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The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review centered on whether a court could terminate parents’ parental rights following a hearing in which, over an objection, the State was represented by the same lawyer who had previously represented the children in the same matter. Mother and father separately appealed the court’s order terminating their parental rights with respect to three of their daughters. The Supreme Court did not address many of their challenges to the trial court’s findings and conclusions because the Court concluded a conflict of interest by the State’s counsel compromised the proceedings. Accordingly, the case was reversed and remanded for a new hearing. View "In re L.H., L.H. and L.H., Juveniles" on Justia Law

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Halus owned land in a San Leandro industrial zone, where it designed and manufactured wind turbines. It proposed to install a 100-foot-tall wind turbine to generate energy and conduct research and development; it sought a variance from zoning restrictions on height. San Leandro conducted an analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) (CEQA). The turbine would have been within the San Francisco Bay Estuary, a major refuge for many species, including threatened or endangered species, and 500 feet from a residential development. The city proposed a mitigated negative declaration (MND) allowing the project to go forward with mitigation measures. In response to comments and objections, San Leandro released a revised MND adding mitigation or monitoring recommended by the Department of Fish and Game, without requiring an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). HOA filed suit. The court held that San Leandro failed to comply with CEQA. San Leandro set aside its approval. The project did not proceed. The court granted HOA attorneys’ fees, Code of Civil Procedure 1021.5. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the action resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest, a significant benefit was conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, and the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement made the award appropriate. View "Heron Bay Homeowners Association v. City of San Leandro" on Justia Law

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Shen Zhen was to renovate a Los Angeles hotel and operate it using Hyatt’s business methods and trademarks. Later, Hyatt declared that Shen Zhen was in breach. An arbitrator concluded that Shen Zhen owes Hyatt $7.7 million in damages plus $1.3 million in attorneys’ fees and costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed an order of enforcement, Shen Zhen stated that it is unwilling to reimburse Hyatt's legal expenses unless Hyatt prevails in a separate arbitration, then asked the American Arbitration Association to dismiss on the ground that the award of fees is exclusively a judicial matter. Shen Zhen also petitioned the Central District of California to relieve it of any obligation to comply with the award and “countermand a final decision of the Seventh Circuit.” The court stated “it is hard to find words to describe the conduct of a party that refuses to accept not only the arbitrator’s decision but also a final judicial outcome and scours the nation in search of a different opinion” and ordered Shen Zhen to pay Hyatt’s fees and costs in the district court and on appeal as a sanction for unnecessary and pointless litigation. The court ordered Shen Zhen’s lawyers to show cause why they should not be held jointly and severally responsible for these fees under 28 U.S.C. 1927. View "Hyatt Franchising, L.L.C. v. Shen Zhen New World I, LLC" on Justia Law

