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Georgia Urology, P.A., and several of its member physicians filed objections to challenge a $124 million attorney fee awarded by the Jefferson Alabama Circuit Court to class counsel as part of the settlement of Johnson v. Caremark Rx, LLC ("the Caremark class action). After the trial court overruled their objections and its judgment approving the settlement became final, the objectors appealed the attorney fee to this Court. Caremark Rx bought MedPartners; MedPartners was the subject of dozens of securities-fraud lawsuits alleging that it had made false statements regarding its financial condition and anticipated future performance. Many of those lawsuits were eventually consolidated into a class action. In 1999, the MedPartners class action was settled for $56 million based on MedPartners' assertions that the negotiated settlement exhausted its available insurance coverage and that it possessed limited other assets it could use to pay a larger award or settlement. Post-settlement, however, it was revealed in unrelated litigation that MedPartners actually held an excess-insurance policy providing unlimited coverage during the period in which the alleged fraud had been committed. In 2003, the Caremark class action was initiated against MedPartners' corporate successor Caremark Rx, and its previous insurer asserting fraud and suppression claims based on the $56 million settlement agreed to in the MedPartners class action. The objectors appealed the fee award to the Alabama Supreme Court, arguing that they had been given insufficient opportunity to object to class counsel's requested attorney fee inasmuch as their objections were due before class counsel's attorney-fee application was filed, and that the attorney fee ultimately awarded was excessive. The Supreme Court vacated the order entered by the trial court awarding class counsel an attorney fee of $124 million. On remand, class counsel may file a new attorney-fee application, including more detailed information regarding the time expended in this case and how that time was spent. The objectors would then be given a reasonable opportunity to review that application and may, if they still have objections to class counsel's new application, file those objections with the trial court. After the trial court considers those objections and enters a new order making an award of attorney fees, any party with a grievance may file a new appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. View "Walker v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Represented by Folkenflik, Plaintiffs, victims of Bressman’s manipulation of stock prices, brought civil securities fraud and RICO claims against Bressman and others. Bressman filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Plaintiffs then filed the adversary complaint. The civil securities fraud and RICO claims continued against Bressman’s co-defendants. In 1998, some of those claims were settled for $6,250,000. Folkenflik received the funds. The approved Settlement Agreement included a confidentiality order. Months later, Plaintiffs sought a default judgment against Bressman. Folkenflik submitted an affidavit that indicated that the damages totaled $5,195,081, provided a comprehensive account of the underlying proceedings, but did not mention the settlement. The bankruptcy court entered a default judgment against Bressman. Plaintiffs later sought RICO damages and attorneys’ fees, again not mentioning the settlement. The bankruptcy court entered a RICO judgment for treble damages: $15,585,243 plus $910,855.93 in attorneys’ fees. More than 10 years later, Folkenflik learned that Bressman might receive $10 million, and filed ex parte applications on behalf of Plaintiffs to appoint a receiver to search for and seize Bressman’s assets. Searches and seizures were executed. Flolkenflik did not disclose the settlement and made misleading representations to the courts and Bressman’s attorney. When the courts learned about the settlement, the orders were vacated and the seized materials returned. The bankruptcy court found that Folkenflik’s conduct constituted fraud on the court, vacated the default judgment, and dismissed the adversary complaint with prejudice. The Third Circuit affirmed. Bressman’s motion was not barred by laches. Folkenflik’s failure to disclose the settlement constituted intentional fraud. Even if he believed that the confidentiality order prohibited him from disclosing the existence of the Agreement, he could have so stated in his affidavit and asked the courts for guidance. View "In re: Bressman" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals sustained the findings of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding Petitioner, a non-lawyer Justice of the Conklin Town Court, Broome County, sustaining charges of misconduct and accepted the determined sanction of removal from the office of justice of the town court. The Commission issued a formal written complaint containing two charges. The Commission ultimately concluded that Petitioner’s actions violated the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct and removed Petitioner from office. Petitioner commenced this proceeding to review the Commission’s determination. The Court of Appeals accepted the determined sanction of removal, without costs, and ordered that Petitioner be removed from office. View "In re Ayres" on Justia Law

