Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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Fletcher was convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole plus an additional 15 years for using a firearm in the commission of the crime. Fletcher’s attorney filed a no-merit brief pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 4-3(k) (2017) and Anders v. California, asserting that there are no nonfrivolous issues for appeal, stating that the trial court did not commit reversible error in denying Fletcher’s motions for a directed verdict; the sentence imposed was allowed pursuant to the capital-murder statute; and the trial court did not commit reversible error in allowing the introduction of testimony from two witnesses and a drawing from a third witness. Fletcher has filed pro se points disputing the points counsel argued and also alleging that his appellate counsel was ineffective. The Supreme Court of Arkansas granted the motion to withdraw. Fletcher does not dispute that he caused the victim’s death, but only argued that the state failed to prove that he acted with premeditation and deliberate purpose; substantial evidence supports the verdict. Fletcher was not unfairly prejudiced and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the drawing. View "Fletcher v. Arkansas" on Justia Law

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Arkansas’s Rules of Professional Conduct do not require attorney disqualification simply because the attorney had access to client information but did not gain actual knowledge while practicing at her former association. Appellee filed a complaint against Appellants - The Park Apartments at Fayetteville, LP, The Park Apartments at Fayetteville Management Co., and Lindsey Management Co., Inc. (Lindsey) (collectively, the Park), alleging that the liquidated-damages clause in her lease agreement was unenforceable and constituted an illegal penalty. Appellee later filed a motion to disqualify the Park’s attorney and Lindsey’s entire in-house legal department, alleging that Summer McCoy, a staff attorney for Lindsey, had a conflict of interest and that the conflict of interest should be imputed to the Park’s attorney and the entire Lindsey legal department because McCoy was now a part of that department. The circuit court granted the motion to disqualify. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in applying Norman v. Norman, 970 S.W.2d 270 (Ark. 1998), when it concluded that access to client information alone was sufficient for attorney disqualification. View "Park Apartments At Fayetteville, LP v. Shilah Plants" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme court reversed the circuit court’s disqualification of counsel for Appellant. The circuit court dismissed counsel on the basis that counsel had a conflict and was disqualified from representing Appellant. On appeal, Appellant argued, among other things, that the circuit court erred in disqualifying Appellant’s counsel based solely on opposing counsel’s statement that the attorney would be called as a witness. The Supreme Court remanded the matter for further proceedings, holding that the circuit court’s decision to impose “the drastic measure” of disqualifying counsel constituted an abuse of discretion because there was no motion to disqualify counsel or any consideration of the factors set forth in Weigel v. Farmers Insurance Co., 158 S.W.3d 147, 150-51 (Ark. 2004). View "Helena County Club v. Brocato" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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In this case challenging a county assessor’s ad valorem tax assessments, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order granting the motion to dismiss filed by Appellees on the grounds that Appellants’ representative, a nonattorney, committed the unauthorized practice of law by signing a petition to appeal the tax assessment to the county court.The Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court for the reasons expressed in its opinion issued today in DeSoto Gathering Co., LLC v. Hill, 2017 Ark. 326, holding that the petitions for appeal were null and void because a corporation or its nonattorney officers or employees on its behalf are not authorized to practice law in Arkansas. View "USAC Leasing LLC v. Hill" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning a county board of equalization tax assessment, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Appellants’ appeal, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the appeal when Appellants’ tax manager, a nonlawyer, initiated the appeal on behalf of Appellants. Specifically, the notices of appeal that Appellants’ tax manager filed on behalf of Appellants must be deemed a nullity because they were filed in violation of the prohibition of the unauthorized practice of law. Therefore, the petitions of appeal were a nullity, the county court did not have jurisdiction, and the circuit court did not have jurisdiction. View "DeSoto Gathering Co. v. Hill" on Justia Law

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Appellant, who was convicted of rape, filed a pro se petition to correct an illegal sentence under Ark. Code Ann. 16-90-111. The trial court denied the petition. Appellant appealed. The Supreme Court found good cause to reverse without considering Appellant’s arguments concerning the merits of his petition for relief under the statute. The court held that because the judge who ruled on Appellant’s section 16-90-111 petition was, in fact, the prosecuting attorney at his trial for rape, a serious appearance impropriety was created because the judge did not refrain from presiding over a case in which he might be interested. The court remanded the matter so that a different circuit judge can rule on the petition. View "Latham v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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Attorney Jimmy Morris was the defense attorney of a defendant charged with first degree murder. The circuit court found Morris in contempt for failing to appear on time for the defendant’s jury trial and fined him $4,000. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err by finding Morris in criminal attempt because the court had substantial evidence with which to conclude that Morris’s behavior constituted a willful violation of the trial court’s scheduling order; and (2) under the particular facts of this case, the purpose of the contempt punishment will be accomplished by the lesser fine of $2,000. View "Morris v. State" on Justia Law

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Sam Perroni filed a complaint with the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission and its former executive director (collectively, Commission) against Circuit Judge Tim Fox, alleging that Judge Fox violated several provisions of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct. A three-member panel of the Commission found no probable cause on the complaint filed against Judge Fox and dismissed the complaint. Perroni then filed a second complaint with the Commission alleging that Judge Fox violated several laws and abused the prestige of his office. The Commission dismissed the second judicial complaint. Thereafter, Perroni filed an original complaint, an amended complaint, and a second amended complaint against the Commission. The circuit court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court dismissed Perroni’s appeal, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed Perroni’s complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because a review of the Commission’s decision lies exclusively with the Supreme Court. View "Perroni v. Sachar" on Justia Law

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In this opinion authored by Associate Justice Rhonda Wood, Judge Wood considered a motion to disqualify filed by Appellees asking that Wood recuse from hearing an appeal and any case involving Michael Morton or his nursing homes. Appellees argued that Judge Wood for Supreme Court Campaign Committee’s acceptance of contributions retained in 2014 from Michael Morton and his nursing homes created an appearance of bias of impropriety for a case that will be before the Court in 2017. Judge Wood denied the individual motion to recuse, holding that, considering the factors and the surrounding circumstances as well as her duty to sit, it would not be proper to recuse from this case. View "Robinson Nursing & Rehabilitation Center v. Phillips" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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Appellant was charged with one count of rape. When Gerald Crow was a circuit judge he authorized the issuance of an arrest warrant for Appellant. Crow also presided over Appellant’s plea-and-arraignment hearing. Crow then left his position as circuit judge. Crow subsequently entered an appearance as an attorney for Appellant. The State moved to disqualify Crow based on his former participation in the case as a judge. The circuit court concluded that Crow was prohibited from representing Floyd. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Crow previously participated in the case “personally and substantially” as a judge, Rule 1.12 of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct applied, and the State’s consent was required before Crow could participate as a lawyer. View "Floyd v. State" on Justia Law