Justia Legal Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in International Law
Mireskandari v. Gallagher
Plaintiff-appellant Shahrokh Mireskandari alleged four causes of action against Joseph Scoma, M.D., based on the reports and opinions Scoma provided at the request of a disciplinary tribunal in London, England, as part of the tribunal’s formal proceedings involving Mireskandari, his legal practice, and his license to practice law in the United Kingdom. Mireskandari qualified as a solicitor in 2000, and by 2006 he was the managing partner of a London firm with mostly “black, minority, or ethnic origin” (BME) solicitors and staff. In 2007, Mireskandari publicly disclosed to a member of Parliament problems BME solicitors experienced “at the hands of the Legal Society of England and Wales (‘LSE’) and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (‘SRA’).” In retaliation, the LSE/SRA began a campaign to discredit Mireskandari: the LSE/SRA hired a Los Angeles law firm; a paralegal working for the firm obtained Mireskandari's education records; and within two weeks of being advised of those records, LSE/SRA launched an investigation into his “educational and work background.” More than two years later, in early April 2011, the Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) “initiated the proceedings against [Mireskandari] regarding the intervention of [Mireskandari’s] legal practice and his license to practice law in the United Kingdom” (SDT proceedings). At that time, Mireskandari travelled to California. He became seriously ill and requested that the SDT proceedings be adjourned. In support of his request, Mireskandari submitted evidence from California physicians of his illness, his inability to travel to England, and his inability to participate in the SDT proceedings. In response, at the request of the LSE/SRA, the SDT appointed Scoma “as an independent expert (not the expert of the LSE/SRA),” who reported back to the LSE/SRA "I see no reason why he is unable to travel by plane from the USA to the UK.’ ” Based on the SDT proceedings, the SDT struck Mireskandari from the roll of solicitors, thereby preventing him from practicing law in the United Kingdom. This resulted in the permanent closing of the law firm of which he was a partner. Mireskandari suffered damages in excess of $500 million. The trial court sustained without leave to amend Scoma’s demurrer to the complaint and entered judgment in favor of Scoma and against Mireskandari. On the record presented by Mireskandari, the California Court of Appeal found California’s litigation privilege (codified at Civil Code section 47) barred each of Mireskandari’s causes of action. Thus, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Mireskandari v. Gallagher" on Justia Law
Rath v. Marcoski
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of petitioner in an action under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act to recover fees and costs. The court held that respondent failed to establish under the Act that an award of necessary expenses could be clearly inappropriate. In this case, the record developed on the merits of the wrongful removal petition was replete with evidence contradicting respondent's good faith argument. Therefore, the court affirmed the award of attorney fees, costs and expenses in the total amount of $89,490.26. View "Rath v. Marcoski" on Justia Law
VLM Food Trading Int’l, Inc. v. Ill. Trading Co.
VLM, a Montreal-based supplier, sold frozen potatoes to IT in Illinois. After nine successful transactions, IT encountered financial difficulty and failed to pay for the next nine shipments. Invoices sent after delivery included a provision purporting to make IT liable for collection-related attorney’s fees if it breached the contracts. VLM sued; the deadline for an answer passed. The court entered a default. On defendants' motion, the court vacated the default as to IT’s president only. All three defendants then filed answers, contesting liability for attorney’s fees. The judge applied the Illinois Uniform Commercial Code and found that the fee provision had been incorporated into the contract. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the U.N. Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods applied. On remand, the judge applied the Convention and held that the fee provision was not part of the contracts and that IT could benefit from this ruling, despite the prior entry of default. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. IT never expressly assented to the attorney’s fees provision in VLM’s trailing invoices, so under the Convention that term did not become a part of the contracts. VLM waived its right to rely on the default by failing to raise the issue until its reply brief on remand. View "VLM Food Trading Int'l, Inc. v. Ill. Trading Co." on Justia Law
Ohntrup v. Makina Ve Kimya Endustrisi Kur
