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Thomas Lanham appealed the dismissal of his legal malpractice action against his former attorney, Douglas Fleenor. Fleenor represented Thomas in a will contest regarding Thomas’s father. After the magistrate court ruled against Lanham at the summary judgment stage, Fleenor filed an untimely appeal, which was rejected on that basis. Because the appeal brought by Fleenor was untimely, Lanham brought a legal malpractice action against Fleenor in district court, alleging that the failure to timely appeal the magistrate’s ruling proximately caused him financial loss because he had a meritorious appeal that he never got to pursue due to Fleenor’s negligence. The district court dismissed Lanham’s legal malpractice claim, reasoning that a timely appeal by Fleenor would have been unsuccessful on the merits; hence, Lanham did not suffer any injury as a result of Fleenor’s alleged malpractice. Lanham argued on appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court that the interpretation of the will, in which the deceased attempted to disinherit Lanham, did not properly dispose of all of the estate because it did not contain a residuary clause. Lanham argued these failures should have resulted in various assets passing to him through intestate succession. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Lanham’s malpractice case. View "Lanham v. Fleenor" on Justia Law

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Judge Tammy Stokes was publicly reprimanded for admitted violations of the Georgia Code of Judicial conduct. The Georgia Supreme Court found Judge Stokes violated Rule 1.2(A), which required judges to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary” by habitually starting court late or being absent with no good cause to excuse her behavior. View "Inquiry concerning Judge Tammy Stokes" on Justia Law

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Ramos, an experienced litigator and patent practitioner with a doctorate in biophysics, was hired as a Winston law firm “Income Partner.” After allegedly being denied recognition for her work, excluded from opportunities for career advancement, evaluated based on the success of her male colleagues, and denied compensation and bonuses to which she was entitled, Ramos sued, asserting discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and anti-fair-pay practices. Winston moved to compel arbitration under the partnership agreement Ramos signed after joining the firm. Ramos argued she was an “employee,” not a partner, so that precedent (Armendariz) applied and that the arbitration provision failed to meet Armendariz's minimum requirements arbitration of unwaivable statutory claims. The trial court found that Ramos was “in a partnership relationship” for purposes of the motion, severed provisions related to venue and cost-sharing, and granted Winston’s motion. The court of appeal reversed. Under the Armendariz analysis, the agreement is unconscionable and the taint of illegality cannot be removed by severing the unlawful provisions without altering the nature of the parties’ agreement. Provisions requiring Ramos to pay half the costs of arbitration, pay her own attorney fees, restricting the ability of the arbitrators to “override” or “substitute its judgment” for that of the partnership, and the confidentiality clause, are unconscionable and significantly inhibit Ramos’s ability to pursue her unwaivable statutory claims. View "Ramos v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Both parties appealed the trial court's order denying prevailing party attorney fees in an action where GNC admitted liability for the unauthorized use of plaintiff's likeness. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion in its determination that plaintiff was not the prevailing party. In this case, plaintiff achieved an undeniable victory on his Civil Code section 3344 claim: a $213,000 verdict for actual damages versus the $4,800 verdict proposed by GNC; and $910,000 in emotional distress damages versus GNC's recommendation of zero damages. In contrast, GNC prevailed by defeating plaintiff's demand for unauthorized profits. Therefore, the court reversed the order denying plaintiff's motion for attorney fees. View "Olive v. General Nutrition Centers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Pamela Palmieri, an attorney hired by real party in interest California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Department) in part to conduct disciplinary cases against prison guards, was herself terminated for misconduct. After a 21-day hearing, she was found culpable of four counts of misconduct, one of which was her discourtesy and dishonesty to an administrative law judge (ALJ) after she was taken to task for her tardiness. She appealed her dismissal to the State Personnel Board (Board) which ultimately upheld her termination. The trial court denied her mandamus petition to overturn her dismissal, and she timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Palmieri v. Cal. State Personnel Bd." on Justia Law

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Americaribe, a general contractor, appealed the district court's award of attorney's fees to Fidelity, the surety on a performance bond issued for a construction subcontract between Americaribe and the subcontractor CPM. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that Fidelity was not entitled to recover the attorney's fees it incurred in this litigation because neither the performance bond nor the subcontract provided for such an award of prevailing party attorney's fees. Because the district court abused its discretion in awarding Fidelity attorney's fees, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "International Fidelity Insurance Co. v. Americaribe-Moriarity JV" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court ordered that Respondent Ronald L. Chapman be suspended without compensation from office as a Judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division Twenty-Six, for thirty days for conduct violating Canons 1, 2A, 3A(5), and 3B(1) of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376, holding that the Judicial Standards Commission’s recommended thirty-day suspension without compensation was appropriate. The Commission Counsel filed a statement of charges against Respondent, alleging that he had engaged in inappropriate conduct by failing to issue a ruling for more than five years on a motion for permanent child support. Based on its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Commission recommended that the Supreme Court suspend Respondent without pay for a period of thirty days. The Supreme Court concluded that the recommended sanction was appropriate and ordered that Respondent be suspended without compensation for thirty days. View "In re J.C." on Justia Law

