Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

by
Law firm Hall Jaffee & Clayton (HJC) defended Petitioner in a tort action. The district court ultimately dismissed the action with prejudice. Jordan Schnitzer worked as an associate attorney at HJC during the case but never represented Petitioner or obtained confidential information regarding Petitioner while employed at HJC. Schnitzer subsequently left HJC to join the law firm Kravitz, Schnitzer & Johnson, Chtd. (KSJ). Martin Kravitz from KSJ later filed a tort action in behalf of real parties in interest against Petitioner. Kravitz permitted Schnitzer to assist on the case. Petitioner filed a motion to disqualify real parties in interest’s attorneys, Kravitz and Schnitzer. The district court denied the motion. Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking review of the district court’s order. The Supreme Court denied the petition for writ relief, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Petitioner’s motion to disqualify the real parties in interest’s attorneys due to absence of evidence indicating that Schnitzer acquired any confidential information from HJC’s prior representation of Petitioner. View "New Horizon Kids Quest III, Inc. v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

by
In 1976, Nevada’s voters approved the creation of the Commission on Judicial Discipline through constitutional amendment. In this case, a group of individuals within the City of North Las Vegas sought to remove a municipal judge through a special recall election rather than through the system of judicial discipline established by the majority of voters in 1976. The municipal judge sought an emergency injunction from the district court and also filed a complaint challenging the legal sufficiency of the recall petition. The district court denied all of the municipal judge’s claims, concluding that judges are “public officers” subject to recall under the Nevada Constitution and that the form of the petition did not violate the judge’s constitutional rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the recall petition against the municipal judge was invalid because the drafters of the constitutional amendment at issue and the electorate who approved it intended that recall no longer be an available means of removing a judge from office. View "Honorable Catherine Ramsey v. City of North Las Vegas" on Justia Law

by
G&V received settlement funds from a personal injury claim without first filing perfection notices. NRS 18.015(3) requires an attorney to perfect a lien by serving notice "upon the party against whom the client has a cause of action, claiming the lien and stating the amount of the lien." NRS 18.015(4) provides that the lien attaches to recovery "from the time of service of the notices required." The court held that in order to comply with both subsections of the statute, attorneys must, prior to recovery, perfect their liens by serving notice that states both the attorney's percentage of the recovery and that the lien will include court costs and out-of-pocket costs advanced by the attorney in an amount to be determined. In this case, the court affirmed the district court's decision to order a pro-rata distribution because G&V did not perfect its lien until well after it recovered funds in the personal injury settlement. The court affirmed the denial of costs. The court clarified that an attorney need not deposit funds with the court in an interpleader action so long as the attorney keeps the funds in his or her client trust account for the duration of the interpleader action. View "Golightly & Vannah, PLLC v. TJ Allen, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

by
After respondent received a judgment for child support arrears and penalties against appellant in Nevada, as well as an award of attorney fees, appellant appealed the order. Under NRS 125.040(1)(c), a district court has discretion in a divorce suit to require one party to pay an amount of money necessary to assist the other party in carrying on or defending the suit. The court held that a district court has jurisdiction to award attorney fees pendente lite for the costs of an appeal pursuant to NRS 125.040. In this case, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding such fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order. View "Griffith v. Gonzales-Alpizar" on Justia Law

by
Robert Cooper retained McDonald Carano Wilson LLP (Appellant) to represented him in a personal injury action. Three years into the representation, the district court granted Appellant’s motion to withdraw. Appellant perfected a charging lien for more than $100,000 in attorney fees and costs. Thereafter, Cooper retained another law firm, which obtained a $55,000 settlement for Cooper. The district court concluded that Appellant could not enforce its charging lien because it withdrew before settlement occurred. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in its judgment because Nev. Rev. Stat. 18.015’s language unambiguously allows any counsel that worked on a claim to enforce a charging lien against any affirmative recovery. Remanded for additional findings to determine whether Appellant was entitled to a disbursement and, if it is, the amount of that disbursement. View "Wilson v. Bourassa Law Group, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner, a law firm, was retained as counsel for a gaming company (“the company”) in a lawsuit against the company’s former employees and an entity they created. Petitioner prepared a second amended complaint adding real parties in interest (collectively, “Himelfarb”) as defendants. The jury rejected the company’s claims against Himelfarb and found for Himelfarb on its counterclaims. The district court eventually determined that the company would be liable for Himelfarb’s attorney fees and costs and determined that Petitioner was jointly and severally liable with the company for those fees and costs pursuant to Nev. Rev. Stat. 7.085. Petitioner subsequently sought a writ of mandamus vacating the portion of the district court’s order making Petitioner jointly and severally liable for Himelfarb’s attorney fees. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding (1) Nev. R. Civ. P. 11 does not supersede section 7.085 because each represents a distinct, independent mechanism for sanctioning attorney misconduct, and therefore, the award against Petitioner was not improper; but (2) the district court abused its discretion in sanctioning Petitioner under section 7.085 without making adequate findings. View "Watson Rounds v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court" on Justia Law

