdiction, 



issued its judgment without proper procedures, improperly interpreted the settlement 



agreement, prohibited her from pursuing contract claims against third parties, and entered 



a vague and ambiguous judgment.   She also argues that the superior court's ruling was 



improperly       expanded      to  allow    her  participation     in  the   federal   interpleader     action. 



Because   we   conclude   that   the   superior   court   acted   within   its   jurisdiction,   followed 



adequate procedures, did not prevent the sister from pursuing her individual contract 



claims against the joint venture, was not vague and ambiguous in its ruling, and did not 



                                                      -2-                                                6779
 


----------------------- Page 3-----------------------

expand the ruling's substance when modifying it, we affirm the superior court's orders 



and judgment. 



II.     FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS 



        A.      Facts 



                On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker EXXON VALDEZ ran aground on Bligh 



Reef   in   Prince   William   Sound,   spilling   11   million   gallons   of   crude   oil. Litigation 



followed - in what became known as the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) Litigation, 



over 50 law firms and 30,000 plaintiffs appeared before the United States District Court 



for the District of Alaska. 



                Several   years   later,   compensatory   damages   were   calculated   at   $507.5 

million and punitive damages at $2.5 billion.1           After appeals and remands, the United 



States Supreme Court resolved the case in 2008, ruling that punitive damages could not 

exceed   $507.5   million.2    Payments   to   individual   plaintiffs   and   attorneys   were   made 



through a qualified settlement fund. 



                In 1989, in anticipation of the EVOS Litigation, Alaska attorneys William 



Bixby and Robert Cowan agreed to start a joint venture with California attorney Richard 



Gerry and his law firm, Casey Gerry. Alaska attorney C. Michael Hough joined the joint 



venture   six   years   later. Cowan's   sister,   Suzanne   Dimeff,   then   known   as   Suzanne 



Etpison, was an attorney at Casey Gerry. 



                In   1993    the  joint  venturers   signed    a  memorandum        of  understanding 



providing for the advancement and repayment of costs prior to division of the attorney's 



fees   to   be   received   by   the   joint   venture. The   memorandum   established   criteria   for 



dividing fees between the joint venturers, but did not mention what would happen if a 



        1       Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker , 554 U.S. 471, 476, 515 (2008). 



        2       Id. at 515. 



                                                  -3-                                               6779 


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joint venturer died.     The memorandum also referenced a separate agreement between 



Casey Gerry, Richard Gerry, and Dimeff as a matter solely between them. 



                The agreement between Casey Gerry, Richard Gerry, and Dimeff described 



Dimeff's salary and bonus opportunities as a Casey Gerry employee. It specified that the 



parties would arbitrate disputes arising over compensation.               It also provided that the 



Casey Gerry firm would pay Richard Gerry's share of EVOS Litigation attorney's fees 



to his heirs if he died prior to the dissolution of the joint venture. 



                In late 2003 the joint venturers agreed to an amendment and restatement of 



the joint venture memorandum of understanding.   Cowan was ill, but represented by an 



attorney.  The amendment and restatement detailed the percentage of the joint venture's 



EVOS Litigation attorney's fees that it would distribute to Cowan but did not discuss 



survivorship rights.     The amendment was executed by Cowan's attorney in December 



2003, after Cowan's death. 



                The surviving joint venturers then entered another agreement documenting 



the joint venture's continued existence without Cowan.              The agreement noted that the 



joint venture's "only source of income [is] fees based on the contingency fee agreements 



with its clients in the [EVOS] Litigation."           The agreement also provided that "[t]he 



Parties desire to document their . . . agreement regarding a deceased Party's rights in the 



event of a dissociation of such Party from the Venture."              The agreement specified that 



"the   heirs,   beneficiaries,   assigns   or   personal   representative   .   .   .   or   .   .   .   trustee,   as 



applicable" would be paid the EVOS Litigation attorney's fees that would have been due 



a joint venture member.  The agreement was executed in April and May 2004.  Cowan's 



mother, Oleta Cowan, signed a separate document as "The Heir of Robert M. Cowan," 



providing, "[t]he undersigned has reviewed the Agreement among Firm, Gerry, Bixby 



and Hough to which this page is attached and agrees to the provisions therein." 



                                                  -4-                                            6779
 


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        B.      Proceedings 



                1.      Alaska probate 



                Cowan died in November 2003.  In December, Daniel Aaronson, Cowan's 



stepson, filed in the Kenai superior court for appointment as the personal representative 



for Cowan's estate and for informal probate of Cowan's 2003 will.   Dimeff appeared on 



Oleta's   behalf   and   contested   the   2003   will.  Aaronson   was   appointed   as   personal 



representative, but resigned; Dale Dolifka later became the personal representative of 



Cowan's estate (Cowan Estate). 



                2.      California state court action 



                In May 2005 Dimeff and Oleta filed a complaint in the California superior 



court in San Diego for declaratory relief against the Cowan Estate, the joint venturers, 



and Cowan's stepchildren.  Dimeff and Oleta sought the following declaration:  "[A]ny 



proceeds due to [Cowan] arising from the Joint Venture Memorandum of Understanding 



dated May 7, 1993 relating to attorneys fees and costs for services related to the [EVOS] 



litigation shall pass directly to [Cowan's] heir as a non-probate transfer and shall not 



become part of the [Cowan] probate estate . . . ." 



                3.      Settlement 



                In 2005, while the Alaska will contest and the California declaratory relief 



proceedings      were   pending,    the  parties   involved    in  both  actions   reached    a  global 



settlement.     The   parties   to   the   settlement   agreement   included   Oleta;   Dimeff,   both 



individually and as Oleta's representative; Cowan's stepchildren; and the Cowan Estate. 



The settlement agreement provided for "a broad global release of any and all claims 



between the parties."      The settlement agreement contained a stipulation that Cowan's 



right to EVOS Litigation attorney's fees would pass through the Cowan Estate: 



                The   parties   all   agree   that   Robert   Cowan   and/or   his   firm's 

                right to attorney fees and costs in the [EVOS] Litigation shall 



                                                  -5-                                            6779
 


----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

                be distributed as an asset of the Estate of Robert Cowan . . . . 

