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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1985, alleging that several state judges and officials have been unfair to him in divorce and child custody proceedings. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the action and held that, to the extent plaintiff's suit implicated its own subject matter jurisdiction, the court was free to entertain his appeal; the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not bar this case; even if Rooker‐Feldman applied to interlocutory orders, the doctrine still would have no bearing on plaintiff's appeal because he has not asked the court to reject any such order; and the domestic-relations exception to federal jurisdiction was not applicable. The court held that the district court should not have dismissed plaintiff's complaint before the date it had set for him to respond to the sheriff's motion to dismiss the claims against them, but the error was harmless. On the merits, the court held that Judge Boliker could not claim the protection of judicial immunity where she acted in the clear absence of jurisdiction, but that Judge Dickler's alleged actions fell within its scope; plaintiff has not alleged that he suffered any adverse consequences to his parental (or other) rights as a result of his allegedly prejudiced judge and thus his section 1983 claim failed; and section 1985 did not apply to plaintiff's case. View "Kowalski v. Boliker" on Justia Law

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Vogel, a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair, visited Harbor Plaza Shopping Center and, in the parking lot, encountered barriers that prevented him from fully enjoying the shopping center. Vogel sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, statutory damages, and attorney’s fees. Defendant filed an answer. The court scheduled trial for October 2015. In September 2014, the court approved Defendant’s request to substitute counsel, The request was signed by Defendant’s new lawyer and Defendant’s vice-president. Defendant and Defendant’s lawyer thereafter stopped appearing. Plaintiff prepared for trial. At the scheduled pretrial conference, Defendant and its lawyer failed to appear. The court noted that, in 2005, Defendant’s lawyer had been convicted of a federal corruption charge, continued the pretrial conference and ordered Plaintiff to provide notice. Plaintiff provided notice but they failed to appear at the continued conference. The court struck Defendant’s answer. Plaintiff filed an ex parte application for default, which the court entered. Plaintiff eventually moved for default judgment, seeking $36,671.25 in attorney’s fees and submitting a seven-page itemized list of his firm's work. The court granted Plaintiff default judgment; entered an injunction ordering Defendant to make specific structural changes; awarded Plaintiff statutory damages of $4,000 and costs, $3,590.83.1; and applying the local court rule’s formula, calculated fees of $600. The Ninth Circuit vacated the award. By eschewing the ordinary considerations that apply when calculating fees in ADA cases, the district court abused its discretion. View "Vogel v. Harbor Plaza Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff bought a Gilbert, Arizona home in 2004. She was required to pay the Community Association an annual assessment in monthly installments. Defendants notified Plaintiff in 2009 of her failure to pay a debt arising out of the assessment. Defendants represented the Association in suing Plaintiff. After Plaintiff defaulted on a payment agreement, Defendants revived the lawsuit and obtained a default judgment. The parties agreed to a new payment plan and to execute a stipulated judgment against Plaintiff that recognized the Association’s right to collect the debt by selling Plaintiff’s home. Plaintiff failed to make the required payments. The Maricopa Superior Court granted a writ of special execution for foreclosure on Plaintiff’s house. The property was sold for $75,000 at a foreclosure sale, and Defendants received $11,600.13 in satisfaction of the debt, including attorneys’ fees and costs. The district court rejected Plaintiff’s claim that Defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by misrepresenting the amount of Plaintiff’s debt and seeking attorneys’ fees to which they were not entitled. The Ninth Circuit reversed. Defendants’ effort to collect homeowner association fees through judicial foreclosure constitutes “debt collection” under the Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692a(5). In Arizona, requests for post-judgment attorneys’ fees must be made in a motion to the court. No court had yet approved the quantification of the “accruing” attorneys’ fees claimed by Defendants; Defendants falsely represented the legal status of this debt. View "McNair v. Maxwell & Morgan PC" on Justia Law

