Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Legal Ethics
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After Brown Sims, a Houston law firm, successfully obtained a favorable result for its client, AJR, the client colluded with the opposing party, CNA and its attorneys, to consummate a settlement just between themselves. After settlement, the district court dismissed the case as moot. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over Brown Sims's claims against CNA. The court also held that Brown Sims met all of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24's criterion for intervention as of right and the district court erred in concluding otherwise. Furthermore, the district court erred in denying the Rule 60(b)(5) and (b)(6) motions. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further consideration. View "Adam Joseph Resources v. CNA Metals Limited" on Justia Law

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In this trademark infringement action, the district court granted Alliance for Good Government summary judgment on its trademark infringement claim against Coalition for Better Government, enjoined Coalition from the use of both its logo and its trade name, and then awarded Alliance attorney's fees incurred in bringing the lawsuit. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Alliance was entitled to fees. The court remanded for the district court to reassess the amount of fees, because the court has since modified the district court's injunction to permit Coalition to use its trade name. View "Alliance for Good Government v. Coalition for Better Government" on Justia Law

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In 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, a barge moored by Lafarge hurtled through a floodwall and unleashed catastrophic flooding in the Lower 9th Ward. Richard T. Seymour represented New Orleans residents, but withdrew from the Barge Litigation in 2011. After the Barge Litigation settled several years later, he moved to intervene in order to pursue his fees and expenses. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision as to intervention of right and dismissed Seymour's appeal for lack of jurisdiction as to permissive intervention. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Seymour's motion to intervene came too late. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying permissive intervention because it was also untimely. View "St. Bernard Parish v. Lafarge North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Law firm Schiff Hardin challenged the denial of its Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the complaint and rejection of its attorney immunity defense in an action alleging negligent misrepresentation. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erred in rejecting the firm's attorney immunity defense because the conduct sued on occurred during the representation of the firm's client. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's denial of the firm's motion and rendered judgment dismissing the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). View "Ironshore Europe DAC v. Schiff Hardin, LLP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics
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In this school desegregation case, at issue was the reimbursement of expenses for a court-appointed oversight official. After the district court ordered an increase in the official’s compensation, the school board appealed and the official prevailed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's reimbursement of the official's appellate expenses, as well as the timing and quantity of the reimbursement, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics
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The Fifth Circuit held that attorneys appearing pro se can not recover fees under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The court affirmed the district court's judgment in an action brought by an immigration attorney under FOIA to obtain government documents. In this case, plaintiff was unsatisfied with the government's responses to his FOIA requests and thus filed three separate pro se lawsuits where he was ultimately considered the prevailing party. Plaintiff was awarded costs, but denied attorney fees under FOIA. View "Gahagan v. US Citizenship & Immigration Services" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees. The court held that there were special and unusual circumstances justifying the denial of attorney's fees. In this case, plaintiff's counsel charged duplicative and excessive fees. The court agreed with the district court's reasoning and the magistrate judge's stunned reaction to plaintiff's request for $130,000 in attorneys' fees and concurred that the record reflected neither the legal work necessary for the requested hourly billing rate of $450 per hour, nor the quantity of work claimed. View "Davis v. Credit Bureau of the South" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics
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Under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, a defendant is not eligible for fees when the plaintiff obtains a dismissal without prejudice because such a dismissal does not establish the winner of the dispute. The Fifth Circuit held that taking the lead early in the lawsuit did not make defendants eligible for fees, nor did the trial court's postponement of the litigation when it allowed plaintiff to dismiss the federal suit without prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of fees. View "Dunster Live, LLC v. LoneStar Logos Management Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of attorneys' fees for plaintiff under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court held that the hearing officer's decision did not make plaintiff a prevailing party under the IDEA and thus she was not entitled to attorneys' fees. In this case, the officer's decision effected no change to plaintiff's educational plan, which the officer agreed was entirely appropriate despite lacking a prior autism diagnosis. Furthermore, the IDEA focuses, not on a student's diagnostic label, but on whether the student received appropriate education services, which the officer found plaintiff had received from the school district. View "Lauren C. v. Lewisville Independent School District" on Justia Law

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NOV purchased industrial-strength "desert-proof" air conditioners from Technicool for use on specialty oil-and-gas rigs, for more than $3 million. After multiple units failed, NOV, represented by SBPC, sued Technicool in Texas state court. Technicool filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. NOV sought relief from the automatic stay and was allowed to join Technicool’s owner, Furlough, to its state suit. NOV, again represented by SBPC, filed a claim in the bankruptcy case, representing 93 percent of the total claims. After learning that Furlough had formed other companies, the Trustee sought to consolidate the businesses and pierce the corporate veil and to employ SBPC as special counsel under 11 U.S.C. 327(a). Furlough objected, arguing that SBPC’s representation of NOV was a disqualifying “interest adverse to the estate.” In an engagement letter, signed by SBPC, NOV agreed to transfer to the bankruptcy estate funds it recovered from Furlough in state court. The bankruptcy court, district court, and Fifth Circuit held that Furlough lacked standing to object. Furlough cannot show that he was “directly and adversely affected pecuniarily by the order of the bankruptcy court.” SBPC’s appointment does not directly affect whether the bankruptcy court approves NOV’s claim. Under section 327(c), “a person is not disqualified for employment . . . solely because of such person’s employment by or representation of a creditor, unless there is objection by another creditor or the United States trustee, [and] an actual conflict of interest.” View "Furlough v. Cage" on Justia Law