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A Public Records Act request in this case was made on behalf of Fowler Packing Company, Inc. (Fowler) and Gerawan Farming, Inc. (Gerawan) in response to the 2015 enactment of Assembly Bill 1513 (AB 1513) codified in Labor Code section 226.2 (Stats. 2015, ch. 754, § 5 (2015 - 2016 Reg. Sess.) eff. Jan. 1, 2016). AB 1513 addressed the issue of minimum wages for employees paid on a piece-rate basis (i.e., paid per task) and included safeharbor provisions that provide employers with an affirmative defense against wage and hour claims based on piece-work compensation so long as back pay is timely made. The safe-harbor provisions contained carveouts that placed the safe-harbor provisions out of reach for several California companies including Fowler and Gerawan. The Public Records Act request at the heart of this case sought in pertinent part: “Any and all public records referring or relating to communications between the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency, its officers, and its staff and the United Farm Workers of America regarding AB 1513;” “Any and all public records referring or relating to the statutory carve out for any ‘claim asserted in a court pleading filed prior to March 1, 2014,’ as codified in AB 1513 section 226.2(g)(2)(A);” and, “Any and all public records referring or relating to AB 1513” and Fowler and Gerawan. The trial court ordered the Agency to produce “an index identifying the author, recipient (if any), general subject matter of the document, and the nature of the exemption claimed” to justify withholding information in response to a request for documents under the Public Records Act. The Agency petitioned for writ relief to the Court of Appeal to prevent disclosure of the identities of the parties with whom the Agency communicated confidentially in formulating AB 1513, the substance of these communications, and communications with the Office of Legislative Counsel (Legislative Counsel) during the drafting process. The Court of Appeal granted a stay and issued an alternative writ to allow consideration. Based on the California Supreme Court’s guidance in Times Mirror Co. v. Superior Court (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1325, the Court concluded the trial court’s order erred in requiring disclosure of matters protected by the deliberative process and attorney work product privileges. Accordingly, the trial court was directed to vacate its order directing the Agency to produce an index disclosing the author, recipient, and general subject matter of documents generated relating to the process of drafting AB 1513. View "Labor & Workforce Development Agency v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Shayna Hubbard appealed a district court judgment convicting her of driving with a suspended license and for failing to show proof of liability insurance. Hubbard went to a Montana casino to gamble. She was 19 and could legally gamble, but only patrons who were 21 years old and older were eligible to receive a gambling coupon. She provided another person’s identification to a casino employee to get the coupon. An employee who recognized Hubbard and knew she was using another person’s identification called the police. Police learned that Hubbard’s Oregon driver’s license was suspended, and informed Hubbard that it was illegal to use another person’s identification. Police decided not to cite her for the offense, and left the casino. The same responding officer at the casino observed Hubbard a short while later driving on the suspended license, and pulled her over. Hubbard was arrested for driving with a suspended license (and failing to provide proof of insurance). Hubbard appeared in Libby City Court, pled not guilty to the charges, and asked for appointment of a public defender. Counsel was appointed, and Hubbard was tried in absentia. Counsel thereafter filed a Notice of Appeal; a jury trial in district court was scheduled for later that year. Counsel and Hubbard conversed by email, wherein Hubbard explained her belief that the arresting officer entrapped her by allegedly telling her to drive from the casino, with knowledge her license was suspended, because her companion had been drinking. Counsel ultimately moved to withdraw from Hubbard’s representation, arguing that a new trial in District Court “would be frivolous or wholly without merit.” Counsel filed a supporting memorandum and attached several documents, including the email Hubbard had sent to him explaining why she believed she was entrapped. The District Court denied Counsel’s motion to withdraw. Hubbard argued on appeal that Counsel violated his duties of loyalty and confidentiality to her by attaching the email explaining her view on trial strategy, violating attorney-client privilege, and revealing inculpatory information that was not previously in the city court record, which the prosecution used to file a motion in limine to prevent the entrapment defense. She also argued the improperly disclosed information prejudiced her during trial, because it gave the prosecution the idea to inquire into where she lived and how she arrived in Libby, prior to the incident at the casino. The District Court denied the motion and, further, gave an instruction regarding the entrapment defense to the jury. Hubbard presented an entrapment defense and the jury considered whether entrapment applied. The Montana Supreme Court concluded Counsel’s disclosure did not render the trial result “fundamentally unfair” or “unreliable,” and that Hubbard could not show that there was a reasonable probability that, but for her counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. View "City of Libby v. Hubbard" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs settled a legal malpractice suit (2009 Litigation) in 2010 against defendant, but alleged that defendant failed to explain that the settlement meant all of their claims were fully and finally dismissed. In 2015, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant for, inter alia, his allegedly negligent settlement advice. The district court twice dismissed the complaint as untimely. The DC Circuit held that, taking the allegations of the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs' favor, plaintiffs' claims were not conclusively time barred at the pleading stage. Under the circumstances of this case, including the parties' attorney-client relationship, plaintiffs' efforts to check in with defendant about the 2009 Litigation every three months following the 2010 settlement plausibly fulfilled their duty to investigate their affairs with reasonable diligence. Therefore, it was plausible that plaintiffs' claims did not accrue prior to May 6, 2012 and thus their claims were not time-barred. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Momenian v. Davidson" on Justia Law

