Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

by
The Hearing Panel of the Judicial qualifications Commission ("JQC") recommended that Judge Robert "Mack" Crawford be "removed from office" for violating Rule 1.1 of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct ("CJC") which said "Judges shall respect and comply with the law." Judge Crawford resigned as Superior Court judge of the Griffin Judicial Circuit upon investigation by the JQC. The complaint alleged that Crawford violated CJC Rule 1.1 in two ways: (1) by “impermissibly converting money from the registry of the Superior Court of Pike County . . . when he ordered the Pike County Clerk via handwritten note to disburse $15,675.62 in funds from the court registry to him via check” and “then cashed and used a portion of the check for his personal benefit and deposited the remainder of this money in his personal checking account,” although he later returned the funds; and (2) by “failing to follow the proper procedure for the disbursement of funds, even if the money had been his, as required by law,” noting the certification requirement for withdrawal of funds from a court registry contained in Uniform Superior Court Rule 23. In 2002, when Crawford was in private practice, he had deposited the funds into the registry from his client trust account in connection with a lawsuit. The JQC complaint acknowledged that Crawford claimed that at least some of the money was owed to him as attorney fees and expenses.The Hearing Panel did not recommend that Crawford be permanently barred from seeking or holding judicial office. The JQC Director did not file a notice of exceptions, thereby accepting the Hearing Panel’s recommendation. Under rules promulgated by the Georgia Supreme Court, the Court had to file a written decision either dismissing this matter or imposing a sanction. The Court elected to dismiss. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Robert M. Crawford" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for appellees in an action brought by appellant, alleging claims for securities fraud and state common law claims of negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, suppression and fraud. Appellant alleged that appellees wrongfully failed to inform appellant of the risks involved in making a certain investment. The court found that the alleged wrongful conduct of appellees did not cause the economic loss for which appellant sues. In this case, there is no viable claim against appellees; no act or omission asserted against them was the cause of the loss suffered by appellant; and thus the district court properly granted summary judgment in their favor. View "Whitehead v. BBVA Compass Bank" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner, a broker-dealer, twice misappropriated his employer's funds and then unsuccessfully tried to cover his tracks by falsifying documents. FINRA permanently barred him from membership and from associating with any FINRA member firm.The DC Circuit held that the Supreme Court's recent decision in Kokesh v. SEC, 137 S. Ct. 1635 (2017), which held that SEC disgorgement constitutes a penalty within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. 2462, does not have any bearing in petitioner's case. The court explained that binding circuit precedent establishes that the Commission may approve expulsion not as a penalty but as a means of protecting investors. In this case, the Commission did precisely that. Because this court has already held that the Commission appropriately concluded that petitioner's bar was not excessive or oppressive in any other respect, that ends the court's inquiry. View "Saad v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of appellant's petition for writ of administrative mandate under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5. The trial court affirmed the Dental Board's decision to revoke appellant's dental license but stay the revocation and place him on probation for five years.The court held that Conservatorship of O.B. (2020) 9 Cal.5th 989, does not overturn the standard to be applied by the trial court in reviewing an administrative proceeding pursuant to a petition for writ of administrative mandate under section 1094.5. The court also held that substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding concerning the failure to use study models, appellant's failure to obtain informed written consent prior to treatment of four young patients, issues with professional fees, issues with patient record requests, issues with the treatment of a certain patient, and the discipline imposed. View "Yazdi v. Dental Board of California" on Justia Law

by
In this case arising from a phishing/spoofing scheme that caused Plaintiffs to lose $266,069 the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend its previous grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, holding that Plaintiffs were unable to establish that Defendant breached any duty owed to them.Plaintiffs made an offer on real estate, which was accepted. Plaintiffs intended to pay in cash. To handle the closing, Respondent was retained. Respondent sent wiring instructions for the settlement funds to Lynn Frum, Plaintiffs' real estate agent. Before the closing, an email purportedly from Frum's email address to Plaintiffs started a series of emails between Plaintiffs and the scammer. However, the email address was not the same email address from which the email from Frum was sent that day. Plaintiffs instructed their bank to transfer funds from their account to the scammer's account. When it became apparent that Plaintiffs were victimized by a scammer, they brought suit, alleging legal malpractice. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Respondent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not establish that Respondent neglected a reasonable duty. View "Otto v. Catrow Law, PLLC" on Justia Law

by
Former sheriff's deputies Henry Lee Copeland, Rhett Scott, and Michael Howell were indicted by grand jury for the felony murder (and other offenses) of Eurie Lee Martin. Each defendant sought immunity from prosecution under OCGA 16-3-24.2, claiming that his actions resulting in Martin’s death were in defense of himself or others. Following a hearing, the trial court issued an order granting immunity to Deputies Copeland, Scott, and Howell, and the State appealed. The Georgia Supreme Court determined that, in granting immunity, the trial court made findings of material fact that were inconsistent with its legal conclusions regarding the deputies’ encounter with Martin, conflated principles regarding the reasonable use of force by law enforcement with self-defense and immunity, made unclear findings of material fact with respect to whether any or all of the deputies used force intended or likely to cause death, and did not address the facts pertinent to each of the three deputies individually. For these reasons, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s ruling and remanded the cases for further consideration. View "Georgia v. Copeland et al." on Justia Law

