Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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After plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the City and individual police officers for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights, defendants presented plaintiff with an offer judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68. Plaintiff accepted the officer but the parties disputed the sum of attorney's fees, expenses, and costs to be paid. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to reduce plaintiff's attorney's reasonable hourly rate in light of the simple nature of the case; affirmed the district court's decision to reduce the hours claimed through an across-the-board reduction to reflect the clerical work performed; but reversed and vacated the district court's decision to award plaintiff attorney's fees for the work incurred preparing the fee application where the express terms of the accepted Rule 68 offer of judgment limited the fees recoverable to those incurred to the date of the offer. View "Lilly v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The parties dispute the district court's award of attorney's fees to plaintiff in an action successfully claiming a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The Second Circuit affirmed and held that plaintiff was entitled to attorney's fees as a prevailing party; plaintiff may not obtain fees for the administrative proceedings for failure to identify "the discrete portion of the work product from the administrative proceedings" for which fees might have been awarded, North Carolina Dep't of Transportation v. Crest Street Community Council, Inc., 479 U.S. 6, 15 (1986); and the 50 percent reduction was appropriate. View "Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County, Inc. v. Litchfield Historic District Commission" on Justia Law

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After appellant successfully litigated her claim to supplemental social security income, she challenged the district court's denial of her application for attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. 406(b). The Second Circuit affirmed the denial of appellant's attorney's fee application as untimely, because she filed well beyond the 14 days prescribed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2)(B). Assuming the court would entertain appellant's argument, it failed on the merits because she provided no factual basis to support a claim that it was reasonable to delay the filing of her section 406(b) application for more than six months after she received notice of the benefits calculation on remand. View "Sinkler v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the State in 1991 on behalf of a statewide class of children with intellectual disabilities for failing to comply with the requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), that children with disabilities be educated in the "least restrictive environment" that meets their needs. After the parties negotiated a settlement, and near the end of the agreement's term, plaintiffs' counsel moved for additional attorneys' fees. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's award of attorneys' fees in part, holding that counsel was not barred from further attorneys' fees by the text of the settlement agreement or the definition of "prevailing party" contained in Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001). However, the court reversed in part, holding that the district court misapplied the Delaware Valley standard in awarding several categories of work. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "P.J. v. Connecticut State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The trust appealed the district court's grant of the law firm's request for a percentage fee awarded from the common settlement fund. The fee award was compensation for the law firm's representation of a class of plaintiffs that settled securities law claims against BioScript. The trust was a member of the class and objected to the fee award. The Second Circuit affirmed and held that, regardless of whether the claims settled here were initiated under fee‐shifting statutes, the common‐fund doctrine properly controls the district court's allocation of attorneys' fees from a common settlement fund. The court explained that class plaintiffs have received the benefit of counsel's representation and assumption of the risk that the lawsuit will not render a recovery, and thus the class may be fairly charged for counsel's assumption of contingent risk. Therefore, the court held that the district court was entitled to exercise its discretion in awarding either a percentage‐of‐the‐fund fee or a lodestar fee to class counsel. View "Fresno County Employees' Retirement Assoc. v. Isaacson/Weaver Family Trust" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment granting attorneys' fees and costs to defendants under section 505 of the Copyright Act and section 35(a) of the Lanham Act. These provisions authorized the district court to award fees to the prevailing party in a lawsuit. The court held that defendants met the definition of "prevailing party" under both fee-shifting provisions. Although defendants did not obtain a dismissal on the the Copyright and Lanham Acts claims, defendants have fulfilled their primary objective by obtaining dismissal of the complaint on collateral estoppel grounds. View "Manhattan Review, LLC v. Yun" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order enjoining Reed Smith's action for tortious interference and unjust enrichment in New York state court against Wohl & Fruchter, in a dispute arising from the two firms' concurrent representation of the plaintiff class in the now-settled litigation. The court held that the district court had ancillary jurisdiction over the motion to stay the state court proceedings; the district court properly declined to abstain from exercising jurisdiction where all six factors in Woodford v. Cmty. Action Agency of Green Cty., Inc., 239 F.3d 517, 522 (2d Cir. 2001), favored retaining jurisdiction; the injunction was proper under the Anti-Injunction Act where the district court properly issued the injunction to prevent Reed Smith from relitigating the terms of the Fee Order; and Wohl & Fruchter's cross appeal was procedurally untenable. View "Kaplan v. Reed Smith LLP" on Justia Law

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The United States appealed the district court's order precluding the government from introducing at trial certain testimony by a co-defendant turned government witness on the basis of the common-interest rule of attorney-client privilege. The Second Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court, finding nothing in the circumstances in this case to support the application of the privilege. Here, the excluded statements were not made to, in the presence of, or within the hearing of an attorney for any of the common-interest parties; nor did the excluded statements seek the advice of, or communicate advice previously given by, an attorney for any of the common-interest parties; nor were the excluded statements made for the purpose of communicating with such an attorney. View "United States v. Krug" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court addressed in Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger, 137 S. Ct. 1178, 1183‐84 (2017), a federal court's inherent authority to sanction a litigant for bad‐faith conduct by ordering it to pay the other side's legal fees. The Court held that such an order is limited to the fees the innocent party incurred solely because of the misconduct—or put another way, to the fees that party would not have incurred but for the bad faith. This appeal stemmed from a suit against T-Mobile for property damage to a building T-Mobile had leased space on the roof of for cell tower equipment. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's order of sanctions because it was in serious tension with the Court's holding and because the district court was mislead by defendants' submissions in awarding such severe sanctions. View "Virginia Properties, LLC v. T-Mobile Northeast LLC" on Justia Law

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To vacate an arbitration award on the ground that the award was fraudulently procured, the petitioner must demonstrate the fraud was material to the award. There must be a nexus between the alleged fraud and the decision made by the arbitrators. The petitioner, however, need not demonstrate that the arbitrators would have reached a different result. In this case, Odeon brought a petition to vacate an arbitral award involving claims arising out of the termination of one of its employees. Odeon alleged that the arbitrators engaged in misconduct and acted in manifest disregard of the law, and then sought to amend its petition to assert fraud as an additional ground for vacatur. The Second Circuit held that Odeon failed to establish that the employee's alleged perjury had any impact on the arbitration award. The court also held that the district court applied the wrong legal standard in denying the employee's request for attorneys' fees where New York law provided statutory authority for the fee request. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Odeon Capital Group LLC v. Ackerman" on Justia Law