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Home / Supplements and Special Sections / Missouri Lawyers Awards 2020 / Influential Appellate Advocate: S. Todd Hamby, Carmody MacDonald

Influential Appellate Advocate: S. Todd Hamby, Carmody MacDonald

An 81-year-old case requiring Missouri homeowners associations to obtain unanimous consent from property owners to amend indentures — contracts governing homeowner association operations — came to an end in 2019, thanks in part to the efforts of Todd Hamby.

He represented the Trustees of Clayton Terrace Subdivision in their suit against 6 Clayton Terrace LLC, which purchased a lot in the subdivision with the intent to subdivide it into two parcels and to build another residence on the lot.

S. Todd Hamby

Hamby

In doing so, the company ignored — and later sought to invalidate — a restriction that had been in place since 1928 and limited one residence per lot in the subdivision. The subdivision’s restriction, also called a burden, was laid out in an amendment to the neighborhood’s indentures, which was approved through a two-thirds vote by those in the neighborhood.

Hamby said the company argued the restriction was not valid because the subdivision did not have unanimous consent to add the burden to the indenture, which was required through a 1938 Missouri Supreme Court case, Van Deusen v. Ruth.

The case went to the Missouri Supreme Court, which in August sided with Hamby’s clients.

Hamby said the case is important because the effect of Van Deusen was that if HOAs were unable to obtain unanimous consent, they were stuck with their original indentures and unable to amend them because any amendment to an indenture probably added a burden of some type.

“Most indentures say you can amend with two-thirds approval or majority approval,” he said. “But the courts were interpreting that to mean you couldn’t add a burden. That’s not the plain meaning of the word ‘amend.’”

Hamby said he and his clients were thrilled with the ruling.

“We were very happy that the Supreme Court was willing to consider and change a rule of law that was on the books for so long,” he said.

Hamby has built a niche legal practice out of representing condominium and homeowners associations. In 15 years, he’s built up a client base of more than 150 such organizations in the St. Louis area.

His work with businesses is fitting, given his educational background. As an undergraduate, he studied business administration with an emphasis in finance at the University of Missouri. As a senior, he decided he wasn’t ready to move on to the real world, so he applied to law school at Saint Louis University. He graduated with his law degree in 1990.

He went on to join Rothman, Sokol, Adler & Sarachan, where he spent 26 years, working alongside his mentor, Gary Sarachan. He said his focus there was on various types of litigation, which led him into the areas of business and real estate litigation.

His interest in real estate litigation grew out of a referral 15 years ago to represent a condominium association.

Hamby joined Carmody MacDonald in 2016 as a principal. His practice remains focused on business litigation. In addition to his condo and HOA practice, he also provides business and transaction advice to companies in the St. Louis area.

He also serves as municipal judge for the city of Arnold, a position which he’s held since 2006.

Hamby said he most enjoys the team aspect of his work and preparing a case for trial and argument.

“I enjoy the competition of it, the teamwork, and the professionalism that our area of the law for the most part has,” he said.

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