Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries
Tumey, LLP v. Mycroft AI, Inc.
Tod T. Tumey and Tumey, LLP (collectively, “Tumey”) commenced this action in 2021, alleging that Mycroft AI, Inc., engaged in harassment of Tumey, including through “online hacking, phishing, identity theft, and other cyberattacks.” In May 2021, Tumey contacted an M.L. to inquire about employing him as an expert witness in the case. Tumey emailed M.L. a copy of their Complaint against Mycroft, after which Tumey’s counsel and M.L. had a forty-to-sixty-minute conference call to discuss the nature of the case and potential expert work involved. Tumey never executed the engagement letter and did not retain M.L. Mycroft designated M.L. as their expert witness, and Tumey moved to disqualify the expert on grounds of a conflict of interest. The district court denied Tumey’s motion to disqualify M.L. Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s denial of their motion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that in denying Plaintiff’s motion to disqualify the expert, the district court held that the facts “do not favor a finding that a confidential relationship existed” between Plaintiffs and the expert witness that would give rise to a conflict of interest. The court explained that the district court found that Tumey’s lack of concrete examples failed to show they shared confidential information with M.L. Similarly, the court found that Plaintiffs have failed to show the court that the district court clearly erred in finding that no conflict of interest existed. View "Tumey, LLP v. Mycroft AI, Inc." on Justia Law
Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd, P.C.
The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court in favor of Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd, P.C. and Kelly Rudd (collectively, BCR) in this action brought by the Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Wind River Hotel & Casino (collectively, the Tribe), holding that the district court's order imposing sanctions on the Tribe was erroneous.The Tribe brought this action seeking injunctions for the return of tribal funds and documents, an accounting, and damages for conversion and civil theft. The district court granted summary judgment for BCR on the accounting and injunctions claims and, after a jury trial, entered final judgment on the conversion and civil theft claim. The Tribe appealed, arguing, among other things, that the district court erred by awarding sanctions under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 11. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that (1) the district court erred in imposing sanctions because BCR failed to comply with the procedural requirements of Rule 11; (2) the district court did not err when it granted summary judgment for BCR on the Tribe's accounting claim; and (3) the Tribe failed to show the verdict would have been more favorable if racially charged evidence had not been admitted. View "Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd, P.C." on Justia Law
In re: JUDGE G. Michael Canaday
In Louisiana v. Bartie, 14th Judicial District Court Case Number 12615-16, Div. G, Judge Michael Canaday presided over multiple hearings relating to the defendant’s indigency and his request for ancillary funding for defense experts. Because the hearings involved the disclosure of defense strategy, they were conducted without the district attorney, and the transcripts were sealed. Judge Canaday found the defendant was not indigent and denied his request for funding. The defense filed a writ application with the Third Circuit Court of Appeal challenging the indigency ruling. To facilitate filing the application, Judge Canaday granted defense counsel’s request for transcripts of the hearings. After defense counsel moved to obtain a missing transcript, Judge Canaday ordered the transcript be given to defense counsel and handwrote that it be “release[d] from seal.” Judge Canaday then received an email from the district attorney’s office asking whether his order gave the district attorney’s office access to the transcripts, or only defense counsel and the Third Circuit. Defense counsel was not copied with this email. Judge Canaday replied: “Since I don’t believe the state could appeal my granting relief to the defense on funding, I don’t think they can support the courts [sic] position to deny. The courts [sic] reasons will be sufficient for the 3rd to review. If the 3rd requests a states [sic] response obviously they could access the record.” Defense counsel was not included in these communications. The district attorney’s office then filed a “Motion to Unseal All Documents and Transcripts in Regards to Determining Indigency of the Defendant.” This motion was styled neither ex parte nor unopposed. Without a hearing, Judge Canaday signed an order granting the district attorney’s office the requested relief. Defense counsel did not have an opportunity to respond. The materials released by Judge Canaday included a transcript of a closed hearing where defense strategy specific to Bartie was discussed, including experts and their expected testimony. Defense counsel successfully argued for Judge Canaday’s recusal from the Bartie case. Writ applications seeking reversal of the recusal were denied by both the Third Circuit and the Louisiana Supreme Court. The recusal and subsequent related writ applications resulted in the expenditure of significant time, effort, and funds by both the state and defense counsel. There were negative media reports concerning Judge Canaday’s actions. Media reports prompted a Judiciary Commission investigation. The Commission found Judge Canaday engaged in improper ex parte communications and inappropriately granted a state motion to release documents from seal without holding a hearing or otherwise allowing defense counsel the opportunity to respond. The Commission recommended that he be publicly censured and pay costs. The Louisiana Supreme Court concurred with the censure recommendation. View "In re: JUDGE G. Michael Canaday" on Justia Law
Sebble v. St. Luke’s #2, LLC d/b/a St. Luke’s Living Center, et al.