by
The Alabama Department of Revenue ("DOR") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to order Judge Eddie Hardaway to recuse himself from an appeal challenging a decision of the Alabama Tax Tribunal in favor of Greenetrack, Inc. In 2009, the DOR determined Greentrack owed $75 million in sales taxes and consumer-use taxes for its electronic-bingo activities for the period from January 1, 2004, through December 31, 2008. In 2013, the Alabama Department of Revenue moved for Judge Hardaway to recuse himself, arguing that recusal was required because Judge Hardaway had recused himself two months earlier from another case on a related matter involving these same parties. In the present dispute, the DOR asked Judge Hardaway to recuse himself. This time the circuit court denied the request without providing any specific rationale or reasoning in its order, finding the "cases and authorities relied upon by the Alabama Department of Revenue do not support recusal under the facts and circumstances of this case." Finding the DOR demonstrated a clear, legal right to the recusal of Judge Hardaway in this matter, the Alabama Supreme Court granted its petition and directed Judge Hardaway to recuse himself. View "Ex parte Alabama Department of Revenue." on Justia Law

by
The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC) found by clear and convincing evidence that respondent Carlia Brady, formerly a Judge of the Superior Court, violated Canon 1, Rule 1.1; Canon 2, Rules 2.1 and 2.3(A); and Canon 5, Rule 5.1(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct (Code). The ACJC unanimously recommended the sanction of removal from judicial office. On June 11, 2013, officers of the Woodbridge Township Police Department (WTPD) arrested respondent at her home in Woodbridge. She was charged in a complaint warrant with hindering the apprehension of another, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3, by “knowingly harboring Jason Prontnicki, a known fugitive,” in her residence. Respondent was indicted on three charges: second-degree official misconduct; third-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution; and third-degree hindering apprehension. The trial court granted respondent’s motion to dismiss the official misconduct charge but denied her motion to dismiss the hindering apprehension or prosecution charges. The State appealed the dismissal of the official misconduct charge, and respondent appealed the denial of her motion to dismiss the other charges. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s determinations and remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings. The State later moved to dismiss with prejudice the remaining two counts of the indictment. The trial court granted that motion, thus concluding the criminal proceedings against respondent. On March 6, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court reinstated respondent to her duties as a Superior Court judge. Several months later, the ACJC issued its complaint. After review, the New Jersey Supreme Court modified the sanction of removal recommended by the ACJC and imposed a three-month suspension on respondent. "We view that sanction to be commensurate with the conduct proven by clear and convincing evidence and to further our disciplinary system’s purpose of preserving public confidence in the judiciary." View "In the Matter of Carlia M. Brady" on Justia Law

by
John Sivick, a Lehman Township Supervisor, wanted his son to have a job, and hoped to arranged a position for his son with the Township. After leaning on his fellow Supervisors, Sivick successfully found work for his son on a Township road crew. Following an ethics complaint and an investigation, the State Ethics Commission found Sivick violated the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act in several respects. As the lone sanction relative to this aspect of the ethics complaint, the Commission imposed $30,000 in restitution. Sivick filed a petition for review of the Commission’s adjudication and restitution order in the Commonwealth Court, challenging, inter alia, the Commission’s adjudication of a conflict of interest violation as well as the legal authority to impose restitution. The Commonwealth Court affirmed the Commission's decision, and Sivick appealed further to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court reversed on both points. The Court found the Commission’s adjudication identified three distinct but interrelated actions as violating Subsection 1103(a) without making clear whether each cited basis was sufficient by itself, or whether the violation was based upon aggregating the cited wrongdoing into one course of conduct. "This creates a degree of uncertainty that is only exacerbated by the Commission's imposition of a single sanction. It is exacerbated further still, now, by this Court’s determination that the lone sanction imposed lacked a statutory basis - and was, in a sense, an illegal sentence." The case was remanded for further proceedings, including, in the Commission's discretion, the entry of a new adjudication, and if appropriate, the imposition of any sanction available under the Act. View "Sivick v. State Ethics Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissing Plaintiff's fraud and deceit claims, holding that the claims were time barred.Plaintiff sued a law firm and its attorneys, alleging legal malpractice, fraud and deceit related to their representation of Plaintiff on criminal charges. The circuit court granted judgment on the pleadings for Defendants, concluding that the claims were time-barred by the three-year statute of repose for legal malpractice under S.D. Codified Laws 15-2-14.2. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in dismissing the fraud and deceit claims because those claims were subject to a six-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff's fraud and deceit claims were subsumed within his malpractice claim; and (2) therefore, all of Plaintiff's claims were precluded under the repose statute. View "Slota v. Imhoff" on Justia Law