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Family Code section 271 does not authorize the court to award sanctions to non-parties, but rather is intended to promote settlement of family law litigation through shifting fees between the parties to the litigation. In this case, the Court of Appeal agreed that the trial court was without authority to award sanctions to respondents because they were not parties to this action. The court reasoned that sanctions may not be awarded under section 271 to a party's attorney when it was that attorney who was requesting the sanctions for the sole benefit of the attorney. Accordingly, the court reversed the order for sanctions. View "Webb v. Webb" on Justia Law

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Brett Williamson was charged with and convicted of various child pornography offenses. Prior to trial, it came to light that his defense counsel and the prosecutor trying the case had a history together: they were divorced and shared custody of their child. For that and numerous other reasons, Williamson asked for new counsel, but the district court denied his request. Williamson proceeded without an attorney and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. On appeal of his conviction, Williamson argued the district court should have inquired into his defense counsel’s potential personal conflict of interest to determine if the relationship might have affected his right to a fair trial, and that failure to do so requires automatic reversal. The Tenth Circuit concluded Williamson failed to make a showing that his counsel was laboring under an actual conflict of interest, so it rejected his conflict of interest argument based on his defense counsel’s personal relationship with the prosecutor. The Court also rejected Williamson’s alternative arguments for new counsel: that his filing of a criminal complaint against his counsel constituted an actual conflict of interest, and that Williamson demonstrated a complete breakdown of communications between his attorney and himself. View "United States v. Williamson" on Justia Law

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This was a legal malpractice case that addressed the statute of limitations applicable to professional malpractice claims, how a statute of limitations is calculated when the last day for filing a complaint falls on a Sunday, and whether expert testimony is necessary to establish the prima facie elements of legal malpractice. Plaintiff-appellant Christina Greenfield hired defendant-respondent Ian Smith to represent her in a civil suit against her neighbors. While the suit was pending, Greenfield was charged criminally with malicious injury to the Wurmlingers’ property. Greenfield retained Smith to represent her in the criminal matter. Greenfield was acquitted of the criminal charges. In the civil case, Smith successfully moved to withdraw from representing Greenfield because the attorney-client relationship had broken down to the point where he was no longer able to represent her. Greenfield represented herself at trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the neighbors. Greenfield sued Smith for malpractice, alleging, among other things, that he failed to complete discovery, failed to file a motion for summary judgment on the Wurmlingers’ counterclaim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, failed to amend the complaint to include additional causes of action for abuse of process, slander and libel, failed to file a timely motion for protective order to safeguard the privacy of her medical records, missed several important deadlines, and made no attempt to get the criminal charges dismissed for lack of evidence. Smith filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Greenfield’s claims were time barred and that she could not prove the prima facie elements of legal malpractice because she failed to designate any expert witnesses. Greenfield opposed the motion by filing a responsive brief and her own affidavit setting forth the allegations she claimed supported her malpractice claim, but did not file any expert affidavits. Greenfield argued that her complaint was timely and that no expert witness was required to prove her case. The district court granted Smith’s motion. Greenfield appealed. Though the Idaho Supreme Court found that the district court miscalculated the filing deadline for Greenfield’s civil matter claims (for determining whether her claims were time barred), Greenfield was unable to meet her burdens of proof to support her claims. Accordingly, the Court affirmed judgment in favor of Smith. View "Greenfield v. Smith" on Justia Law

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IAR believed that defendant, its former CEO, had embezzled money. IAR, represented by Valla, sued defendant. Valla, on behalf of IAR, reported the crimes to the Foster City Police. The district attorney charged defendant with felony embezzlement. In response to defendant’s subpoena, Valla produced over 600 documents and moved to quash other requests on attorney-client privilege grounds. Defendant filed another subpoena, seeking documents relating to an email from the district attorney to Valla, discussing the need for a forensic accountant. Valla sought a protective order. Defendant asserted Valla was part of the prosecution team, subject to the Brady disclosure requirement. Valla and deputy district attorneys testified that Valla did not conduct legal research or investigate solely at the request of the police or district attorney, take action with respect to defendant other than as IAR's attorneys, nor ask for assistance in the civil matter. IAR retained a forensic accountant in the civil action, who also testified in the criminal matter, after being prepared by the district attorney. IAR paid the expert for both. There were other instances of cooperation, including exchanges of legal authority. The court found Valla to be a part of the prosecution team. The court of appeals reversed. The focus is on whether the third party has been acting under the government’s direction and control. Valla engaged in few, if any, activities that would render it part of the prosecution team. View "IAR Systems Software, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The 555 patent relates to anti-theft tags that are attached to merchandise and deactivated when the goods are purchased. The accused tags are manufactured in Europe and imported into the U.S. Checkpoint brought an infringement suit. A jury found the patent not infringed, invalid, and unenforceable. The court found the case to be “exceptional” under 35 U.S.C. 285 because Checkpoint’s expert witness based his infringement opinion on an examination of tags that were manufactured by All–Tag in Switzerland, although the accused tags were manufactured in Belgium, and awarded the defendants $6.6 million in attorney fees, costs, and interest. On remand from the Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit instructed the district court "that tests or experiments on the actual accused products are not always necessary to prove infringement.” The district court again found the case exceptional, citing the same ground, and found Checkpoint’s pre-suit investigation, based on a European infringement verdict against All–Tag on a 555 patent counterpart and infringement opinions from counsel, inadequate because the opinions “were given years before filing.” The court cited Checkpoint’s “improper motivation.” The Federal Circuit reversed, noting that the tags tested by the expert were produced on the same machines that were transferred to Belgium. The claim of infringement was reasonable and the litigation was not brought in bad faith or with abusive tactics. View "Checkpoint Systems, Inc. v. All-Tag Security S.A." on Justia Law

