Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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In 2001, a company calling itself âComputer Geeks, a California corporation,â sued Plaintiff Jason Wright in Utah state court for failing to assign a domain name. Mr. Wright did not respond to the companyâs motion for summary judgment, and in 2006, the state court granted the motion and entered judgment against him. Mr. Wright hired Appellant-Attorney Russell Cline to have the judgment set aside or modified. In 2008, Appellant filed a motion to set the judgment aside. As it turns out, âComputer Geeks, a California corporationâ is not related to the company that held the Utah state judgment. Appellant was made aware of the mistaken identity soon after Appellant served âComputer Geeks, a California corporation.â Appellant represented to the clerk of the district court that he had properly served âComputer Geeks, a California corporation.â The clerk entered a default, and Appellant moved for a default judgment. Within a few weeks, Defendant CompGeeks.com moved to vacate the default judgment. At the hearing, Appellant acknowledged he knew the difference between the two companies, but that he served the correct holder of the Utah judgment. The district court found that Appellant had filed a frivolous action in violation of state law, and dismissed the case. The court referred Appellant to the state attorney disciplinary committee, and awarded attorneyâs fees to CompGeeks.com, making Mr. Wright and Appellant jointly and severally liable for the award. Appellant moved to vacate the award of attorneyâs fees, alleging the district court abused its discretion in its decision. On review, the Tenth Circuit âsympathize[d] with the district courtâs frustration with [Appellantâs] conduct,â but held that â Rule 11 does not allow a sua sponte award of attorney fees.â Accordingly the monetary sanctions order was vacated, and the Court remanded the case for further proceedings.