                In accordance with this agreement Oleta Cowan and Suzanne 

                Dimeff     agree    to  dismiss    their  California    lawsuit   with 

                prejudice. 



The   settlement   agreement   also   provided   that   the    parties   would   not   file   additional 



litigation and that any unresolved issues would be submitted to arbitration within 30 



days.   The settlement agreement was filed in the Alaska probate proceedings, and the 



superior court approved it in September 2008. 



                The   settlement   agreement   did   not,   however,   actually   prevent   ongoing 



disputes over the disposition of Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation 



attorney's fees, calculated by the joint venture at over $1.9 million.  According to Casey 



Gerry and the joint venture, about one month after the 2005 settlement agreement Dimeff 



demanded       they   provide   her   some   of   Cowan's   share   of   the  joint   venture's   EVOS 



Litigation attorney's fees. They alleged that Dimeff claimed she had performed Cowan's 



work after his death and therefore was entitled to a portion of his share "separate and 



apart from" payments she received for her own EVOS Litigation work as an attorney for 



Casey Gerry. 



                By early 2009, the attorney's fees and costs due the joint venture from the 



EVOS Litigation were held under the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for 



the District of Alaska in the EVOS Litigation's Qualified Settlement Fund.  The Cowan 



Estate sought direct payment from the Qualified Settlement Fund for Cowan's share of 



the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees. The joint venture acknowledged the 



Cowan Estate might be entitled to a distribution from the joint venture, but opposed a 



direct distribution of funds to the Cowan Estate from the Qualified Settlement Fund 



Administrator.      The    District   Court   agreed   with  the  joint  venture   and   ordered    the 



Qualified Settlement Fund Administrator to pay the funds to the joint venture. 



                                                 -6-                                            6779
 


----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

                4.      Alaska superior court orders and federal interpleader 



                Having been unable to receive Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS 



Litigation attorney's fees directly from the Qualified Settlement Fund, the Cowan Estate 



returned to the Alaska superior court.         In March 2010 the Cowan Estate moved for a 



cease   and   desist   order   preventing   Dimeff   from   interfering   with   the   Cowan   Estate's 



efforts to collect Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees. 



The Cowan Estate alleged that "the joint venture is failing to disburse funds it admits are 



the share of the estate because Ms. Dimeff is claiming that the funds are due her."  The 



Cowan Estate also moved for a "status/action hearing" and requested "orders that will 



give full force and effect to the Court approved Settlement Agreement," and asked the 



superior   court   to   "bar   conduct   that   undermines   the   enforcement   of   said   Settlement 



Agreement." 



                In April 2010 Dimeff opposed the request for a cease and desist order. 



Oleta was by then deceased and had named Dimeff as successor beneficiary of the Oleta 



Cowan Trust; in opposing the motion Dimeff acted individually and on behalf of the 



Oleta Cowan Trust.   Dimeff argued that the Cowan Estate had not shown it was entitled 



to funds from the joint venture and that the Cowan Estate had no standing to interfere 



with Dimeff's and Oleta's individual claims against the joint venture.              Further, Dimeff 



argued that the superior court lacked jurisdiction to issue the Cowan Estate's requested 



injunction:     "There     is  no  language    in  the  Settlement    Agreement      that  grants   any 



continuing jurisdiction over the signatory parties, and . . . [the joint venture] is not a party 



to, or even mentioned in the 2005 Settlement Agreement."                Dimeff did not oppose the 



request for a status conference, but reiterated that the orders sought by the Cowan Estate 



would exceed the superior court's jurisdiction by "invit[ing] the court to interfere with 



internal partnership matters that are not before the court."           Dimeff made no request for 



an evidentiary hearing. 



                                                  -7-                                            6779
 


----------------------- Page 8-----------------------

                At   about   the   same   time,   Casey    Gerry   and   the  joint  venture   filed  an 



interpleader   action   in   the   United   States   District   Court   for   the   Southern   District   of 



California, requesting that the interpleader court determine the party entitled to Cowan's 



share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees.  Casey Gerry and the joint 



venture stated that they filed the interpleader action "to most effectively and efficiently 



litigate various adverse claims to a share of attorneys' fees entrusted to, and held in trust 



by, Casey Gerry, but ultimately due to the rightful claimant on behalf of the late Robert 



Cowan, a former fellow joint venturer."              Casey Gerry and the joint venture took no 



position on who was the rightful claimant, but noted the following claims to Cowan's 



share:   (1) the Cowan Estate had initiated arbitration against Casey Gerry and the joint 



venture seeking the entirety of Cowan's share; (2) Dimeff had individually demanded 



a portion of Cowan's share for work she claimed she performed on Cowan's behalf after 



his death; and (3) Dimeff, on behalf of the Oleta Cowan Trust, had demanded arbitration 



for the entirety of Cowan's share, arguing that Cowan's share passed directly to Oleta 



as a non-probate asset.      Casey Gerry and the joint venture deposited Cowan's share of 



the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees in the federal court and then filed a 



motion requesting discharge from the interpleader. 



                Meanwhile, the Alaska superior court held the Cowan Estate's requested 



status hearing in April 2010.       The Cowan Estate reiterated its argument for a cease and 



desist order barring Dimeff and the Oleta Cowan Trust from seeking Cowan's share of 



the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees.  The Cowan Estate argued that the 



superior court "can obviously enforce the settlement agreement against the parties to the 



settlement agreement.         [Dimeff] was a party, as was Oleta Cowan. . . . [The superior 



court] can enjoin both of those parties from violating the settlement agreement."  The 



Cowan Estate specifically argued that "Oleta Cowan's claim that this is a non-probate 



asset is enjoined because it's contrary to the settlement agreement." 



