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The Supreme Court ordered that Appellees’ joint motion to declare John Stokes a vexatious litigant is granted in part and ordered that, before Stokes could file any pleading pro se in a Montana district court or the Montana Supreme Court, he was required to obtain pre-filing approval from the court in which he sought to file. The court ordered that any such filing may be prohibited upon a determination that the claims asserted are harassing, frivolous, or legally not cognizable. The pre-filing requirement applies to pro se filings by Stokes in cases where his counsel has withdrawn from representation. View "Stokes v. First American Title Co. of Montana, Inc." on Justia Law

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Simmons contacted counsel in 2011, claiming that he developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome as a result of his 2010 flu vaccination. He provided his vaccination record. Counsel agreed to represent him. Counsel was subsequently unable to contact Simmons and sent a letter in 2013, stating that their attorney-client relationship had terminated. That letter was returned as undeliverable. Nearly two years later, shortly before the limitations period on his Vaccine Act claim would expire, Simmons contacted counsel’ and expressed that he would like to proceed. Counsel spoke with Simmons one additional time. The next day, on October 22, 2013, counsel filed Simmons’s petition, without any medical records or other supporting evidence. In January 2014, the special master ordered counsel to produce medical records. Counsel stated that counsel had again lost contact with Simmons and was unable to acquire those records. The master dismissed the case for failure to prosecute. Counsel then filed petitions seeking $8,267.89 in fees and costs. The master noted that because there was no direct evidence of bad faith and counsel had a vaccination receipt, counsel had satisfied the good faith and reasonable basis requirements and awarded fees. The Claims Court and Federal Circuit disagreed. The master erred in finding that counsel had a reasonable basis for Simmons’s claim. The fact that the statute of limitations was about to expire did not excuse counsel’s obligation to show some basis for the claim that Simmons suffered Guillain-Barre beyond their conversations. View "Simmons v. Secretary of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order granting attorney fees to respondent after the trial court entered an interlocutory judgment of partition in her favor. In this case, the trial court found that an attorney fee provision in an earlier settlement agreement applied to the partition action, and awarded all fees to plaintiff under Civil Code section 1717 rather than apportioning the costs of partition under Code of Civil Procedure section 874.040. The court held, however, that the partition action did not fall within the terms of the attorney fee provision. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Orien v. Lutz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the findings of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) that Judge Philip James Yacucci, Jr., a county court judge in the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, violated Canons 1, 2A, 3B(8), 3B(8) and 3(E)(1) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. The court also approved the JQC’s recommended discipline of a public reprimand, a thirty-day suspension without pay, completion of a judicial ethics course within one year, and payment of the costs of the JQC proceedings. Before the court, Judge Yacucci disputed only the recommendation of a thirty-day suspension. The Supreme Court concluded that, in light of Judge Yacucci’s conduct, suspension was an appropriate sanction. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Philip James Yacucci, Jr." on Justia Law

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Kerr sought judicial review of the final determination that Kerr’s husband was not disabled and not entitled to any Social Security disability insurance benefits before his death. Kerr was due to receive any payment owed to Mr. Kerr. The parties stipulated to reversal and remand under 42 U.S.C. 405(g). Kerr then sought an award of $3,206.25 in attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d), with any fees awarded “be made payable to Plaintiff’s counsel,” attaching an “Affidavit and Assignment of EAJA Fee.” The Commissioner did not oppose the motion. The district court granted the award, declined to honor Kerr’s assignment, and concluded that it was required to order payment to Kerr as the prevailing party. The court held that it could not “ignore the Anti-Assignment Act,” which prohibits “an assignment of a claim against the United States that is executed before the claim is allowed, before the amount of the claim is decided, and before a warrant for payment of the claim has been issued” but “le[ft] it to the Commissioner’s discretion to determine whether to waive the Anti-Assignment Act and make the fee payable to Mr. Marks.” The Commissioner responded that she would accept [Kerr’s] assignment and suggested that the court deny as moot Kerr’s Rule 59(e) motion. The district court and Sixth Circuit agreed that Kerr’s motion was moot, and did not reconsider the application of the AAA to the EAJA assignment. View "Kerr v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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Denton sued his employer, San Francisco, alleging workplace retaliation, disability discrimination (disparate treatment, failure to accommodate, failure to engage in the interactive process), defamation, violation of the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (Civ. Code 56), hostile work environment harassment, and failure to prevent harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, and against his supervisor, alleging defamation and hostile work environment harassment. After defendants moved for summary judgment, negotiations led to a settlement ($250,000). Denton’s then-counsel filed a notice of conditional settlement. A week later, after Denton discharged his attorney, defendants’ counsel successfully applied ex parte to have the settlement set aside, despite Denton twice assuring defendants’ counsel that he was not backing out of the settlement. Four days later, at the hearing on defendants’ summary judgment motion, Denton, appearing in propria persona, requested a continuance to oppose the motion. The trial court denied the request and granted defendants’ motion as unopposed. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court abused its discretion. To the extent the court implied that Denton was not diligent, the implication is not supported by the record. Defendants’ counsel acknowledged as much at the hearing. View "Denton v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff RES-GA McDonough LLC (“RES-GA”) brought a legal malpractice action against Taylor English Duma LLP and two of its attorneys (collectively, “Taylor English”). RES-GA contended that Taylor English failed to timely assert a Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act claim, thus damaging RES-GA’s ability to satisfy its judgment against a debtor. Taylor English moved to dismiss the complaint, contending that RES-GA had failed to allege a viable underlying cause of action to support its malpractice claim. The trial court agreed and granted Taylor English’s motion to dismiss. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "RES-GA McDonough, LLC v. Taylor English Duma, LLP" on Justia Law

