Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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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

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The parties in this case were Ken Blevins, who was elected as Sebastian County Circuit Clerk in 2011, and David Hudson, who served as the county judge for Sebastian County. Hudson appointed a grievance committee to hear a complaint filed by several deputy clerks working for Blevins alleging that Blevins was sexually harassing them. When Blevins sought to terminate two of those deputy clerks, Hudson appointed a new grievance committee to hear the clerks’ complaints and ultimately ordered Blevins to retain the employees. Blevins filed suit, alleging that Hudson abused the grievance process and made statements during the grievance hearings that placed Blevins in a false light and contributed to his defeat in the next election. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Hudson. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was proper because Hudson was entitled to immunity on all claims raised by Blevins. View "Blevins v. Hudson" on Justia Law

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In a per curiam order, the Supreme Court found that court reporter Sheila Russell failed to comply with a writ of certiorari issued by the Court for the completion of the record in the above-captioned case. The Court ordered Russell to appear to show cause why she should not be held in contempt for her failure to comply with the writ. Russell appeared before the Court and entered a plea of not guilty. Accordingly, the Court appointed a special master to conduct a hearing on the matter and to make findings of fact. After a hearing, the special master found that Russell’s failure to comply with the writ was not justified and was contrary to her duties as an official court reporter. The Supreme Court accepted the findings of the special master and held Russell in contempt of court for willfully failing to prepare the instant record in a timely manner and in accordance with the directive of the Court. View "James Tree & Crane Serv., Inc. v. Fought" on Justia Law

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Appellant, an attorney, was found to be in contempt of court while representing his client in a hearing. Specifically, the circuit court entered an order finding that Appellant was repeatedly warned about interrupting the court and that after multiple oral warnings, continued to interrupt the court. The court ordered Appellant to pay $100 to the circuit clerk's office. On appeal, Appellant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the contempt finding. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's contempt finding where the record reflected that the circuit court repeatedly warned Appellant to refrain from interrupting yet Appellant continued to do so. View "Benca v. Benton County Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff obtained a last will and testament from LegalZoom.com. Before receiving the requested document, Plaintiff agreed to LegalZoom.com's terms of service, which included an arbitration provision. The agreement also provided that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) governed the interpretation and enforcement of the agreement's provisions. Plaintiff later filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that LegalZoom.com engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, among other claims. LegalZoom.com filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion based upon the allegations concerning the unauthorized practice of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred because Arkansas law does not prohibit the enforcement of arbitration agreements requiring resolution through arbitration of private claims when a dispute concerns allegations of the unauthorized practice of law; and (2) any rule prohibiting arbitration of unauthorized practice-of-law claims were preempted by the FAA in this case. View "Legalzoom.com, Inc. v. McIllwain" on Justia Law

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The Searcy County Counsel for Ethical Government (SCCEG) filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that Johnny Hinchey, a Searcy County Judge, neglected his duties of office when he failed to sell and convey a county-owned gravel crusher pursuant to the terms of Ark. Code Ann. 14-16-105. Judge Hinchey answered by asserting that the crusher had been determined to have no value to the County and was sold in accordance with the procedures of Ark. Code Ann. 14-16-106(c). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Judge Hinchey. SCCEG appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in finding that section 14-16-106(c) was the relevant and applicable section to the sale of the crusher because, it contended, the crusher was not determined to be junk or scrap such that the statute would apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the gravel crusher was properly determined to be junk under section 14-16-106(c); and (2) the provisions of section 14-16-105 for sales of county property do not also apply to sales or disposal of surplus property under section 14-16-106. View "Searcy County Counsel for Ethical Gov't v. Hinchey" on Justia Law