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Rothschild alleged that ADS’s home security system infringed its 090 patent. Rothschild has filed numerous lawsuits against others alleging infringement of the 090 patent. ADS filed an answer and counterclaims and sent Rothschild an email alleging that the patent covered patent-ineligible subject matter (35 U.S.C. 1011) and that prior art anticipated claim 1 (35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1)). ADS offered to settle if Rothschild paid ADS $43,330 for attorney fees and costs. Rothschild rejected ADS’s offer. ADS moved for judgment on the pleadings, sending Rothschild an FRCP 11(c)(2) Safe Harbor Notice, with copies of a proposed Rule 11(b) motion for sanctions and prior art that purportedly anticipated the claim. Rothschild voluntarily moved to dismiss. ADS opposed and filed a cross-motion for attorney fees, arguing that Rothschild’s suit was objectively unreasonable because Rothschild knew or should have known that claim 1 covers patent-ineligible subject matter and was anticipated. The Federal Circuit reversed the holding that Rothschild had not engaged in conduct sufficient to make the litigation “exceptional” for purposes of section 285 attorney fees. Whether a party avoids or engages in sanctionable conduct under Rule 11(b) is not the appropriate benchmark; a court may award fees in the rare case in which a party’s unreasonable conduct—while not necessarily independently sanctionable—is so exceptional as to justify an award. View "Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations, LLC v. Guardian Protection Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant, who was convicted of rape, filed a pro se petition to correct an illegal sentence under Ark. Code Ann. 16-90-111. The trial court denied the petition. Appellant appealed. The Supreme Court found good cause to reverse without considering Appellant’s arguments concerning the merits of his petition for relief under the statute. The court held that because the judge who ruled on Appellant’s section 16-90-111 petition was, in fact, the prosecuting attorney at his trial for rape, a serious appearance impropriety was created because the judge did not refrain from presiding over a case in which he might be interested. The court remanded the matter so that a different circuit judge can rule on the petition. View "Latham v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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Roger and Carrie Peters and Draggin’ Y Cattle Company (collectively, Peters) entered into a stipulated settlement with Junkermier, Clark, Campanella, Stevens, P.C. and Larry Addink (collectively, Junkermier). Judge George Huss, the presiding judge, determined that the stipulated settlement was reasonable and entered judgment against New York Marine and General Insurance Company, Junkermier’s insurer. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that Judge Huss improperly failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest. On remand, the district court determined that Judge Huss was required to recuse himself and should have been disqualified and vacated Judge Huss’s orders issued after he should have been disqualified. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) correctly held that Judge Huss was required to disqualify himself pursuant to Montana Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 2.12(A); and (2) did not err in vacating Judge Huss’s orders issued after he should have disqualified himself. View "Draggin Cattle Co. v. New York Marine & General Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Attorney filed suit, seeking payment of unpaid fees. Client filed an answer and, one year later, asked for arbitration pursuant to his retainer agreement. The court compelled arbitration that resulted in no recovery by either side. Six days after the award, Client asked the arbitrator to award him costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 998 because Attorney’s recovery was less favorable than an offer that Client made two months before demanding arbitration. When the arbitrator responded that he no longer had jurisdiction, Client asked the court to confirm the award, with Section 998 costs. The court confirmed the arbitration award but determined that Client failed to make a timely section 998 claim to the arbitrator and denied Client’s request for costs. The court of appeals reversed, rejecting Attorney’s suggestion that Client should have presented his section 998 request for costs to an arbitrator before the arbitration award was rendered. An offer which is not accepted “cannot be given in evidence upon the trial or arbitration.” In his request to confirm the award, Client established that the arbitrator had refused to hear any evidence of Attorney’s rejection of Client’s section 998 offer; Client timely presented his claim to the arbitrator, who should have reached the merits of that claim. View "Heimlich v. Shivji" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant after it attempted to collect debt from plaintiff, alleging that the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the District of Columbia Consumer Protections Procedures Act (CPPA), and the District of Columbia Debt Collection Law (DCDCL). Plaintiff eventually accepted defendant's offer of judgment regarding the FDCPA claim and the district court determined the attorney's fees to which she was entitled for this success. The DC Circuit held that Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2)(D) and 72(b)(3) foreclose the district court from using a "clearly erroneous or contrary to law" standard when evaluating a magistrate judge's proposed disposition of an attorney's fee request. The correct standard of review is de novo. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded to allow the trial judge to reconsider this matter in the first instance applying de novo review. The court affirmed as to the remaining orders challenged on appeal. View "Baylor v. Mitchell Rubenstein & Assoc." on Justia Law