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Diamond v. Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

February 27, 2018

Allan B. Diamond, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of Howrey LLP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, Defendant-Appellee. Allan B. Diamond, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of Howrey LLP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Defendant-Appellee. ALLAN B. DIAMOND, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of Howrey LLP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SEYFARTH SHAW LLP, Defendant-Appellee. ALLAN B. DIAMOND, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of Howrey LLP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
PERKINS COIE LLP, Defendant-Appellee. ALLAN B. DIAMOND, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of Howrey LLP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
NEAL, GERBER & EISENBERG LLP, Defendant-Appellee. ALLAN B. DIAMOND, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of Howrey LLP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
KASOWITZ BENSON TORRES LLP, Defendant-Appellee. ALLAN B. DIAMOND, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of Howrey LLP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SHEPPARD MULLIN RICHTER & HAMPTON LLP, Defendant-Appellee. ALLAN B. DIAMOND, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of Howrey LLP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JONES DAY, Defendant-Appellee.

         D.C. No. 3:14-cv-04882-JD, 3:14-cv-04883-JD, 3:14-cv-04884-JD, 3:14-cv-04885-JD, 3:14-cv-04886-JD, 3:14-cv-04887-JD, 3:14-cv-04888-JD, 3:14-cv-04889-JD

          Christopher D. Sullivan (argued), Diamond McCarthy LLP, San Francisco, California; Christopher R. Murray and Michael D. Fritz, Diamond McCarthy LLP, Houston, Texas; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Shay Dvoretzky (argued) and Emily J. Kennedy, Jones Day, Washington, D.C.; Robert A. Mittelstaedt and Jason McDonnell, Jones Day, San Francisco, California; for Defendant-Appellee Jones Day.

          Jonathan W. Hughes and Pamela Phillips, Arnold & Porter LLP, San Francisco, California; Robert Reeves Anderson, Arnold & Porter LLP, Denver, Colorado; for Defendant-Appellee Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP.

          David G. Keyko, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, New York, New York; John M. Grenfell and G. Allen Brandt, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, San Francisco, California; for Defendant-Appellee Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

          Lori L. Roeser, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Chicago, Illinois, for Defendant-Appellee Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

          Ronald A. McIntire and Judith B. Gitterman, Perkins Coie LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Defendant-Appellee Perkins Coie LLP.

          Nancy J. Newman, Hanson Bridgett LLP, San Francisco, California; Robert Radasevich, Neal Gerber & Eisenberg LLP, Chicago, Illinois; for Defendant-Appellee Neal Gerber & Eisenberg LLP.

          Margaret A. Ziemianek, Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP, San Francisco, California; Robert M. Novick, Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP, New York, New York; for Defendant-Appellee Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP.

          Richard W. Brunette and Michael M. Lauter, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Defendant-Appellee Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.

          Paulette Brown, President; Eric A. Shumsky, Christopher J. Cariello, and Anjali S. Dalal, Of Counsel; American Bar Association, Chicago, Illinois; for Amicus Curiae American Bar Association.

          David C. Tingstad, Beresford Booth PLLC, Edmonds, Washington, for Amici Curiae Various Practitioners and Academics.

          Before: Ronald M. Gould and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges, and Nancy Freudenthal, [*] Chief District Judge.

         ORDER CERTIFYING QUESTIONS TO THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS

         SUMMARY [**]

         Certified Questions

         Concluding that the claims of a trustee for the bankruptcy estate of a law firm turned on the answers to unresolved questions of District of Columbia partnership law concerning the scope of the interest, if any, that a partnership has in client matters started at the partnership but completed at another firm, the panel certified the following three questions to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals:

(1) Under District of Columbia law does a dissociated partner owe a duty to his or her former law firm to account for profits earned post-departure on legal matters that were in progress but not completed at the time of the partner's departure, where the partner's former law firm had been hired to handle those matters on an hourly basis and where those matters were completed at another firm that hired the partner?
(2) If the answer to question (1) is "yes, " then does District of Columbia law allow a partner's former law firm to recover those profits from the partner's new law firm under an unjust enrichment theory?
(3) Under District of Columbia law what interest, if any, does a dissolved law firm have in profits earned on legal matters that were in progress but not completed at the time the law firm was dissolved, where the dissolved law firm had been retained to handle the matters on an hourly basis, and where those matters were completed at different pre-existing firms that hired partners of the dissolved firm post-dissolution?

         The panel stayed further proceedings, withdrew the case from submission, and directed the Clerk to administratively ...


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