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Appellant Wardell White entered guilty pleas to felony murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting deaths of Victor Martinez and Mauricio Maldonado, and the trial court entered judgments of conviction and sentence on the guilty pleas that did not merge. During the same term of court, Appellant filed two pro se motions to withdraw guilty pleas. The State moved to dismiss the pro se motions on the ground that Appellant was represented by counsel when he filed them, and the trial court granted the State’s motion. Appellant, assisted by counsel, filed a timely notice of appeal. However, finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "White v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are parents of children with disabilities who were enrolled at the Charter School, which did not consistently satisfy its Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) obligations to provide the children with a “free appropriate public education,” 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1)(A). In 2014, the School entered with Plaintiffs into settlement agreements. The School was to fund compensatory education for each child and contribute toward Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. The School permanently closed in December 2014 and never met its obligations under the agreements. Plaintiffs filed administrative due process complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, alleging that the Department should provide compensatory education. The hearing officer dismissed the complaints. Plaintiffs then sued the School and the Department, seeking reversal of the administrative decisions dismissing their claims, remand, and attorneys' fees and costs. Aside from the requested award of fees and costs, Plaintiffs obtained all of the relief they sought. On remand, Plaintiffs and the Department agreed on the number of hours of compensatory education. Plaintiffs unsuccessfully sought attorneys’ fees. The Third Circuit reversed, rejecting the district court’s reasoning that the Plaintiffs received only interlocutory procedural relief and were not prevailing parties. Success on a claim for procedural relief can constitute “a victory ‘on the merits’ that confer[s] ‘prevailing party’ status.” View "H. E. v. Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School" on Justia Law

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Cortina, a now-dissolved corporation, was wholly-owned by the Trust. The Trust’s beneficiaries lived in Illinois when the Trust was established; in the 1980s, they relocated to Arizona. In 2011, the Trust became an Arizona trust. Brook, an Illinois resident, was the president of Cortina and the Trust's trustee. In 2001, Brook retained an Arizona firm to represent Cortina in a lawsuit concerning a ground lease created when Cortina sold land in Arizona. The suit was dismissed in 2002. In 2005, and in 2013, Cortina sought additional legal advice from the firm related to the same lease. In 2014, Cortina requested that the firm initiate a nonjudicial foreclosure on the property. The firm decided that involvement in the foreclosure would pose a conflict of interest and declined the case. Throughout the firm’s 13 years representing Cortina, the parties exchanged phone calls and correspondence between Arizona and Illinois, but all in-person meetings occurred in Arizona. Cortina sued the firm in Illinois alleging legal malpractice, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. After the district court requested a jurisdictional statement, Cortina substituted Brook as the plaintiff. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction. While the defendants entered into a business relationship with an Illinois plaintiff, the activities were strictly conducted in Arizona. There was no evidence that Defendants reached out to or solicited Cortina, the Trust, or Brook. View "Brook v. McCormley" on Justia Law

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The question this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review centered on fees, and whether the legislature intended to depart from the accepted practice of awarding a party entitled to recover attorney fees incurred in litigating the merits of a fee-generating claim additional fees incurred in determining the amount of the resulting fee award in condemnation actions. The trial court ruled that there was no departure, and awarded the property owner in this case the fees that she had incurred both in litigating the merits of the underlying condemnation action and in determining the amount of the fee award. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Finding no reversible error in the Court of Appeals’ decision, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed. View "TriMet v. Aizawa" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a peremptory writ of prohibition to halt an action for an assignment for the benefit of a disbarred attorney’s creditors (the ABC action) pending before a Hamilton County probate judge. In 2004, nineteen judgment creditors filed a lawsuit alleging that the attorney at issue had stolen millions of dollars in settlement funds while representing them. A Kentucky trial court ruled that the attorney was jointly and severally liable for $42 million. The court of appeals affirmed. In 2013, the Kentucky Supreme Court permanently disbarred the attorney for his conduct in the underlying representation. In 2015, a Boone County circuit court judge ordered the attorney to transfer his beneficial interest in a company, which were held in trust for the purpose of winding up operations, to the creditors. The attorney did not transfer the