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Pursuant to a former version of Code of Civil Procedure section 128.5, the trial court ordered CPF Vaseo Associates, LLC (CPF) and its counsel, John Byrne, to pay Bruce and Barbara Gray (the Grays) just over $30,000 in fees and costs. Yet a mandatory procedural prerequisite to that award was never fulfilled. The motion requesting sanctions was served and filed on the same day, and no safe harbor period was afforded for CPF and Byrne to correct the challenged conduct. While a panel of the Court of Appeal previously determined that no such safe harbor applied to a sanctions motion like the one here, the Legislature's subsequent clarifying amendment of the section and the contrary opinion of another court convinced the Court to now reach a different conclusion. For that reason, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "CPF Vaseo Associates, LLC v. Gray" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a district court’s order compelling production of a recording of petitioner Kayla Fox’s initial consultation with her attorney. The district court determined that the recording was not subject to the attorney-client privilege because her parents were present during the consultation and their presence was not required to make the consultation possible. Further, the district court refused to consider several new arguments Fox raised in a motion for reconsideration. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the presence of a third party during an attorney-client communication ordinarily destroys the attorney-client privilege unless the third party’s presence was reasonably necessary to the consultation, unless another exception applies. On the facts of this case, the district court did not err when it found that Fox had not shown the requisite necessity to preserve her claim of privilege. Nor did the district court abuse its discretion in declining to consider Fox’s new arguments raised for the first time in her motion for reconsideration. View "In re Fox v. Alfini" on Justia Law

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Shaf, a New Jersey company, sells apparel. Seventh Avenue, a Wisconsin-based catalog merchandiser, sells clothing protected by a trademark. After a dispute over Shaf’s alleged infringement of Seventh Avenue’s trademark, the parties entered into a consent agreement. Months later, Seventh Avenue discovered what it saw as continuing infringement by Shaf and moved to hold Shaf in contempt. Shaf was represented in the district court by Milwaukee counsel. The attorney received an email notification (from the court’s electronic docketing system) of the motion upon its January 17 filing, indicating that response was due January 24. Shaf failed to respond. The court scheduled a hearing for February 14. Nobody for Shaf appeared. The court held Shaf in contempt and required that it pay Seventh Avenue’s fees and costs. The contempt order prompted Shaf's local counsel to move for reconsideration, explaining that counsel was traveling internationally when the motion was filed. Counsel returned to work five days before Shaf’s written response was due and 26 days before the hearing, but took several weeks to catch up on his email. Shaf’s request also explained that local counsel believed national counsel would attend to any ongoing needs in the case. The court denied the motion to reconsider. Seventh Avenue supplemented its fee petition to reflect additional expenses. The Seventh Circuit affirmed an award of $34,905 in fees and costs. While the delayed response was better than no response, the court acted within its discretion to find that Shaf’s initial unresponsiveness warranted a sanction. View "Seventh Avenue, Inc. v. Shaf International, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2014, the court of appeal decided a case that involved the legitimacy of certain retirement benefits regularly paid by the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement Board to members and beneficiaries of the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). The Retired Oakland Police Officers Association and individual PFRS pensioners then sought attorney fees under California’s private attorney general statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 and the federal Civil Rights Attorneys’ Fees Award Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. 1988. The trial court determined that fees were not warranted under either statute. The court of appeal found an award of attorney fees under section 1021.5 to be proper. The Association was a prevailing party and several facts, including the relative poverty of the Association and its members, are all valid considerations in a section 1021.5 fee analysis and tip the scales decisively in favor of a fee award, especially when considered alongside the more modest estimated monetary value of the case discussed above. in successfully litigating to protect both procedural and substantive public pension rights on these facts, the Association was vindicating important rights affecting the public interest. The Association’s actions protected the pensions of the 590 living pensioners and their families, a clear economic benefit. View "City of Oakland v. Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Dalton Trigg and his father, Dr. Stephen Trigg, sued Dalton’s former criminal-defense attorney, Steven Farese Sr., alleging professional malpractice. The circuit court held that the claims were premature because Dalton had not yet secured postconviction relief from the underlying conviction, and it dismissed the complaint without prejudice. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether a convicted criminal could sue his former defense attorney for negligently causing him to be convicted while that conviction still stood. The Court held that a convict must “exonerate” himself by obtaining relief from his conviction or sentence before he could pursue a claim against his defense attorney for causing him to be convicted or sentenced more harshly than he should have been. To the extent prior decisions of the Court or the Court of Appeals suggested otherwise, they were overruled. View "Trigg v. Farese" on Justia Law

