Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nevada Supreme Court

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More than a year after Wife's and Husband's divorce, Wife filed a motion to reopen discovery. Wife also filed a motion to disqualify Judge Gonzalez from hearing the motion to reopen discovery, asserting that Judge Gonzalez hearing the motion would create an appearance of impropriety because Husband and others connected to the parties' divorce contributed to the judge's reelection complain. Judge Togliatti denied Wife's motion to disqualify Judge Gonzalez, and the Judge Gonzalez went on to preside over Wife's motion to reopen discovery. Wife subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus or prohibition vacating Judge Togliatti's order and disqualifying Judge Gonzalez from hearing the motion to reopen discovery. The Supreme Court denied Wife's petition, holding that the failure to disqualify Judge Gonzalez did not violate Wife's due process rights or Nevada law, as all of the campaign contributions at issue were within statutory limits and made after the divorce decree. View "Ivey v. Dist. Court" on Justia Law

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Marie Liapis filed a complaint for divorce against petitioner Theodore Liapis, in which she also sought disposition of the couple's property, permanent spousal support, and her attorney fees and costs. Theodore answered Marie's complaint and later retained Mark Liapis, the couple's son, as his attorney. A settlement conference was scheduled, and each party filed a statement in preparation for that conference. In her statement, Marie objected to Mark's representation of Theodore. Because of the issues raised concerning Mark's representation of Theodore, the district court vacated the scheduled settlement conference and gave Mark time to determine whether he would continue as Theodore's counsel. Mark informed Marie's counsel that he did not intend to withdraw as counsel for Theodore. Marie subsequently filed a motion to disqualify Mark, asserting three bases for his disqualification: (1) Mark's representation of Theodore and his pecuniary interest in their estate created an appearance of impropriety; (2) even though Mark had never represented her, there was an "inherent conflict of interest" because it was unclear "how [Mark] would be able to zealously represent [Theodore]" when he "professe[d] to still love both his parents;" and (3) Mark should be disqualified because he was a potential witness in the case. Because appearance of impropriety is no longer recognized by the American Bar Association, and the Supreme Court has not recognized the appearance of impropriety as a basis for disqualifying counsel except in the limited circumstance of a public lawyer, the Court rejected that conclusion when the alleged impropriety is based solely on a familial relationship with the attorney. The Court also concluded that absent an ethical breach by the attorney that affects the fairness of the entire litigation or a proven confidential relationship between the nonclient parent and the attorney, the nonclient parent lacked standing to seek disqualification under RPC 1.7. View "Liapis v. Dist. Ct." on Justia Law

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In this case Supreme Court settlement judge Nicholas Frey was disqualified from representing Respondent Amador Stage Lines, In. Pursuant to Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct 1.12(c), Frey's disqualification was imputed to the remaining members of his law firm, Woodburn and Wedge, but the parties disagreed on whether screening could be utilized to cure the imputed disqualification. Before the Supreme Court was Appellant Ryan's Express Transportation Services, Inc.'s motion to disqualify Woodburn and Wedge from representing Amador in this appeal. The Court deferred ruling on the motion to disqualify, concluding that more facts were necessary for the Court to consider the sufficiency of Woodburn and Wedge's screening measures and weather screening could be used to cure imputed disqualification in this situation. Remanded for an evidentiary hearing and written findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the adequacy of the screening. View "Ryan's Express Transp. Servs., Inc. v. Amador Stage Lines, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioners Club Vista Financial Services and others (Club Vista) entered into a real estate development project with real parties in interest Scott Financial Corporation and others (Scott Financial). When a loan guaranteed by some of the Petitioners went into default, Club Vista filed an action against Scott Financial. During discovery, Scott Financial obtained a deposition subpoena for Club Vista's attorney, K. Layne Morrill. An Arizona court granted Morrill's motion to quash the subpoena. The Nevada district court, however, denied Morrill's motion for a protective order and permitted Scott Financial to depose Morrill as to the factual matters supporting the allegations in the complaint. The Supreme Court granted Morrill's petition for writ of mandamus or prohibition in part after adopting the framework espoused by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Shelton v. American Motors Corp., which states that the party seeking to depose opposing counsel must demonstrate that the information sought cannot be obtained by other means, is relevant and nonprivileged, and is crucial to the preparation of the case. Because the district court did not analyze the Shelton factors, the Court directed the district court to evaluate whether, applying the Shelton factors, Scott Financial may depose Morrill. View "Club Vista Fin. Servs., LLC v. Dist. Court" on Justia Law

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This appeal addressed the factors a district court must consider when determining whether to grant a motion for a preferential trial date to avoid the expiration of Nev. R. Civ. P. 41(e)'s five-year period for bringing a case to trial. Appellant brought an action against Respondents. Before the five-year period had elapsed, the parties stipulated to vacate their previous trial date and reset the trial for a date that was beyond the expiration of the five-year period. Appellant then filed a motion for a preferential trial date. The district court denied the motion and instead granted Appellant's motion to confirm that the five-year rule had been tolled or extended. The district court subsequently held that its previous order was ineffective and dismissed the underlying case, finding that because the stipulation was silent on the five-year period, it was insufficient to toll or extend the running of that period. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion in denying Appellant's motion for a preferential trial and dismissing the complaint, as (1) Appellant filed his motion with more than three months remaining in the five-year period, and (2) Appellant diligently moved his case forward. Remanded. View "Carstarphen v. Milsner" on Justia Law

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In this breach of contract and fraud action, the attorney for Respondents reviewed confidential documents on disk that he received, unsolicited, from an anonymous source. Petitioners filed a motion to disqualify opposing counsel based on counsel's receipt of the confidential documents. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Petitioners failed to show that any of the documents, except a draft affidavit, contained on the disk were privileged. Petitioners then sought extraordinary writ relief to instruct the district court to disqualify the attorney and his firm, or, alternatively, to compel the district court to reconsider the disqualification motion. The Supreme Court denied the relief requested, holding (1) although there is no Nevada Rule of Professional Conduct that specifically governs an attorney's actions under these facts, the attorney in this case fulfilled any ethical duties by giving prompt notification to opposing counsel, soon after his receipt of the disk, through a Nev. R. Civ. P. 16.1 disclosure; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to disqualify counsel even though one of the documents sent to counsel was privileged.

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This matter arose out of a multi-vehicle traffic accident, which led to a dispute over who was at fault for the accident. At trial, Phillip Emerson, the attorney of one of the defendants, made a series of statements to the jury that the Supreme Court later deemed improper and amounted to impermissible jury nullification. On remand, the matter was ultimately dismissed with prejudice. Afterwards, the district court granted the plaintiff's motion for sanctions and imposed sanctions on Emerson, personally. Emerson subsequently filed a petition for writ relief, requesting that the Supreme Court issue a writ directing the district court to vacate its order imposing sanctions. The Court denied writ relief, holding (1) the district court had jurisdiction to impose sanctions because a district court retains jurisdiction after a case is dismissed to consider sanctions for attorney misconduct that occurred prior to the dismissal; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing as a sanction attorney fees and costs incurred in the original trial.