by
After attempting to persuade the Tribe to pay him for services provided under construction and rental agreements, Findleton requested that the Tribe mediate and arbitrate pursuant to clauses in the agreements. The Tribe failed to respond. Findleton filed a petition in March 2012, in the Mendocino County Superior Court to compel mediation and arbitration. The court held the Tribe had not waived its sovereign immunity. The Tribe sought attorney fees it had incurred in defending against Findleton’s petition, which the superior court granted. The court of appeal remanded, finding the Tribe had waived its sovereign immunity, reversing the award of fees. On remand, Findleton again filed a petition to compel mediation and arbitration and sought contractual attorney fees he had incurred in the prior appellate proceedings. The Tribe did not oppose the fee motion on the merits but requested that the court defer ruling until the Tribe filed a demurrer challenging the court’s jurisdiction. The superior court rejected that request and granted Findleton’s motion, awarding costs ($4,591.79) and attorney fees ($28,148.75). The court of appeal affirmed. The Tribe has not demonstrated that tribal remedy exhaustion was required here nor would requiring exhaustion at this late date serve any purpose other than further delay of a case that is already six years old. View "Findleton v. Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians" on Justia Law

by
Pollick represented students in civil rights claims against a school district and a teacher. After the first trial, the jury returned a verdict for Pollick’s clients. The Third Circuit affirmed an order requiring a new trial based upon Pollick’s misconduct. The second trial, only against the school district, resulted in a complete defense verdict. Before a third trial, the teacher tendered a Rule 68 offer of judgment for $25,000, which Pollick’s clients accepted; it allowed for “reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs as to the claims against [the teacher] only.” Pollick submitted a petition requesting $733,002 in fees and costs incurred while representing her clients against both the district and the teacher, including fees and costs for the second trial in which Pollick’s clients were not the prevailing party. The court ordered Pollick to show cause why she should not be sanctioned for seeking “fees and costs for portions of the litigation that were necessitated by her own vexatious conduct, as against defendants that she ultimately did not prevail, for certain expenses previously held unrecoverable ... and relative to the total settlement of $25,000[.]” Pollick proffered the “utterly ridiculous argument” that it was the job of opposing counsel and the court to ferret out entries that were invalid. Noting that the fee petition was single-spaced, in 6- or 8-point font that consumed 44 pages and included hundreds of inappropriate, unethical entries, the court denied Pollick’s petition in its entirety, issued concurrent $25,000 sanctions (FRCP 11; 28 U.S.C. 1927), and referred Pollick to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Board. The Third Circuit affirmed, concluding that the “drastic” measures were justified. View "Young v. Smith" on Justia Law

by
Mathahs has practiced law in Iowa since 2001. In October 2001, he contracted with the Iowa State Public Defender (SPD) to provide legal services to indigent adults and juveniles in certain Iowa counties. The contract was renewed until 2013. Mathahs submitted General Accounting Expenditure (GAX) forms to the SPD detailing the dates, services performed, and the amount of time for each service. In March 2013, the SPD contacted Mathahs with concerns over the accuracy of Mathahs’s GAX forms. Mathahs had claimed more than 3000 hours and had received more than $180,000 in fiscal year 2010. Mathahs initially blamed inaccuracies on his secretary. SPD rejected Mathahs’s explanation. On April 26, Mathahs self-reported his misconduct to the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board. On September 23, 2015, after investigating, the attorney general’s office informed the SPD that it found no provable evidence of intent to steal or defraud. In June 2017, the Board filed a complaint, alleging violations of Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct 32:1.5(a) (unreasonable fees or expenses) and 32:5.3(b) (lack of supervision over a nonlawyer employee). Mathahs moved to dismiss, claiming laches because the Board delayed for more than four years in bringing its complaint after he had self-reported and such delay unduly prejudiced his defense. A panel of the Supreme Court Grievance Commission found that Mathahs violated the rules. The Supreme Court of Iowa imposed a 60-day suspension, declining to address the issue of laches. View "Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board v. Mathahs" on Justia Law

by
The Diamond law firm filed a qui tam action against My Pillow, under the Illinois False Claims Act, 740 ILCS 175/1, asserting that My Pillow had failed to collect and remit taxes due under the Retailers’ Occupation Tax Act (ROT) and the Use Tax Act (UTA), and had knowingly made false statements, kept false records and avoided obligations under the statutes. The cause was brought in the name of the state but the state elected not to proceed, yielding the litigation to Diamond. At trial, Diamond, who had made the purchases at issue, served as lead trial counsel and testified as a witness. While an outside law firm also appeared as counsel of record for Diamond, its involvement was extremely small. Diamond essentially represented itself. The court ruled in favor of My Pillow on Diamond’s ROT claims, but in favor of Diamond on Diamond’s UTA claims; ordered My Pillow to pay $782,667; and recognized that the litigation had resulted in My Pillow paying an additional $106,970 in use taxes. A private party bringing a successful claim under the Act is entitled to receive 25%-30% of the proceeds. The court held that My Pillow should pay $266,891, to Diamond; found that Diamond was entitled to reasonable attorney fees, costs, and expenses, and awarded Diamond $600,960. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the damage award but held that Diamond could not recover attorney fees for work performed by the firm’s own lawyers. To the extent that Diamond prosecuted its own claim using its own lawyers, the law firm was proceeding pro se. View "Schad, Diamond and Shedden, P.C. v. My Pillow, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Fletcher was convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole plus an additional 15 years for using a firearm in the commission of the crime. Fletcher’s attorney filed a no-merit brief pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 4-3(k) (2017) and Anders v. California, asserting that there are no nonfrivolous issues for appeal, stating that the trial court did not commit reversible error in denying Fletcher’s motions for a directed verdict; the sentence imposed was allowed pursuant to the capital-murder statute; and the trial court did not commit reversible error in allowing the introduction of testimony from two witnesses and a drawing from a third witness. Fletcher has filed pro se points disputing the points counsel argued and also alleging that his appellate counsel was ineffective. The Supreme Court of Arkansas granted the motion to withdraw. Fletcher does not dispute that he caused the victim’s death, but only argued that the state failed to prove that he acted with premeditation and deliberate purpose; substantial evidence supports the verdict. Fletcher was not unfairly prejudiced and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the drawing. View "Fletcher v. Arkansas" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff's foreclosure action was dismissed, the trial court ordered plaintiff to pay attorney fees to defendants, finding certain provisions in the deed of trust she signed authorized the fee award. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the deed of trust authorized the addition of attorney fees to the loan amount, not a separate award to pay fees. The court also held that the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act provided no independent basis for ordering plaintiff to pay attorney fees. Accordingly, the trial court's order compelling plaintiff to pay attorney fees was reversed and the matter remanded. View "Chacker v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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