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Albert Daniels petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus compelling the Barbour Circuit Court to vacate its order severing and staying Daniels's claims against defendants Joseph Morris, Tracy Cary, and Morris, Cary, Andrews, Talmadge & Driggers, LLC ("the Morris firm"), and also to compel the circuit court to enter a default judgment. Sherry Johnson and Daniels were the parents of Alquwon Johnson. On June 4, 2011, Alquwon committed suicide while he was an inmate in the Barbour County jail. Johnson engaged the Morris firm to pursue a wrongful-death claim related to Alquwon's death. Johnson, as the personal representative of Alquwon's estate, filed a wrongful-death action in the Barbour Circuit Court. Johnson was represented by the Morris defendants in the wrongful-death litigation. The case was removed to federal court. In 2015, the case was settled. The Morris defendants distributed the settlement funds to Johnson; none of the proceeds were paid to Daniels. Daniels telephoned the Morris firm to inquire about retaining the firm to file a wrongful-death suit related to Alquwon's death. After speaking with an employee of the firm, Daniels was told that the firm had a conflict of interest and could not represent him. He later received a letter from Cary stating that "a lawsuit brought on your behalf would not be economically feasible given the nature, facts and circumstances surrounding your case." The Morris firm did not inform Daniels about the prior lawsuit and that it had settled the case and paid the settlement proceeds to Johnson. On September 18, 2015, Daniels filed suit against Johnson alleging that, as Alquwon's father, Daniels was entitled to 50% of the net settlement proceeds but that Johnson had wrongfully retained the entire amount. He asserted against Johnson claims of breach of fiduciary duty and conversion. Two years later, Daniels added as defendants the Morris defendants and asserting two claims against them. Count three of Daniels's amended complaint asserted a claim of fraud against the Morris defendants. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Alabama Legal Services Liability Act ("ALSLA") did not require that Daniels's claims against the Morris defendants be bifurcated and stayed pending resolution of his claims against Johnson. Accordingly, the circuit court was directed to vacate its order bifurcating and staying Daniels's claims against the Morris defendants. Daniels, however, did not establish a clear legal right to a default judgment against the Morris defendants. Thus, as to the request for a default judgment, the petition was denied. View "Ex parte Albert Daniels." on Justia Law

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Arkansas’s Rules of Professional Conduct do not require attorney disqualification simply because the attorney had access to client information but did not gain actual knowledge while practicing at her former association. Appellee filed a complaint against Appellants - The Park Apartments at Fayetteville, LP, The Park Apartments at Fayetteville Management Co., and Lindsey Management Co., Inc. (Lindsey) (collectively, the Park), alleging that the liquidated-damages clause in her lease agreement was unenforceable and constituted an illegal penalty. Appellee later filed a motion to disqualify the Park’s attorney and Lindsey’s entire in-house legal department, alleging that Summer McCoy, a staff attorney for Lindsey, had a conflict of interest and that the conflict of interest should be imputed to the Park’s attorney and the entire Lindsey legal department because McCoy was now a part of that department. The circuit court granted the motion to disqualify. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in applying Norman v. Norman, 970 S.W.2d 270 (Ark. 1998), when it concluded that access to client information alone was sufficient for attorney disqualification. View "Park Apartments At Fayetteville, LP v. Shilah Plants" on Justia Law

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Defendants Peter Holt, Holt Law Firm, and Bethany Holt (collectively Holt) appealed the denial of their special motion to strike (also known as an anti-SLAPP--Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation--motion). Peter Holt and his law firm briefly represented Charles and Victoria Yeager and successfully sued Victoria Yeager to obtain his fees in an action known as Holt v. Yeager (Super. Ct. Nevada County, No. L76533). Yeager then sued Holt, alleging professional negligence, misappropriation of name, and other claims. Holt moved to declare Yeager’s suit to be a SLAPP suit. The trial court found this suit did not chill protected expressive conduct or free speech on an issue of public interest. The Court of Appeal agreed and affirmed. View "Yeager v. Holt" on Justia Law