                                                  -8-                                             6779
 


----------------------- Page 9-----------------------

                Dimeff      responded      that   the  Cowan      Estate    incorrectly    assumed     the 



disposition of Cowan's share of EVOS Litigation attorney's fees was controlled by the 



settlement agreement; she argued that the funds were assets of the joint venture outside 



the   purview   of   the   settlement   agreement.      Dimeff   contended   that   because   the   joint 



venture   was   not   a   signatory   to   the   settlement   agreement   and   because   it   effectively 



operated   as   a   partnership,   California   partnership   law,   not   the   settlement   agreement, 



governed distribution of the funds.  Dimeff described her individual claims to Cowan's 



share as "excessive workload claims" solely against the joint venture for a portion of 



"that net amount of profits." 



                The Cowan Estate responded that Dimeff might have claims against the law 



firm, Casey Gerry, based on her employment contract, but that "Casey Gerry has no 



qualms with paying Mr. Cowan's share into the [superior] court." As to the Oleta Cowan 



Trust's claim that Cowan's share passed to her as a non-probate asset, the Cowan Estate 



argued that claim was raised in California state court prior to the settlement agreement 



and   was   thus   subject   to   the   agreement.  The   Cowan   Estate   requested   an   injunction 



barring further litigation from Dimeff over Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS 



Litigation attorney's fees. 



                On May 5, 2010, the superior court issued a decision and a cease and desist 



order. As to Dimeff's individual compensation claims, the superior court concluded that 



the claims were solely against the Casey Gerry law firm and did not relate to the Cowan 



Estate.   Because "[t]he   Casey Gerry law firm is presumably aware of Ms. Dimeff's 



claims and is nevertheless prepared to pay the $1.9 million Robert Cowan share into a 



court registry," the superior court concluded it was appropriate to get "the $1.9 million 



Cowan share into the court registry in the Cowan Estate proceeding" and would therefore 



issue a cease and desist order preventing Dimeff from "trying to tie up the $1.9 million 



rather than permit it to go into [the superior court's] registry."            As to the Oleta Cowan 



                                                   -9-                                              6779
 


----------------------- Page 10-----------------------

Trust's claim to Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees as 



a non-probate asset, the superior court concluded the claim was barred by the settlement 



agreement. 



                The   May   2010   cease   and   desist order   broadly   prohibited   Dimeff   from 



pursuing Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees.  The 



order provided: 



               Dimeff shall immediately cease and desist from presenting, 

                filing or pursuing any claims, suits or requests for arbitration, 

                individually or on behalf of others, in any forum other than 

               this Court, that seek to claim, arbitrate or adjudicate the right 

               to any portion of the [EVOS] litigation attorneys fees and 

                costs obtained or to be obtained in the future by [the joint 

               venture], which were either apportioned to Robert Cowan or 

               his   Estate   by  [the  joint  venture]   and/or   claimed   by  the 

               personal representative of the Robert Cowan Estate . . . . 



With the same operative language, the order required Dimeff to withdraw any pending 



claims, suits, or requests for arbitration, and cease and desist any actions in a forum other 



than the superior court "that would in any manner, impede, prevent or delay payment to 



the personal representative of the Robert Cowan Estate or alternatively to this Court by 



way of interpleader, of Robert Cowan's share of the Exxon Valdez litigation attorneys 



fees and costs."  The order additionally allowed Dimeff 30 days to present a motion for 



permission to pursue claims, litigation, or arbitration in a forum other than the superior 



court.  No such motion was filed. 



               Dimeff later moved to vacate the cease and desist order, and the superior 



court held oral argument on September 30, 2010.  At oral argument, Dimeff claimed that 



the superior court had no personal jurisdiction over her individual claims, which she 



characterized as collateral matters, but admitted that the superior court had personal 



jurisdiction   over   her with regard to "the 2005 settlement agreement and any claims 



                                               -10-                                           6779
 


----------------------- Page 11-----------------------

relating to the Cowan will and trust" and jurisdiction over the Oleta Cowan Trust, but 



again only "to the extent that [Oleta] was making claims or is a beneficiary under the 



Cowan   trust   or   estate."   Dimeff   argued   that   the   cease   and   desist   order   improperly 



interfered with her individual claims "involving third parties not before [the superior 



court]."   Dimeff argued that the Cowan Estate "doesn't have a right to interfere with 



internal partnership matters on how profits are distributed or how they're determined." 



She   asserted   that   the   plain   language   of   the   settlement   agreement   did   not   purport   to 



determine rights to the joint venture asset and that disposition must be controlled by 



partnership law.       She argued that the superior court could not rewrite the settlement 



agreement's mention of "EVOS fees and costs" to mean a share of the joint venture's 



profits. 



                On September 30, 2010, the superior court entered a partial final judgment. 



The superior court's previous orders remained in effect, "including without limitation the 



approval of the 2005 Settlement Agreement, the May 5 Decision, and the May 5 Order." 



The judgment provided: 



                [A]ny claims by Suzanne Dimeff individually, or by Suzanne 

                Dimeff on behalf of Oleta Cowan or the Oleta Cowan Trust 

                against the Robert Cowan Estate's share of [the joint venture] 

                EVOS attorney's fees and costs are barred by virtue of the 

                2005 Settlement Agreement and the May 5, 2010, Decision 

                and Orders of the court. 



The   judgment   was      entered    without   prejudice   to   Dimeff   individually   pursuing      her 



personal compensation claims against the Casey Gerry law firm, but provided that "no 



such   claims   may   go   against   the   Robert   Cowan   share   of   the   [joint   venture's]   EVOS 



attorney's fees and costs or otherwise impede, delay, or prevent the payment thereof . . . 



to the . . . Cowan Estate." 



                                                  -11-                                             6779
 


----------------------- Page 12-----------------------

                5.      Appeal and modification of superior court orders 



                Dimeff appealed the partial final judgment to this court.             She argued that 



the judgment was unenforceable because it was vague and ambiguous, it attempted to 



assert    jurisdiction   over   the   res  of  the  interpleader    action,   it  prevented    her  from 



participating   in   the   interpleader   action   and   from   pursuing   her   independent   contract 



claims against third parties, and it erroneously interpreted the settlement agreement to 



"trump" partnership law and to interfere with the joint venture's internal affairs. 