The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this medical malpractice matter in order to consider whether the gross negligence standard of La.R.S. 29:771(B)(2)(c) was to be considered by a medical review panel when the medical treatment occurred during a declared state of public health emergency pursuant to La.R.S. 29:766(A). To this, the Court found the trial court did not err in declaring that La.R.S. 29:771(B)(2)(c) should not be considered or applied in medical review panel proceedings and, therefore, did not err in granting Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. Likewise, the court of appeal did not err in its affirmation. Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Sebble v. St. Luke's #2, LLC d/b/a St. Luke's Living Center, et al." on Justia Law
The Cartesian Company, inc. v. Div. of Admin. Law Ethics Adj. Bd. Panel, et al.
The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review involved the constitutionality a part of the Louisiana Ethics Code, La. R.S. 42:1113(B). Specifically, the Court reviewed whether the trial court erred in granting the motion for summary judgment filed by Plaintiffs-respondents, The Cartesian Company, Inc. (“Cartesian”) and Greg Gachassin (collectively “Plaintiffs”). The trial court ruled that the words “in any way interested in” contained in La. R.S. 42:1113(B) “are hereby struck down, and declared of no effect, as violating both the Federal and State Constitutions because these words . . . are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad . . . as interpreted and applied” to Plaintiffs. The trial court also denied the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants-respondents, Division of Administration Law Ethics Adjudicatory Board (Panel A) (“EAB”) and the Louisiana Board of Ethics (“BOE”)(collectively “BOE”). Defendants appealed, and the matter was transferred by the appellate court as a direct appeal to the Supreme Court pursuant to La. Const. Art. V, § 5(D). The Supreme Court found the trial court erred in finding the phrase “in any way interested in” facially unconstitutionally overbroad. Accordingly, it reversed this portion of the judgment. However, the Supreme Court found the trial court correctly determined the phrase was unconstitutionally vague as applied to Plaintiffs and unconstitutionally vague on its face as to all of its applications. As a result, the phrase “or be in any way interested in” was hereby struck from La. R.S. 42:1113(B). The remainder of the statute remained viable and could stand. Accordingly, this portion of the trial court’s judgment was affirmed, amended in part, and affirmed as amended. View "The Cartesian Company, inc. v. Div. of Admin. Law Ethics Adj. Bd. Panel, et al." on Justia Law
In re Putorti
The Court of Appeals held that the charges against Petitioner, a Justice of the Whitehall Town Court and Whitehall Village Court, Washington County, were sustained by the evidence and that the sanction of removal from office for his acts of misconduct was appropriate.The State Commission on Judicial Misconduct served Petitioner with formal written complaints charging him with with judicial misconduct for brandishing a loaded firearm at a litigant during a case and engaging in improper fundraising. The Court of Appeals upheld the sanction of removal, holding (1) the investigation was procedurally proper; (2) there was no reason to set aside the Commission's finding of racial bias; and (3) the record supported the conclusion that Petitioner's misconduct transcended poor judgment and warranted removal. View "In re Putorti" on Justia Law
Nichols v. Swindoll
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's legal malpractice complaint against Defendants, her attorneys, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in granting Defendants' motions to dismiss and finding that Plaintiff failed to plead facts sufficient to toll the running of the statute of limitations on fraudulent concealment.Plaintiff retained Defendants to file negligence lawsuit. Defendants later informed Plaintiff they had committed malpractice by serving a deficient summons. Plaintiff subsequently filed a legal malpractice lawsuit alleging that Defendants fraudulently concealed their malpractice by keeping the appearance that Plaintiff's lawsuit was still alive. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, concluding that Plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to allege fraudulent concealment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) silence amounts to a positive act of fraud when there is a confidential or fiduciary relationship; and (2) Plaintiff's complaint pled sufficient facts to establish fraudulent concealment and survive a motion to dismiss. View "Nichols v. Swindoll" on Justia Law
