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State ex rel. Department of Insurance of State of Florida v. Countrywide Truck Insurance Agency Inc.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

August 5, 2016

State of Florida, ex rel. Department of Insurance of the State of Florida, receiver for United Southern Assurance Company, a Florida corporation authorized to transfer an insurance business in Florida, appellee,
v.
Countrywide Truck Insurance Agency, Inc., a Florida corporation, et al., appellees, and William E. Gast, appellant.

         1. Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. An appellate court determines jurisdictional questions that do not involve a factual dispute as a matter of law.

         2. Attorney and Client. Persons not licensed to practice law in Nebraska are prohibited from prosecuting an action or filing papers in the courts of this state on behalf of another.

         3. Standing: Claims: Parties. To have standing, a litigant must assert the litigant's own rights and interests.

         4. Jurisdiction: Final Orders: Appeal and Error. For an appellate court to acquire jurisdiction of an appeal, there must be a judgment, decree, or final order entered by the court from which the appeal is timely taken.

         5. Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. Where the court from which an appeal was taken lacked jurisdiction, the appellate court acquires no jurisdiction.

         6. Jurisdiction: Recusal. Where an attorney pursues a motion for recusal that is frivolous or made in bad faith, the district court has jurisdiction to enter a sanction under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-824 (Reissue 2008) when it is timely requested, regardless of whether the district court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the merits of the underlying dispute.

         7. Appeal and Error. To be considered by an appellate court, an error must be both specifically assigned and specifically argued in the brief of the party asserting the error.

         [294 Neb. 401] Appeal from the District Court for Douglas County: Peter C. Bataillon, Judge.

          William E. Gast, pro se.

          Robert F. Craig and Anna M. Bednar, of Robert F. Craig. P.C., for appellee State of Florida.

          Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, and Kelch, JJ.

          Cassel, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         William E. Gast appeals from a district court order sanctioning him for filing a frivolous motion to recuse the trial judge. Gast challenges the district court's jurisdiction to enter the order. We conclude that the district court had jurisdiction to sanction Gast for a frivolous motion, regardless of whether it had jurisdiction over the underlying case. We therefore affirm the district court's order.

         II. BACKGROUND

         1. Procedural History

         This case has a long and complicated procedural history, most of which is irrelevant in this appeal. Briefly summarized, this action began in 1998, when the State of Florida filed a complaint on the relation of the Department of Insurance of the State of Florida, which was appointed as receiver of United Southern Assurance Company, an insolvent insurance company. Florida named Countrywide Truck Insurance Agency, Inc. (Truck), Countrywide Insurance Agency, Inc. (Agency), and David L. Fulkerson as defendants. It alleged that Truck owed money to United Southern Assurance Company and that Fulkerson used Truck and Agency to convert that money to his personal use.

         [294 Neb. 402] In the course of the litigation, this case reached this court at least three times-in 1999, [1] 2005, [2] and 2008.[3] In 2008, we reversed an order directing a verdict in favor of Florida. The state of the record makes it difficult to discern what happened next. Gast did not file a praecipe for a ...


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