by
The State charged real party in interest Jihad Zogheib with several crimes. Steven Wolfson, who was a criminal defense attorney before being appointed to the elective office he currently held, was appointed district attorney. Zogheib moved to disqualify the district attorney’s office based on a conflict of interest because an attorney in Wolfson’s former law firm represented Zogheib in the instant case. The district court disqualified the district attorney’s office, concluding that there was a conflict of interest between Wolfson and Zogheib and that the conflict should be imputed to the office because the appearance of impropriety warranted vicarious disqualification even though Wolfson had been screened from participating in the case. The Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for writ of mandamus, holding (1) the appearance-of-impropriety was the incorrect standard to apply, and the more appropriate standard was whether Wolfson’s conflict of interest would render it unlikely that Defendant would receive a fair trial unless the conflict was imputed to the prosecutor’s office; and (2) regardless of which standard is applied, the district court acted arbitrarily or capriciously in granting Zogheib’s motion to disqualify the district attorney’s office. View "State v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

by
The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline issued a verified statement of complaint against the Honorable Steven E. Jones, a family court judge, alleging that he may have violated the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct by his alleged involvement in two particular incidents of domestic battery and a resulting temporary protective order violation. An investigation was subsequently conducted into Judge Jones’s conduct. Judge Jones filed a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking to halt and dismiss the disciplinary proceedings against him, asserting that the investigation upon which the proposed charges were based resulted from a defective complaint, was conducted by a biased party in an untimely manner, and included an improper scope. The Supreme Court denied writ relief, holding that the issues Judge Jones raised were not yet ripe for review. View "Jones v. Nev. Comm'n on Judicial Discipline" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

by
More than a year after Wife's and Husband's divorce, Wife filed a motion to reopen discovery. Wife also filed a motion to disqualify Judge Gonzalez from hearing the motion to reopen discovery, asserting that Judge Gonzalez hearing the motion would create an appearance of impropriety because Husband and others connected to the parties' divorce contributed to the judge's reelection complain. Judge Togliatti denied Wife's motion to disqualify Judge Gonzalez, and the Judge Gonzalez went on to preside over Wife's motion to reopen discovery. Wife subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus or prohibition vacating Judge Togliatti's order and disqualifying Judge Gonzalez from hearing the motion to reopen discovery. The Supreme Court denied Wife's petition, holding that the failure to disqualify Judge Gonzalez did not violate Wife's due process rights or Nevada law, as all of the campaign contributions at issue were within statutory limits and made after the divorce decree. View "Ivey v. Dist. Court" on Justia Law

by
Marie Liapis filed a complaint for divorce against petitioner Theodore Liapis, in which she also sought disposition of the couple's property, permanent spousal support, and her attorney fees and costs. Theodore answered Marie's complaint and later retained Mark Liapis, the couple's son, as his attorney. A settlement conference was scheduled, and each party filed a statement in preparation for that conference. In her statement, Marie objected to Mark's representation of Theodore. Because of the issues raised concerning Mark's representation of Theodore, the district court vacated the scheduled settlement conference and gave Mark time to determine whether he would continue as Theodore's counsel. Mark informed Marie's counsel that he did not intend to withdraw as counsel for Theodore. Marie subsequently filed a motion to disqualify Mark, asserting three bases for his disqualification: (1) Mark's representation of Theodore and his pecuniary interest in their estate created an appearance of impropriety; (2) even though Mark had never represented her, there was an "inherent conflict of interest" because it was unclear "how [Mark] would be able to zealously represent [Theodore]" when he "professe[d] to still love both his parents;" and (3) Mark should be disqualified because he was a potential witness in the case. Because appearance of impropriety is no longer recognized by the American Bar Association, and the Supreme Court has not recognized the appearance of impropriety as a basis for disqualifying counsel except in the limited circumstance of a public lawyer, the Court rejected that conclusion when the alleged impropriety is based solely on a familial relationship with the attorney. The Court also concluded that absent an ethical breach by the attorney that affects the fairness of the entire litigation or a proven confidential relationship between the nonclient parent and the attorney, the nonclient parent lacked standing to seek disqualification under RPC 1.7. View "Liapis v. Dist. Ct." on Justia Law