Hansen v. Volkov
Plaintiff and Defendant both members of the State Bar, represent opposing parties in a dissolution/annulment proceeding pending in Los Angeles Superior Court. Following an incident at Plaintiff’s office relating to the canceled deposition of Defendant’s client, Plaintiff obtained a three-year civil harassment restraining order pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 527.6 protecting her, as well as her paralegal and office receptionist, from further harassment by Defendant. On appeal Defendant argued, in part, that all of the conduct upon which the trial court based its findings of harassment was constitutionally protected activity and there was insufficient evidence his actions, to the extent not constitutionally protected, were directed at Plaintiff, caused Plaintiff substantial emotional distress, or would cause a reasonable person substantial emotional distress as required to support issuance of the restraining order. Defendant also argued that the court erred in including in the order members of Plaintiff’s office staff as protected individuals. The Second Appellate District reversed and directed the trial court to enter a new order denying Plaintiff’s request for a restraining order. The court explained that Defendant’s Emails regarding his client’s deposition constituted constitutionally protected activity. The court explained that because the emails were constitutionally protected, it was an error for the trial court to conclude they were properly considered part of a course of conduct of harassment. Further, the court found that the evidence of Defendant’s nonprotected conduct did not support the court’s findings of a willful or knowing course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person and did cause Plaintiff substantial emotional distress. View "Hansen v. Volkov" on Justia Law
Crotty v. Flora
The Supreme Court affirmed the two pretrial orders of the trial court challenged by the defendant physician in a health care liability action in this interlocutory appeal, holding that this Court declines to modify its holding in George v. Alexander, 931 S.W.2d 517 (Tenn. 1996), and that the collateral source rule remains in effect in this case.The first pretrial order excluded evidence that a nonparty physician was the cause-in-fact of the claimant's injuries because Defendant did not amend his answer to include that allegation, as required under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 8.03, as applied in George. In the second order, the trial court held that Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-199, a provision that partially abrogates the common-law collateral source rule in health care liability actions, did not abrogate the collateral source rule under the facts of this case. The Supreme Court affirmed both pretrial rulings at issue in this interlocutory appeal and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the trial court did not err. View "Crotty v. Flora" on Justia Law
Salem v. Illinois Attorney Registration and Discipinary Commission
In 2003, Salem received a license to practice law in New York. He applied for but was denied a license to practice in Illinois, where he resides, but maintained an Illinois practice, from 2004-2019, by obtaining permission to appear pro hac vice. The Illinois Attorney Disciplinary and Registration Commission (IARDC) charged him with falsely representing that he was licensed in Illinois and successfully requested that the Illinois Supreme Court prohibit Illinois courts from allowing him to appear pro hac vice for 90 days. Salem filed suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Salem’s suit and ordered him to show cause why he should not be sanctioned. The court first rejected Salem’s argument that every Illinois district judge should be disqualified and the case transferred to Michigan. The court then held that the decision of the Illinois Supreme Court cannot be collaterally attacked in civil litigation. The court noted that the defendant, the IARDC, did not deprive Salem of liberty or property and that there was a rational basis for the Supreme Court’s decision. The court described the litigation as frivolous and noted Salem’s history of “preposterous” behavior in federal court. View "Salem v. Illinois Attorney Registration and Discipinary Commission" on Justia Law