Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

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The Federal Election Commission opened an investigation into alleged discrepancies in ARMPAC's financial reporting. ARMPAC conceded that it had violated federal election laws and agreed to pay a civil penalty and terminate operations. Appellant, former treasurer of ARMPAC, was named in the Conciliation Agreement in his official capacity as treasurer. Appellant then filed suit against the law firm that represented ARMPAC and three lawyers, alleging that defendants failed to keep him informed about the Commission's investigation of ARMPAC, signed documents on his behalf without permission, and defamed him in the Agreement. The district court dismissed or granted summary judgment to defendants on each of appellant's claims. The district court concluded that appellant's defamation claim based on the signing of the Agreement was barred by the judicial privilege. The district court also concluded that appellant's remaining negligence claim was barred under D.C. law. The court concluded that appellant's defamation claim was based on statements contained within the Agreement reached between the Commission and ARMPAC, and therefore was encompassed within the judicial privilege. The court also concluded that no D.C. case holds that a plaintiff may maintain a negligence action based on the allegedly defamatory communication. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Teltschik v. Williams & Jensen, PLLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellant sought attorneys' fees following his largely unsuccessful attempt to obtain documents from the FHFA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552 et seq. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that, even if appellant were eligible for attorneys' fees, he was not entitled to them. The court found no abuse of discretion in the district court's assessment of each of the factors of the entitlement inquiry and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "McKinley v. FHFA" on Justia Law

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Appellant, an Ohio-based law firm, filed suit against appellee, a Florida resident and SEI, a Florida corporation, after appellee and SEI failed to pay appellant for services rendered. Appellee had hired the law firm to represent him in a matter pending in Oregon. Appellant filed suit in district court but the district court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court affirmed the judgment where neither the retainer itself nor anything about the client's dealings with the law firm demonstrated that the client purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting activities within the district. View "Thompson Hine LLP v. Taieb, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an attorney, filed suit against the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy and others, alleging violation of his constitutional rights in an administrative decision which suspended him from practice before naval courts. The disciplinary proceedings stemmed from plaintiff's filing of an appellate brief containing statements he knew were false and misleading. The court concluded that the district court did not err in holding that the Navy JAG had authority to discipline plaintiff; plaintiff received ample due process and his Fifth Amendment rights were not violated during the proceedings against him; and the record did not support plaintiff's Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551, 701, and 706, claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims and denied his request for mandamus review. View "Partington v. Houck, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an ALJ, brought this action alleging that HUD had interfered with his decisional independence and thereby violated the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq. The court concluded that it need not decide whether the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's claims for lack of standing where the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-454, 92 Stat. 1111, deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint. View "Mahoney v. Donovan, et al." on Justia Law

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This case arose when some Ecuadorian citizens sued Chevron in an Ecuador court, alleging that Chevron was responsible for environmental damage there. As the proceedings in Ecuador unfolded, Chevron sued the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their attorneys in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claiming that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their attorneys had committed fraud in the proceedings in Ecuador. As part of the New York litigation, Chevron subpoenaed documents from the Weinberg Group and the subpoena was issued from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Weinberg Group asserted the attorney-client and work product privileges over some of the documents responsive to the subpoena. Chevron moved to compel production of those documents in the D.C. district court. The D.C. district court found that the crime-fraud exception applied and granted Chevron's motion to compel, relying almost entirely on a decision in favor of Chevron by the New York district court in the underlying fraud investigation. The court concluded that, given that the D.C. district court relied on the decision of the New York district court and that the New York district court's decision was subsequently reversed by the Second Circuit, the court must vacate the D.C. district court's decision and remand. View "Chevron Corp. v. Weinberg Group" on Justia Law

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This case was before the court on appeal and cross-appeal from the judgment of the district court ordering attorney Leonard Suchanek to pay his former client, Kevin So, an amount representing a portion of the legal fees Suchanek collected from So, plus interest. Suchanek began representing So and So's agent, Lucy Yan Lu, in July 2006 despite the fact that he was already representing Land Base, a California entity that had entered into an agreement with So that was signed by Lu, to make investments on So's behalf. The court concluded that Suchanek violated Rule 1.7 by simultaneously representing So and Land Base in July and August of 2006; the district court's analysis of the second conflict period, between August 2007 and January 2008, was also sound; and the district court's order requiring Suchanek to deposit the trust funds in the registry was proper in light of Suchanek's history of moving So's money, without authorization, into other bank accounts - sometimes spending it rather than returning it to So or to So's trust account. Accordingly, the court affirmed the rulings as they pertained to Suchanek's appeal. In regard to So's contention that the district court erred in ordering disgorgement of only some of the fees Suchanek collected, the court concluded that the district court's error in assessing the conflict between Lu and So influenced the scope of the remedy it selected. The district court should have awarded a larger sum if it had correctly found a conflict during other parts of the representation. Accordingly, the court remanded the case for further review and issuance of a supplemental remedy, greater than the amount already ordered. View "So v. Suchanek" on Justia Law

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This case was before the court on a petition to review the opinion and order of the Commission permanently denying petitioner, an attorney admitted to practice in New York state, the privilege of appearing or practicing before the Commission, pursuant to rule 102(3)(1)(ii) of the Commission's Rules of Practice, and Section 4C of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (Act), 15 U.S.C. 78a et seq. On appeal, petitioner contended that the procedure employed by the Commission was unconstitutional. The court held that the Commission acted within its authority in sanctioning him; petitioner was on notice of his duty to comply with the New York Bar disciplinary rules and the standard of conduct proscribed by Rule 102(3)(1)(ii) and Section 4C of the Act; there was substantial evidence for the Commission's finding that petitioner engaged in intentional improper professional conduct; and the Commission did not abuse its discretion in its choice of sanctioning petitioner. Accordingly, the petition for review was denied. View "Altman v. SEC" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from appellee's legal representation of appellant in a criminal tax fraud case. Appellee subsequently filed a lawsuit against appellant for recovery of unpaid attorneys' fees and appellant counterclaimed for malpractice and later petitioned for arbitration before the District of Columbia Attorney/Client Arbitration Board (ACAB), an arm of the District of Columbia Bar. Appellant also moved the district court for a stay pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 3, the denial of which he appealed. At issue was whether appellant was "in default" of his right to arbitrate. The court affirmed the district court's denial of the stay where appellant failed to make a timely assertion of his right to arbitrate and his litigation activity, after he filed his initial answer and counterclaim, imposed substantial costs upon appellee and the district court.