Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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Complainant, a pro se litigant, has filed a complaint of judicial misconduct against a district judge. Review of this complaint is governed by the Rules for Judicial-Conduct and Judicial-Disability Proceedings (“Judicial-Conduct Rules”), the federal statutes addressing judicial conduct and disability, and relevant prior decisions of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council.   The Ninth Circuit dismissed the complaint. The court held that complainant provided no objectively verifiable evidence of misconduct in this matter. The court held that a review of the record reveals that the disciplinary proceedings were conducted pursuant to the local rules of the district court, and the district judge explained that the district court did not have appellate jurisdiction over the State Bar’s decisions. View "IN RE COMPLAINT OF JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT" on Justia Law

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Relator John Hendrix and five public-agency exemplar plaintiffs claim that J-M Manufacturing Co. (“J-M”) violated the federal and various state False Claims Acts (“FCAs”) by representing that its polyvinyl chloride (“PVC”) pipes were compliant with industry standards. In Phase One of a bifurcated trial, a jury found that J-M knowingly made false claims that were material to the public agencies’ decisions to purchase J-M pipe. After the jury was unable to reach a verdict in Phase Two, the district court granted J-M judgment as a matter of law (“JMOL”) on actual damages and awarded one statutory penalty for each project involved in plaintiffs’ claims.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that sufficient evidence of falsity, materiality, and scienter supported the Phase One verdict. A reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiffs received some pipe not meeting industry standards. Further, the jury reasonably found that plaintiffs would not have purchased or installed J-M pipe had they been told the truth that J-M knew it had stopped producing pipes through processes materially similar to those used at the time of compliance testing and also knew that a significant amount of the pipe later produced did not meet industry standards. Plaintiffs’ failure to prove that any individual stick of pipe that they received was non-compliant did not mean that they failed to establish scienter. The panel held that the district court properly awarded JM judgment as a matter of law on actual damages under the federal False Claims Act. Plaintiffs did not establish actual damages by showing that they would not have bought the pipe had they known the truth. View "JOHN HENDRIX, ET AL V. J-M MANUFACTURING CO., INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Field Asset Services, Inc. (“FAS”) is in the business of pre-foreclosure property preservation for the residential mortgage industry. Plaintiff was the sole proprietor of BB Home Services, which contracted with FAS as a vendor. Plaintiff alleged that FAS willfully misclassified him and members of the putative class as independent contractors rather than employees, resulting in FAS’s failure to pay overtime compensation and to indemnify them for their business expenses. FAS first argued that the district court abused its discretion by certifying the class, despite the predominance of individualized questions over common ones.   The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order denying a petition for panel rehearing, denying on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc, and amending the opinion filed on July 5, 2022; and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court’s order certifying a class of 156 individuals who personally performed work for FAS, reversing the partial summary judgment in favor of the class, vacating the interim award of more than five million dollars in attorneys’ fees, and remanding for further proceedings.   The panel held that here, the class failed the requirement because complex, individualized inquiries would be needed to establish that class members worked overtime or that claimed expenses were reimbursable. The panel concluded that class certification was improper. The panel noted that FAS’s joint employment argument would likely succeed was an actual employee of a vendor suing FAS, claiming that FAS was an employer. The panel further held that the interim award of attorneys' fees must be vacated because the class certification and summary judgment orders were issued in error. View "FRED BOWERMAN, ET AL V. FIELD ASSET SERVICES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law