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In Ohio, judges in all courts of record are selected by election. Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 4, governs the fundraising and political conduct of judicial candidates. Platt, an Ohio attorney, formed the Platt for Judge Campaign Committee in 2013. Platt believes that parts of Canon 4 violate his rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection: Rule 4.1(A)(2), which prohibits a candidate from making speeches on behalf of a political party or another candidate for office; Rule 4.1(A)(3), which prohibits a candidate from publicly endorsing or opposing a candidate for another public office; Rule 4.4(A), which, save for three exceptions, prohibits a judicial candidate from personally soliciting campaign contributions; Rule 4.4(E), which creates a permissible window for soliciting and receiving campaign contributions; Rule 4.4(F), which limits the solicitation and receipt of contributions for candidates defeated before the general election; and Rule 4.4(G), which regulates the solicitation and receipt of contributions for candidates who die or withdraw from the election. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rejection of all of Platt’s claims. Ohio’s rules strike the delicate balance between the Constitution’s commands and the state’s desire to protect judicial integrity. View "Platt v. Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline of the Ohio Supreme Court" on Justia Law

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The case was filed in 2013. In November 2016, the court granted defendants terminating sanctions on Moofly’s claims, finding that Moofly had abused the discovery process and displayed “utter disregard for the court.” Moofly moved for reversal of the terminating sanctions under Code of Civil Procedure section 473, which allows relief from defaults and dismissals entered as a consequence of mistakes or neglect. Defendants argued that that Moofly’s motion was an incorrectly-labeled motion for reconsideration under section 1008. On December 20, the court denied the motion, issued an order to show cause regarding sanctions against Moofly, and set the hearing for January 23, 2017. Moofly filed a response on January 18. On February 2, the court granted the motion for sanctions ($10.499.51) against Moofly and its attorney. The court of appeal reversed. Code of Civil Procedure section 1008 establishes the rules for motions for reconsideration, providing that a court may impose sanctions for violations “as allowed by [s]ection 128.7.” A court may not sanction a party for violating section 1008 without allowing the party a 21-day safe harbor to withdraw the offending motion, as required by section 128.7(c). Moofly did not receive the required 21-day notice to withdraw its motion fand avoid sanctions. View "Moofly Productions v. Favila" on Justia Law

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The Claims Court entered judgment in favor of Starry on its bid protest claim, concluding that the Department of Health and Human Services acted arbitrarily and capriciously in canceling its solicitation seeking to procure certain business operations services. The Claims Court thereafter awarded Starry attorney fees at the rates actually billed to Starry by its counsel, finding that the “extreme measures that [Starry] was forced to pursue to vindicate its right to a rational and lawful federal procurement process, combined with the shocking disregard of the truth by” HHS, constituted a “special factor” justifying an award of fees above the EAJA’s “default rate” of $125 per hour. EAJA, the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(2)(A), provides that when a trial court finds that a “special factor” exists, it is authorized to increase the statutory attorney fee rate in certain cases brought by or against the government. The Federal Circuit vacated the award, holding that the Claims Court erred as a matter of law in holding that an agency’s improper or dilatory conduct during the administrative process that gave rise to the litigation between the parties can constitute a “special factor.” EAJA does not contain any reference to prelitigation activities. View "Starry Associates, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Michigan Supreme Court in this case was whether the rebuttable presumption of undue influence was applicable when the decedent’s attorney breaches Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct (MRPC) 1.8(c), which generally prohibited an attorney from preparing an instrument giving the attorney or his or her close family a substantial gift. Appellants argued that a breach of MRPC 1.8(c) automatically rendered an instrument void, while the appellee attorney argued that, rather than an invalidation of the instrument, a rebuttable presumption of undue influence arose in these circumstances. After considering the applicable provisions of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC), MCL 700.1101 et seq., and the underlying principles of probate law, the Michigan Supreme Court determined a rebuttable presumption applied to these circumstances. "[T]he adoption of MRPC 1.8(c) has no effect on this conclusion because a breach of this rule, like breaches of other professional conduct rules, only triggers the invocation of the attorney disciplinary process; it does not breach the statutory law of EPIC." View "In re Mardigian Estate" on Justia Law

