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Law Funder filed suit against defendant and his law firm for legal malpractice. The district court found a series of discovery violations and related malfeasance, striking defendant's answer. After defendant did not move to replead, the district court entered a default judgment against him and awarded Law Funder $3 million. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of default judgment against defendant, but held that the district court improperly calculated damages under Texas law. In this case, the district court erred in awarding Law Funder compensatory damages for attorney fees and costs that it would have incurred regardless of defendant's negligence. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's final judgment and remanded for a new trial on damages. View "Law Funder, LLC. v. Munoz" on Justia Law

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In this mandate-of-funds action in which the only remaining dispute was over what attorney's fees and expenses the Judges of Lake Superior Court should recover, the Supreme Court affirmed the Special Judge's ruling that the Judges were entitled to recover $176,467.17, holding that the Special Judge did not abuse his discretion. In 2017, fourteen Judges of the Lake Superior Court issued an order of mandate of funds requiring the Lake County Council and the Lake County Auditor (collectively, the Council) to provide funding, including raises, for court employees. A Special Judge heard the case, and the parties subsequently agreed to settle the dispute. The Judges requested $223,234.17 in legal fees and expenses incurred in prosecuting the mandate action. The Special Judge ordered the Council to pay the Judges $176,467.17 for their fees and expenses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the award to the Judges. View "Lake County Council v. Honorable John R. Pera" on Justia Law

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Paz defaulted on a $695 credit card debt. PRA, a debt collector, purchased the debt and attempted to collect but violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by failing to report that Paz disputed the debt. Paz filed suit in June 2014. PRA invoked FRCP 68, offering to eliminate the debt and pay Paz $1,001 plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs as “agreed ... and if no agreement can be made, to be determined by the Court.” The agreement stated that “[t]his … is not to be construed as an admission that ... Plaintiff has suffered any damage.” Paz accepted PRA’s offer. Counsel agreed to attorneys’ fees of $4,500. PRA nonetheless continued to report Paz’s debt to credit reporting agencies, even confirming its validity in response to inquiries. Paz filed another lawsuit and unsuccessfully attempted to add class claims. PRA again invoked Rule 68, offering $3,501 on the same terms as the first settlement. Paz never responded. The court limited the claims allowed to go to trial. Days before trial, PRA offered Paz $25,000 plus attorneys’ fees and costs. Paz rejected the offer. A jury found for Paz but determined that Paz had sustained no actual damages, so his recovery was limited to $1,000 in statutory damages for his FDCPA claim. Paz sought $187,410 in attorneys’ fees and $2,744 in costs, 15 U.S.C. 1692(k)(a)(3). The Seventh Circuit affirmed an award of $10,875, reasoning that Paz’s rejection of meaningful settlement offers precluded a fee award so disproportionate to his recovery. View "Paz v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the federal district court denying Appellant's request for a declaratory judgment asserting that a protective order that remained in effect in his now-closed state criminal case was unconstitutional, holding that the state court judge was protected from this lawsuit by the doctrine of judicial immunity. Appellant filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that the protective order violated his First Amendment rights. Appellee, the state court judge, responded with a motion to dismiss, arguing that she was protected by judicial immunity. The federal district court granted Appellee's motion to dismiss. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellee's actions were shielded from attack by judicial immunity. View "Zenon v. Guzman" on Justia Law

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David Kosmann appealed a district court judgment relating to a dispute that arose from the sale of real property. He claimed the district court erred in enforcing an oral settlement agreement reached in mediation between Kosmann, Kevin Dinius, and Dinius & Associates, PLLC (collectively “Dinius”). Kosmann also argued the trial court erred in: (1) awarding attorney fees to Dinius as a sanction against Kosmann and his attorney; (2) declining to impose sanctions against Dinius and his attorney; and (3) striking an untimely memorandum and declaration in support of his motion to reconsider. After review of the trial court record, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not err in enforcing the settlement agreement; the court also did not err in declining to impose sanctions against Dinius on ethics violations. However, the Supreme Court determined the district court abused its discretion in imposing I.R.C.P. 11 sanctions against Kossman and his counsel: the district court did not act consistently with the applicable legal standard for imposing sanctions pursuant to I.R.C.P. 11(b). The Supreme Court declined to address all other issues Kossman raised, and determined he was not entitled to attorney fees on appeal. "The record in this case is so tarnished with questionable conduct that it has presented this Court with a vexing ethical and legal dilemma. While we are gravely concerned over the potential ethical lapses which allegedly occurred during the mediation of this matter, there are no findings in the record concerning these matters. Therefore, as the trial court determined, we will leave to the Idaho State Bar, if properly called upon, the responsibility to investigate this matter further and make the necessary findings and conclusions as to the ethical issues presented." View "Kosmann v. Dinius" on Justia Law