                After Dimeff filed her opening brief in this court, the federal court presiding 



over the interpleader action concluded that the superior court's cease and desist order 



could not lawfully enjoin Dimeff from appearing in the interpleader action.                    But that 



court noted the superior court's partial final judgment may have a res judicata effect on 



Dimeff's and the Oleta Cowan Trust's claims in the interpleader action.                    The federal 



court ordered the Cowan Estate to return to the Alaska superior court, withdraw its 



motion for a cease and desist order, and move to vacate the May 5, 2010 order and to 



amend the September 30, 2010 partial final judgment. 



                 In response to the Cowan Estate's motion, the superior court vacated its 



May 5, 2010 order and September 30, 2010 partial final judgment "to permit Dimeff and 



the [Oleta Cowan] Trust to make, defend and litigate claims in the interpleader action." 



The superior court noted that the cease and desist order remained in effect as to any other 



litigation.  Furthermore, the superior court explained that it did not intend "to change, 



amend or modify [its] previous substantive determinations that the [Cowan] Estate is 



entitled to Robert Cowan's share of the [joint venture] EVOS attorneys fees, including 



those   interpled   into   the   U.S.   District   Court   .   .   .   ,   by   virtue   of   the   2005   settlement 



agreement."  The superior court issued a second order denying a request from Dimeff to 



vacate its previous substantive decisions. 



                                                  -12-                                             6779
 


----------------------- Page 13-----------------------

               Dimeff now continues her appeal before this court, challenging both the 



original and modified superior court orders. 



III.    STANDARD OF REVIEW 



               "We review questions regarding personal and subject matter jurisdiction de 



novo    because    '[j]urisdictional  issues  are  questions   of  law   subject  to  this  court's 

independent judgment.' "3   We interpret settlement agreements as contracts, applying a 



de novo standard of review if there are no factual disputes.4           "We review a grant of 



injunctive relief for abuse of discretion."5 



IV.     DISCUSSION 



        A.     Overview 



               Dimeff challenges the superior court's May 5, 2010 decision and order, the 



September 30, 2010 partial final judgment, and the modified order enabling Dimeff to 



participate in the federal interpleader action.  Dimeff conceded at oral argument before 



us that her dispute over the superior court's cease and desist order was partially mooted 



by the superior court's modification allowing Dimeff to participate in the interpleader 



action.   Nonetheless, she contends there is still a live controversy over the superior 



court's authority to issue the original and modified orders in that the orders substantively 



affect ownership of Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees 



and may prevent Dimeff and the Oleta Cowan Trust from pursuing non-probate claims 



against the joint venture and Casey Gerry outside of the interpleader or probate actions. 



        3      In re Estate of Fields , 219 P.3d 995, 1003 (Alaska 2009) (alteration in 



original) (quoting S.B. v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs., Div. of Family & Youth 

Servs., 61 P.3d 6, 10 (Alaska 2002)). 



        4      Chilkoot Lumber Co. v. Rainbow Glacier Seafoods, Inc., 252 P.3d 1011, 



1014 (Alaska 2011). 



        5      Meidinger v. Koniag, Inc. , 31 P.3d 77, 85 (Alaska 2001). 



                                               -13-                                          6779
 


----------------------- Page 14-----------------------

                 At its core, this appeal raises three issues.         The first issue is whether the 



superior court has the jurisdiction to interpret and enforce a settlement agreement it had 



previously approved when doing so may impact the disposition of an asset controlled by 



a third party and deposited in a federal interpleader action.   The second issue is whether 



the superior court could interpret and enforce the settlement agreement without first 



holding an evidentiary hearing.          The final issue is whether the superior court correctly 



interpreted and enforced the settlement agreement. 



                 We   conclude   that   the   superior   court   acted   within     its   jurisdiction   and 



provided   adequate   procedures   for   Dimeff   to   contest   the   issues   before   it.      We   also 



conclude that the superior court did not err in interpreting and enforcing the settlement 



agreement, that the partial final judgment was not impermissibly vague or ambiguous, 



and that the modified order did not improperly expand the substance of the original 



orders.  Dimeff will be able to participate in the federal interpleader action, and we leave 



it   to   the   federal   court   to   determine  the  res  judicata   effect   of   the   superior   court's 



substantive interpretation of the settlement agreement. While the superior court's orders 



bar Dimeff, individually or on behalf of the Oleta Cowan Trust, from asserting a claim 



outside of the interpleader action for a portion of Cowan's share of the joint venture's 



EVOS Litigation attorney's fees, we do not read the orders as barring Dimeff from 



pursuing any individual claims for compensation that she may have against either Casey 



Gerry or the joint venture, so long as she does not assert direct rights to Cowan's share 



of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees. 



        B.       Jurisdiction To Interpret And Enforce The Settlement Agreement 



                 Dimeff argues that the superior court lacked personal jurisdiction over the 



Oleta Cowan Trust, over Dimeff, and over the joint venture.   She also contends that the 



superior court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to interpret the settlement agreement in 



                                                   -14-                                              6779
 


----------------------- Page 15-----------------------

a manner that would impact the internal affairs of the out-of-state joint venture and the 



disposition of an out-of-state asset interpleaded in federal court. 



                The   Cowan   Estate   responds   that   Dimeff   and   the   Oleta   Cowan   Trust, 



through     its  predecessor-in-interest,   Oleta,  voluntarily    subjected   themselves    to  the 



superior court's jurisdiction by appearing in the Cowan Estate probate proceedings and 



by obtaining the superior court's approval of the settlement agreement.               The Cowan 



Estate does not respond to Dimeff's argument regarding personal jurisdiction over the 



joint venture. But it argues that even though Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS 



Litigation attorney's fees was held by the joint venture and interpleaded in federal court, 



the superior court retained jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement between the 



signatory parties. 



