Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court granted the petition brought by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission claiming that Judge Carroll violated several rules of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, including breaching his duty to the public and undermining the fair and impartial administration of justice, holding that disciplinary action was required.In its petition, the Commission agreed to recommend a suspension without pay for ninety days, with thirty days held in abeyance for one year, and certain remedial measures for Judge Carroll's improprieties. The Supreme Court granted the Commission's expedited petition and modified the recommendation sanction by suspending Judge Carroll without pay for eighteen months, with six of those months held in abeyance. The Court further ordered Judge Carroll to perform an assessment and complete a plan with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, holding that, given the seriousness of the conduct at issue, the length of the recommended suspension was insufficient. View "Ark. Judicial Discipline & Disability Comm'n v. Carroll" on Justia Law

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Hewittel was convicted of armed robbery and related offenses based solely on the testimony of the victim. Three witnesses—one of them having little relationship with anyone in the case—were prepared to testify in support of Hewittel’s alibi that he was at home, almost a half-hour from the crime scene when the crime occurred. Hewittel’s attorney failed to call any of those witnesses at trial, not because of any strategic judgment but because Hewittel’s counsel thought the crime occurred between noon and 12:30 p.m. when Hewittel was at home alone. The victim twice testified (in counsel’s presence) that the crime occurred at 1:00 or 1:30 p.m.—by which time all three witnesses were present at Hewittel’s home. Counsel also believed that evidence of Hewittel’s prior convictions would have unavoidably come in at trial. In reality, that evidence almost certainly would have been excluded, if Hewittel’s counsel asked. Throughout the trial, Hewittel’s counsel repeatedly reminded the jury that his client had been convicted of armed robbery five times before.The trial judge twice ordered a new trial. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed, based in part on the same mistake regarding the time of the offense. The federal district court granted a Hewittel writ of habeas corpus. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, calling the trial “an extreme malfunction in the criminal justice system.” View "Hewitt-El v. Burgess" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this complaint brought by Plaintiffs, Central States Development, LLC and Saint James Apartment Partners, against Defendants, Elizabeth Friedgut and the law firm of DLA Piper, LLP, holding that dismissal was proper.Friedgut, as DLA's employee, represented Plaintiffs in a dispute with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Plaintiffs later brought a negligence case against Defendants in connection with that representation. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that Defendants did not have the requisite minimum contacts with Nebraska to establish personal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. View "Central States Development v. Friedgut" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the district court entering summary judgment in this action concerning the assignability of the proceeds from a legal malpractice action, holding that the district court properly invalidated the assignment at issue.In question was the assignment of proceeds to an adverse party in the underlying litigation from which the alleged legal malpractice arose. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) public policy prohibits an assignment of proceeds from a legal malpractice claim to an adversary in the underlying litigation; (2) the district court properly invalidated the assignment at issue; and (3) an invalid assignment does not, by itself, preclude an injured client from pursuing a legal malpractice claim if the assignment has been set aside. View "Beavor v. Tomsheck" on Justia Law

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Pro se plaintiff Gary Wisner, M.D. filed a complaint alleging that defendants Dignity Health and the Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center (collectively, SJMC) falsely reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) that Wisner surrendered his clinical privileges while under criminal investigation for insurance fraud. The trial court granted a special motion to strike the complaint after concluding that Wisner’s claims arose from a protected activity and that Wisner failed to establish a probability of prevailing on the merits. Wisner contested both aspects of the trial court’s order, and he also argued the court erred by denying his motion to conduct limited discovery prior to the hearing on the anti-SLAPP motion. