Justia Legal Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
Jackson v. Astrue
Plaintiff appealed the denial of his claim for disability-insurance benefits and supplemental-security-income benefits. The magistrate judge recommended reversing the SSA's denial of benefits and remanded for plaintiff's claim to the SSA for further proceedings. The district court then entered an order adopting the magistrate judge's recommendation and granted plaintiff's counsel's request and award for attorneys' fees. At issue in this appeal was the type of judgment for which a district court could grant attorneys' fees under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 406(b). The court reversed the district court's denial of attorneys' fees, concluding that the district court's construction of section 406(b) unavoidably reduced the likelihood that an attorney who undertook a disability benefits representation would receive reasonable compensation for his work. Section 406(b) fees were authorized in cases where an attorney obtained a favorable decision on remand and the SSA has not opposed such fees for over 25 years. View "Jackson v. Astrue" on Justia Law
Netsphere Inc., et al v. Baron
These consolidated appeals arose from the district court's appointment of a receiver of Jeffrey Baron's personal property and entities he owned or controlled. Barron and Munish Krishan formed a joint venture involving the ownership and sale of internet domain names. Disputes arose between the venturers, resulting in at least seven lawsuits. The district court subsequently sought to stop Baron's practice of regularly firing one lawyer and hiring a new one. Baron appealed the receivership order and almost every order entered by the district court thereafter. The court reversed and remanded, holding that the appointment of the receiver was an abuse of discretion. Numerous motions and a writ of mandamus to overturn the bankruptcy court's striking of notices of appeal to the district court were also before the court. Most were denied as moot and the court addressed the remaining motions that were relevant. View "Netsphere Inc., et al v. Baron" on Justia Law
Mick Haig Prods. E.K. v. Does 1-670
Evan Stone, counsel for Plaintiff, appealed sanctions imposed on him. The underlying case involved Plaintiff's lawsuit alleging copyright infringement against 670 persons who allegedly unlawfully downloaded Plaintiff's film using an online file-sharing program. After the case had been dismissed, Defendants, through attorneys ad litem, moved for sanctions based on Stone's misconduct in violating Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 and 45 by issuing subpoenas to Defendants' ISPs. The district court granted the sanctions motion, finding that Stone had issued subpoenas in violation of court order, thereby grossly abusing his subpoena power. The Does, through the attorneys ad litem, then moved the court to impose further sanctions based on Stone's failure to comply with the first sanctions order. The court granted the motion for additional sanctions. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the sanctions imposed by the district court, holding (1) all the issues Stone raised on appeal had been waived; and (2) no miscarriage of justice would result from the sanctions imposed. View "Mick Haig Prods. E.K. v. Does 1-670" on Justia Law
Illinois Central Railroad Co. v. Guy, et al.
A jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff on its claim of fraud and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing against defendants. Defendants' misrepresentations induced plaintiff to settle the asbestos exposure claims of two former employees whom defendants represented in a state-court lawsuit. On appeal, defendants contended that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the instant case under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and alternatively that the case called for Burford abstention. Defendants also contended that the evidence established their statute-of-limitations and waiver defenses as a matter of law. The court concluded, however, that defendants misconceived the legal authorities relevant to their jurisdiction, abstention, and waiver arguments. Regarding the statute of limitations issue, the court concluded that a reasonable jury could have found for plaintiff. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Illinois Central Railroad Co. v. Guy, et al." on Justia Law
Illinois Central Railroad Co. v. Guy, et al.
A jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff on its claims of fraud and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing against defendants where defendants' misrepresentations induced plaintiff to settle the asbestos exposure claims of two of plaintiff's employees whom defendants represented in a state-court lawsuit. On appeal, defendants contended that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the instant case under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and alternatively that the case called for Burford v. Sun Oil Co. abstention. Defendants also contended that the trial evidence established their statute-of-limitations and waiver defenses as a matter of law. The court held that defendants misconceived the legal authorities relevant to their jurisdiction, abstention, and waiver arguments. Regarding the statute of limitations issue, the court concluded that a reasonable jury could have found for plaintiff. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Illinois Central Railroad Co. v. Guy, et al." on Justia Law
United States v. Richardson, Jr.
