Justia Legal Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Northeastern Engineers Federal Credit Union v. Home Depot, Inc.
The parties appealed the district court's award of attorney's fees in a class action settlement brought by banks against Home Depot to recover resulting losses from a data breach. The Eleventh Circuit held that this was a contractual fee-shifting case, and the constructive common-fund doctrine did not apply. The court held that the district court erred by enhancing class counsel's lodestar based on risk; the district court did not abuse its discretion in compensating class counsel for time on the card-brand recovery process and for time spent finding and vetting class representatives; and there was no merit to Home Depot's contention that the district court's order did not allow for meaningful review. The court also held that the district court properly excluded attorney's fees from the class benefit, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by including the $14.5 million premiums in the class benefit. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Northeastern Engineers Federal Credit Union v. Home Depot, Inc." on Justia Law
International Fidelity Insurance Co. v. Americaribe-Moriarity JV
Americaribe, a general contractor, appealed the district court's award of attorney's fees to Fidelity, the surety on a performance bond issued for a construction subcontract between Americaribe and the subcontractor CPM. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that Fidelity was not entitled to recover the attorney's fees it incurred in this litigation because neither the performance bond nor the subcontract provided for such an award of prevailing party attorney's fees. Because the district court abused its discretion in awarding Fidelity attorney's fees, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "International Fidelity Insurance Co. v. Americaribe-Moriarity JV" on Justia Law
Muransky v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc.
Objectors challenged a class action settlement between plaintiff and Godiva for claims under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). Over the objections, the district court approved the settlement, class counsel's request for attorney's fees, and an incentive award for plaintiff. The Eleventh Circuit held that class members who objected to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3) class settlements but did not opt out were "parties" for purposes of appeal. Determining that Article III standing requirements were satisfied, the court held on the merits that the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding attorney's fees despite a Rule 23(h) violation; the district court properly assessed the risks faced by the class and the compensation secured by class counsel, and did not abuse its discretion by awarding an above-benchmark percentage of the common fund; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting a $10,000 incentive award to plaintiff as class representative. View "Muransky v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Williams
Defendant appealed his conviction of a federal narcotics conspiracy offense, contending that his trial counsel had a conflict of interest that had an adverse effect on his performance at trial. The Eleventh Circuit held that counsel did have a conflict of interest when he represented a government witness who was then appealing his own sentence after pleading guilty to federal narcotics charges. Although counsel knew that the witness had been found to have obstructed justice in his own criminal case, counsel did not ask the witness about the obstruction scheme at defendant's trial. Therefore, the court remanded for the limited purpose of having the district court conduct an evidentiary hearing on whether counsel's conflict resulted in an adverse effect. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law
Antonio Silva v. Pro Transport, Inc.
The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's award of sanctions against plaintiff and his attorneys in an action against Pro Transport and its owners, seeking to recover unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court held that Slater v. U.S. Steel Corp., 871 F.3d 1174 (11th Cir. 2017) (en banc), made clear that plaintiff and his attorneys did not act in bad faith or took legal action that had no reasonable chance of success in litigating the FLSA claim. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion by imposing sanctions. View "Antonio Silva v. Pro Transport, Inc." 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
Jackson v. Specialized Loan Servicing LLC
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case with prejudice for failure to state a claim, but on an alternative ground. The court held that counsel for homeowners filed a multi-count, incomprehensible complaint that flouted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this Circuit's well-established precedent. The court found that plaintiffs obstructed the due administration of justice in the district court by attempting to prosecute an incomprehensible pleading to judgment. Furthermore, plaintiffs were doing the same here by urging this court to uphold the sufficiency of their amended complaint. The court instructed counsel to show cause why the court should not order him to pay defendants double costs and their expenses, including the attorney's fees they incurred in defending these appeals. View "Jackson v. Specialized Loan Servicing LLC" on Justia Law
Drummond Co. v. Conrad & Scherer, LLP
C&S sought interlocutory review of the district court’s order concluding that the crime-fraud exception could defeat a law firm and its partner's assertions in discovery of attorney-client privilege and attorney work product protection. The Eleventh Circuit held that interlocutory review was appropriate to address only one aspect of the district court's order; vacated as improvidently granted the motion panel's order in part and elected not to exercise the court's discretion to review the question posed in that part: whether the district court erred in applying agency principles to conclude that C&S intended to commit a crime or fraud and created attorney work product or made communications in furtherance of the crime or fraud; declined to review this issue because it did not present a pure question of law suitable for review on an interlocutory basis under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b); and thus vacated the motion panel's earlier order in part and denied C&S's petition in part. The court held that the crime-fraud exception may defeat work product protection in this circumstance and thus affirmed the part of the district court's order determining that the crime-fraud exception could be applied in this case. View "Drummond Co. v. Conrad & Scherer, LLP" on Justia Law
Edward Lewis Tobinick, MD v. M.D. Steven Novella
The "exceptional case" standard for awarding attorney's fees in Patent Act cases, as articulated by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., 572 U.S. ___, 134 S. Ct. 1749 (2014), also applies to Lanham Act cases. In this case, plaintiff appealed the district court's award of attorney's fees to defendant, arguing that the district court's decision to award attorney's fees and the amount of fees awarded were made in error. The court held that the district court did not abuse its decision here by applying the "exceptional case" standard. View "Edward Lewis Tobinick, MD v. M.D. Steven Novella" on Justia Law
Stevens v. U.S. Attorney General
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims alleging that her constitutional rights were violated when she was denied access to hearings at the Atlanta Immigration Court. The court affirmed the district court's determination that the immigration court judge was entitled to absolute immunity. The court held that the judge was acting within his judicial capacity when he closed immigration hearings, in which plaintiff was not a party to, nor counsel for, any of the parties. The court held that absolute immunity protected the judge both from plaintiff's Bivens claim and her claim for injunctive relief. Finally, plaintiff has failed to satisfy the difficult burden of showing that the district court abused its unique and substantial discretion in deciding whether to exercise jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim for declaratory judgment. View "Stevens v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law