Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

by
After Mako acquired a historic building with intentions to restore it using state and federal historic tax credits, it retained the law firm of Winthrop & Weinstine to draft the tax credit bond. CRBT then retained Winthrop to represent it in connection with the building tax credit project. CRBT, through counsel Winthrop, later sought to foreclose on the building. Mako retained separate counsel and moved to dismiss the complaint and to disqualify Winthrop. The district court denied both of Mako's motions and awarded $5.2 million to CRBT. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err by denying Mako's motion to dismiss the action for failure to join Chevron as a necessary party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a)(1); the district court did not err in calculating the money judgment; and, although the district court erred in failing to disqualify Winthrop as counsel for CRBT, the error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment for money damages; reversed the district court's denial to disqualify counsel in any future proceedings; and, as proceedings continue and the Winthrop law firm has a conflict of interest necessitating removal as counsel, remanded for further proceedings. View "Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust Co. v. Mako One Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Legal Ethics

by
In an action arising out of a fee dispute between a law firm and two clients, the action was removed to federal court and then the unpaid-fees claims proceeded to arbitration. The district court granted the firm relief from the stay and issued an order dividing the counterclaims into two categories: those the clients could raise in arbitration and those they could not. Determining that it had jurisdiction, the Eighth Circuit held that the clients' counterclaims were within the scope of what the parties agreed to arbitrate and the counterclaims seeking something else -- like money from the firm -- were not. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment, with one exception. The court held that the district court should not have decided that the clients terminated the relationship, because the arbitrator should decide the issue. View "Meierhenry Sargent LLP v. Williams" on Justia Law

by
The Estate appealed the district court's order denying its motion for reconsideration of an adverse grant of summary judgment. SPV cross-appealed the denial of its 28 U.S.C. 1927 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(g)(3) sanctions against the Estate's attorneys. The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in considering the Estate's motion for reconsideration because the Estate sought to use its motion for reconsideration for the impermissible purpose of introducing new arguments it could have raised earlier and failed to support those arguments with any evidence even after receiving additional time for discovery. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying 28 U.S.C. 1927 sanctions. The court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred by denying the Estate's request for sanctions under Rule 26(g)(1) with respect to Attorney Kroll. However, the district court did not abuse its discretion denying sanctions against Attorney Donahoe. View "SPV-LS, LLC v. The Estate of Nancy Bergman" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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