               Dimeff admits that Dimeff and the Oleta Cowan Trust are subject to the 



superior court's jurisdiction in the probate case, but contends that because both Dimeff 



and the Oleta Cowan Trust are California residents, the superior court lacks general 



jurisdiction and can only extend its personal jurisdiction "to the extent of their interest 



in the administration of the estate and trust." Essentially, Dimeff's position on the merits 



of the superior court's interpretation of the settlement agreement forms the foundation 



of her jurisdictional argument - Dimeff points to the settlement agreement provision 



that "Robert Cowan and/or his firm's right to attorney fees and costs in the [EVOS] 



litigation shall be distributed as an asset of the Estate of Robert Cowan," and contends 



that this language cannot be interpreted to refer to Cowan's share of the joint venture's 



EVOS   Litigation attorney's fees.       She argues that because the settlement agreement 



cannot determine the property ownership of the non-signatory joint venture and because 



she and the Oleta Cowan Trust claim an interest only to those joint venture funds, her 



claims are unrelated to the probate proceedings and thus outside of her and the Oleta 



Cowan Trust's limited submission to the superior court's jurisdiction over estate matters. 



                                               -15-                                           6779
 


----------------------- Page 16-----------------------

Dimeff applies the same line of reasoning - that the settlement agreement cannot be 



interpreted to determine the ownership of the interpleaded joint venture funds - to argue 



that the superior court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over what Dimeff characterizes 



as non-probate issues. 



                 We disagree with Dimeff's reasoning and conclude that the superior court 



had both personal jurisdiction over Dimeff and the Oleta Cowan Trust and subject matter 



jurisdiction to interpret and enforce the settlement agreement.                 Our decision in  In re 

Estate of Fields dispenses with Dimeff's jurisdictional argument.6                 There we explained 



that Alaska placed subject matter jurisdiction for probate matters not in a probate court 

of limited jurisdiction, but in the superior court.7            In fact, we emphasized that "when 



exercising      probate    jurisdiction    a  superior    court   'should    continue    to  exercise    its 

jurisdiction' to resolve 'questions ancillary' to the probate proceedings." 8                In Fields , a 



father had transferred out-of-state real estate to his children before his death, leading to 



a   dispute   over   whether   the   transfer   was   unconditional       or  in   trust   for   the   father's 

descendants.9  Dimeff misreads Fields and asserts that "there was no issue of whether or 



not the property was part of the probate or trust estate subject to the jurisdiction of the 

probate court."   But the status of the out-of-state property was disputed in Fields .10              The 



personal representative of the father's estate contended that the father transferred the 



property  inter vivos to the children to hold in trust, not unconditionally, and therefore 



         6       219 P.3d 995, 1005-06 (Alaska 2009).
 



         7       Id.
 



         8
      Id. at 1006 (quoting Briggs v. Estate of Briggs , 500 P.2d 550, 554 (Alaska 



 1972)). 



         9       Id. at 999. 



         10      Id. at 1006. 



                                                   -16-                                              6779
 


----------------------- Page 17-----------------------

requested the superior court to impose a constructive trust to bring the property into the 

estate.11  Because the dispute over the out-of-state property was "directly related to and 



intertwined with the administration of [the] estate," we concluded that there was "a 



sufficient nexus to the decedent's estate for the dispute to fall within the superior court's 

probate jurisdiction."12 



                 The superior court here likewise did not lack jurisdiction to interpret and 



enforce the settlement agreement.             The settlement agreement was signed by Dimeff, 



Oleta, and the personal representative of the Cowan Estate, and then approved by the 



superior court in the probate proceedings.             The interpretation and enforcement of the 



settlement agreement is directly related to and intertwined with the administration of the 



Cowan Estate.  Given that conclusion and given that Dimeff and the Oleta Cowan Trust 



concede that they are subject to the superior court's jurisdiction "to the extent of their 



interest in the administration of the estate and trust," we conclude that the superior court 



had personal jurisdiction over Dimeff and the Oleta Cowan Trust for the purpose of 



interpreting and enforcing the settlement agreement. 



                 If   the   superior   court   had   no   jurisdiction   over   the   joint   venture   and   no 



jurisdiction over the funds interpleaded in federal court, that still would not divest the 



superior court of jurisdiction to interpret and enforce the settlement agreement as to the 



parties properly before it. In Fields we explained that even when the superior court lacks 



authority to affect or transfer title to property beyond its jurisdiction, the superior court 



"may 'indirectly affect title to property located in another state through its power over 



         11      Id. 



         12      Id. 



                                                    -17-                                                6779 


----------------------- Page 18-----------------------

individuals   under   the   court's   jurisdiction.'   "13   The   authority   to   affect   out-of-state 



property arose from the superior court's personal jurisdiction over the "owners" of the 

property.14    While the superior court here may not have had jurisdiction over the joint 



venture or authority to directly affect an interpleaded res, it nonetheless had jurisdiction 



over the parties to the settlement agreement and therefore had jurisdiction to determine 



the rights between those parties. Thus in exercising its probate jurisdiction, the superior 



court had the authority to declare that pursuant to the settlement agreement, as between 



Dimeff, the Oleta Cowan Trust, and the Cowan Estate, the Cowan Estate had the superior 



claim to Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees. 



        C.      Adequate Procedures 



                Dimeff argues that the superior court failed to follow proper procedures 



prior to interpreting and enforcing the agreement.              Dimeff contends that the superior 



court was in no position to interpret the settlement agreement because neither party had 



filed a complaint or a motion alleging breach of the agreement and because the superior 



court did not hold an evidentiary hearing. At oral argument before us Dimeff argued that 



she had a right to an evidentiary hearing where she could present evidence of the parties' 



intent and understanding when they executed the settlement agreement. 



                There is no indication that Dimeff ever requested an evidentiary hearing on 



the interpretation of the settlement agreement. Although the Alaska Constitution requires 



"notice   and   opportunity   for   hearing   appropriate   to   the   nature   of   the   case,"   we   have 



explained that "[a] party may waive the right to an evidentiary hearing on disputed 



        13      Id.  at 1015 (quoting Sylvester v. Sylvester, 723 P.2d 1253, 1260 (Alaska 



1986)). 



