Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
Hayes v. State of New York Attorney Grievance Comm.
This appeal concerned a First Amendment challenge to a New York rule requiring attorneys to identify themselves as certified specialists to make a prescribed disclosure statement. At issue was whether Rule 7.4 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 22 section 1200.53(c)(1), which required a prescribed disclaimer statement to be made by attorneys who stated that they were certified as a specialist in a particular area of law either violated plaintiff's freedom of speech or was unconstitutionally vague. Because enforcement of two components of the required disclaimer statement would violate the First Amendment and because the absence of standards guiding administrators of Rule 7.4 rendered it unconstitutionally vague as applied to plaintiff, the court reversed with directions to enter judgment for plaintiff. View "Hayes v. State of New York Attorney Grievance Comm." on Justia Law
Scandinavian Reinsurance Co. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins.
St. Paul appealed from the district court's grant of a petition by Scandinavian to vacate an arbitral award in St. Paul's favor and denying a cross-petition by St. Paul to confirm the same award. St. Paul had initiated the arbitration to resolve a dispute concerning the interpretation of the parties' reinsurance contract. The principal issue on appeal was whether the failure of two arbitrators to disclose their concurrent service as arbitrators in another, arguably similar, arbitration constituted "evident partiality" within the meaning of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 10(a)(2). The court concluded, under the circumstances, that the fact of the arbitrators' overlapping service in both the Platinum Arbitration and the St. Paul Arbitration did not, in itself, suggest that they were predisposed to rule in any particular way in the St. Paul Arbitration. As a result, their failure to disclose that concurrent service was not indicative of evident partiality. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded with instruction to the district court to affirm the award. View "Scandinavian Reinsurance Co. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins." on Justia Law
Flagler v. Trainor
Defendants, moved the district court to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Mathew Trainor, a Fulton County Assistant District Attorney, was absolutely immune from plaintiff's claims. The court affirmed the district court to the extent it found Trainor absolutely immune from plaintiff's claim that Trainor violated her constitutional rights by making false statements in support of a material witness order. The court vacated and remanded the rest of the order and judgment because absolute immunity did not immunize prosecutors from liability for making defamatory statements to the press, accessing a person's voicemail without consent, or persuading a party to a conversation to record its contents; and, the district court should consider in the first instance whether Trainor was absolutely immune for continuing to withhold/preserve evidence - plaintiff's cell phone. View "Flagler v. Trainor" on Justia Law
In Re: American Express Finance Advisors Securities Litigation
Appellants brought various claims before Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitrators against Ameriprise, a financial-services company, for, inter alia, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation related to the decline in value of various financial assets owned by appellants and managed by Ameriprise. Ameriprise answered appellants' FINRA complaint by asserting, principally, that appellants released their claims by operation of a settlement agreement in a class-action agreement suit that had proceeded between 2004 and 2007 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. After FINRA arbitrators denied Ameriprise's motion to stay appellants' arbitration, Ameriprise moved in the district court, in which the class action had been litigated and settled, for an order to enforce the settlement agreement that would enjoin appellants from pressing any of their claims before FINRA arbitrators. The district court concluded that the class settlement barred all of appellants' arbitration claims and therefore granted Ameriprise's motion and ordered appellants to dismiss their FINRA complaint with prejudice. The court held that the district court had the power to enter such an order and that several of appellants' arbitration claims were barred by the 2007 class-action settlement. Therefore, the court affirmed in part. But because the court concluded that appellants' arbitration complaint plead claims that were not, and could not have been, released by the class settlement, the court vacated in part the district court's judgment, and remanded the case for the entry of an order permitting the non-Released claims to proceed in FINRA arbitration. The court dismissed as moot appellants' appeal from the district court's denial of their motion for reconsideration. View "In Re: American Express Finance Advisors Securities Litigation" on Justia Law
Gearren, et al. v. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., et al.
Plaintiffs appealed from a decision granting defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaints for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiffs, participants in two retirement plans offered by defendants, brought suit alleging breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Plaintiff alleged that defendants acted imprudently by including employer stock as an investment option in the retirement plans and that defendants failed to provide adequate and truthful information to participants regarding the status of employer stock. The court held that the facts alleged by plaintiffs were, even if proven, insufficient to establish that defendants abused their discretion by continuing to offer plan participants the opportunity to invest in McGraw-Hill stock. The court also held that plaintiffs have not alleged facts sufficient to prove that defendants made any statements, while acting in a fiduciary capacity, that they knew to be false. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "Gearren, et al. v. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Gray, et al. v. Citigroup, Inc., et al.
