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In a wrongful foreclosure action, the Court of Appeal reversed the award of attorney's fees to Nationstar Mortgage that was based on a clause in the deed of trust. The court held that the clause at issue was not an attorney's fee provision. The court also held that simply pleading a right to attorney's fees was not a sufficient basis to judicially estop a party from challenging the opposing party's alleged contractual basis for an award of attorney's fees. Therefore, the trial court erred in relying on judicial estoppel as an alternative basis for its fee award. View "Hart v. Clear Recon Corp." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of attorneys' fees for plaintiff under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court held that the hearing officer's decision did not make plaintiff a prevailing party under the IDEA and thus she was not entitled to attorneys' fees. In this case, the officer's decision effected no change to plaintiff's educational plan, which the officer agreed was entirely appropriate despite lacking a prior autism diagnosis. Furthermore, the IDEA focuses, not on a student's diagnostic label, but on whether the student received appropriate education services, which the officer found plaintiff had received from the school district. View "Lauren C. v. Lewisville Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Frank Griswold submitted public records requests to the City of Homer, seeking all records of communications between members of the Homer Board of Adjustment, City employees, and attorneys for the City leading up to the Board’s decision in a separate case involving Griswold. He also requested attorney invoices to the City for a six-month period. Citing various privileges, the City Manager refused to provide any records of communications surrounding the Board’s decision; the Manager provided some complete invoices but provided only redacted versions of some invoices and completely withheld some invoices. Griswold appealed the partial denial of his records request to the City Council; the Council affirmed, and Griswold appealed to the superior court. The superior court substantially affirmed. Griswold then turned to the Alaska Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed with respect to the communications relating to the Board’s decision, but vacated and remanded the attorney invoices issue for further analysis. View "Griswold v. Homer City Council" on Justia Law

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Reynolds claimed that the law firm (H&L) gave bad advice that led him to violate federal disclosure laws when he drafted his LLCs’ financial statements. The district court granted H&L summary judgment, stating that Reynolds could not bring a malpractice suit on his own behalf because he did not have a personal attorney-client relationship with H&L. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although H&L had an attorney-client relationship with the LLCs that Reynolds co-owned and managed, and it was in his capacity as a managing member of these LLCs that Reynolds communicated with, and was advised by, H&L, Illinois courts consistently have held that neither shared interests nor shared liability establish third-party liability. For third-party liability in Illinois, Reynolds must have been a direct and intended beneficiary; simply because the officers of a business entity were at risk of personal liability does not transform the incidental benefits of the law firm’s representation of the business entity into direct and intended benefits for the officers. View "Reynolds v. Henderson & Lyman" on Justia Law

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Dissatisfied with NYCM’s handling of his insurance claim related to a serious car accident, Clemens filed suit, asserting a contractual underinsured motorist (UIM) claim and a claim under the Bad Faith Statute, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. 8371. After NYCM removed the case to federal court, the parties settled the UIM claim for $25,000. The bad faith claim proceeded to trial. A jury awarded Clemens $100,000 in punitive damages. As the prevailing party under the Bad Faith Statute, Clemens then sought $946,526.43 in attorneys’ fees and costs. The district court reviewed every time entry submitted, performed a traditional lodestar analysis, and concluded that 87 percent of the hours billed had to be disallowed as vague, duplicative, unnecessary, or inadequately supported by documentary evidence. In light of that substantial reduction, the court deemed Clemens’s request “outrageously excessive” and exercised its discretion to award no fee. Represented by new counsel, Clemens appealed. The Third Circuit affirmed, formally endorsing a view adopted by several other circuits: where a fee-shifting statute provides a court discretion to award attorney’s fees, such discretion includes the ability to deny a fee request altogether when, under the circumstances, the amount requested is “outrageously excessive.” View "Clemens v. New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order limiting the scope of plaintiff's general causation phase discovery in this products liability suit alleging that plaintiff's husband's use of Enbrel caused his myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) which resulted in his death. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the scope of plaintiff's general causation discovery; the district court's basis for weighing proportionality was based on common sense and the search conducted by plaintiff's counsel during the discovery hearing; the district court did not rely on misrepresented facts by Amgen in issuing its discovery orders; any error in failing to provide plaintiff an opportunity to cross-examine Amgen's expert was harmless; the district court was under no obligation to order Amgen to provide plaintiff with materials the FDA requests—but does not require—from pharmaceutical companies when the agency evaluates safety risks; and plaintiff's assertion that the district court's order limiting the scope of her discovery prejudiced her case was rejected. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing sanctions under Rule 11 and by imposing sanctions under 28 U.S.C. 1927. Finally, the district court properly exercised its inherent power to sanction plaintiff's counsel, and here was no abuse of discretion View "Vallejo v. Amgen, Inc." on Justia Law

