Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

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Under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, unless a plaintiff establishes a probability of prevailing on a cause of action arising from constitutionally protected speech or petitioning activity, the court must grant the defendant’s motion to strike the claim and, generally, must also award the defendant attorney’s fees. In the instant case, Plaintiff, an attorney, filed an action against the State Bar after she was disciplined for committing violations of the rules of professional conduct. The State Bar filed a special motion to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute. The superior court granted the motion and awarded attorney’s fees to the State Bar, concluding that Plaintiff’s claims arose from protected petitioning activity and that Plaintiff had not shown a likelihood of prevailing because, inter alia, a superior court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over attorney discipline matters. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that because the trial court had no jurisdiction to rule on the anti-SLAPP motion, it also lacked jurisdiction to award attorney fees under Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a court that lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a claim may grant a special motion to strike the claim under section 425.16 and thus may award attorney’s fees and costs to the defendant. View "Barry v. State Bar of California" on Justia Law

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The ACLU submitted a request under the California Public Records Act (PRA) to the Los Angeles County Counsel seeking invoices specifying the amounts that the County and been billed by any law firm in connection with several different lawsuits alleging excessive force against jail inmates. The County refused to provide invoices for the lawsuits that were still pending on the basis of attorney-client privilege. The ACLU petitioned for writ of mandate seeking to compel the County to disclose the requested records. The superior court granted the petition, concluding that the County had failed to show that the invoices were attorney-client privileged communications. The County then filed a petition for writ of mandate. The court of appeal granted the petition and vacated the superior court’s order, concluding that the invoices were confidential communications within the meaning of Cal. Evid. Code 952. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the attorney-client privilege does not categorically shield everything in a billing invoice from PRA disclosure, but invoices for work in pending and active legal matters implicate the attorney-client privilege; and (2) therefore, the privilege protects the confidentiality of invoices for work in pending and active legal matters. View "Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law