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Wisner v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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Kimberlyn Seals and her counsels of record, Felecia Perkins, Jessica Ayers, and Derek D. Hopson, Sr., appealed a chancery court's: (1) Contempt Order entered on April 8, 2020; (2) the Temporary Order entered on April 28, 2020; (3) the Jurisdictional Final Judgment entered on June 16, 2020; (4) the Final Judgment on Motion for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law entered on June 18, 2020; and (5) the Amended Final Judgment entered on June 18, 2020. Seals argued the chancellor lacked jurisdiction and erroneously found them to be in contempt of court. These orders arose out of a paternity suit filed by the father of Seals' child, born 2017. A hearing was set for April 7, 2020, but Seals sought a continuance. The motion was deemed untimely, and that the court expected Seals and her counsel to appear at the April 7 hearing. When Seals and her counsel failed to appear, the court entered the contempt orders at issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Supreme Court: (1) affirmed the chancellor’s finding that Perkins and Ayers were in direct criminal contempt for their failure to appear at a scheduled April 7 hearing; (2) vacated the $3,000 sanction because it exceeded the penalties prescribed by statute; (3) affirmed the award of attorneys’ fees to opposing counsel; (4) found the chancellor erred in finding Hopson to be in direct criminal contempt for failing to appear - "Constructive criminal contempt charges require procedural safeguards of notice and a hearing;" and (5) found the chancellor erroneously found the attorneys to be in direct criminal contempt for violation of the September 2019 Temporary Order. "If proved, such acts are civil contempt." The matter was remanded for a determination of whether an indirect civil contempt proceeding should be commenced. View "Seals, et al. v. Stanton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court affirming the decision and order of the Board of Registration in Medicine suspending Petitioner's license to practice medicine, holding that the Board's decision was supported by the evidence and was not legally erroneous, procedurally defective, or arbitrary or capricious.A magistrate concluded that Petitioner was subject to discipline by the Board because his disruptive behavior on two separate occasions amounted to misconduct and demonstrated that Petitioner engaged in conduct that undermined the public confidence in the integrity of the medical profession. The Board adopted the findings and conclusions of the magistrate and concluded that Petitioner's actions warranted an indefinite suspension of his license to practice medicine. The single justice affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board's decision was supported by the evidence, and (2) Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the decision was legally erroneous, procedurally defective, or arbitrary and capricious. View "Schwartz v. Board of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for failure to attach an affidavit of merit after concluding that her allegations sounded in professional negligence, holding that remand for further proceedings was required.At issue in this case was the relationship between Nevada's professional negligence statutes, Nev. Rev. Stat. Ch. 41A, and Nevada's elder abuse statute, Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.1395, and the statutes' application to claims against skilled nursing home facilities. The district court concluded that Plaintiff's allegations sounded in professional negligence, which claims require Plaintiffs to include an affidavit of merit as part of their complaint, and then dismissed the complaint for failure to attach such an affidavit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) on the face of Plaintiff's complaint it was unclear whether the gravamen of her claims sounded in professional negligence rather than elder abuse; and (2) remand was required for further factual development before such a determination can be reached. View "Yafchak v. South Las Vegas Medical Investors, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission ("the JIC") filed a complaint against Judge John Randall "Randy" Jinks, the Probate Judge for Talladega County, Alabama, alleging that he had violated the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics by frequently exhibiting an inappropriate demeanor, by inappropriately using a work-assigned computer and a work-assigned cellular telephone, and by abusing the prestige of the Office of Probate Judge. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, ("the COJ") found that the evidence supported some of the charges alleged and removed Judge Jinks from office. Judge Jinks appealed. After reviewing the record in this case, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that the judgment of the COJ was supported by clear and convincing evidence. Accordingly, the judgment of the COJ was affirmed. View "Jinks v. Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Registration suspending Physician's license to practice medicine on the basis that Physician violated 243 Code Mass. Regs. 2.07(11)(a)(1), holding that the Board's findings that Physician violated the Board's regulations were supported by substantial evidence and that the decision was not arbitrary or capricious.The Board initiated a formal adjudicatory proceeding against Physician, after which a magistrate found that Physician had violated 243 Code Mass. Regs. 2.07(11)(a), which prohibits advertising that is false, deceptive, or misleading, and also violated 243 Code Mass. Regs. 1.03(5)(a)(10). The Board adopted the magistrate's findings of fact and conclusions of law and issued an indefinite suspension of Physician's license to practice medicine. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board's regulations do not offend due process; (2) the Board's findings were supported by substantial evidence; and (3) neither the findings nor the sanction imposed were arbitrary or capricious. View "Welter v. Bd. of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law