Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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C&S sought interlocutory review of the district court’s order concluding that the crime-fraud exception could defeat a law firm and its partner's assertions in discovery of attorney-client privilege and attorney work product protection. The Eleventh Circuit held that interlocutory review was appropriate to address only one aspect of the district court's order; vacated as improvidently granted the motion panel's order in part and elected not to exercise the court's discretion to review the question posed in that part: whether the district court erred in applying agency principles to conclude that C&S intended to commit a crime or fraud and created attorney work product or made communications in furtherance of the crime or fraud; declined to review this issue because it did not present a pure question of law suitable for review on an interlocutory basis under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b); and thus vacated the motion panel's earlier order in part and denied C&S's petition in part. The court held that the crime-fraud exception may defeat work product protection in this circumstance and thus affirmed the part of the district court's order determining that the crime-fraud exception could be applied in this case. View "Drummond Co. v. Conrad & Scherer, LLP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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C&S sought interlocutory review of the district court’s order concluding that the crime-fraud exception could defeat a law firm and its partner's assertions in discovery of attorney-client privilege and attorney work product protection. The Eleventh Circuit held that interlocutory review was appropriate to address only one aspect of the district court's order; vacated as improvidently granted the motion panel's order in part and elected not to exercise the court's discretion to review the question posed in that part: whether the district court erred in applying agency principles to conclude that C&S intended to commit a crime or fraud and created attorney work product or made communications in furtherance of the crime or fraud; declined to review this issue because it did not present a pure question of law suitable for review on an interlocutory basis under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b); and thus vacated the motion panel's earlier order in part and denied C&S's petition in part. The court held that the crime-fraud exception may defeat work product protection in this circumstance and thus affirmed the part of the district court's order determining that the crime-fraud exception could be applied in this case. View "Drummond Co. v. Conrad & Scherer, LLP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The "exceptional case" standard for awarding attorney's fees in Patent Act cases, as articulated by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., 572 U.S. ___, 134 S. Ct. 1749 (2014), also applies to Lanham Act cases. In this case, plaintiff appealed the district court's award of attorney's fees to defendant, arguing that the district court's decision to award attorney's fees and the amount of fees awarded were made in error. The court held that the district court did not abuse its decision here by applying the "exceptional case" standard. View "Edward Lewis Tobinick, MD v. M.D. Steven Novella" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims alleging that her constitutional rights were violated when she was denied access to hearings at the Atlanta Immigration Court. The court affirmed the district court's determination that the immigration court judge was entitled to absolute immunity. The court held that the judge was acting within his judicial capacity when he closed immigration hearings, in which plaintiff was not a party to, nor counsel for, any of the parties. The court held that absolute immunity protected the judge both from plaintiff's Bivens claim and her claim for injunctive relief. Finally, plaintiff has failed to satisfy the difficult burden of showing that the district court abused its unique and substantial discretion in deciding whether to exercise jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim for declaratory judgment. View "Stevens v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Section 362(k)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code specifically departs from the American Rule and authorizes costs and attorneys' fees incurred by the debtor in ending a willful violation of an automatic stay, prosecuting a damages violation, and defending those judgments on appeal. In this case, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order awarding defendants attorneys' fees and costs that they incurred because of plaintiff's unsuccessful appeal of the damages award to defendants for her violation of the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay provision. The court also granted defendants' motion for attorneys' fees incurred in this appeal. View "Mantiply v. Horne" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against a sheriff's deputy for improperly accessing and viewing her private information on Florida driver's license databases. The district court granted plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law and held the deputy liable under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the liquidated damages award where the district court did not abuse its discretion in shaping a damages award appropriate for the facts of this case. The court held, however, that the district court failed to start with the lodestar and gave too much weight to the eighth Johnson factor (the amount involved and the results obtained). Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to recalculate an appropriate amount of attorneys' fees. View "Ela v. Destefano" on Justia Law

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Richard Culbertson was counsel for the four plaintiffs in these consolidated Social Security disability benefits cases. At issue in this appeal was the attorney's fees for Culbertson under 42 U.S.C. 406 and the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412(d). The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not err in its interpretation and application of Dawson v. Finch, 425 F.2d 1192 (5th Cir. 1970) and by imposing a 24% cap on section 406 fees; it was necessary for the district court to add the requested section 406(b) fee together with his EAJA award; and the district court did not abuse its discretion and did not exceed its authority. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Wood v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of forcing women into prostitution and sentenced to life in prison. On remand, a different judge sentenced petitioner to 35 months of imprisonment. Three years after the trial, the United States disclosed that the judge who presided over petitioner's trial and sentenced him to life in prison, Jack Camp, had bipolar disorder and had suffered a brain injury. The investigation also disclosed allegations of racial bias. The court concluded that petitioner sufficiently alleged that Camp was actually biased against him where he proffered evidence that Camp had a difficult time adjudicating African-American men's cases and specifically disliked petitioner based on the fact that petitioner was a black man who pimped white women. Petitioner also alleged that Camp wanted to give all black offenders who pimped white women the maximum possible penalty, and Camp gave petitioner the maximum penalty. The government concedes that denial of an impartial judge is structural error that demands reversal. The court concluded that the district court must allow petitioner on remand an evidentiary hearing to prove that Camp was actually biased against him. The court concluded, however, that the district court correctly denied petitioner's claim that Camp was mentally incompetent without an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Norris v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the Florida Supreme Court unlawfully denied her application to become a member of the Florida Bar in violation of federal bankruptcy law and her right to due process. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Florida Supreme Court denied plaintiff admission to the Bar based on her lack of candor and refusal to repay her financial obligations. The court concluded that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's 11 U.S.C. 525(a) claim; sovereign immunity bars plaintiff's due process claim because the Florida Supreme Court is a department of the State of Florida; and the Ex Parte Young exception is not applicable in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Uberoi v. Supreme Court of Florida" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the State Bar, alleging a due process claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that the State Bar’s rules applied the same standards and procedures for reinstatement for disbarred attorneys to attorneys suspended for more than 90 days, amounted to “defacto disbarment,” and violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The district court dismissed the complaint as barred by the Eleventh Amendment and then denied plaintiff's motion to alter or amend the judgment. Determining that the court has jurisdiction to hear plaintiff's appeal, the court agreed with the district court's conclusion that the Alabama State Bar is an arm of the state of Alabama and thus enjoys Eleventh Amendment immunity from plaintiff's section 1983 claim. Further, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's FRCP 59(e) motion where, to the extent plaintiff contends his due process claim was a “direct action” under the Fourteenth Amendment, his amended complaint did not allege such a claim, and he could not use his Rule 59(e) motion to do so. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Nichols v. Alabama State Bar" on Justia Law