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D.A.R. appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing his complaint against R.E.L., D.H., and R.H. D.A.R., a licensed attorney practicing in Alabama, filed a complaint against R.E.L., D.H., and R.H. R.E.L. was also a licensed attorney, and was employed as an assistant general counsel for the Alabama State Bar ("the ASB"). D.H. and R.H. were brothers; they were not attorneys. According to the complaint, at some point before December 2007, R.E.L. and D.H. began "a personal, professional and/or sexual relationship," and R.E.L. and R.H. began "a personal and/or professional relationship." D.A.R. alleged that in December 2007, at R.E.L.'s recommendation and with his assistance, D.H. and R.H. "filed a baseless complaint against [D.A.R.] with the ASB." D.A.R. alleged that the motivation for the complaint was to use it "as a means to protect [D.H. and R.H.] from liability for a debt owed by [them] to a client represented by [D.A.R.] and/or as retaliation for his role in representing that client." According to D.A.R., R.E.L. knew when it was filed that the complaint against D.A.R. was baseless in fact and in law. R.E.L. asserted the defense of absolute immunity, but presented arguments to the trial court establishing why quasi-judicial immunity should apply to the facts presented in D.A.R.'s complaint. The Alabama Supreme Court found D.A.R. failed to demonstrate the trial court erred by dismissing his complaint on the grounds he presented to it, and as such, affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "D. A. R. v. R.E.L., D.H., and R.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court concluded that Judge Scott C. DuPont of the Seventh Judicial Circuit violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and that those violations warranted the most severe sanction of removal from office. The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) recommended that DuPont be removed from office by disseminating false and misleading information during his judicial campaign and conducting an unlawful judicially ordered seizure in open court. The Supreme Court approved the JQC’s recommendation of removal and removed Judge DuPont from office, holding that Judge DuPont demonstrated a present unfitness to hold office. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Scott C. DuPont" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order disqualifying an attorney for a conflict of interest when the attorney represented more than one client, all of whom seek damages from a pool of money controlled by another party. In this case, the attorney simultaneously represented Bridgepoint in an Arizona action and Ram in the instant action. The court held that disqualification was automatic. Furthermore, the trial court reasonably concluded that the attorney obtained confidential information from Bridgepoint when he retained an expert to review Bridgepoint's financial records. Finally, there was a substantial relationship between the subject matter of the attorney's former representation of Bridgepoint in this case and his current representation of Ram. Therefore, the court had multiple independent grounds for disqualifying the attorney. View "Bridgepoint Construction Services v. Newton" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction of a federal narcotics conspiracy offense, contending that his trial counsel had a conflict of interest that had an adverse effect on his performance at trial. The Eleventh Circuit held that counsel did have a conflict of interest when he represented a government witness who was then appealing his own sentence after pleading guilty to federal narcotics charges. Although counsel knew that the witness had been found to have obstructed justice in his own criminal case, counsel did not ask the witness about the obstruction scheme at defendant's trial. Therefore, the court remanded for the limited purpose of having the district court conduct an evidentiary hearing on whether counsel's conflict resulted in an adverse effect. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law