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Defendants sought to vacate the district court's judgment stemming from defendants' breach of an agreement with plaintiffs to purchase, renovate, and sell Katrina-damaged properties. Plaintiffs contend that the district court should have required both defendants to pay the full $94,000 in damages. Defendants argued that the jurisdictional defects warrant vacating the judgment. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment and posttrial order awarding attorneys' fees and costs as to Defendant Karry Causey. In regard to Defendant Garry Causey, the court remanded for the district court to engage in additional findings concerning the attempts to serve Garry. View "Norris v. Causey" on Justia Law

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Watkins sued Trans Union for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Trans Union asserted that attorney Cento should be disqualified from representing Watkins because, more than 10 years ago, Cento earned a living defending Trans Union in hundreds of lawsuits alleging Fair Credit Reporting Act violations. The district court found that Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 1.9 (Duties to Former Clients) does not require Cento’s disqualification. On interlocutory appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The facts upon which Watkins’ case will turn—recurrent false collection listings on his credit report, despite multiple requests to remove them—are unique to his claim against Trans Union and are not interwoven with any individual case in which Cento represented Trans Union in the past. in cases involving an organizational client like Trans Union, “general knowledge of the client’s policies and practices ordinarily will not preclude a subsequent representation.” The general knowledge and experience Cento gained while defending Trans Union is not the type of confidential information with which Rule 1.9 is concerned. View "Watkins v. Trans Union, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying an award of attorney's fees to plaintiff in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action. After plaintiff filed suit against Portland, it made a Rule 68 Offer of Judgment for $1,000, plus reasonable attorney's fees to be determined by the district court. Plaintiff accepted the offer, but when she moved for fees, the district court denied the motion on the ground that the award was a de minimis judgment under 42 U.S.C. 1988. The panel held that Portland's offer – and plaintiff's acceptance – which the panel interpreted as a contract, provided that plaintiff would receive her reasonable attorney's fees, without referencing section 1988 or otherwise reserving to the district court the antecedent question of whether plaintiff was entitled to a fee award. Accordingly, the panel remanded for a determination and award of a reasonable fee. View "Miller v. Portland" on Justia Law

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E.R.'s parents and Ridley School District disputed Ridley’s obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400-1482, “individualized education program” (IEP) requirement. An IEP may require the child to be placed in a private school with reimbursement from the school district. E.R.’s parents enrolled her in a private school and sought reimbursement. The hearing officer agreed with E.R.’s parents, rendering E.R.’s private-school placement her “then-current educational placement.” The Third Circuit reversed the hearing officer. E.R.’s parents did not pursue their IEP-related claims but asked Ridley to reimburse them for their private-school expenses between the 2009 administrative decision and the 2012 conclusion of the appeal Ridley declined. E.R.’s parents sued under the IDEA’s “stay put” provision, 20 U.S.C. 1415(j), seeking reimbursement through final resolution of the dispute. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s reimbursement order. Ridley’s certiorari petition to the Supreme Court was denied in 2015; Ridley then reimbursed E.R.’s parents. They sought attorneys’ fees under 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(3)(B)(i). The Third Circuit reversed denial of the motion. A fee award is available to parents who, after unsuccessfully challenging a school district’s proposed educational placement for their child, later obtain a court order requiring the district to reimburse them for the costs of the child’s “stay put” placement—the “then-current educational placement” in which the Act permitted the child to remain while administrative and judicial proceedings were pending. View "M. R. v. Ridley School District" on Justia Law

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Defendant filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss based on his assertion of Texas's attorney immunity. Plaintiff alleged that defendant conspired with two others to defraud her into purchasing a Texas company owned by one of the defendants, Paul Rembach. The district court concluded that Texas's attorney immunity was inapplicable because defendant's representation of Rembach occurred during a business transaction (a stock transfer) and was unrelated to litigation or an otherwise adversarial context. The Fifth Circuit held, however, that defendant took actions that constituted fraud independent of his duties as an attorney and would not qualify as "acts taken and communications made to facilitate the rendition of legal services" to the client. Defendant could not shield his own willful and premeditated fraudulent actions from liability simply on the ground that he was an agent of his client. The court explained that independently fraudulent conduct was foreign to the duties of an attorney and fell outside the scope of client representation. Because defendant failed to establish the scope of his representation of Rembach and that his alleged conduct fell within that scope, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on those alternative grounds. View "Kelly v. Nichamoff" on Justia Law