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For the same reasons stated in Rental Prop. Mgmt. Servs. v. Hatcher, 479 Mass. __ (2018), also decided today, the Supreme Judicial Court held that Fred Basile, a property manager, had no standing to bring a summary process action in his own name when he was neither the owner nor the lessor of the property. Basile brought this summary process action in the name of his sole proprietorship seeking to evict a tenant from a property for which Basile was neither the owner nor the lessor. The tenant asserted counterclaims for the unauthorized practice of law and violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. The trial judge enjoined Basile from commencing summary process actions such as the one in this case but entered judgment in favor of Basile on the chapter 93A counterclaims. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Basile had no standing to bring the summary process action; (2) to the extent Basile was acting as the agent of the property owner, he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by signing and filing the complaint because he was not an attorney; and (3) Basile’s conduct on its own did not constitute an unfair or deceptive practice in violation of chapter 93A. View "Ahmed-Kagzi v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Fred Basile, a property manager, had no standing to bring a summary process action in the name of his sole proprietorship seeking to evict a tenant from a property for which Basile was neither the owner nor the lessor. To the extent that Basile was acting on behalf of the property’s true owner when he filed the complaint, his conduct constituted the unauthorized practice of law because Basile was not an attorney. The Supreme Judicial Court further held (1) where the plaintiff in a summary process action is not the property’s owner or lessor, the complaint must be dismissed with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; (2) where the plaintiff is the true owner or lessor but the complaint has been signed and filed by another non-attorney person, the court may either dismiss the complaint without prejudice based on the unauthorized practice of law or allow the plaintiff to retain counsel or proceed pro se; and (3) where a plaintiff seeks to evict a tenant without the standing to do so, or where a person who is not authorized to practice law signs and files a summary process complaint, and where that conduct is not inadvertent, a court has the inherent authority to impose appropriate sanctions. View "Rental Property Management Services v. Hatcher" on Justia Law

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Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an administrative due process complaint about a child's educational placement can result in an administrative hearing. At least 10 days before the hearing, the school district can extend a “10-day” settlement offer, 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(3)(D)(i)(I)-(III). That offer limits a parent’s eligibility for attorney’s fees to only those fees accrued before the offer. If a parent rejects the offer, the parent may only receive attorney’s fees for work done after the offer if the hearing leads to more favorable relief than the offer included, or the parent was substantially justified in rejecting the offer. Rena filed a complaint against the Colonial School District to determine an appropriate placement for her daughter. Colonial extended and Rena rejected a 10-day offer. After a hearing, an administrative officer ordered a private school placement for the student. The district court awarded Rena attorney’s fees only for work performed before the offer. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that Rena was substantially justified in rejecting Colonial’s offer. Colonial made a valid offer of settlement and Rena did not receive more favorable relief in the administrative order but she was substantially justified in rejecting the offer because it did not address attorney’s fees. View "Rena C. v. Colonial School District" on Justia Law

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McCoy, charged with murdering his estranged wife’s family, pleaded not guilty, insisting that he was out of state at the time of the killings and that corrupt police killed the victims. Although he adamantly objected to any admission of guilt, the court permitted his counsel, English, to tell the jury that McCoy “committed [the] three murders” and to argue that McCoy’s mental state prevented him from forming the specific intent necessary for first-degree murder. McCoy testified in his own defense, maintaining his innocence and pressing an alibi. At the penalty phase, English again conceded McCoy’s guilt, urging mercy because of McCoy’s mental issues. The jury returned three death verdicts. The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experienced-based view is that confessing offers the best chance to avoid the death penalty. Some decisions are reserved for the client—including whether to plead guilty, waive a jury trial, testify in one’s own behalf, and forgo an appeal. Rejecting the Louisiana Supreme Court’s conclusion that English’s refusal to maintain McCoy’s innocence was necessitated by a Rule of Professional Conduct that prohibits counsel from suborning perjury, the Court noted that there was no avowed perjury. English harbored no doubt that McCoy believed what he was saying. Ineffective-assistance-of-counsel jurisprudence does not apply where the client’s autonomy, not counsel’s competence, is at issue. The violation of McCoy’s protected autonomy right was structural in kind. McCoy must be accorded a new trial without any need to show prejudice. View "McCoy v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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Based upon the findings and conclusions and the recommendation of the Judicial Standards Commission, the Supreme Court concluded that Respondent Gary L. Henderson, a Judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division 26, be publicly reprimanded for violations of Canons 1, 2A, 3A, and 3B of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct amounting to conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376. The Supreme Court then ordered that Henderson be publicly reprimanded, holding that the Commission’s findings of fact were supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence in the record and that the Commission’s findings of fact supported its conclusions of law. View "In re Henderson" on Justia Law

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Based upon the findings and conclusions and the recommendation of the Judicial Standards Commission, the Supreme Court concluded that Respondent Gary L. Henderson, a Judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division 26, be publicly reprimanded for violations of Canons 1, 2A, 3A, and 3B of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct amounting to conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376. The Supreme Court then ordered that Henderson be publicly reprimanded, holding that the Commission’s findings of fact were supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence in the record and that the Commission’s findings of fact supported its conclusions of law. View "In re Henderson" on Justia Law

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If a party is successful and has conferred a significant benefit by prevailing at trial and obtaining a judgment that a construction project violates the zoning laws in existence at the time, as in this case, that party was not precluded from obtaining attorney's fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 because the losing party gets the zoning laws changed and the project's validity under the changed law has yet to be finally determined. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in fixing the amount of attorney's fees and affirmed the award of attorney's fees. View "La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association of Hollywood v. Los Angeles" on Justia Law