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In 2017, the League of Women Voters and Pennsylvania Democratic voters filed a state court lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional districting map. They alleged that Republican lawmakers drew the map to entrench Republican power in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation and disadvantage Democratic voters and that the Republican redistricting plan violated the Pennsylvania Constitution by burdening and disfavoring Democratic voters’ rights to free expression and association and by intentionally discriminating against Democratic voters. Five months later, State Senate President Pro Tempore Scarnati, a Republican lawmaker who sponsored the 2011 redistricting plan, removed the matter to federal court, contending federal jurisdiction existed because of a newly scheduled congressional election. The federal district court remanded the matter to state court, where the suit has since concluded with a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. Citing 28 U.S.C. 1447(c), the federal court directed Senator Scarnati personally to pay $29,360 to plaintiffs for costs and fees incurred in the removal and remand proceedings. The Third Circuit ruled in favor of Scarnati, citing the Supreme Court’s directive that courts carefully adhere to the distinction between personal and official capacity suits, The court upheld a finding that the removal lacked an objectively reasonable basis. View "League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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The San Mateo County Assessor assessed Silverado’s assisted living facility’s fair market value for property tax purposes at $26.4 million for the October 2011 base year value assessment and the 2012/2013 regular assessment. Silverado appealed. The County Assessment Appeals Board found that the income approach analysis was appropriate for determining the fair market value based on the present value of the property’s expected future income stream. The trial court found that the Board appropriately used an income approach analysis but agreed with Silverado that the analysis did not adequately make “all necessary deductions” to remove the value of intangible assets that Silverado claimed had been impermissibly subsumed in the assessment value. The court remanded for the “narrow purpose” of allowing the Board to clarify its valuation using an income approach analysis, based on the evidence that had been admitted at the administrative hearings. Silverado sought attorney fees under Revenue and Taxation Code 1611.6 and 5152. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the motion. Because the Board’s resolution of Silverado’s appeals was neither arbitrary nor capricious, nor caused by a legal position taken in bad faith, no award is warranted under section 1611.6. With respect to section 5152, there was no basis for finding that a tax law or regulation was unconstitutional or invalid. View "SSL Landlord, LLC v. County of San Mateo" on Justia Law

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CAI filed suit against state prosecutors, seeking to enjoin the enforcement of state unauthorized practice of law (UPL) statutes against it. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that the UPL statutes did not unconstitutionally restrict CAI's associational rights. In this case, like the solicitation statute in Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass'n, 436 U.S. 447 (1978), North Carolina's UPL statutes only marginally affected First Amendment concerns and did not substantially impair the associational rights of CAI. The court also held that the UPL statutes did not unlawfully burden CAI's freedom of speech. Determining that intermediate scrutiny was the appropriate standard for reviewing conduct regulations that incidentally impact speech, the court held that barring corporations from practicing law was sufficiently drawn to protect clients. The court also held that the UPL statutes did not deny CAI due process, were not unconstitutionally vague, and did not violate the state constitution's Monopoly Clause. Finally, CAI's commercial speech claim was not an independent basis for granting relief and the state may forbid CAI from advertising legal services barred by law. View "Capital Associated Industries v. Stein" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the findings and recommendation of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) concerning misconduct by Judge Ernest Kollra of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit and a stipulation entered into by Judge Kollra and the JQC, approved the parties' stipulation, and commanded Judge Kollra to appear before the Court for the administration of a public reprimand. The parties entered into a stipulation that Judge Kollra improperly introduced partisan political activity into his campaign for judicial office, that Judge Kollra's conduct violated two canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and that the appropriate discipline was a public reprimand. The Supreme Court concluded that the JQC's findings were supported by clear and convincing evidence and approved the stipulation, holding that the appropriate discipline in this case was a public reprimand. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Ernest A. Kollra" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court that the agreement furnished to Carol Greissman for signature did not violate Kentucky Rules of the Supreme Court 3.130, Rule 5.6 as a matter of law, holding that an obligatory Rule of Professional Conduct for attorneys carries public policy weight and that the agreement did not violate Rule 5.6. Greissman, an attorney, was terminated by Rawlings & Associates for refusing to sign an agreement providing for non-solicitation of Rawlings & Associates' customers or clients following the end of her employment. Greissman subsequently brought a wrongful termination claim. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Rawlings & Associates. The court of appeals upheld the circuit court's ultimate decision dismissing Greissman's complaint but concluded that Greissman's complaint should have been dismissed for failure to state a claim because the Rules of the Kentucky Supreme Court did not provide the public policy to support Greissman's wrongful termination claim. The Supreme Court affirmed on other grounds, holding (1) for purposes of wrongful termination actions, an obligatory Rule of Professional Conduct for attorneys carries equal public policy weight as any public policy set forth in statute or the Constitution; and (2) the agreement in this case did not violate Rule 5.6. View "Greissman v. Rawlings & Associates, PLLC" on Justia Law

