Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals

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Defendants appealed the district court's grant of plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment and declaring New York Judiciary Law 470 unconstitutional as violative of the Privileges and Immunities Clause. The court reserved decision and certified a controlling question of state law to the New York Court of Appeals: Under New York Judiciary Law 470, which mandates that a nonresident attorney maintain an "office for the transaction of law business" within the state of New York, what are the minimum requirements necessary to satisfy that mandate? View "Schoenefeld v. State of New York, et al." on Justia Law

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This case arose when plaintiff filed a qui tam action against various providers of home health-care services and their officers, including Nursing Personnel. Plaintiff and the United States settled the claim against Nursing Personnel and the action remains pending against other defendants. Plaintiff subsequently moved to dismiss two appeals of Nursing Personnel from an interlocutory order entered by the district court awarding plaintiff attorney's fees. The court concluded that the fee award did not have to be appealed until entry of an appealable judgment, and that the pending collateral order appeal in Case No. 13-1688, taken in the absence of an appealable judgment, has become moot upon the entry of a Rule 54(b) partial judgment. The court also concluded that the appeal in Case No. 14-251 from the Rule 54(b) partial judgment was timely. Therefore the court denied the collateral order appeal and dismissed that appeal as moot. The court denied the motion to dismiss and directed briefing of that appeal in the normal course. View "United States ex rel. Maurice v. Nursing Personnel Home Care" on Justia Law

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In 2004, plaintiff appealed the denial of his long term disability (LTD) benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Liberty moved for summary judgment. In a 2009 Report and Recommendation (R&R), the magistrate judge recommended denying Liberty's motion and granting summary judgment sua sponte to plaintiff. In 2012, the district court adopted the R&R and entered summary judgment for plaintiff, but denied his request for attorneys' fees. The court concluded that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on plaintiff's claim for LTD benefits because Liberty's denial of LTD benefits was arbitrary and capricious where Liberty ignored substantial evidence from plaintiff's treating physician that he was incapable of performing his current occupation, while failing to offer any reliable evidence to the contrary; the court retained discretion to consider the Chambless v. Masters, Mates & Pilots Pension Plan factors, in determining whether to grant an eligible plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees, but must do so in a manner consistent with the court's case law, and could not selectively consider some factors while ignoring others; the district court misapplied the Chambliss framework, and therefore erred, in denying fees to a prevailing plaintiff primarily on the conclusion that Liberty had not acted in bad faith; and the record revealed no particular justification for denying plaintiff's attorneys' fees, and awarding fees in the circumstances presented here furthered the policy interest in vindicating the rights secured by ERISA. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Donachie v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff challenged HUD's refusal to authorize reimbursement of defense costs plaintiff incurred while successfully defending criminal charges stemming from a series of transactions involving Middletown's use of funds it received from HUD. The court held that HUD acted arbitrarily and capriciously by incorrectly determining that plaintiff's legal fees were a result of his acting solely as Middletown's mayor's private counsel. The court held that the legal fees and expenses incurred by plaintiff in successfully defending the criminal charges were legal expenses required in the administration of federal programs under the OMB Circular. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court and ordered HUD to authorize Middletown to reimburse the criminal defense costs to plaintiff. View "Guertin v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, an attorney, for an alleged violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692. At issue on appeal was whether a defendant remained liable for plaintiff's attorney's fees accrued after defendant offered a settlement that included the maximum available damages and, as mandated by statute, plaintiff's fees and costs, but that did not include an offer of judgment. The court concluded that because defendant's initial offer to settle did not include an offer of judgment, it did not fully resolve the dispute between the parties, and thus further litigation by plaintiff was not per se unreasonable; the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding full attorney's fees to plaintiff; and, therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cabala v. Crowley" on Justia Law

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This case arose when partners of the law firm Thelen LLP, a registered limited liability partnership governed by California law, voted to dissolve the firm. At issue was whether, for purposes of administering the firm's related bankruptcy, New York law treats a dissolved law firm's pending hourly fee matters as its property. The court certified controlling questions of law to the New York Court of Appeals, concluding that the court could not definitely answer the issue without the guidance of the state court. View "In Re: Thelen LLP" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of this qui tam action and disqualifying plaintiff, its individual members - including a former general counsel to defendant - and its outside counsel from bringing a subsequent qui tam action on the basis that the suit was brought in violation of the general counsel's ethical obligations under the New York Rules of Professional Conduct. The court concluded that the attorney, through his conduct in this qui tam action, did violate N.Y. Rule 1.9(c) which prohibited lawyers from using confidential information of a former client protected by Rule 1.6 to the disadvantage of the former client. The court held that the district court did not err by dismissing the complaint as to all defendants, and disqualifying plaintiff, its individual relators, and its outside counsel on the basis that such measures were necessary to avoid prejudicing defendants in any subsequent litigation on these facts. View "Fair Labor Practices Assocs. v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose when plaintiff filed an employment discrimination suit against his employer, Wal-mart. Plaintiff's attorney represented to the court that plaintiff had pled a gender discrimination claim when he had not. The district court subsequently reprimanded the attorney and imposed Rule 11 sanctions on her. The attorney appealed. The court concluded that the district court did not apply the correct legal standard where the district court's analysis indicated that it was applying an objective reasonableness test. Under the proper standard, pursuant to In re Pennie & Edmonds LLP, sua sponte sanctions should issue only upon a finding of subjective bad faith. Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated the district court's judgment. View "Muhammad v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from plaintiff's suit against Sheraton, alleging state law claims and invoking subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332(a). The district court dismissed plaintiff's first and second complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Sheraton subsequently moved for "just costs" including attorney's fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1919 and the district court granted the motion, concluding that plaintiff's second complaint was engineered to re-assert diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff appealed. The court concluded that section 1919 did not authorize an award of attorney's fees and that, although such fees could be awarded on a non-statutory basis for bad faith in the conduct of litigation, fees were not warranted under the circumstances of this case. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's order and remanded with directions to delete the award of attorney's fees. View "Castillo Grand, LLC v. Sheraton Operating Corp." on Justia Law

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In this suit - which was originally filed in state court in California, later removed to federal court in California, and then voluntarily transferred to the district court - the district court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the suit pursuant to California's anti-Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (anti-SLAPP) rule, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16, on the basis that New York law governed plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim. The court held that the district court's denial of defendants' motion to dismiss under California's anti-SLAPP rule constituted an immediately appealable collateral order because it (1) conclusively determined the disputed issue; (2) resolved an important question that was completely separate from the merits of the action; and (3) would be effectively unreviewable in a later appeal. The court also held that the district court erred in concluding that California's anti-SLAPP rule could not apply to a claim transferred from a California federal court to a New York federal court and governed, under the Erie doctrine, by New York law. Accordingly, the district court's order denying defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to California's anti-SLAPP rule was vacated, and the cause was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Liberty Synergistics Inc. v. Microflo Ltd." on Justia Law