        14      Id. 



                                                  -18-                                                6779 


----------------------- Page 19-----------------------

material questions of fact by failing to request one before the court rules on the matter."15 



Dimeff argues that she was not put on alert that the motions for a status hearing and for 



a cease and desist order might lead to a dispositive ruling - while she anticipated that 



the superior court could give effect to the settlement agreement by repeating its words, 



she asserts that she had no notice that the superior court would interpret the agreement. 



We conclude that Dimeff had ample notice of the issue before the superior court. 



                In its motion for a "status/action hearing" the Cowan Estate  requested that 



the superior court "give full force and effect" to the settlement agreement by barring 



conduct undermining the enforcement of the agreement.  It is true that the Cowan Estate 



phrased its request as a bar to claims to the "Cowan Estate EVOS asset."                  But Dimeff 



could not reasonably have interpreted that to mean only EVOS Litigation attorney's fees 



to which Cowan might have been entitled outside the joint venture - which she asserts 



she had no claim to - and not to mean EVOS Litigation attorney's fees received by the 



joint venture.  In the same motion, the Cowan Estate mentioned Cowan's "joint venture 



entitlement,"   asserted   that   the   settlement   agreement   controlled   "distribution   of   any 



Cowan Estate EVOS claim" (emphasis added), and requested that the superior court 



address Dimeff's claims against the joint venture impacting "Robert Cowan's share." 



During the status hearing, the Cowan Estate requested that the superior court "enjoin 



both [Dimeff and the Oleta Cowan Trust] from violating the settlement agreement," and 



specifically asserted that the Oleta Cowan Trust's argument that it sought a non-probate 



asset   was   "contrary   to   the   settlement   agreement."    Dimeff   responded   that   the   joint 



venture's     EVOS     Litigation   attorney's    fees  were   owned     by  the  joint  venture    and 



controlled by partnership law and, therefore, outside the settlement agreement's purview. 



Given that background, we are not persuaded that Dimeff was unaware that the scope, 



        15      DeNardo v. Maassen , 200 P.3d 305, 315 (Alaska 2009). 



                                                 -19-                                              6779 


----------------------- Page 20-----------------------

and thus the interpretation, of the settlement agreement was at issue.  Dimeff had ample 



notice that the superior court would substantively interpret the settlement agreement; by 



failing to request an evidentiary hearing, she waived any right she may have had to that 



procedure. 



                 Because an evidentiary hearing was not requested in the superior court, we 



review the issue only for plain error, which exists if "an obvious mistake has been made 

which creates a high likelihood that injustice has resulted."16           We conclude that there was 



no plain error.     "We interpret settlement agreements as contracts"17 and construe them 



according to the parties' intent, generally a question of fact.18             If a party has not raised 



a genuine issue of material fact, an evidentiary hearing is not required.19                  Dimeff has 



cited no evidence that would have raised a genuine issue of material fact as to the parties' 



intent.   At   oral   argument   before   us,   she   asserted   that   given   the   opportunity   for   an 



evidentiary      hearing,    she   would    have    presented     testimony     of  the   parties'   intent 



establishing the signatories' understanding of "attorney's fees." Dimeff also asserted that 



she would demonstrate that the parties and the joint venturers had discussions outside of 



the settlement agreement context establishing their understanding of "attorney's fees" 



and    "joint   venture    profits."   Before     the   superior   court,   however,     Dimeff     neither 



mentioned   nor   attempted   to   submit   evidence   of   settlement   negotiations   or   ancillary 



discussions   that   would   have   shed   light   on   the   parties'   intent   -   she   argued   for   her 



        16      Fields , 219 P.3d at 1011 (quoting Miller v. Sears , 636 P.2d 1183, 1189 



(Alaska 1981)). 



        17       Chilkoot Lumber Co. v. Rainbow Glacier Seafoods, Inc., 252 P.3d 1011, 



1014 (Alaska 2011). 



        18       Schmidt v. Lashley, 627 P.2d 201, 203 n.4 (Alaska 1981) (citing Adams v. 



Dion , 509 P.2d 201, 202 (Ariz. 1973)). 



        19      Meidinger v. Koniag, Inc. , 31 P.3d 77, 85 (Alaska 2001). 



                                                   -20-                                              6779
 


----------------------- Page 21-----------------------

interpretation based on the settlement agreement's language and on partnership   law 



principles. 



                At   most,   Dimeff's   presentation   to   the   superior   court   amounted   to   the 



subjective assertion that her interpretation of the settlement agreement aligned with the 



parties' actual intent.     That, however, is insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material 

fact as to the parties' intent.20   We have explained that "[d]ifferences of opinion among 



the parties as to their subjective intent, expressed during the litigation, do not establish 



an issue of fact regarding the parties' reasonable expectations at the time they entered 

into the contract, since such self-serving statements are not considered to be probative."21 



Absent evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact, we conclude that the superior 



court   did   not   commit   plain   error   when   it   interpreted  and   enforced    the  settlement 



agreement without an evidentiary hearing. 



        D.      Interpreting The Settlement Agreement And Issuing An Injunction 



                Dimeff argues the superior court improperly interpreted the 2005 settlement 



agreement.     She maintains that Cowan was never entitled to attorney's fees and costs 



from the joint venture, only profits; therefore, in referencing attorney's fees and costs, 



the settlement agreement cannot refer to the joint venture funds interpleaded in federal 



court. The Cowan Estate responds that Dimeff is attempting to circumvent the settlement 



agreement by recasting the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees as the joint 



venture's "profits." 



        20      See Jarvis v. Ensminger, 134 P.3d 353, 361 (Alaska 2006) (holding that 



subjective   statement   of   party's   intentions   or   understandings   was   "not   sufficient   to 

demonstrate a factual dispute over the meaning of the contract"). 



