Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants GDB, Stavis, and Kartagener, remanding for further proceedings. This appeal arose from breach of contract and quasi-contract claims brought by plaintiff stemming from defendants' legal representation of plaintiff.The court concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's breach-of-contract claim because, under New York law, plaintiff can maintain a breach-of-contract claim without any showing that the $100,000 belonged to him. Although plaintiff's quasi-contract claims against Defendant Stavis and GDB do require a showing that he owned the money, the court further concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to those defendants on those claims because there is sufficient evidence in the record from which a jury could conclude that the money indeed belonged to defendant. Finally, the court held that summary judgment for Stavis in his individual capacity was also inappropriate. View "Moreno-Godoy v. Kartagener" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his firm appeal from the district court's opinion and order sanctioning them for their conduct during their representation of a client in his copyright case against Bandshell Artist Management. The district court found that plaintiff repeatedly violated court orders, lied under oath to the district court, and brought and maintained this case in bad faith. The district court cited its authority under 28 U.S.C. 1927, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16, and its inherent power, and imposed monetary sanctions in attorney's fees, additional monetary sanctions, and nonmonetary sanctions that, inter alia, imposed nationwide requirements on cases filed by plaintiff and his firm.The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court's sanctions on plaintiff and his law firm, while strict, were not an abuse of discretion. In this case, the district court's factual findings – including the findings of bad faith – were adequately supported by the evidence in the record and by the district court's judgments of witness credibility. The court explained that, given plaintiff's serious and repeated misconduct, he and his firm merited sanctions reserved for attorneys and litigants who demonstrate via their actions that unusual measures are required to deter future misbehavior, protect other litigants, and maintain the integrity of the judicial system. View "Liebowitz v. Bandshell Artist Management" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit granted counsel's motion to withdraw pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), in defendant's appeal from the district court's final order denying his motion for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). Because a defendant has no constitutional or statutory right to assistance of counsel on a compassionate release motion or an appeal from the denial of such a motion, the court held that an attorney seeking to be relieved before it in that context need not file a motion and brief that comply with the requirements of Anders. Instead, counsel's motion to be relieved must adhere to Rule 27 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and Local Rule 27.1 by stating with particularity the grounds for the motion, the relief requested, and the legal argument supporting that request, as well as attaching an affidavit indicating that counsel has advised the defendant of the process for obtaining court-appointed counsel or proceeding pro se. Counsel in this case complied with the requirements of Rule 27. The court also denied the government's motion for summary affirmance of the district court's decision. View "United States v. Fleming" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's orders affirming the bankruptcy court's award of monetary sanctions pursuant to its inherent power. Appellant filed a Chapter 7 petition in bankruptcy court for his client but ultimately failed to prosecute the case. The bankruptcy court then issued multiple orders to show cause, which appellant failed to comply with, and then the bankruptcy court ultimately sanctioned him.The court held, as a matter of first impression, that bankruptcy courts possess inherent power to sanction attorneys in appropriate circumstances. In this case, appellant's challenges to the bankruptcy court's exercise of that power failed for the reasons set forth in a separately-filed summary order. View "In re: Alba Sanchez" on Justia Law

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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