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This dispute between the bankruptcy court and Chapter 13 debtor's attorneys involved no-money-down business models where the debtor's attorney agrees to advance the costs of filing fees, credit counseling course fees, and credit report fees on behalf of the debtor. The bankruptcy court concluded that these fees were non-reimbursable under the district's no-look fee order and that counsel could never be reimbursed by statute. The Fifth Circuit held that debtor's counsel in this case was not entitled to additional reimbursement for advancing the costs of the filing fees, credit counseling fees, and credit report fees as administrative expenses necessary for preserving the estate under 11 U.S.C. 503(b)(1). However, 11 U.S.C. 503(b) and 330 provide bankruptcy courts with the discretion to compensate debtor's counsel for advancing the costs of filing fees, credit counseling fees, and credit report fees if they choose to do so. Therefore, the court held that the bankruptcy court did not err in interpreting its own standing order on no-look fee compensation, but that it did err in its conclusion that bankruptcy courts lack the discretion to ever award reimbursement of those fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and vacated in part. View "McBride v. Riley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court ordered that Respondent, April M. Smith, a Judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division, Judicial District Twelve, be publicly reprimanded for conduct in violation of Canons 1, 2A, 3A(3), and 3B(1) of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376. The Judicial Standards Commission filed a statement of charges against Respondent alleging that she had engaged in conduct inappropriate to her office by demonstrating a lack of respect for the judicial office of the Chief Judge and court staff and other offenses. The Commission Counsel and Respondent entered into a stipulation and agreement for stated disposition that tended to support a decision to publicly reprimand Respondent. The Supreme Court concluded that the Commission's recommended public reprimand was appropriate and ordered that Respondent be publicly reprimanded. View "In re Smith" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal modified its prior opinion and inserted the following paragraph: The probate court's orders (1) striking Key's No Contest Petition under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16; (2) awarding attorney fees to prevailing parties on their motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16; and (3) denying Key's motion for attorney fees on appeal are reversed. The case is remanded for further proceedings on Key's petition and for determination of Key's reasonable attorney fees in defending Tyler's appeal in case No. B258055. On remand, the trial court shall determine whether those fees are to be paid solely from Tyler's share of the Trust estate (if any). Key is entitled to her costs on this appeal. The court's modification changed the judgment and the petition for rehearing was denied. View "Key v. Tyler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a peremptory writ prohibiting Judge Thomas O'Diam of the probate division of the Greene County Court of Common Pleas from enforcing his orders concerning the control of Courtroom 3 in the Greene County Courthouse and prohibiting Judge O'Diam from entering additional orders relating to the dispute over the control of Courtroom 3, holding that Judge O'Diam acted beyond his authority in issuing his orders requiring the Greene County Board of Commissioners to designate Courtroom 3 as the probate-division's courtroom. During this dispute, Courtroom 3 was under the control of the General Division of the Greene County Court of Common Pleas. Judge O'Diam ordered the Board to designate Courtroom 3 as the probate division's courtroom and to provide the probate division exclusive use of the room three days a week. The Board and Greene County sought a writ prohibiting the judge from enforcing his orders. In a related case, Judge O'Diam sought a writ of mandamus to enforce his orders. The Supreme Court granted a peremptory writ of prohibition with the qualification that its issuance was without prejudice to Judge O'Diam's claim that he was entitled to have the County pay his attorney fees and litigation expenses related to defending and attempting to enforce his orders. View "State ex rel. Greene County Board of Commissioners v. O'Diam" on Justia Law

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ThermoLife, the exclusive licensee of four Stanford University patents, claiming methods and compositions involving the amino acids arginine and lysine, to be ingested to enhance vascular function and physical performance, filed an infringement suit against several defendants. Stanford was a co-plaintiff. A bench trial was held and the district court found all asserted claims invalid and later granted defendants’ motions for attorney’s fees under 35 U.S.C. 285, which authorizes an award to a prevailing party in “exceptional” cases. The court found the cases exceptional, not based on an assessment of the validity position taken by plaintiffs or how they litigated but on its conclusion that plaintiffs were unjustified in alleging infringement in the first place, having failed to do an adequate pre-filing investigation. The Federal Circuit affirmed. These are unusual cases in that the basis for the fee award had nothing to do with the only issues litigated to reach the merits judgment: Infringement had not been adjudicated and even discovery on infringement had been postponed so that validity could be litigated first. Nevertheless, there was no abuse of discretion in the district court’s determination of exceptionality based on plaintiffs’ inadequate pre-suit investigation of infringement. View "ThermoLife International, LLC v. GNC Corp." on Justia Law