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Circle, a family-owned general contractor, built 42 Army warehouses. Over a period of seven years, a subcontractor, Phase, paid two electricians about $9,900 less than the wages mandated by the Davis-Bacon Act, rendering false some compliance statements that Circle submitted to the government with its invoices. The government pursued Circle for nearly a decade of litigation, although Phase had paid $15,000 up front to settle the underpayment. The government sought $1.66 million, of which $554,000 was purportedly “actual damages” under a theory that all of Phase’s work was “tainted.” The Sixth Circuit rejected that theory, reversed an award of $763,000 to the government, and remanded for an award of $14,748, stating that “in all of these warehouses, the government turns on the lights every day.” Circle has paid its attorneys $468,704. The Equal Access to Justice Act provides that, if a court awards damages to the federal government, but the government’s original demand for damages was both “substantially in excess of the judgment finally obtained” and “unreasonable when compared with such judgment,” the court must “award to the [defendant] the fees and other expenses related to defending against the excessive demand,” 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(D). The Sixth Circuit held that Circle was entitled to an award unless it “committed a willful violation of law or otherwise acted in bad faith, or special circumstances make an award unjust.” The government did not establish either exception. View "Wall v. Circle C Construction, LLC" on Justia Law

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The United States appealed the district court's order precluding the government from introducing at trial certain testimony by a co-defendant turned government witness on the basis of the common-interest rule of attorney-client privilege. The Second Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court, finding nothing in the circumstances in this case to support the application of the privilege. Here, the excluded statements were not made to, in the presence of, or within the hearing of an attorney for any of the common-interest parties; nor did the excluded statements seek the advice of, or communicate advice previously given by, an attorney for any of the common-interest parties; nor were the excluded statements made for the purpose of communicating with such an attorney. View "United States v. Krug" on Justia Law

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In 1996, James Harper was to appear before Judge John H. Sheffield at the Lee County Justice Court on charges of driving under the influence and having an expired inspection sticker. But Harper failed to appear, and Judge Sheffield issued a warrant for his arrest. The trial went forward, and Judge Sheffield convicted Harper on both charges. Judge Sheffield then imposed a six-month suspended sentence and a $600 fine for the DUI and a $50 fine for the inspection sticker. That same day, Harper entered into a payment plan with the Lee County Justice Court for his $600 fine. Two days later, he paid $50, which was credited to the DUI case number. Harper appealed his DUI conviction. The conviction was upheld; and he satisfied the terms of his sentence. In 2013, Harper again was arrested for DUI in Lee County. At that point he was told he could not post bond until he resolved a matter with Judge Sheffield. The next day, Harper appeared before Judge Sheffield, who accused Harper of failing to pay the fines imposed for the 1996 justice-court convictions. Despite Harper’s protestation that he had appealed to county court, lost, and paid his fines, and despite the fact that Judge Sheffield had with him the justice-court case files for Harper’s earlier convictions, both of which contained Harper’s notice of appeal and the county-court notification, Judge Sheffield sentenced Harper to serve six months at the Lee County Work Center for the DUI conviction. Harper served four months in the work center before being released due to an infection requiring hospitalization. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Judge Sheffield’s conduct was not due to an innocent mistake, it amounted to judicial misconduct. So the Court imposed a public reprimand, a 120-day suspension without pay, and a $3,000 fine, and assessed all costs of the proceedings to Judge Sheffield. View "Mississippi Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Sheffield" on Justia Law

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When plaintiff learned that the State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND) was using his compulsory fees to oppose a measure that he volunteered time and money to support, he filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. In Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, 567 U.S. 298 (2012), a public-sector union provided an annual Hudson notice calculating germane expenses and permitting non-members to opt out of non-germane expenses by objecting within thirty days. The Eighth Circuit held that the opt-out issue debated by the Supreme Court in Knox was simply not implicated by SBAND's revised license fee statement. Accordingly, because Knox did not overrule prior cases holding that the First Amendment does not require an opt-in procedure, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and dismissal of the case. View "Fleck v. Wetch" on Justia Law

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In a class action against Sears concerning a defect in washing machines, the district court awarded class counsel $4.8 million, 1.75 times the fees counsel originally charged for their work on the case. The court reasoned that the case was unusually complex and had served the public interest and that the attorneys obtained an especially favorable settlement. The amount of damages that the class will receive has not yet been determined. The district court accepted Sears' estimate that the class members would receive no more than $900,000. The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting that the “case wasn’t very complex—it was just about whether or not Sears had sold defective washing machines.” A district court should compare attorney fees to what is actually recovered by the class and presume that fees that exceed the recovery to the class are unreasonable. The presumption is not irrebuttable, but in this case, class counsel failed to prove that a reasonable fee would exceed $2.7 million. View "Barnes v. Sears, Roebuck and Co." on Justia Law