Plaintiffs, participants in retirement plans offered by defendants and covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., appealed from a judgment dismissing their ERISA class action complaint. Plan documents required that a stock fund consisting primarily of Citigroup common stock be offered among the plan's investment options. Plaintiffs argued that because Citigroup stock became an imprudent investment, defendants should have limited plan participants' ability to invest in it. The court held that plan fiduciaries' decision to continue offering participants the opportunity to invest in Citigroup stock should be reviewed for an abuse of discretion and the court found that they did not abuse their discretion here. The court also held that defendants did not have an affirmative duty to disclose to plan participants nonpublic information regarding the expected performance of Citigroup stock and that the complaint did not sufficiently allege that defendants, in their fiduciary capacities, made any knowing misstatements regarding Citigroup stock. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gray, et al. v. Citigroup, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Gallop v. Cheney
This case stemmed from plaintiff's complaint, alleging that on September 11, 2001, a bomb was detonated inside the Pentagon, that no plane hit the Pentagon, and that various identified United States civilian and military leaders knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance, assisted in their planning, and subsequently covered up the government's involvement. Following the court's order to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed for filing a frivolous appeal, sanctions were imposed on plaintiff's counsel of record. One of plaintiff's counsel of record, William Veale, was further sanctioned for filing a frivolous and vexatious motion to disqualify the panel "and any like-minded colleagues" from considering plaintiff's petition for panel rehearing and rehearing in banc of the court's opinion in Gallop I, following a July 7, 2011 order to show cause. In addition, plaintiff's lead counsel of record, Dennis Cunningham, was admitted pro hac vice for the purpose of this appeal and was ordered to show cause why he should not be separately sanctioned for his principal role in drafting the relevant filings. View "Gallop v. Cheney" on Justia Law
Johnson v. Nextel Communications, Inc.
Appellants appealed the dismissal of their class action complaint against Nextel, the law firm of Leeds, Morelli & Brown, P.C. (LMB), and seven of LMB's lawyers (also LMB). Appellants were former clients of LMB who retained the firm to bring discrimination claims against Nextel. The complaint asserted that, inter alia, LMB breached its fiduciary duty of loyalty to appellants and the class by entering into an agreement with Nextel in which Nextel agreed to pay: (i) $2 million to LMB to persuade en masse its approximately 587 clients to, inter alia, abandon ongoing legal and administrative proceedings against Nextel, waive their rights to a jury trial and punitive damages, and accept an expedited mediation/arbitration procedure; (ii) another $3.5 million to LMB on a sliding scale as the clients' claims were resolved through that procedure; and (iii) another $2 million to LMB to work directly for Nextel as a consultant for two years beginning when the clients' claims had been resolved. The court held that appellants have alleged facts sufficient to state a claim against LMB for, inter alia, breach of fiduciary duty and against Nextel for aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Johnson v. Nextel Communications, Inc." on Justia Law
Vancook v. Securities and Exchange Commission
Petitioner, a former stockbroker, sought review of an order of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which found that he willfully violated the antifraud provisions of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act), 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5, by orchestrating a scheme that allowed certain customers to engage in late trading of mutual funds, and that he aided and abetted and caused the failure of his firm to keep accurate books and records, in violation of the Exchange Act's recordkeeping requirements. At issue was whether the SEC's order, which barred petitioner from working in the securities industry, issued a cease and desist order against him, ordered him to disgorge his unjust enrichment amount plus interest, and imposed a civil penalty, should be vacated. The court denied the petition and affirmed the SEC's order because petitioner's conduct clearly violated the Exchange Act's antifraud and recordkeeping provisions and because the penalties imposed by the SEC were not unreasonable. View "Vancook v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law
Faber, et al. v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
Plaintiffs appealed from a judgment of the district court dismissing their class-action complaint, which asserted a single claim against MetLife under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Plaintiffs alleged that through the use of "retained asset accounts" (RAAs), MetLife breached fiduciary duties imposed by ERISA by retaining and investing for its own profit life insurance proceeds due them under employee benefit plans that MetLife administered. The court held that the district court correctly determined that plaintiffs failed to state a claim, since MetLife discharged its fiduciary obligations under ERISA when it established the RAAs in accordance with the plans at issue, and did not misuse "plan assets" by holding and investing the funds backing the accounts. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Faber, et al. v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company" on Justia Law