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JRI contracted with the City of Los Angeles Department of Airports (LAWA), to provide LAWA specialized airport firefighting trucks. Each sued the other for breach of the contract. LAWA further alleged JRI violated the California False Claims Act (CFCA), Government Code section 12650, asserting that when JRI submitted it[s] invoices for progress payments and final payments, JRI knew that it was not in compliance with the contract and sought to defraud the government entity LAWA into making payments and that JRI fraudulently induced LAWA to enter into the contract. LAWA was awarded $1 in contract damages. LAWA’s CFCA claim was rejected by the jury, as were JRI’s claims against LAWA. The court awarded LAWA costs as a prevailing party on the contract claims but awarded JRI attorney fees on the CFCA claim, finding the claim frivolous and harassing. The court of appeal affirmed JRI “prevail[ed] in the action” under the relevant CFCA fee provision (section 12652(g)(9)(B);) regardless of its failure to prevail in the action as a whole. View "John Russo Industrial Sheetmetal, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles Department of Airports" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' request for attorneys' fees after a settlement regarding California’s Assembly Bill X3 5. The panel held that the district court erroneously concluded that plaintiffs were not entitled to seek fees pursuant to California Civil Procedure Code 1021.5, and that the district court abused its discretion in denying Independent Living's motion to set aside fees from the retroactive monetary relief obtained in 2010. Therefore, the panel remanded for the district court to determine whether plaintiffs met the requirements to obtain attorneys' fees under section 1021.5 and Section III (C)(1)(a) and (b) of the Settlement Agreement, and whether it was possible and appropriate to recoup attorney's fees from Medicaid providers. View "Independent Living Center of Southern California v. Kent" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Court of Criminal Appeals’ review centered on whether a trial court could pay an appointed prosecutor at an hourly rate even though the fee schedule approved by the judges of the county only allowed for payment of a fixed fee. Relators (the attorneys appointed to prosecute the defendant) argued that upholding the trial court’s order for payment was appropriate because the trial court’s determination of a reasonable fee for their services was a discretionary call, not a ministerial one. The primary Real Party in Interest (the Collin County Commissioners Court) responded that vacating the trial court’s order for payment was appropriate because the trial court lacked authority to set a fee outside of the fixed rate in the fee schedule approved by the local judges. According to the Commissioners Court, the local rule authorizing the trial court to “opt out” of its own fee schedule conflicts with a statute that requires payment according to that fee schedule. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the Commissioners Court that the statute in question limited the trial court’s authority, and the Court agreed with the court of appeals that the second order for payment should be vacated. View "In re Texas ex rel. Brian Wice v. 5th Judicial District Court of Appeals" on Justia Law

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Halbig, a “school safety and security expert and consultant” living in Florida, began an independent investigation of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and established an organization, “Sandy Hook Justice.” Halbig believed that GoFundMe canceled his Sandy Hook Justice campaign because of a letter from the “Sandy Hook Defense Group” and discovered “defamatory posts” about himself on several websites and social media sites. Halbig sued five “John Doe” defendants in Florida for defamation for those postings. To determine the identities of the posters, Halbig served a subpoena on Google requiring the production of documents and information revealing the identity of the person maintaining http://sandyhookanalysis.blogspot.com. Google notified the account holder of the subpoena. That person, “Roe,” sought to quash the subpoena under Code of Civil Procedure section 1987.11 and requested fees and costs under section 1987.2(c). Before the hearing, Halbig withdrew the subpoena. At the subsequent hearing, the trial court found that Roe was the “prevailing party” under section 1987.2(c) and awarded attorney’s fees and costs to Roe. The court of appeal agreed that Roe was the prevailing party under section 1987.2(c), but concluded that the trial court erred in setting the amount of attorney’s fees. View "Roe v. Halbig" on Justia Law

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The Johnston Law Office appeals from a judgment dismissing its claims against Jon Brakke and Vogel Law Firm (collectively "Vogel"). Johnston argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment and dismissing its claims. Vogel represented PHI Financial Services, Inc. in an action against Johnston to recover damages for a fraudulent transfer. The district court entered judgment against Johnston in that action. In April 2016 Johnston sued Vogel for tortious interference with a business relationship, tortious interference with attorney-client business relationships, and abuse of process. Johnston alleged Vogel violated state law while attempting to execute on the judgment entered against Johnston. Johnston claimed Vogel improperly attempted to garnish funds from Johnston's lawyer trust account, operating account and fees owed by Johnston's clients, and Vogel's unlawful actions interfered with Johnston's business relationships with its lending bank and clients. In July 2017 Vogel moved for summary judgment, arguing Johnston was unable to prove the required elements of its claims and Vogel was entitled to dismissal of the claims. Vogel also moved to quash a subpoena duces tecum Johnston served on PHI Financial seeking billing information between Vogel and PHI Financial. The district court granted Vogel's motion as to all claims. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Johnston Law Office, P.C. v. Brakke" on Justia Law