In 1975, a pistol manufactured by MKEK malfunctioned, firing a bullet through Ohntrup’s hand while he loaded the gun. The court held the seller, Firearms Center and MKEK, which is wholly owned by the Republic of Turkey, jointly liable for $847,173.97 and required MKEK to indemnify Firearms Center. The Morgan law firm represented MKEK, but after appeal, sought to withdraw. The court permitted the individual lawyers to withdraw but required the firm to remain as counsel of record until MKEK hired substitute counsel. The Third Circuit affirmed, characterizing MKEK as an intractable litigant and stating that a communication gap would hamper post-judgment proceedings. The Ohntrups tried to collect their judgment; MKEK disregarded the Ohntrups’ discovery requests. The Ohntrups sought assistance from the State Department and pursued MKEK in Turkish courts, to no avail. In 2007, Ohntrup’s widow obtained a $16 million civil contempt judgment against MKEK that grows by $10,000 annually. Ohntrup’s judgments against MKEK are now worth about $25 million. In 2011, Ohntrup’s lawyers learned of a $16.2 million transaction in which a Minneapolis-based company. (Alliant), agreed to sell munitions manufacturing components to MKEK. Ohntrup obtained some discovery from Alliant, but the district court denied subsequent discovery requests. When Ohntrup renewed her post-judgment discovery efforts, Morgan was granted leave to withdraw. The Third Circuit affirmed the order granting leave to withdraw, but remanded the discovery order. The court erred when it relied upon the uncertainty surrounding the judgment creditor’s ability to attach the targeted property.View "Ohntrup v. Makina Ve Kimya Endustrisi Kur" on Justia Law
In Re: Grand Jury Subpoena
The client was the target of a grand jury investigation into alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The grand jury served a subpoena on the client’s former attorney and the government moved to enforce this subpoena and compel testimony, under the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege. The client sought to quash the subpoena by asserting the attorney-client privilege and work product protection. After questioning the attorney in camera, the district court found that the crime-fraud exception applied and compelled testimony. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court applied the correct standard in determining whether to conduct an in camera examination of a witness, requiring a showing of a factual basis adequate to support a good faith belief by a reasonable person that in camera review of the materials may reveal evidence to establish the claim that the crime-fraud exception applies. The court did not abuse its discretion in applying that standard, in determining procedures for the examination, or in ultimately finding that the crime-fraud exception applied. View "In Re: Grand Jury Subpoena" on Justia Law
Lehman, et al. v. Lucom, et al.
Wilson Lucom was an American expatriate who wished to bequeath assets worth more than $200 million to a foundation established for impoverished children in Panama. Plaintiff, Lucom's attorney, filed suit against the Arias Group/Arias Family, Lucom's wife and step-children, under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961-1968, alleging that the Arias Group participated in a criminal conspiracy to thwart plaintiff through acts of intimidation, extortion, corruption, theft, money laundering, and bribery of foreign officials, so that the Arias Group could steal the Estate assets for themselves. At issue on appeal was RICO's four-year statute of limitations on civil actions and the "separate accrual" rule. Under the rule, the commission of a separable, new predicate act within a 4-year limitations period permitted a plaintiff to recover for the additional damages caused by that act. The court concluded that none of the injuries in plaintiff's complaint were new and independent because all of his alleged injuries were continuations of injuries that have been accumulating since before September 2007. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff had done little more than repackage his 2007 abuse of process complaint. Therefore, plaintiff's civil RICO complaint was untimely, and the district court did not err when it granted summary judgment in favor of the Arias Group. View "Lehman, et al. v. Lucom, et al." on Justia Law
Chevron Corp. v. Weinberg Group
This case arose when some Ecuadorian citizens sued Chevron in an Ecuador court, alleging that Chevron was responsible for environmental damage there. As the proceedings in Ecuador unfolded, Chevron sued the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their attorneys in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claiming that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their attorneys had committed fraud in the proceedings in Ecuador. As part of the New York litigation, Chevron subpoenaed documents from the Weinberg Group and the subpoena was issued from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Weinberg Group asserted the attorney-client and work product privileges over some of the documents responsive to the subpoena. Chevron moved to compel production of those documents in the D.C. district court. The D.C. district court found that the crime-fraud exception applied and granted Chevron's motion to compel, relying almost entirely on a decision in favor of Chevron by the New York district court in the underlying fraud investigation. The court concluded that, given that the D.C. district court relied on the decision of the New York district court and that the New York district court's decision was subsequently reversed by the Second Circuit, the court must vacate the D.C. district court's decision and remand. View "Chevron Corp. v. Weinberg Group" on Justia Law