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NOV purchased industrial-strength "desert-proof" air conditioners from Technicool for use on specialty oil-and-gas rigs, for more than $3 million. After multiple units failed, NOV, represented by SBPC, sued Technicool in Texas state court. Technicool filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. NOV sought relief from the automatic stay and was allowed to join Technicool’s owner, Furlough, to its state suit. NOV, again represented by SBPC, filed a claim in the bankruptcy case, representing 93 percent of the total claims. After learning that Furlough had formed other companies, the Trustee sought to consolidate the businesses and pierce the corporate veil and to employ SBPC as special counsel under 11 U.S.C. 327(a). Furlough objected, arguing that SBPC’s representation of NOV was a disqualifying “interest adverse to the estate.” In an engagement letter, signed by SBPC, NOV agreed to transfer to the bankruptcy estate funds it recovered from Furlough in state court. The bankruptcy court, district court, and Fifth Circuit held that Furlough lacked standing to object. Furlough cannot show that he was “directly and adversely affected pecuniarily by the order of the bankruptcy court.” SBPC’s appointment does not directly affect whether the bankruptcy court approves NOV’s claim. Under section 327(c), “a person is not disqualified for employment . . . solely because of such person’s employment by or representation of a creditor, unless there is objection by another creditor or the United States trustee, [and] an actual conflict of interest.” View "Furlough v. Cage" on Justia Law

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In May 2014, Defendants distributed the film Walk of Shame. Weeks earlier, SOYP sent letters to Defendants alleging that the film included elements copied from a screenplay, "Darci’s Walk of Shame," written by SOYP’s president, Rosen; that Rosen’s screenplay was sent to Banks, the star of Walk of Shame, in 2007; that Rosen met with Banks to discuss the project; and that Rosen wanted Banks to star in his movie, but Banks never replied after the meeting. SOYP sued, alleging copyright infringement. Several discovery disputes arose; SOYP filed eight motions to compel production of documents. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the rejection of the suit on the pleadings, finding no substantial similarity between the works. Defendants then moved for attorney’s fees and costs. Judge Morrow, who had adjudicated the merits, held a hearing, Before the hearing, she issued an unsigned tentative order awarding Defendants $314,669.75 in fees and $3,825.15 in costs. After the hearing, she issued a minute order stating that Defendants’ motion was granted in part and denied in part and that a final order would issue. Judge Morrow retired without issuing a final order. Judge Phillips issued a final order, awarding Defendants the amount stated in the tentative order. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, noting the court’s discretion under 17 U.S.C. 505, that SOYP’s subjective beliefs regarding its outcome were irrelevant, and that other factors did not outweigh the objective unreasonableness of SOYP’s litigating position. View "Shame on You Productions, Inc. v. Banks" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court previously denied employer Shearer's Foods' petition for review in this workers’ compensation case, but addressed claimant William Hoffnagle's petition for an award of attorney fees for time that his counsel spent in response to employer’s unsuccessful petition for review. Employer objected that the Supreme Court lacked authority to award fees and also objects to the amount of requested fee. Although the Supreme Court often resolved attorney fee petitions by order rather than written opinion, employer’s objection to the Supreme Court's authority to award fees presented a legal issue that was appropriately resolved by opinion. Employer insisted the Oregon legislature had not authorized an award of fees for work that a claimant’s attorney performs in response to an unsuccessful petition for review; employer did not dispute that, after a series of amendments, ORS 656.386 specified a claimant who prevails against a denial was entitled to an award of attorney fees for work performed at every other stage of the case, including in the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court addressed the merits of the case. "Employer offers no reason why the legislature would have intentionally created that one carve-out to what is otherwise a comprehensive authorization of fees when a claimant relies on counsel to finally prevail against the denial of a claim. Indeed, such a carve- out would be incompatible with what we have described as 'a broad statement of a legislative policy' reflected in ORS 656.386, 'that prevailing claimants’ attorneys shall receive reasonable compensation for their representation.'" The petition for attorney fees was allowed. Claimant was awarded $2,200 as attorney fees on review. View "Shearer's Foods v. Hoffnagle" on Justia Law