Defendant was convicted of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the due administration of justice and one count of knowingly making a materially false statement to a governmental agency. Defendant's convictions stemmed from him falsely representing that he was a licensed attorney. The court held that the evidence adduced at trial supported the jury's verdict; the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to instruct the jury in accordance with defendant's definition of "corruptly"; and assuming the district court erred in applying one or more of the enhancements to defendant's offense level, thereby incorrectly calculating the advisory guidelines range, the Government, as proponent of the sentence, had discharged its burden to show that defendant's substantial rights were not affected by any error because the district court made detailed, alternative findings that it would have sentenced defendant to 65 months of imprisonment, notwithstanding whether any or some of the enhancements were applied to his offense level. View "United States v. Richardson, Jr." on Justia Law
Waldron v. Adams & Reese, L.L.P.
This was an adversary proceeding arising out of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy of debtors. The trustee filed suit against A&R, the former debtors' counsel, seeking disgorgement of the attorney's fees awarded during the bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court ordered a sanction for A&R's failure to adequately disclose various connections it had to the debtors and creditors, but found that A&R did not have a disqualifying adverse interest. The trustee appealed, arguing that A&R was not disinterested and that all legal fees should have been disgorged. The court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, A&R did not have a disqualifying interest; given the bankruptcy court's factual findings were reasonable based on the record, the court concluded that the bankruptcy court did not commit clear error in ordering disgorgement of only a portion of the retainer; and the bankruptcy's court's decision to deny the amendment was not an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Waldron v. Adams & Reese, L.L.P." on Justia Law
In re: Marcum L.L.P.
Petitioner filed an Emergency Motion for Stay or Alternative Petition for Writ of Mandamus, which arose out of petitioner's services as an expert in a trial. Petitioner subsequently sought appellate review of Chief Judge Edith H. Jones's Service Provider Continuity and Payment Order, which was issued after petitioner submitted a letter of resignation. The Order approved partial payment of petitioner's fees that were previously certified by the district court and also directed petitioner to continue work on the case. The court held that it was without jurisdiction to consider petitioner's appeal because the Order was neither a final decision of the district court under 28 U.S.C. 1291 nor an appealable interlocutory district order under 28 U.S.C. 1292, but rather an order issued pursuant to the Chief Judge's authority under the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. 3006A(e)(3). View "In re: Marcum L.L.P." on Justia Law
Brown v. Oil States Skagit Smatco, et al.
Plaintiff sued defendants under Title VII, alleging claims of racial harassment and constructive discharge. Plaintiff subsequently appealed the district court's dismissal of his complaint based on a finding that plaintiff committed perjury and the district court's grant of defendants' motion for sanctions. Plaintiff argued that a less severe sanction was more appropriate and that the district court should have held an evidentiary hearing to allow plaintiff to explain his conflicting testimony. Plaintiff's counsel, who was separately sanctioned, also appealed the denial of his motion for recusal of the magistrate judge. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding to dismiss plaintiff's complaint with prejudice where plaintiff plainly committed perjury; plaintiff's argument that the district court failed to hold a hearing was meritless where he made no effort to explain why he and his attorney failed to show at the hearing held by the district court to address objections to the magistrate judge's report; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying counsel's motion for recusal where a reasonable person would not question the magistrate judge's impartiality in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Brown v. Oil States Skagit Smatco, et al." on Justia Law
Turner, et al. v. Pleasant, et al.
Plaintiffs sought to reopen a judgment entered in 2001 after the district judge that entered judgment for defendants in plaintiffs' person injury case was impeached and removed from office. Plaintiffs filed what they termed an independent action in equity on grounds that the judgment was procured by fraud involving the district judge. A new district judge dismissed the suit as barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The court reversed and remanded after applying a five-element analysis of an independent action in equity. View "Turner, et al. v. Pleasant, et al." on Justia Law