Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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Highland High School quarterback Matthew Newman suffered a permanent brain injury at a football game in 2009, one day after he allegedly sustained a head injury at football practice. Three years later, Newman and his parents (collectively Newman) sued Highland School District No. 203 (Highland) for negligence. Before trial, Highland's counsel interviewed several former coaches and appeared on their behalf at their depositions. Newman moved to disqualify Highland's counsel, asserting a conflict of interest. The superior court denied the motion but ruled that Highland's counsel "may not represent non-employee witness[es] in the future." Newman then sought discovery concerning communications between Highland and the former coaches during time periods when the former coaches were unrepresented by Highland's counsel. Highland moved for a protective order, arguing its attorney-client privilege shielded counsel's communications with the former coaches. The trial court denied the motion, and Highland appealed. At issue was whether postemployment communications between former employees and corporate counsel should have been treated the same as communications with current employees for purposes of applying the corporate attorney-client privilege. After review of the specific facts of this case, the Washington Supreme Court held that the privilege does not broadly shield counsel's postemployment communications with former employees. The superior court properly denied Highland's motion for a protective order. View "Newman v. Highland Sch. Dist. No. 203" on Justia Law

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The complaint in this case alleged negligence based on a failure to schedule a resentencing hearing for a criminal defendant after the Court of Appeals remanded for resentencing. Consequently, the defendant served more prison time than he otherwise would have had he been promptly resentenced. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the "actual innocence" element of a criminal malpractice claim against the trial attorney, the appellate attorney and King County (through its agency, the Department of Public Defense), applied to the facts of this case to bar the complaint. The Supreme Court held that actual innocence was a necessary requirement to pursue the criminal malpractice claim and that no exception applied. The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, which upheld the trial court's grant of summary judgment of dismissal in favor of all respondents. View "Piris v. Kitching" on Justia Law

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Jared Barton sued Korrine Linvog, her parents Thomas and Madonna Linvog, and the State. Barton reached a settlement with the Linvogs through which the Linvogs agreed to advance Barton money in exchange for his promise not to execute a judgment against them above their insurance policy limits. Neither Barton nor the Linvogs disclosed this settlement to the court or to the State. After a jury trial, Barton was awarded $3.6 million, and the trial court entered judgment against the State and the Linvogs. In the process of paying the judgment, the State discovered the agreement. The State then moved to vacate the judgment on grounds of fraud and misrepresentation. The trial court denied the motion but sanctioned Barton's attorney for failing to disclose the terms of the agreement. Barton's attorney appealed the sanction. Finding no abuse of discretion in its sanction against Barton's attorney, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Barton v. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law