Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
by
The Chicago-area law firms (Anderson) represent plaintiffs in class action lawsuits under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act-Junk Fax Prevention Act, which authorizes $500 in damages for faxing an unsolicited advertisement, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C), (b)(3). This award triples upon a showing of willfulness, and each transmission is a separate violation. Advertisers would pay a fee, and B2B would send an ad to hundreds of fax numbers without obtaining permission from the recipients. When Anderson learned that defendants in four cases under the Act had contracted with B2B, B2B records became the focus of discovery. Despite obtaining all information necessary to certify classes in the four cases, Anderson continued pushing for B2B, and, at a deposition at which B2B was represented by Ruben, obtained the names of other B2B clients, and sent solicitation letters. Anderson attempted to give Ruben $ 5000. Defendants in new cases learned that Anderson had promised B2B confidentiality and unsuccessfully challenged class certification. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that when an ethical breach neither prejudices an attorney’s client nor undermines the integrity of judicial proceedings, state bar authorities are generally better positioned to address the matter through disciplinary proceedings, rather than the courts through substantive sanction in the underlying lawsuit. View "Reliable Money Order, Inc. v. McKnight Sales Co., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Todd attempted to purchase claims against a collection agency (Franklin) from Fletcher. He then sued Franklin. The district court dismissed the complaint, ruling that the assignment was void because Todd was using it merely to attempt to practice law without a license and that Todd failed to state a claim for relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The assignment was void as against public policy. Illinois public policy forbids the assignment of legal claims to non-attorneys in order to litigate without a license. Undisputed evidence showed that Todd created a business providing legal advice and repeatedly agreed to purchase claims in order to litigate. Even if the assignment was not void, Todd failed to state a claim. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act preempts state-law claims, 15 U.S.C. 1681t(b)(1)(F). Todd did not attempt could not bring a claim directly under the FCRA because the section Franklin allegedly violated does not create a private right of action. View "Todd v. Franklin Collection Serv., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Elusta sued tChicago and police officers for excessive force, false arrest, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He first retained Cerda and De Leon, who conducted discovery and obtained a settlement offer of $100,000. Elusta rejected this offer, apparently because his retainer contained a 40% contingent fee provision. The district court permitted the attorneys to withdraw. Elusta retained Smith and Genson. A jury found in Elusta’s favor on two counts and awarded $40,000. Smith and Genson petitioned for attorney’s fees on behalf of Elusta pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1988. Before the court could rule, Elusta retained new attorneys, Johnson and Gentleman, to litigate the fee issue. They sought direct payment of some of the fees to Elusta, rather than to Smith and Genson. Smith and Genson’s petition languished for nearly 16 months before Cerda and De Leon filed sought fees, asserting an attorney’s lien or a right to recover under quantum meruit. The court granted Smith and Genson’s request for $82,696.50 under section1988. Cerda and De Leon had not perfected an attorneys’ lien, but the court allowed recovery of $15,000 in quantum meruit. The court rejected Elusta’s motion to have 60% of both amounts paid to him directly. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Elusta v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

by
Miller, a Fund beneficiary, fell from a ladder and was injured. He hired attorney Darr on a contingent fee basis to sue the person who was supposed to hold the ladder. The Fund advanced $86,709.73 in medical and disability benefits on the condition that Miller repay from any recovery, without deducting attorneys’ fees. Miller and Darr, signed a subrogation agreement. The lawsuit settled for $500,000. Calculating his fee based on $413,290.27, Darr submitted $57,806.48 to the Fund, stating that he was withholding $28,903.25 as a fee. To avoid jeopardizing Miller’s benefits Darr later submitted the $28,903.25. The Fund indicated that if Darr pursued his claim, it would consider Darr and Miller in breach of Plan terms and in repudiation of the subrogation agreement and would consider terminating coverage and seeking relief under ERISA. Darr sued the Fund in Illinois state court under the common fund doctrine, which permits a party who creates a fund in which others have an interest to obtain reimbursement for litigation expenses incurred in creating that fund. The district court enjoined Darr’s lawsuit. The Seventh Circuit vacated. A federal court may not enjoin “proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments,” 28 U.S.C. 2283. View "Trs. of the Carptenters' Health & Welfare Trust v. Darr" on Justia Law

by
El-Gazawy a citizen of Jordan, entered the U.S. in 1990 as a non-immigrant, overstayed, and failed to appear for special registration in 2003, required by the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System program. In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security served notice that he was removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(B); 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(3)(A) and 1305. At his hearing, El-Gazawy admitted the charges and stated that he would seek cancellation of removal (8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)) or voluntary departure (8 U.S.C. 1229c). The IJ allowed 90 days for the necessary paperwork and advised that failing to timely file fingerprints could result in denial of relief. With an additional schedule change, El-Gazawy had about 14 months to file the necessary paperwork. The IJ concluded that no good cause had been demonstrated for delay, deemed the cancellation claim abandoned, and granted voluntary departure. The BIA dismissed an appeal. El-Gazawy had been represented by attorney Abuzir throughout, but obtained new counsel for filing a motion to reopen, seven months later, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel. El-Gazawy claimed that he had given notice to Abuzir and had filed a claim with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The BIA denied his motions. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. View "El-Gazawy v. Holder" on Justia Law