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Walter owned and operated Control Master Products, a wire and cable business. After Walter’s death, Plaintiffs filed a petition to determine their status as beneficiaries under Walter's trust and to challenge Youngman’s right to inherit. Youngman, Walter’s long-time friend and tax attorney, had drafted Walter’s trust. The petition sought to have a condition, which made certain gifts contingent on being employed by Control at the time of the death of Walter and his spouse (Verla), stricken on various grounds, including impossibility. Walter had sold the company’s assets and its employees had been terminated. The probate court concluded the dispute was not ripe because Verla’s death had not occurred. On remand, the probate court found that Youngman and his family were “disqualified from any gift under the trust,” that Ostrosky’s gift lapsed because she had retired before the sale, and Schwan’s and Johnson’s gifts “remain valid and enforceable, but only after Verla[’s] death.” The court of appeal reversed and remanded for findings as to whether Ostrosky’s work for Custom satisfied the trust’s employment condition and modified the trial court decision so that the gifts to Schwan and Johnson remain valid and enforceable, only after Verla’s death, and only if they survive Verla. The court otherwise affirmed. View "Schwan v. Permann" on Justia Law

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In Cherokee Funding v. Ruth, 802 SE2d 865 (2017), the Georgia Court of Appeals decided that neither the Industrial Loan Act, nor the Payday Lending Act, applied to certain transactions in which a financing company provides funds to a plaintiff in a pending personal-injury lawsuit, the plaintiff is obligated to repay the funds with interest only if his lawsuit is successful, and his obligation to repay is limited to the extent of the damages that he recovers in the lawsuit. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the decision in Cherokee Funding. Ronald Ruth and Kimberly Oglesby sustained injuries in automobile accidents, and they retained attorney Michael Hostilo to represent them in connection with lawsuits to recover damages for their injuries. While their lawsuits were pending, Ruth and Oglesby obtained funds from Cherokee Funding pursuant to financing agreements that Hostilo signed on their behalf. Cherokee Funding would provide funds to Ruth and Oglesby for personal expenses, and for the most part, their obligation to repay those funds was contingent upon the success of their lawsuits. If they recovered nothing, they would have no obligation to repay. If they recovered damages, however, they would be required to repay the amounts that Cherokee Funding had provided, as well as interest at a rate of 4.99 percent per month and various other “fees,” up to the amount of their recovery. In no event would they be required to pay Cherokee Funding any amounts in excess of their lawsuit recovery. In fact, Ruth and Oglesby would not have been in default under the financing agreements if they dismissed their underlying lawsuits and kept the money they received from Cherokee Funding. Cherokee Funding provided $5,550 to Ruth in several small installments between April 2012 and June 2013. Ruth settled his case for an unspecified amount; Cherokee Funding sought to recover more than $84,000 from Ruth pursuant to the terms of his agreement. Similarly, Oglesby settled her lawsuit for an unspecified amount, and money was deducted from her settlement proceeds to repay Cherokee Funding. The two then sued Cherokee Funding seeking relief for themselves and a putative class of similarly situated people to whom Cherokee Funding provided funds under agreements facilitated by Hostilo. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s determination that the Payday Lending Act nor the Industrial Loan act applied in this case. View "Ruth v. Cherokee Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

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For the reasons discussed in this opinion, by a prior order, Dana Marie Santino was removed from office on the grounds that Santino’s conduct “does not evidence a present fitness to hold judicial office.” On July 2, 2018, the Supreme Court issued an order removing Santino from the office of county judge of Palm Beach County, Florida. Here, the Court provided an opinion explaining the reasons for removal. The Judicial Qualifications Commission hearing panel concluded that Santino violated Judicial Canons 7A(3)(a), (3)(b), (3)(c), (e)(i), and (e)(ii) and Rule 4-8.2(a) and (b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for making false and misleading statements about her opponent, Gregg Lerman, in e-mail advertisements and on social media during her 2016 election campaign and recommended that she be removed from office. The Supreme Court held that Santino’s campaign misconduct warranted removal under these facts. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Dana Marie Santino" on Justia Law