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Debra Sands appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Menard, Inc. Sands and John Menard, Jr., were involved in a romantic relationship from late 1997 to April 2006. Sands alleged that from 1998 until 2006 she cohabitated with Menard and they engaged in a "joint enterprise" to work together and grow Menard's businesses for their mutual benefit. Menard and his affiliated entities argued that by failing to comply with Supreme Court Rule 20:1.8(a), which regulated business transactions between lawyers and their clients, Sands was precluded from seeking an ownership interest in any of Menard's various business ventures. As to the claim she characterized as a “Watts” unjust enrichment claim, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded Sands failed to allege facts which, if true, would support her legal conclusion that she and Menard had a joint enterprise that included accumulation of assets in which both she and Menard expected to share equally. Furthermore, the Court held SCR 20:1.8(a) could guide courts in determining required standards of care generally; however, it could not be used as an absolute defense to a civil claim involving an attorney. Finally, the Court concluded the court of appeals properly granted summary judgment to Sands on Menard, Inc.'s counterclaim for breach of fiduciary duty, and to the Trustees on their motion for summary judgment dismissing Sands' claim. View "Sands v. Menard, Jr." on Justia Law

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The Nevada Supreme Court granted a petition for mandamus challenging the district court's order awarding attorney fees as a sanction for work done by later-disqualified attorneys. The court held that the district court must consider the factors from the Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers 37 cmt. d (2000) when awarding attorney fees sought for a disqualified law firm's work. In this case, the district court awarded the attorney fees without the benefit of these factors. View "Hawkins v. The Eighth Judicial District" on Justia Law

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From 2008-2015, Mason was a judge on the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas. In 2014, Mason assaulted his estranged wife in a moving car, with their children (ages four and six) in the backseat, then drove off, leaving her on the ground. His wife sustained severe harm to her head, face, and neck, including an orbital blowout fracture under her eye, and required surgery. Mason pled guilty to attempted felonious assault, a third-degree felony, and domestic violence, a first-degree misdemeanor. Mason was removed as a judge, was incarcerated, and settled his wife's civil suit for $150,000. The Board of Professional Conduct found that Mason violated Jud.Cond.R. 1.2 (a judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety); Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(a) (a lawyer shall not violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct), 8.4(b) (a lawyer shall not commit an illegal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty or trustworthiness), and 8.4(h) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law). After weighing aggravating and mitigating factors, the Board recommended disbarment. The Supreme Court of Ohio agreed that Mason committed the violations but imposed an indefinite suspension with added conditions for reinstatement., noting noted that the attack was not premeditated or part of a pattern of behavior. View "Ohio State Bar Association v. Mason" on Justia Law

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In March 2016, Eric Clark and Clark and Associates, PLLC (collectively, Clark) sued the law firm of Jones Gledhill Fuhrman Gourley, P.A., and two individuals associated with that firm, William Fuhrman and Christopher Graham (collectively, Jones Gledhill). The genesis of this appeal started with Forbush v. Sagecrest Multi Family Property Owners’ Association, Inc., 396 P.3d 1199 (2017), a tort case in which a water heater emitted hazardous levels of carbon monoxide, killing one and seriously injuring another. In "Forbush," Clark initially represented the plaintiffs (Forbush), and Jones Gledhill represented two of the defendants, Anfinson Plumbing and Daniel Bakken. As his co-counsel, Clark enlisted the Spence Law Firm (Spence), but after approximately three years, irreconcilable differences plagued Clark and Spence’s relationship, and Clark withdrew. After withdrawing, in September 2015, Clark sent a letter to Jones Gledhill, which stated that he was “asserting an attorney lien according to I.C. 3-205, which attaches to any settlement or verdict. Please include [Clark’s] name on any settlement checks payable to the [Forbush] plaintiffs or any other payments related to a verdict or judgment.” A settlement between the Forbush defendants and plaintiffs was reached in January 2016, at which time the Forbush defendants wrote a settlement check to the Forbush plaintiffs. Without informing Clark of the settlement, Jones Gledhill forwarded the settlement check to Spence. When Clark learned of the settlement and contacted Jones Gledhill, the enforceability of Clark’s claimed lien became disputed. Clark alleged that Jones Gledhill was liable for failing to protect his attorney lien. Jones Gledhill moved to dismiss Clark’s amended complaint under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the district court granted the motion. In addition to dismissing Clark’s complaint, the district court sealed several documents containing correspondence with and information about Clark’s former clients, denied Clark’s motion to amend, and awarded attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-121 to Jones Gledhill. Clark appealed. But finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Clark v. Jones Gledhill Fuhrman Gourley" on Justia Law