Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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Defendant appealed his conviction of a federal narcotics conspiracy offense, contending that his trial counsel had a conflict of interest that had an adverse effect on his performance at trial. The Eleventh Circuit held that counsel did have a conflict of interest when he represented a government witness who was then appealing his own sentence after pleading guilty to federal narcotics charges. Although counsel knew that the witness had been found to have obstructed justice in his own criminal case, counsel did not ask the witness about the obstruction scheme at defendant's trial. Therefore, the court remanded for the limited purpose of having the district court conduct an evidentiary hearing on whether counsel's conflict resulted in an adverse effect. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's award of sanctions against plaintiff and his attorneys in an action against Pro Transport and its owners, seeking to recover unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court held that Slater v. U.S. Steel Corp., 871 F.3d 1174 (11th Cir. 2017) (en banc), made clear that plaintiff and his attorneys did not act in bad faith or took legal action that had no reasonable chance of success in litigating the FLSA claim. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion by imposing sanctions. View "Antonio Silva v. Pro Transport, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of petitioner in an action under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act to recover fees and costs. The court held that respondent failed to establish under the Act that an award of necessary expenses could be clearly inappropriate. In this case, the record developed on the merits of the wrongful removal petition was replete with evidence contradicting respondent's good faith argument. Therefore, the court affirmed the award of attorney fees, costs and expenses in the total amount of $89,490.26. View "Rath v. Marcoski" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case with prejudice for failure to state a claim, but on an alternative ground. The court held that counsel for homeowners filed a multi-count, incomprehensible complaint that flouted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this Circuit's well-established precedent. The court found that plaintiffs obstructed the due administration of justice in the district court by attempting to prosecute an incomprehensible pleading to judgment. Furthermore, plaintiffs were doing the same here by urging this court to uphold the sufficiency of their amended complaint. The court instructed counsel to show cause why the court should not order him to pay defendants double costs and their expenses, including the attorney's fees they incurred in defending these appeals. View "Jackson v. Specialized Loan Servicing LLC" on Justia Law

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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