Justia Legal Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd, P.C.
The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court in favor of Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd, P.C. and Kelly Rudd (collectively, BCR) in this action brought by the Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Wind River Hotel & Casino (collectively, the Tribe), holding that the district court's order imposing sanctions on the Tribe was erroneous.The Tribe brought this action seeking injunctions for the return of tribal funds and documents, an accounting, and damages for conversion and civil theft. The district court granted summary judgment for BCR on the accounting and injunctions claims and, after a jury trial, entered final judgment on the conversion and civil theft claim. The Tribe appealed, arguing, among other things, that the district court erred by awarding sanctions under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 11. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that (1) the district court erred in imposing sanctions because BCR failed to comply with the procedural requirements of Rule 11; (2) the district court did not err when it granted summary judgment for BCR on the Tribe's accounting claim; and (3) the Tribe failed to show the verdict would have been more favorable if racially charged evidence had not been admitted. View "Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd, P.C." on Justia Law
Lozano v. Circuit Court of Sixth Judicial District
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial District holding State Public Defender Diane Lozano in contempt, holding that the circuit court erred in ruling that the public defender must accept all appointments to serve as counsel for indigent defendants unless and until the appointing court rules otherwise.In May 2019, Lozano notified the circuit court that the public defender was unavailable to take appointments to represent misdemeanor defendants due to a heavy caseload and shortage of attorneys in its Campbell County office. The circuit court subsequently entered orders appointing Lozano or her representative to represent misdemeanor defendants in two cases. The local public defender's office declined the appointments. Thereafter, the court held Lozano in contempt. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 105(b) of the Public Defender Act affords the public defender discretion to decline an appointment or appointments; (2) the circuit court's order mandating that the public defender accept the two misdemeanor appointments was not lawful because it disregarded the public defender's determination that no public defender was available; and (3) because there was no lawful order, the circuit court erred in finding Lozano in contempt. View "Lozano v. Circuit Court of Sixth Judicial District" on Justia Law
Manigault v. Daly & Sorenson, LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the decision in favor of Petitioner’s former attorneys (Respondent-law firm) by a panel of the Wyoming State Bar Committee for Resolution of Fee Disputes. The Court held (1) the panel’s conclusion that it was neither unreasonable nor abusive for Respondent to bill its time using minimum increments of fifteen minutes was supported by substantial evidence; and (2) substantial evidence supported the panel’s conclusion that Respondent exercised billing judgment and did not excessively bill Petitioner for substantive and necessary communication between firm members and employees about Petitioner's case. View "Manigault v. Daly & Sorenson, LLC" on Justia Law
Inquiry Concerning Honorable Ruth Neely
In 2014, a newspaper reporter asked Judge Ruth Neely, a municipal court judge and part-time circuit court magistrate, if she was “excited” to be able to perform same-sex marriages. Neely answered that she would not perform same-sex marriages in her judicial capacity as a part-time circuit court magistrate due to her religious beliefs. The matter came to the attention of the Wyoming Commission on Judicial conduct and Ethics. After an investigation, the Commission’s Investigatory Panel determined that there was probable cause to find a violation of the Wyoming Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commission’s Adjudicatory Panel granted the Commission’s motion for partial summary judgment. The full Commission adopted the Adjudicatory Panel’s findings and recommendations and recommended that Judge Neely be removed from her positions as municipal court judge and part-time circuit court magistrate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Judge Neely violated the Wyoming Code of Judicial Conduct by announcing that she would perform marriages only for opposite-sex couples. The Court, however, did not accept the Commission’s recommendation for removal, and, instead, order public censure with specific conditions. View "Inquiry Concerning Honorable Ruth Neely" on Justia Law
Magin v. Solitude Homeowners, Inc.
After Barbara Magin purchased property in the Solitude subdivision, the Solitude site committee informed her that pre-existing fences and a barn were in violation of the subdivision covenants. Solitude filed a complaint against Magin, alleging violations of the covenants and seeking to recover attorney fees. Attorney Glenn Ford, who practiced in the same firm as the first attorney Magin hired before retaining other counsel, acted as Solitude's counsel. No written waiver of conflict was executed. Magin filed a motion to disqualify Ford from acting as Solitude's counsel due to conflict of interest. The motion was dismissed. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Solitude. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Solitude's counsel had a conflict of interest, but the district court did not err by refusing to disqualify the firm because Magin's motion to disqualify was untimely; (2) the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Solitude; and (3) the district court abused its discretion by ordering Magin to pay the attorney fees generated by her former firm because it failed to segregate the non-recoverable fees associated with clearing the conflict.