        21      Peterson v. Wirum , 625 P.2d 866, 870 (Alaska 1981). 



                                                  -21-                                              6779 


----------------------- Page 22-----------------------

                 In the absence of a factual dispute - and as we outlined above, Dimeff 



raised   no   genuine   issue   of   material   fact   -   we   interpret   settlement   agreements   as 

contracts, applying a de novo standard of review.22            "If we agree, on de novo review, that 



a valid settlement agreement exists, the superior court has no discretion to decline to 

enforce     that  agreement."23      The    superior    court   does,   however,     have   discretion    in 



choosing between methods of enforcement.24              Dimeff does not dispute that the settlement 



agreement was valid, thus we turn to whether the superior court correctly interpreted that 



agreement and then   to whether the superior court abused its discretion in its chosen 



means of enforcement. 



                 The settlement agreement language at issue is:  "The parties all agree that 



Robert Cowan and/or his firm's right to attorney fees and costs in the [EVOS] Litigation 



shall be distributed as an asset of the Estate of Robert Cowan . . . ."  Dimeff suggests this 



language cannot refer to assets or profits held by the joint venture.                  Her argument is 



twofold.    First, she argues that the settlement agreement cannot bind non-parties and, 



therefore, could not be read to control assets held by the non-signatory joint venture.  But 



as we discussed above, Dimeff's jurisdictional reasoning is unpersuasive.  Although the 



settlement agreement cannot bind the joint venture, it can resolve conflicting claims 



amongst   the   signatory   parties.     Second,   Dimeff   argues   that   by   ordering   the   EVOS 



Litigation attorney's fees held in the Qualified Settlement Fund distributed to the joint 



venture and not directly to the Cowan Estate, the United States District Court ruled that 



Cowan,   and   therefore   his   estate,   had   no   "right   to   attorney   fees   and   costs." Dimeff 



        22       Chilkoot Lumber Co., 252 P.3d at 1014. 



        23      Id. at 1014-15 (footnotes omitted) (citing Rice v. Denley , 944 P.2d 497, 499 



(Alaska 1997)). 



        24      Id. at 1015 n.4. 



                                                   -22-                                              6779
 


----------------------- Page 23-----------------------

essentially argues that the Cowan Estate lost a gamble:              While the Cowan Estate may 



have "believed that its claim for attorneys' fees had value" when it entered the settlement 



agreement, the United States District Court's ruling invalidated that assumption, and 



thus, Dimeff argues, "the Estate cannot rewrite the settlement agreement's language now 



to read 'profits.' " 



                But the putative distinction between Cowan's share of the joint venture's 



EVOS Litigation attorney's fees and Cowan's share of joint venture profits arose only 



after the fees were distributed to the joint venture.           In her pre-settlement complaint in 



California state court, Dimeff described the joint venture as "a joint venture for the 



purpose of allocating fees received and costs advanced by the Exxon Valdez Attorneys." 



Dimeff asked the California court for a declaration that "attorneys fees and costs" related 



to   the   EVOS   Litigation   were   not   a   Cowan   Estate   asset.  Further,   the   joint   venture 



memorandum of understanding did not discuss shares of "profits," but instead discussed 



attorney's fees.   It stated:   "After repayment of all overhead and costs, the fees based on 



the contingency fee agreements are to be divided" (emphasis added), and it then specified 



the division of fees.  The agreement the joint venturers entered into after Cowan's death 



acknowledged "[t]he Venture's only source of income [is] fees based on the contingency 



fee agreements with its clients in the [EVOS] Litigation," and discussed "the distribution 



to the Parties of all Client Fees arising from the [EVOS] Litigation." 



                Dimeff's      pre-settlement     statements    and    the  joint  venture    documents 



demonstrate that Cowan's share of the EVOS Litigation attorney's fees was understood 



to encompass attorney's fees that were to be received and distributed by the joint venture. 



The superior court did not err in concluding that the settlement agreement was intended 



to preclude Dimeff's and the Oleta Cowan Trust's claims to Cowan's share of the joint 



venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees. 



                                                  -23-                                             6779
 


----------------------- Page 24-----------------------

                We     then   turn  to  whether    the   superior   court   abused    its  discretion   in 



enforcing     the   settlement   agreement      by  enjoining    Dimeff    from   pursuing     claims   to 



Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees, either individually 



or on behalf of the Oleta Cowan Trust.  Dimeff concedes that issues regarding the cease 



and desist order are partially mooted by the superior court allowing Dimeff to participate 



in the federal interpleader action.       Nonetheless Dimeff argues that the superior court's 



orders may improperly prevent her from pursuing independent compensation claims 



against Casey Gerry and the joint venture. She also reiterates her jurisdictional argument 



that the orders improperly prevent her from pursuing claims against the joint venture for 



a portion of Cowan's share, individually and on behalf of the Oleta Cowan Trust, as 



those claims are beyond the superior court's jurisdiction. We already have addressed the 



jurisdictional claims, and we focus our analysis here on the cease and desist order's 



propriety, not the jurisdictional authority to issue it. 



                In constructing an injunction the superior court should not "impose on the 



defendant any greater restriction than is necessary to protect the plaintiff from the injury 

of which [the plaintiff] complains."25  The superior court's injunction imposes no undue 



restrictions on Dimeff.  In its order modifying the injunction the superior court allowed 



Dimeff to litigate her claims in the federal interpleader action, but provided that the 



"cease and desist order shall otherwise remain in full effect as to any other litigation." 



The original cease and desist order barred Dimeff from "presenting, filing, or pursuing 



any claims, suits or requests for arbitration, individually or on behalf of others," that 



        25      Kohl v. Legoullon , 936 P.2d 514, 519 (Alaska 1997) (quoting HENRY  L. 



MCCLINTOCK , PRINCIPLES OF EQUITY 392 (1948)); see also DeNardo v. Maassen , 200 

P.3d 305, 316 (Alaska 2009) (holding no abuse of discretion in pre-litigation screening 

order   because   it   was   "appropriately   tailored   to   the   particular   circumstances   of   [the] 

case"). 