shares to the creditors, and the shares were later transferred. The Supreme Court granted the creditors’ motion for a peremptory writ of prohibition barring further proceedings in the ABC action, holding that the necessary elements for a writ of prohibition to issue were all present in this case. View "State ex rel. McGirr v. Winkler" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was asked to determine whether a trial court erred by denying a motion to recuse the entire bench of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County. Appellant James Kravitz was the sole officer, director, and shareholder of several companies known as the Andorra Group, which included Appellants Cherrydale Construction Company, Andorra Springs Development, Inc., and Kravmar, Inc., which was formally known as Eastern Development Enterprises, Incorporated (“Eastern”). Kravitz also owned a piece of property known as the Reserve at Lafayette Hill (“Reserve”). Andorra Springs was formed to develop residential housing on sections of the Reserve. In 1993, Andorra Springs hired Cherrydale as the general contractor to build the homes on the Reserve. Eastern operated as the management and payroll company for the Andorra Group. Appellee Roy Lomas, Sr., d/b/a Roy Lomas Carpet Contractor was the proprietor of a floor covering company. Cherrydale and Lomas entered into a contract which required Lomas to supply and install floor covering in the homes being built by Cherrydale. Soon thereafter, Cherrydale breached that contract by failing to pay. Lomas demanded that Cherrydale submit Lomas’ claim to binding arbitration as mandated by the parties’ contract. The parties arbitrated the matter, and a panel of arbitrators entered an interim partial award in favor of Lomas, finding that Cherrydale breached the parties’ contract. Following Kravitz’s unsuccessful attempt to have the interim award vacated, the arbitrators issued a final award to Lomas. Judgment was entered against Cherrydale in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County. Important to this appeal, then-Attorney, now-Judge Thomas Branca represented Lomas throughout the arbitration proceedings. Since the entry of judgment, Kravitz actively prevented Lomas from collecting his arbitration award by, inter alia, transferring all of the assets out of Cherrydale to himself and other entities under his control. In March 2000, Lomas commenced the instant action against Appellants. Then-Attorney Branca filed the complaint seeking to pierce the corporate veil and to hold Kravitz personally liable for the debt Cherrydale owed to Lomas. Approximately one year later, then-Attorney Branca was elected to serve as a judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County. Prior to taking the bench, then Judge-Elect Branca withdrew his appearance in the matter and referred the case to another law firm. After several years of litigation, the parties agreed to a bifurcated bench trial. Although Appellants acknowledged that they were unaware of any bias or prejudice against them on the part of Judge Rogers or any other judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Appellants maintained that Judge Branca’s continued involvement and financial interest in the case created an “appearance of impropriety” prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct. Specifically at issue before the Supreme Court was whether the moving parties waived their recusal claim and, if not, whether the claim had merit. The Court held that the recusal issue was untimely presented to the trial court and, thus, waived. View "Lomas v. Kravitz" on Justia Law

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The dispute underlying this appeal was between a contractor (respondent) and subcontractor (appellants). The parties sued each other for alleged damages arising out of a construction project on California State Route 91. Respondent moved to disqualify Pepper Hamilton LLP and its individual attorneys (collectively, Pepper Hamilton) from representing appellants in this action and to issue additional injunctive relief pertaining to confidential documents. Respondent claimed that appellants’ litigation counsel, Pepper Hamilton, had improperly accessed documents made available by respondent solely for mediation sessions that preceded the commencement of the action. The court granted the motion, finding disqualification was appropriate to eliminate the possibility that Pepper Hamilton would exploit the unfair advantage. Appellants filed a petition for writ of supersedeas, arguing: (1) their appeal of the disqualification order resulted in an automatic stay of all trial court proceedings; or (2) if there was no automatic stay, the Court of Appeal court should exercise its discretionary power to stay all trial court proceedings. The Court indeed issued a temporary stay of all trial court proceedings and invited further briefing by the parties on the issue of whether an appeal of an order disqualifying counsel result in an automatic stay pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 916? If so, how far does the automatic stay extend: solely to enforcement of the disqualification order or to all trial court proceedings? As a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal concluded the appeal automatically stayed enforcement of the order disqualifying counsel, but not all trial court proceedings. The Court declined to address appellants’ request for a discretionary stay of all trial court proceedings pursuant to section 923. View "URS Corp. v. Atkinson/Walsh Joint Venture" on Justia Law