Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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Galveston County Commissioners Court may set a salary range for a county judicial employee while letting Galveston County district judges decide if compensation within that range is reasonable. While the judicial branch may direct the Commissioners Court to set a new range, it cannot dictate a specific salary outside that range. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment in this long-running dispute over who has the authority to set the compensation of a county judicial employee, holding that, in this case, the trial court lacked the authority to require a county judge to reinstate a county judicial employee at a specific salary, thus encroaching on the county’s legislative branch - the Commissioners Court. View "Honorable Mark Henry v. Honorable Lonnie Cox" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a newly-elected district court judge or the former judge he or she replaced may file findings of fact following a bench trial over which the former judge presided before his or her term expired. The court of appeals concluded that neither judge could file the findings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals properly found that the new judge could not file the findings because she lacked the authority to file them; but (2) the court of appeal erred by failing to direct the new judge to request that the former judge file the findings because the former judge was the only judge with the power to file findings, even after he left the bench. View "Ad Villarai, LLC v. Pak" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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In 2004, Linegar, an Australian, formed KeyOvation, which eventually merged with Saflink and became IdentiPHI, in which Linegar was a major stockholder. DLA Piper law firm represented Saflink in the merger. Following the merger, DLA Piper represented IdentiPHI as corporate counsel. During the merger, IdentiPHI needed a short-term loan. Linegar then served as Chairman, Director, and majority shareholder of Zaychan, the corporate trustee of the Linegar Fund, an Australian self-managed retirement trust with Linegar and his ex-wife as the sole beneficiaries. Linegar arranged for the Fund to lend IdentiPHI $1.67million. DLA Piper represented IdentiPHI in the transaction and worked directly with Linegar. IdentiPHI executed a promissory note to Zaychan, which was accepted by Linegar as Chairman and Director, and which granted Zaychan a security interest in IdentiPHI’s assets. The note was payable by June 29, 2008. Timely payment was essential for the Fund's compliance with Australian law. When it became apparent that IdentiPHI was going to default, Linegar took several actions, but ultimately the debt was subject to challenge under 11 U.S.C. 547(b) because the security interest had not been perfected. KeyOvation, the holder of the assigned note, settled its claim for $150,000, which it paid to Linegar. Linegar, Zaychan, and KeyOvation sued DLA Piper for legal malpractice, negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and deceptive trade practices. They claimed that the firm gave assurances that the lien would be perfected. Linegar’s individual claims resulted in an award of $1,293,606. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court of Texas reversed, holding that Linegar, as an individual, had standing. View "Linegar v. DLA Piper LLP" on Justia Law

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The Court of Criminal Appeals held David Dow, a post-trial capital defense attorney, in contempt for violating Court of Criminal Appeals Miscellaneous Rule 11-003 and suspended him from practicing before it for one year. Dow filed this original proceeding seeking mandamus and declaratory relief in the Supreme Court, contending that the Court of Criminal Appeals exceeded its authority in imposing the sanction. The Supreme Court dismissed Dow’s petition, holding (1) the Court does not have jurisdiction under the Constitution over Dow’s petition for mandamus relief; and (2) because the Court lacked mandamus jurisdiction, it also lacked jurisdiction to grant declaratory relief. View "In re Dow" on Justia Law

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This mandamus proceeding related to a disciplinary proceeding against a former prosecutor Jon L. Hall, who allegedly suppressed exculpatory evidence in an aggravated robbery prosecution. The Commission for Lawyer Discipline commenced a disciplinary action against Hall, alleging prosecutorial misconduct. The Commission then filed a motion seeking access to expunged records in the aggravated robbery case. The trial court refused the Commission access to the expunged criminal records for use in the disciplinary proceeding and ordered the Commission to turn over investigative records. The grievance panel in the disciplinary proceeding construed the district court’s actions as a bar to the disciplinary proceeding and granted Hall’s motion for summary judgment. The Commission then petitioned for writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the writ and directed the trial court to vacate its order, holding that the expungement order did not bar the Commission from using records from the criminal trial in the grievance proceeding. View "In re State Bar of Tex. " on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute over fees awarded to an ad litem appointed in connection with the proposed division of a personal injury settlement between an incapacitated plaintiff and his guardian. The court-appointed attorney requested fees on an unsworn invoice that specified numerous tasks performed, but did not specify when they were performed, who performed them, or the amount of time spent. The court held that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the full amount awarded to the guardian ad litem (GAL) as compensation, although it was sufficient to show that he necessarily spent some amount of time fulfilling his role as GAL. The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Ford Motor Co. v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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In this suit for an alleged breach of a deposit agreement, the court reviewed the court of appeals' judgment in favor of an estate administrator, as well as the estate administrator's cross-petition concerning attorney's fees. When a party failed to preserve error in the trial court or waived an argument on appeal, an appellate court could not consider the unpreserved or waived issue. Because many of the arguments raised by the parties invoked issues of error preservation or waiver, the court declined to grant either party the relief it sought. View "FDIC v. Lenk" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of patent infringement litigation. At issue was whether federal courts possess exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over state-based legal malpractice claims that require the application of patent law. The federal patent issue presented here was necessary, disputed, and substantial within the context of the overlying state legal malpractice lawsuit. Additionally, the patent issue could be determined without creating a jurisdictional imbalance between state and federal courts. Therefore, the court concluded that exclusive federal jurisdiction existed in this case. Accordingly, without reaching the merits of the legal malpractice claim, the court reversed the court of appeals' judgment and dismissed this case. View "Minton v. Gunn, et al." on Justia Law