                                                  -24-                                             6779
 


----------------------- Page 25-----------------------

sought a portion of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees apportioned to 



Cowan or to the Cowan Estate and additionally barred actions that would "impede, 



prevent or delay payment" of that share.          The order allowed Dimeff 30 days to request 



permission to pursue such claims in another forum, and aside from moving to vacate the 



order, Dimeff filed no such request. In its partial final judgment the superior court noted 



that the bar on Dimeff did not preclude personal compensation claims against the Casey 



Gerry law firm. 



                We interpret judgments to "render them reasonable, effective, conclusive 

and in harmony with the facts and law of the case."26                We therefore do not read the 



superior court's orders as preventing Dimeff from pursuing any individual claims for 



compensation that she may have against Casey Gerry or the joint venture, even if those 



claims may raise costs and thereby reduce the ultimate value of individual shares of joint 



venturer's     EVOS      Litigation   attorney's    fees.   The    superior    court   barred   Dimeff, 



individually and on behalf of the Oleta Cowan Trust, from pursuing direct claims to 



Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees, even when labeled 



"joint venture profits," aside from the interpleader action.  Dimeff has not suggested that 



there   is   a   forum   other   than   the   interpleader   action   that   can   affect   the   disposition   of 



Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees, whatever that 



share    ultimately    may   be.   Because     those   constraints    are  in  line  with   the  parties' 



settlement agreement, the superior court did not impose undue restrictions and, therefore, 



did not abuse its discretion. 



                Dimeff also argues that the superior court's partial final judgment is "so 



vague and uncertain that a party cannot reasonably know what it is being ordered to do." 



        26      Pennington v. Emp'r's Liab. Assurance Corp. , 520 P.2d 96, 97 (Alaska 



1974) (citing Simon v. Simon, 123 So.2d 41, 43 (Fla. Dist. App. 1960)). 



                                                  -25-                                               6779 


----------------------- Page 26-----------------------

She challenges the language requiring her to "immediately cease and desist any further 



actions in any court other than [the superior court] that would impede, prevent, or delay 



payment to the Robert Cowan Estate PR of the Cowan share of the EVOS fees and 



costs." Because she maintains that she and the Oleta Cowan Trust have only sought joint 



venture "profits," not "fees and costs," she contends the language of the partial final 



judgment can be interpreted to enjoin her and the Oleta Cowan Trust from "seeking any 



funds     to  which   they   may    be  entitled,"   including    Dimeff's    individual    claims   for 



compensation. 



                The heart of this argument is Dimeff's claim that Cowan's EVOS Litigation 



attorney's fees are something different from Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS 



Litigation attorney's fees distributed to the joint venture and held as "profits."              As we 



have discussed above, the superior court's partial final judgment, orders, and order to 



modify made it clear that Dimeff, individually and on behalf of the Oleta Cowan Trust, 



is barred from pursuing a claim to Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation 



attorney's fees - even those now characterized by Dimeff as joint venture profits.  The 



partial final judgment and order do   not purport to enjoin Dimeff from pursuing her 



individual claims for compensation, as long as she does not seek payment directly from 



Cowan's share, nor do the orders prevent Dimeff from litigating any claim she wishes 



in the federal interpleader action.       We decline to hold that the superior court's partial 



final judgment is so vague or ambiguous that it is unenforceable. 



                Finally, Dimeff argues that the superior court's modification of the cease 



and desist order to allow Dimeff to participate in the federal interpleader action and the 



order   denying   her   request   to   vacate   the   superior   court's   substantive   determinations 



should be reversed on two grounds.            She first argues that the new orders suffered the 



same jurisdictional deficiency as the previous orders in affecting an asset held by a non- 



                                                 -26-                                            6779
 


----------------------- Page 27-----------------------

party    joint   venture   and   interpleaded   in  federal   court. Our   earlier    analysis   of   the 



jurisdictional issues resolves this argument, thus we turn to Dimeff's second argument. 



                Dimeff argues that the new orders "improperly substantively enlarged the 



scope of the earlier Judgment without proper procedures."   In support of that argument, 



Dimeff quotes the partial final judgment barring claims to the "Robert Cowan Estate's 



share of [joint venture] EVOS attorney's fees and costs," and compares that language to 



the order to modify - "the Estate is entitled to Robert Cowan's share of [joint venture] 



attorney fees, including those interpled into the U.S. District Court" - and to the order 



denying her request to vacate mentioning "interpled funds, which [the superior court] 



previously determined belonged to the Robert Cowan Estate." She contends that because 



the partial final judgment and order did not reference the funds interpleaded in federal 



court, the superior court substantively expanded its ruling without providing adequate 



procedures. 



                Dimeff's comparison fails to account for the broad language in the superior 



court's original cease and desist order.  There, the superior court barred claims to EVOS 



Litigation attorney's fees apportioned to Cowan, "obtained or to be obtained in the future 



by [the joint venture]."   The superior court's new order merely recognized that the joint 



venture had deposited the EVOS Litigation attorney's fees apportioned to Cowan in the 



federal interpleader action. Even in the interpleader complaint, Casey Gerry and the joint 



venture sought the resolution of "various adverse claims to a share of attorneys' fees 



entrusted to, and held in trust by, Casey Gerry, but ultimately due to the rightful claimant 



on behalf of the late Robert Cowan."          Because the superior court had originally barred 



claims to Cowan's share of the joint venture's EVOS Litigation attorney's fees, we reject 



Dimeff's argument that mentioning the interpleader complaint substantively expanded 



its previous orders. 



                                                 -27-                                            6779
 


----------------------- Page 28-----------------------

V.     CONCLUSION 



              Because we conclude that the superior court did not exceed its jurisdiction 



or otherwise err in interpreting and enforcing the settlement agreement between the 



parties to this appeal, we AFFIRM the superior court's orders and partial final judgment. 



                                           -28-                                     6779
 

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