Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order limiting the scope of plaintiff's general causation phase discovery in this products liability suit alleging that plaintiff's husband's use of Enbrel caused his myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) which resulted in his death. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the scope of plaintiff's general causation discovery; the district court's basis for weighing proportionality was based on common sense and the search conducted by plaintiff's counsel during the discovery hearing; the district court did not rely on misrepresented facts by Amgen in issuing its discovery orders; any error in failing to provide plaintiff an opportunity to cross-examine Amgen's expert was harmless; the district court was under no obligation to order Amgen to provide plaintiff with materials the FDA requests—but does not require—from pharmaceutical companies when the agency evaluates safety risks; and plaintiff's assertion that the district court's order limiting the scope of her discovery prejudiced her case was rejected. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing sanctions under Rule 11 and by imposing sanctions under 28 U.S.C. 1927. Finally, the district court properly exercised its inherent power to sanction plaintiff's counsel, and here was no abuse of discretion View "Vallejo v. Amgen, Inc." on Justia Law

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Employees of a chicken processing plant filed a class action lawsuit, alleging their employer failed to pay certain wages in violation of Arkansas state law and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201. More than 1,000 workers opted in. The class was subsequently decertified and claims were subjected to the two-year FLSA limitations period. The parties eventually settled their dispute out-of-court for a confidential amount made known to the court, which approved the agreement but declined to award the agreed-upon $87,500.00 in attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses. The district court, sua sponte, reduced the fees awarded to $22,500.00. The Eighth Circuit remanded with instructions to award the agreed-upon fees. The attorneys’ fees-to-recovery ratio alone is not the sole determining factor. In light of the need to focus on multiple factors and not just one, and in light of the strong likelihood that the parties’ agreement is reasonable, any required review by the district court is light and the agreed-upon award is not outside the range of what would be approved. View "Melgar v. OK Foods" on Justia Law

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In a previous appeal, the Eighth Circuit held that portions of Minnesota's Next Generation Energy Act were unconstitutional in North Dakota v. Heydinger, 825 F.3d 912 (8th Cir. 2016). The State appealed the district court's determination on remand that plaintiffs were entitled to attorney's fees and award of $1,310,088 in fees and costs. The court affirmed the district court's order without opinion. View "North Dakota v. Lange" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment confirming an arbitrator's award of attorney's fees and expenses to Beumer. The court held that the arbitrator acted within the scope of his authority and did not violate the arbitration agreement's provision when he determined that attorneys' fees were "costs" and not "loss" under Missouri law. Therefore, these costs were not subject to the limitation of liability. The court held that ProEnergy failed to demonstrate grounds to vacate the arbitration award under 9 U.S.C. 10, and denied Beumer's motion for sanctions. View "Beumer Corp. v. ProEnergy Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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An Arkansas trial judge filed suit against the Arkansas Supreme Court and justices in their official capacities, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights by permanently barring him from presiding over death penalty cases. The district court dismissed claims against the Arkansas Supreme Court as barred by sovereign immunity and denied the justices' motion to dismiss. The Eighth Circuit granted the justices' motion for writ of mandamus and directed plaintiff to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. The court held that plaintiff's free speech claim failed because he did not allege that he engaged in a protected activity where the recusal order applied to him in his role as a public employee and where recusal from death penalty cases was not an adverse employment action; the recusal order did not affect defendant's right to practice religion and his Free Exercise Clause claim failed; plaintiff's claim under the Arkansas Religious Restoration Act also failed; plaintiff was not deprived of his due process rights where he alleged no cognizable life, liberty or property interest; plaintiff failed to plausibly allege an equal protection claim; and the district court erred in allowing plaintiff's civil conspiracy claim to proceed were he failed to allege a plausible constitutional violation to support the claim. View "In Re: Honorable John Kemp" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's award of attorney fees and its order denying defendant's motion to untimely file a second request for attorney fees. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by reducing her requested attorney's fees for administrative proceedings. In this case, the district court was well within its discretion to deny defendant's motion for an extension of time to request the attorney fees she had failed to timely include in her first request. View "Paris School District v. Harter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The district court granted summary judgment to Effort for Aids in an action seeking to enjoin the Health Insurance Marketplace Innovation Act of 2013 (HIMIA), but denied attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988(b). The Eighth Circuit reversed the denial of attorney's fees, holding that Effort for AIDS's claims all arose from Missouri's passage of the HIMIA regulating Effort for AIDS, and thus the claims arose from a common nucleus of operative fact. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "St. Louis Effort For AIDS v. Lindley-Myers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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When plaintiff learned that the State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND) was using his compulsory fees to oppose a measure that he volunteered time and money to support, he filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. In Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, 567 U.S. 298 (2012), a public-sector union provided an annual Hudson notice calculating germane expenses and permitting non-members to opt out of non-germane expenses by objecting within thirty days. The Eighth Circuit held that the opt-out issue debated by the Supreme Court in Knox was simply not implicated by SBAND's revised license fee statement. Accordingly, because Knox did not overrule prior cases holding that the First Amendment does not require an opt-in procedure, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and dismissal of the case. View "Fleck v. Wetch" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit found no violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 or abuse of the judicial process in this consolidated appeal involving parties in a putative action. The court held that counsel did not violate Rule 41 in stipulating to the dismissal of the action and counsel had at least a colorable legal argument that the district court’s approval was not needed under Rule 23(e) to voluntarily dismiss the claims of the putative class. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion in finding that counsel acted with an improper purpose under Rule 11 and abused the judicial process by stipulating to the dismissal of the federal action for the purpose of seeking a more favorable forum and avoiding an adverse decision. Consequently, the district court also abused its discretion in imposing sanctions upon plaintiffs' counsel for the purported violation. The court reversed the district court's orders and remanded for further proceedings. View "Castleberry v. USAA" on Justia Law

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PPKM sought and obtained a permanent injunction against DHSS after DHSS attempted to revoke PPKM's license to provide abortion services. PPKM's license expired before the district court granted its motion for attorney's fees. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding PPKM attorney's fees or its work at all stages of this litigation, and PPKM's recovery in this case was not so technical as to render the award an abuse of discretion. In this case, PPKM was the prevailing party and DHSS offered no additional reason to conclude that PPKM was not entitled to the attorney's fees awarded by the district court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Planned Parenthood Great Plans v. Dr. Randall Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics