Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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The Vethan Law Firm represents Turner in a suit against Lopez, who is represented by Cweren. Vethan hired Wright as a paralegal to work on Turner’s case. Wright exchanged emails with lawyers, communicated with Turner, reviewed confidential information, drafted an engagement letter, and attended meetings in which Vethan attorneys discussed Turner’s case. Wright’s employment ended weeks later. Cweren hired Wright months later. To screen for potential conflicts, Cweren apparently asked interview questions based on the applicant’s resume. Wright did not disclose her employment at Vethan on her resume nor did she volunteer any information during the interview. Wright worked for Cweren on the Turner matter for several months, largely in a clerical capacity. After Vethan noticed Wright’s initials on Cweren documents, Vethan asserted that Wright’s participation required Cweren to withdraw as Lopez’s counsel. Wright denied that she had worked on the Turner matter while employed by Vethan. Cweren refused to withdraw but instructed Wright not to discuss the case with other employees, barred her from viewing any Turner files, and shifted all responsibility for the case to other paralegals. Vethan unsuccessfully moved to disqualify Cweren. The Supreme Court of Texas reversed. A court must grant a motion to disqualify a firm whose nonlawyer employee previously worked for opposing counsel if the nonlawyer obtained confidential information about the matter while working at the opposing firm and then shared that information with her current firm. Both requirements are met here. View "In re Turner" on Justia Law

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Galveston County Commissioners Court may set a salary range for a county judicial employee while letting Galveston County district judges decide if compensation within that range is reasonable. While the judicial branch may direct the Commissioners Court to set a new range, it cannot dictate a specific salary outside that range. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment in this long-running dispute over who has the authority to set the compensation of a county judicial employee, holding that, in this case, the trial court lacked the authority to require a county judge to reinstate a county judicial employee at a specific salary, thus encroaching on the county’s legislative branch - the Commissioners Court. View "Honorable Mark Henry v. Honorable Lonnie Cox" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a newly-elected district court judge or the former judge he or she replaced may file findings of fact following a bench trial over which the former judge presided before his or her term expired. The court of appeals concluded that neither judge could file the findings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals properly found that the new judge could not file the findings because she lacked the authority to file them; but (2) the court of appeal erred by failing to direct the new judge to request that the former judge file the findings because the former judge was the only judge with the power to file findings, even after he left the bench. View "Ad Villarai, LLC v. Pak" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Linegar, an Australian, formed KeyOvation, which eventually merged with Saflink and became IdentiPHI, in which Linegar was a major stockholder. DLA Piper law firm represented Saflink in the merger. Following the merger, DLA Piper represented IdentiPHI as corporate counsel. During the merger, IdentiPHI needed a short-term loan. Linegar then served as Chairman, Director, and majority shareholder of Zaychan, the corporate trustee of the Linegar Fund, an Australian self-managed retirement trust with Linegar and his ex-wife as the sole beneficiaries. Linegar arranged for the Fund to lend IdentiPHI $1.67million. DLA Piper represented IdentiPHI in the transaction and worked directly with Linegar. IdentiPHI executed a promissory note to Zaychan, which was accepted by Linegar as Chairman and Director, and which granted Zaychan a security interest in IdentiPHI’s assets. The note was payable by June 29, 2008. Timely payment was essential for the Fund's compliance with Australian law. When it became apparent that IdentiPHI was going to default, Linegar took several actions, but ultimately the debt was subject to challenge under 11 U.S.C. 547(b) because the security interest had not been perfected. KeyOvation, the holder of the assigned note, settled its claim for $150,000, which it paid to Linegar. Linegar, Zaychan, and KeyOvation sued DLA Piper for legal malpractice, negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and deceptive trade practices. They claimed that the firm gave assurances that the lien would be perfected. Linegar’s individual claims resulted in an award of $1,293,606. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court of Texas reversed, holding that Linegar, as an individual, had standing. View "Linegar v. DLA Piper LLP" on Justia Law