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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court disqualifying Defendants’ counsel under North Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 1.9(a), which balances an attorney’s ethical duties of confidentiality and loyalty to a former client with a party’s right to its chosen counsel. Rule 1.9(a) permits disqualification of an attorney from representing a new client if there is a substantial risk that the attorney could use confidential information shared by the client in the former matter against that same client in the current matter. The Supreme Court held (1) rather than applying an objective test as to the scope of the representation and whether the matters were substantially related, the trial court disqualified Defendants’ counsel based on the former client’s subjective perception of the past representation, which Rule 1.9(a) prohibits, as well as the now replaced “appearance of impropriety test”; and (2) therefore, the trial court applied the incorrect standard under Rule 1.9(a) in disqualifying Defendants’ counsel. View "Worley v. Moore" on Justia Law

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IH’s patent relates to a method of purchasing goods at a local point-of-sale system from a remote seller. IH sued Bed Bath & Beyond for infringement. Two months later, the district court granted BBB summary judgment, concluding that the Supreme Court’s intervening decision, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, rendered the asserted claims invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101 because the asserted claims are directed to the abstract idea of “local processing of payments for remotely purchased goods.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. BBB moved for an award of attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. 285, arguing that, once Alice issued, IH should have reevaluated its case and dismissed the action. The district court granted BBB’s fees motion, holding that, “following the Alice decision, IH’s claims were objectively without merit,” and awarded BBB its attorney fees beginning from the date of the Alice decision, including fees incurred during the section 101 appeal. The Federal Circuit affirmed. IH’s claims were “dubious even before the Alice decision” and Alice was a significant change in the law as applied to the facts of this particular case. View "Inventor Holdings, LLC v. Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc." on Justia Law

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Optional filed suit against DAS and its counsel, Akin and Parker, for conversion and fraudulent transfer. Akin and Parker filed special anti-SLAPP motions to strike all claims asserted against them. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' motions, holding that Optional v. DAS Corp. (2014) 222 Cal.App.4th 1388, was not the "law of the case" for purposes of this appeal; defendants made a prima facie showing that plaintiff's claims arose from defendants' constitutionally protected petition rights where the gravamen of plaintiff's claims was protected activity, namely defendants' representation of DAS in litigation; and plaintiff did not show a probability of prevailing on its claims where the litigation privilege defeated plaintiff's claims. View "Optional Capital, Inc. v. Akin Gump Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied in part and granted in part a petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition filed by Petitioner, an attorney who was being investigated by the State Bar of Nevada for potential ethical violations after he testified at his personal bankruptcy proceedings that he had not implemented a reliable or identifiable system of accounting for his client trust account. The State Bar served Petitioner with two subpoenas duces tecum seeking production of client accounting records and tax records. Petitioner objected to the subpoenas, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The chairman of the Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board (Board) rejected Petitioner’s objections to the subpoenas. This petition for writ relief followed. The Supreme Court held (1) with regard to the requested client accounting records, this court adopts the three-prong test under Grosso v. United States, 390 U.S. 62 (1968), to conclude that the right against self-incrimination does not protect Petitioner from disclosure; but (2) with regard to the requested tax records, the Board must hold a hearing to determine how the records are relevant and material to the State Bar’s allegations against Petitioner and whether there is a compelling need for those records. View "Agwara v. State Bar of Nevada" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Kaufman filed a class‐action lawsuit based on Amex’s sale of prepaid gift cards. The packaging declared the cards were “good all over.” Kaufman alleged that these cards were not worth their stated value and were not “good all over” because merchants were ill‐equipped to process “split‐tender” transactions when a holder attempted to purchase an item that cost more than the value remaining on his card. After 12 months Amex automatically charged a “monthly service fee” against card balances. Kaufman alleged Amex designed the program to make it difficult to exhaust the cards' balances. Following the denial of Amex’s motion to compel arbitration, settlement negotiations, and the entry of intervenors, the court certified the class for settlement purposes but denied approval of a settlement, citing the inadequacy of the proposed notice. Response to notices of a second proposed settlement was “abysmal.” A supplemental notice program provided notice to 70% of the class; the court again denied approval. After another round of notice, the court granted final approval in 2016, noting the small rate of opt‐outs and objectors. The court awarded $1,000,000 in fees and $40,000 in expenses to the Plaintiffs’ counsel, $250,000 to additional class counsel, and $700,000 in fees to intervenors' counsel: attorneys would receive $1,950,000. The court concluded the total value of the claims was $9.6 million, that, considering the number of claims and the value of supplemental programs, the total benefit to the class was $1.8 million, and that recovering $9.6 million was unlikely. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the court did not abuse its discretion, despite the settlement’s “issues.” View "Goodman v. American Express Travel Related Services Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Section 362(k)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code specifically departs from the American Rule and authorizes costs and attorneys' fees incurred by the debtor in ending a willful violation of an automatic stay, prosecuting a damages violation, and defending those judgments on appeal. In this case, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order awarding defendants attorneys' fees and costs that they incurred because of plaintiff's unsuccessful appeal of the damages award to defendants for her violation of the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay provision. The court also granted defendants' motion for attorneys' fees incurred in this appeal. View "Mantiply v. Horne" on Justia Law

