Attorney Fees

9th Circuit Cites 'Egregious' Ethics Violation, Denies Attorney Fees for McGuireWoods


A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that McGuireWoods can’t collect fees for work it did to help secure a $49 million settlement in an antitrust case against the publishers of BAR/BRI.

The panel’s ruling Aug. 10 (PDF) upholds a decision by U.S. District Judge Manuel Real, who determined that McGuireWoods breached its ethical duties by failing to disclose to class members that incentive awards based on settlement value would go to named plaintiffs, according to stories by the National Law Journal and Courthouse News Service.

“The representation of clients with conflicting interests and without informed consent is a particularly egregious ethical violation that may be a proper basis for complete denial of fees,” Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta wrote in the 29-page opinion.

In response to the ruling, W. William Allcott, counsel at McGuireWoods, emailed a statement to the NLJ saying that that “the court applied a legal standard that was not generally recognized at the time the incentive agreements were entered into or when the attorney who had entered into them joined [McGuireWoods].”

Allcott went on to disagree with the court’s conclusion.

At issue in the underlying case was a claim that West Publishing and Kaplan conspired to monopolize the BAR/BRI test preparation market in violation of antitrust laws. McGuireWoods inherited the case, which involved 300,000 students, in 2006 when it acquired Van Etten Suzumoto & Becket, the NLJ notes.

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