Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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This litigation over attorney's fees stemmed from a Freedom of Information Act case. At issue was whether plaintiff was entitled to attorney's fees under the Freedom of Information Act attorney's fee statute. Applying a deferential standard, the DC Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in its analysis of four factors: (i) the public benefit from the case; (ii) the commercial benefit to the plaintiff; (iii) the nature of the plaintiff's interest in the records; and (iv) the reasonableness of the agency's withholding of the requested documents. Furthermore, the district court acted within its discretion when it concluded that the fourth factor outweighed the other three. View "Morley v. CIA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment that certain documents subpoenaed by the FTC were covered by the attorney-client privilege. The court held that obtaining or providing legal advice was one of the significant purposes of the communications at issue. In this case, the relevant communications consisted primarily of the transmission of factual information from Boehringer's employees to the general counsel, at the general counsel's request, for the purpose of assisting the general counsel in formulating her legal advice regarding a possible settlement. Other communications were between the general counsel and the corporation's executives regarding the settlement. Therefore, all of the communications were protected by the attorney-client privilege. View "FTC v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The DC Circuit held that two Federal Trade Commission attorneys were immune from suit for their conduct during an enforcement action against a medical-records company after the company's CEO publicly criticized the FTC about their investigation, where the company's data-security practices made patient records available over public file-sharing. The court held that qualified immunity protected all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law and, even if the attorneys sought to retaliate for the public criticism, their actions did not violate any clearly established right absent plausible allegations that their motive was the but-for cause of the Commission's enforcement action. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to the attorneys. View "Daugherty v. Sheer" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion to compel payment of attorneys' fees that they say should have been but were not paid as a result of PBGC doing too little to identify and make payments to class members. The court's de novo interpretation of the wrap-up agreement gave it no reason to question the district court's conclusion that PBGC fully performed notwithstanding class counsel's unsupported assertions to the contrary. The court also held that PBGC did not prevent class counsel's performance of the wrap-up agreement. In this case, the parties intended that the wrap-up would be complete within ten years. This ten year period was unambiguous and has expired. View "Collins v. PBGC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion to compel payment of attorneys' fees that they say should have been but were not paid as a result of PBGC doing too little to identify and make payments to class members. The court's de novo interpretation of the wrap-up agreement gave it no reason to question the district court's conclusion that PBGC fully performed notwithstanding class counsel's unsupported assertions to the contrary. The court also held that PBGC did not prevent class counsel's performance of the wrap-up agreement. In this case, the parties intended that the wrap-up would be complete within ten years. This ten year period was unambiguous and has expired. View "Collins v. PBGC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs settled a legal malpractice suit (2009 Litigation) in 2010 against defendant, but alleged that defendant failed to explain that the settlement meant all of their claims were fully and finally dismissed. In 2015, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant for, inter alia, his allegedly negligent settlement advice. The district court twice dismissed the complaint as untimely. The DC Circuit held that, taking the allegations of the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs' favor, plaintiffs' claims were not conclusively time barred at the pleading stage. Under the circumstances of this case, including the parties' attorney-client relationship, plaintiffs' efforts to check in with defendant about the 2009 Litigation every three months following the 2010 settlement plausibly fulfilled their duty to investigate their affairs with reasonable diligence. Therefore, it was plausible that plaintiffs' claims did not accrue prior to May 6, 2012 and thus their claims were not time-barred. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Momenian v. Davidson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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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

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Washtech, a labor union that represents American workers, appealed from a fee award it received under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412, for proceedings in which it partially succeeded in challenging a DHS practice allowing student visa holders to remain in the United States after completion of their formal education. The DC Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying fees generally for Washtech's unsuccessful efforts. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. DHS" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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Wilfred I. Aka appealed the Tax Court's decision to disbar him and, alternatively, its failure to include in its disbarment order instructions for his reinstatement. The court held that it has jurisdiction to review Tax Court disbarment orders and that the court will review the Tax Court's factual findings for clear error. Nonetheless, the court considered de novo Aka's argument. On the merits, the court concluded that Aka offered no legal authority for his contention that the Tax Court violated his due-process rights, and neither procedural nor substantive due process provided a basis for reversing the Tax Court's order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the disbarment order and declined to order the Tax Court to propose additional steps for reinstatement. View "Aka v. United States Tax Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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NAAMJP and two of its members filed suit alleging that bar admission conditions for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, established in the identical text of Local Civil Rule 83.8 and Local Criminal Rule 57.21 (collectively, the "Local Rule"), violate statutory and constitutional legal standards. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss. On appeal, NAAMJP argued that the Local Rule (1) violates the Rules Enabling Act, 28 U.S.C. 2071 and 2072; (2) runs afoul of the Supreme Court's decision in Frazier v. Heebe; (3) improperly applies rational basis review; and (4) violates 28 U.S.C. 1738, admission requirements of other federal courts and administrative agencies, and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court concluded that the district court properly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate all claims brought by Patent Lawyer Doe and all claims asserted against the Attorney General; NAAMJP has failed to identify any substantive right that has been infringed by the Local Rule; the Supreme Court in Frazier exercised its own unique supervisory authority to overturn a local rule regarding bar admission in the Eastern District of Louisiana and, in so doing, made no constitutional ruling; and the Principal Office Provision embodies a reasonable assumption: local licensing control is better positioned to facilitate training sessions, conduct monitoring programs, and field complaints from the public—all rational bases for the Local Rule. The court rejected NAAMJP's remaining claims and affirmed the judgment. View "National Association for the Advancement of Multijurisdiction Practice v. Howell" on Justia Law