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In this case challenging a county assessor’s ad valorem tax assessments, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order granting the motion to dismiss filed by Appellees on the grounds that Appellants’ representative, a nonattorney, committed the unauthorized practice of law by signing a petition to appeal the tax assessment to the county court.The Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court for the reasons expressed in its opinion issued today in DeSoto Gathering Co., LLC v. Hill, 2017 Ark. 326, holding that the petitions for appeal were null and void because a corporation or its nonattorney officers or employees on its behalf are not authorized to practice law in Arkansas. View "USAC Leasing LLC v. Hill" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning a county board of equalization tax assessment, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Appellants’ appeal, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the appeal when Appellants’ tax manager, a nonlawyer, initiated the appeal on behalf of Appellants. Specifically, the notices of appeal that Appellants’ tax manager filed on behalf of Appellants must be deemed a nullity because they were filed in violation of the prohibition of the unauthorized practice of law. Therefore, the petitions of appeal were a nullity, the county court did not have jurisdiction, and the circuit court did not have jurisdiction. View "DeSoto Gathering Co. v. Hill" on Justia Law

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Christine, represented by Goldstine, sought dissolution of marriage from Andrew. Andrew was represented by Boback. Holwell later became Andrew’s counsel. Before withdrawing, Boback successfully moved to disqualify Goldstine for improperly ordering Christine to provide Andrew’s mail that arrived at the marital home, opening and viewing the mail. Holwell billed Andrew $37,094.49 for the disqualification matter. Later, Jaquays appeared for Christine. LeVine appeared for Andrew. Christine sought interim attorney fees, arguing that she had paid Jaquays a retainer of $5000 and had an outstanding balance of $27,142.60 and that if the court determined that Andrew lacked the ability to pay her fees, it should order disgorgement from the money that Andrew had paid to Holwell. Andrew also sought attorney fees, owing $17,500.38 to Holwell and $26,000 to LeVine; Holwell testified that she was holding $13,000 that Andrew had paid to Boback because of a dispute as to who owned the money. The court found that both parties lacked an ability to pay reasonable attorney fees. Andrew had paid $66,382.28 to Holwell, $10,000 to LeVine, and $23,639.99 to Boback. Christine had paid $5000 to Jaquays and $13,117.04 to Goldstine. The court held that to “level the playing field,” each party should have $59,069.65 for attorney fees. The court ordered Holwell to disgorge $40,952.61 for payment to Jaquays. Holwell was held in contempt. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed reversal of the disgorgement order. Fees that have already been earned by an attorney in a dissolution of marriage proceeding are not considered “available funds,” such that they may be disgorged under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/501(c-1)(3). View "In re Marriage of Goesel" on Justia Law

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Cook County public defender Campanelli refused an appointment to defend Cole, accused of armed robbery, arson, and murder, citing potential conflicts of interests with co-defendants. The court nonetheless appointed the public defender’s office. Campanelli file notice of intent to refuse appointment, citing Rule 1.7 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, noting that the Counties Code (55 ILCS 5/3-4006) allows a court to appoint counsel other than the public defender if the appointment of the public defender would prejudice the defendant. The court responded that it had not made a finding that appointment of the public defender would prejudice the defendant. There were 518 Cook County public defender attorneys; they did not all share the same supervisors. There is a multiple defender division for multiple offender cases but Campanelli contended that she was in conflict even in those cases and continued to refuse appointment, arguing that she was the attorney for every client assigned to her office. Campanelli also asserted that her office was a law firm and should be treated like any other law firm. The circuit court of Cook County entered an adjudication of direct civil contempt against Campanelli and sanctioned Campanelli $250 per day. The appellate court stayed the fines. On direct appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed that Campanelli was in contempt, but vacated the order and sanction. “At best, Campanelli’s claims of conflict are based upon mere speculation that joint representation of codefendants by assistant public defenders will, at some point, result in conflict.” View "People v. Cole" on Justia Law