by
In 2005, attorneys White and Beaman, assisted securities broker-turned-real estate investor Seybold with a plan to buy, rehabilitate, and then sell, or refinance and rent, residential and commercial properties in Marion, Indiana. That plan involved the creation of two business entities, one partially owned by a group of private investors who contributed more than $1 million. When the plan failed, the investors sued. The district court entered summary judgment on all of the claims against the attorneys: state and federal RICO violations, conversion, federal and state securities fraud, common-law fraud (both actual and constructive), civil conspiracy, and legal malpractice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs failed to establish either that an attorney-client relationship existed or that the attorneys owed them some other legal duty for purposes of the malpractice, constructive fraud, and securities-fraud claims. Plaintiffs relied solely on representations that concerned only future conduct, or on representations of existing intent that were not yet executed, so claims of actual fraud failed, Plaintiffs failed to provide evidence that the lawyers acted in concert with Seybold to commit an unlawful act or to accomplish a lawful purpose through unlawful means. View "Rosenbaum v. White" on Justia Law

by
Marinov, a citizen of Bulgaria, entered the U.S. in 2005 as a nonimmigrant exchange visitor and remained beyond the date authorized. He applied for asylum. He was charged with removability under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(B). An attorney entered an appearance on Marinov’s behalf, conceded removability, and obtained transfer of venue. In December 2009, the immigration court served notice to Marinov’s attorney at the address provided on his appearance form, advising that a hearing was set for August 3, 2010. The attorney attended the hearing; Marinov did not. The IJ ordered removal in absentia. On September 24, Marinov, represented by new counsel, filed a motion to reopen based on a lack of notice, exceptional circumstances, and ineffective assistance of former counsel. He alleged that former counsel made misrepresentations to the IJ and included a copy of an attorney disciplinary complaint. The IJ denied Marinov’s motion, deciding that he received proper notice and had not shown that former counsel was informed of the allegations or afforded an opportunity to respond. The BIA rejected the argument that the ARDC complaint satisfied this requirement, concluding that the bar complaint and notice to counsel were two separate requirements. The Seventh Circuit denied review. View "Marinov v. Holder" on Justia Law

by
Attorney Mehta was charged with converting escrow funds and lying to a state court. After a hearing, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission recommended disbarment. While the recommendation was pending, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a ruled to show cause why he should not be suspended, rejected Mehta's arguments, and suspended his license. Mehta sued the court and the IARDC under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the suspension violated his right to due process. The district court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. In the meantime, Mehta was disbarred. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal, rejecting Mehta's argument that the suspension was not a final order that was subject to the doctrine. Illinois law provides that an interim suspension order is a final judgment in the Rule 774 proceeding in which it is issued. View "Mehta v. Att'y Registration & Disciplinary Comm'n" on Justia Law

by
Officers, responding to an assault in progress, saw defendant, who voluntarily submitted to a pat down. A pistol was found in his coat pocket. Charged possession of a firearm by a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), defendant insisted that the police had planted the gun. His lawyer believed that he could not argue that the firearm was the fruit of an unreasonable search. Following his conviction, defendant brought a collateral proceeding under 28 U.S.C. 2255, claiming ineffective assistance in that his attorney did not move to suppress the firearm as the product of an unreasonable and did not explain to defendant that his testimony at a suppression hearing could not be used at trial as evidence of his guilt. The district court rejected the petition. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Defendant’s insistence that the police planted the gun neither justified nor compelled counsel to refrain from challenging the search that produced the weapon. The court remanded for determination of whether defendant was prejudiced by that failure. View "Gardner v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The attorney, purporting to represent the guardian of Cristina’s financial interests, filed suit in state court, alleging that Cristina, a minor, had been abused by six defendants. Her general guardian had discharged the attorney. The attorney dismissed the suit. The defendants sought sanctions. The attorney filed a notice of removal to federal court. Within a month, and following a "deluge of motions" from the attorney, the federal court remanded the proceeding to state court. The defendants requested an award of attorneys' fees for wrongful removal, 28 U.S.C. 1447(c). The district judge concluded that the attorney had vexatiously multiplied the proceedings, 28 U.S.C. 1927 and ordered him to pay $10,155 to one defendant and $2,432 to another. The Seventh Circuit affirmed under 1447(c). The removal "was worse than unreasonable; it was preposterous." View "MB Financial, N.A. v. Novoselsky" on Justia Law