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Under Texas law, an attorney is immune from civil suits brought by a non-client when the conduct at issue occurred within the scope of the attorney's representation of a client. The Fifth Circuit agreed with the district court and rejected three purported exceptions to this doctrine. This case related to the R. Allen Stanford Ponzi Scheme and an attorney that was practicing at Greenberg Traurig who was involved in the scheme. Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants under a respondeat superior theory, alleging that the attorney conspired with Stanford to further the fraud. Denying the motion for certification, the court held that it was not persuaded that the Supreme Court of Texas would apply the attorney immunity doctrine in the non-litigation context; criminal conduct does not automatically negate immunity, but in the usual case it will be outside the scope of representation; immunity can apply even to criminal acts so long as the attorney was acting within the scope of representation; and the Supreme Court of Texas would not consider itself sure that the Texas Legislature intended to abrogate attorney immunity in the context of Texas Securities Act claims. View "Troice v. Greenberg Traurig, LLP" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's award of attorneys' fees to plaintiff and remanded for further proceedings. The district court exercised its common law authority to award the fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), but the district court did not have the benefit of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger, 137 S. Ct. 1178 (2017), when it issued the award. The panel held that it could not determine whether the district court's failure to apply the appropriate legal framework was harmless. On remand, the panel instructed that Goodyear's causation standard requires the district court to identify those expenses that plaintiffs would not have incurred but for the specific conduct that abused the judicial process, or to determine that the government's misconduct so permeated all or a portion of the suit that "all fees in the litigation, or a phase of it, meet the applicable test: They would not have been incurred except for the misconduct." View "Xue Lu v. United States" on Justia Law

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These petitions concern the conduct of a military judge, Colonel Vance Spath, who presided over a current Guantanamo Bay detainee, Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri, who faces capital charges before a military commission. After receiving a job offer but before retiring from the military, Spath found himself locked in a dispute with Al-Nashiri's defense lawyers, three of whom sought to leave the case. The DC Circuit granted Al-Nashiri's petition for a writ of mandamus and held that Spath's job application to the Justice Department created a disqualifying appearance of partiality. In this case, the average, informed observer would consider Spath to have presided over a case in which his potential employer (the Attorney General) appeared. The court vacated all orders issued by Spath after he applied for the job, and dismissed counsels' petition as moot. View "In re: Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying Citizens' motion for attorney's fees, expert fees, and costs stemming from a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action that successfully challenged a 2015 state law that redrew Greensboro City Council districts. The court held that civil rights fee-shifting statutes, such as those at issue here, are not meant to punish defendants for a lack of innocence or good faith but rather to "compensate civil rights attorneys who bring civil rights cases and win them." The court explained that "innocence" or a "lack of responsibility" for the enactment of an unconstitutional law was therefore not an appropriate criterion to justify denying a fee award against the party responsible for and enjoined from enforcing the unconstitutional law. View "Brandon v. Guilford County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the stipulation entered into between Judge Dennis Daniel Bailey and the Judicial Qualifications Commission that stipulated that Judge Bailey violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and should be publicly reprimanded and commanded Judge Bailey to appear before the Court for the administration of a public reprimand. Based on the judge's conduct in a certain trial, the commission charged Judge Bailey with violating canons 1, 2A, 3B(1), 3B(4), and 3B(7) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. The commission found probable cause for the violations and recommended that Judge Bailey be publicly reprimanded. Judge Bailey stipulated that he did not contest the commission's findings and accepted the recommended discipline. The Supreme Court agreed with the commission's findings and Judge Bailey's admissions and ordered that Judge Bailey appear for the administration of a public reprimand. View "Inquiry Concerning a Judge Dennis Daniel Bailey" on Justia Law