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After a bench trial, the trial court concluded that defendant attorney’s failure to adequately inform plaintiff Hannah Sachs of the risks of delay in filing a parentage action “negligently fell short of the standard of reasonably competent legal representation.” Despite the court’s conclusion that defendant breached her professional duty of care, the trial court determined that plaintiff failed to demonstrate direct causation or measurable damages as a result of defendant’s negligent advice. On appeal, plaintiff challenges the court’s legal conclusions and contends that the court’s factual findings established both causation and damages. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with plaintiff, and reversed. View "Sachs v. Downs Rachlin Martin, PLLC" on Justia Law

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Georgia Urology, P.A., and several of its member physicians filed objections to challenge a $124 million attorney fee awarded by the Jefferson Alabama Circuit Court to class counsel as part of the settlement of Johnson v. Caremark Rx, LLC ("the Caremark class action). After the trial court overruled their objections and its judgment approving the settlement became final, the objectors appealed the attorney fee to this Court. Caremark Rx bought MedPartners; MedPartners was the subject of dozens of securities-fraud lawsuits alleging that it had made false statements regarding its financial condition and anticipated future performance. Many of those lawsuits were eventually consolidated into a class action. In 1999, the MedPartners class action was settled for $56 million based on MedPartners' assertions that the negotiated settlement exhausted its available insurance coverage and that it possessed limited other assets it could use to pay a larger award or settlement. Post-settlement, however, it was revealed in unrelated litigation that MedPartners actually held an excess-insurance policy providing unlimited coverage during the period in which the alleged fraud had been committed. In 2003, the Caremark class action was initiated against MedPartners' corporate successor Caremark Rx, and its previous insurer asserting fraud and suppression claims based on the $56 million settlement agreed to in the MedPartners class action. The objectors appealed the fee award to the Alabama Supreme Court, arguing that they had been given insufficient opportunity to object to class counsel's requested attorney fee inasmuch as their objections were due before class counsel's attorney-fee application was filed, and that the attorney fee ultimately awarded was excessive. The Supreme Court vacated the order entered by the trial court awarding class counsel an attorney fee of $124 million. On remand, class counsel may file a new attorney-fee application, including more detailed information regarding the time expended in this case and how that time was spent. The objectors would then be given a reasonable opportunity to review that application and may, if they still have objections to class counsel's new application, file those objections with the trial court. After the trial court considers those objections and enters a new order making an award of attorney fees, any party with a grievance may file a new appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. View "Walker v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Represented by Folkenflik, Plaintiffs, victims of Bressman’s manipulation of stock prices, brought civil securities fraud and RICO claims against Bressman and others. Bressman filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Plaintiffs then filed the adversary complaint. The civil securities fraud and RICO claims continued against Bressman’s co-defendants. In 1998, some of those claims were settled for $6,250,000. Folkenflik received the funds. The approved Settlement Agreement included a confidentiality order. Months later, Plaintiffs sought a default judgment against Bressman. Folkenflik submitted an affidavit that indicated that the damages totaled $5,195,081, provided a comprehensive account of the underlying proceedings, but did not mention the settlement. The bankruptcy court entered a default judgment against Bressman. Plaintiffs later sought RICO damages and attorneys’ fees, again not mentioning the settlement. The bankruptcy court entered a RICO judgment for treble damages: $15,585,243 plus $910,855.93 in attorneys’ fees. More than 10 years later, Folkenflik learned that Bressman might receive $10 million, and filed ex parte applications on behalf of Plaintiffs to appoint a receiver to search for and seize Bressman’s assets. Searches and seizures were executed. Flolkenflik did not disclose the settlement and made misleading representations to the courts and Bressman’s attorney. When the courts learned about the settlement, the orders were vacated and the seized materials returned. The bankruptcy court found that Folkenflik’s conduct constituted fraud on the court, vacated the default judgment, and dismissed the adversary complaint with prejudice. The Third Circuit affirmed. Bressman’s motion was not barred by laches. Folkenflik’s failure to disclose the settlement constituted intentional fraud. Even if he believed that the confidentiality order prohibited him from disclosing the existence of the Agreement, he could have so stated in his affidavit and asked the courts for guidance. View "In re: Bressman" on Justia Law