Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court

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Appellant was charged with one count of rape. When Gerald Crow was a circuit judge he authorized the issuance of an arrest warrant for Appellant. Crow also presided over Appellant’s plea-and-arraignment hearing. Crow then left his position as circuit judge. Crow subsequently entered an appearance as an attorney for Appellant. The State moved to disqualify Crow based on his former participation in the case as a judge. The circuit court concluded that Crow was prohibited from representing Floyd. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Crow previously participated in the case “personally and substantially” as a judge, Rule 1.12 of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct applied, and the State’s consent was required before Crow could participate as a lawyer. View "Floyd v. State" on Justia Law

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The parties in this case were Ken Blevins, who was elected as Sebastian County Circuit Clerk in 2011, and David Hudson, who served as the county judge for Sebastian County. Hudson appointed a grievance committee to hear a complaint filed by several deputy clerks working for Blevins alleging that Blevins was sexually harassing them. When Blevins sought to terminate two of those deputy clerks, Hudson appointed a new grievance committee to hear the clerks’ complaints and ultimately ordered Blevins to retain the employees. Blevins filed suit, alleging that Hudson abused the grievance process and made statements during the grievance hearings that placed Blevins in a false light and contributed to his defeat in the next election. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Hudson. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was proper because Hudson was entitled to immunity on all claims raised by Blevins. View "Blevins v. Hudson" on Justia Law

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The Searcy County Counsel for Ethical Government (SCCEG) filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that Johnny Hinchey, a Searcy County Judge, neglected his duties of office when he failed to sell and convey a county-owned gravel crusher pursuant to the terms of Ark. Code Ann. 14-16-105. Judge Hinchey answered by asserting that the crusher had been determined to have no value to the County and was sold in accordance with the procedures of Ark. Code Ann. 14-16-106(c). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Judge Hinchey. SCCEG appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in finding that section 14-16-106(c) was the relevant and applicable section to the sale of the crusher because, it contended, the crusher was not determined to be junk or scrap such that the statute would apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the gravel crusher was properly determined to be junk under section 14-16-106(c); and (2) the provisions of section 14-16-105 for sales of county property do not also apply to sales or disposal of surplus property under section 14-16-106. View "Searcy County Counsel for Ethical Gov't v. Hinchey" on Justia Law

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The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission recommended that the Supreme Court suspend Circuit Judge Sam Pope from his duties for thirty days without pay, basing its recommendation on its conclusions that Judge Pope willfully violated Rules 1.1 and 1.2 of Canon 1 of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct. The matter arose from allegations regarding Judge Pope's involvement in a confrontation between the judge and his estranged wife and her male companion at a Walmart. The Supreme Court accepted the Commission's unanimous recommendation of Judge Pope's suspension without pay for thirty days and further concluded that the suspension with its agreed conditions was an appropriate sanction for the judge's conduct. View "Judicial Discipline & Disability Comm'n v. Pope" on Justia Law

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Appellee Theresa Dennie filed a paternity action, contending that Appellant Grady Tracy was the natural father of M.T. and requesting custody of the child, with Tracy having visitation. Tracy filed a motion for the appointment of an attorney ad litem, which the circuit court granted. Prior to the final hearing in the matter, Tracy objected to the circuit court's receipt of the ad litem's report. At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court left custody with Dennie and awarded Tracy standard visitation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Tracy's objection to the admission of the ad litem's report and in admitting the report, as (1) the report's contents and recommendation were admissible by law or the Court's rules, even if hearsay; and (2) the admission of the report did not violate Ark. R. Prof'l Conduct 3.7. View "Tracy v. Dennie" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jack Boyajian, a licensed attorney, was engaged by clients seeking recovery of debts from individuals. The State brought a consumer-protection complaint against Boyajian and his two law offices asserting violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA). The circuit court entered summary judgment finding violations of the ADTPA, assessed a civil penalty, and enjoined Defendants from conducting business in Arkansas until the civil penalty was paid. Boyajian appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the case, holding (1) the ADTPA is inapplicable to an attorney collecting on debts in the course of the practice of law; and (2) because Boyajian was engaged in the practice of law at the time of the alleged acts, the ADTPA was not applicable. View "Boyajian v. State" on Justia Law

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Appellant Harrill & Sutter filed a complaint in the circuit court alleging a violation of Arkansas's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Appellant had previously filed a medical-malpractice action against three physicians, who were employed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Mariam Hopkins was hired to represent the physicians. Appellant subsequently filed a FOIA request asserting that because Hopkins represented public employees, Hopkins's file was a public record. Hopkins refused to allow Appellant to inspect the file, and Appellant filed the present case. The circuit court found (1) Hopkins, her firm, and the physicians were not the custodians for the FOIA request to UAMS or to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees; (2) Appellees did not have administrative control of the public records of those entities; (3) the records sought by Appellant were not public records under FOIA and, therefore, were not subject to a FOIA request; and (4) the litigation files and documents sought by the FOIA request were subject to attorney-client privilege and were work-product. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that FOIA did not apply. View "Harrill & Sutter, PLLC v. Farrar" on Justia Law

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The State brought a consumer-protection action against Bennett & DeLoney, a Utah law firm, and the owners and principals thereof to redress and restrain alleged violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA). The thrust of the complaint alleged that Bennett & DeLoney violated the ADTPA by attempting to collect penalties on dishonored checks greater than those amounts permitted by Ark. Code Ann. 4-60-103. The circuit court (1) granted partial summary judgment for the State, finding that the collection of amounts in excess of those set forth in section 4-60-103 violated the ADTPA; and (2) found that section 4-60-103 provided an exclusive remedy for recovery on dishonored checks and that the use of remedies set forth in Ark. Code Ann. 4-2-701, relating to a seller's incidental damages, was not permitted. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed, holding that the ADTPA has no application to the practice of law by attorneys, and the circuit court erred in concluding otherwise. View "Bennett & Deloney P.C. v. State" on Justia Law

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Ketan Bulsara filed a medical-malpractice and wrongful-death action against Dr. Julia Watkins stemming from the stillbirth of his child. A jury returned a judgment in favor of Dr. Watkins. The trial court subsequently denied Bulsara's motion for new trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in denying Bulsara's motion for a new trial where Bulsara demonstrated a reasonable possibility of prejudice in light of defense counsel's continued representation of Dr. Watkins after the filing of Bulsara's lawsuit while in possession of confidential information from an expert who previously consulted with Bulsara and his former counsel, in contravention of the Court's rules. View "Bulsara v. Watkins" on Justia Law

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The circuit court entered an order denying Jimmy Mann's petition to intervene in a dependency-neglect case. Mann filed an unsigned notice of appeal belatedly. The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the notice of appeal filed by Mann was untimely and was not signed as required by Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(b)(1)(B). Mann later filed a motion for belated appeal. The Supreme Court denied DHS's motion to dismiss and granted Mann's motion for belated appeal, holding (1) it was plain from the motion and response that relief was proper; and (2) because there was attorney error in perfecting the appeal in this case, the attorney was referred to the Committee on Professional Conduct for appropriate action. View "Mann v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs." on Justia Law