Temple of Justice

Washington Supreme Court: In-House Counsel Can Sue for Wrongful Discharge

In a case of first impression in Washington, the Supreme Court held that former in-house counsel can sue their employers for wrongful discharge. Karstetter v. King County Corrections Guild was before the Supreme Court after the trial denied a defense motion to dismiss and the Court of Appeals later reversed the ruling. The initial pleadings framed the narrow legal issue before the Supreme Court.

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Legal scale and law books

Appeals Court Weighs in on Successor Personal Representative Malpractice Claims

Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals recently addressed whether a successor personal representative had standing to bring a legal malpractice claim against a law firm that had worked solely with an earlier personal representative. The answer: “No.” In reaching its conclusion, the Court of Appeals in Benjamin v. Singleton, ___ Wn. App. 2d […]

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Law books

New WSBA Advisory Opinion on Contacting Government Employees

The WSBA Committee on Professional Ethics recently released a new advisory opinion No. 201803 to address the contours of contacting government employees under Washington Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2. The rule generally prohibits communication with a person whom the contacting lawyer “knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter[.]” Under Wright v. Group […]

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Illustration of four attorneys

New WSBA Advisory Opinion on ‘Quadripartite’ Relationships

The WSBA Committee on Professional Ethics recently released advisory opinion No. 201802 addressing “quadripartite” relationships. “Tripartite” relationships among an insurer, the insured, and defense counsel have been delineated extensively in both court decisions and advisory opinions. “Quadripartite” relationships, by contrast, are a fairly new development and remain comparatively unplumbed. The term generally describes situations where […]

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Illustration of a lawyer flying over a cityscape holding a giant envelope

U.S. District Court Highlights Importance of ‘Non-Engagement’ Letters

A recent decision from the U.S. District Court in Seattle highlights the importance of “non-engagement” letters: a letter or other communication to a non-client involved in the background context of a representation telling the non-client that the lawyer is not representing the non-client. Smartek21, LLC v. VisiKard, Inc., 2018 WL 5024031 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 17, […]

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Law books

Demystifying the Qui Tam Process

There’s No Such Thing as an Average False Claims Case Defendants in qui tam lawsuits—in which a whistleblower accuses someone, usually a corporation, of fraud against the government—often don’t realize they’ve been targeted until months, or sometimes years, past the original filing date. This is deliberate: The federal False Claims Act (FCA) requires whistleblowers to […]

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Confirming When Representation Begins Matters

A recent decision by Division III of the Washington Court of Appeals illustrates the importance of confirming whether or not you have taken on a client at an initial meeting. Fechner v. Volyn, ___ Wn. App. ___, 418 P.3d 120, 2018 WL 2307703 (May 22, 2018), was painted against the backdrop of a medical malpractice […]

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Frazzled woman attorney on telephone

When Opposing Counsel Goes Dark—Can You Communicate Directly With the Adverse Party?

I have taken multiple calls at the WSBA Ethics Line from attorneys who feel stymied because opposing counsel isn’t responding and hasn’t terminated their attorney-client relationship. In one instance, the caller said the opposing party wanted to work directly with him, but the caller could not get confirmation from opposing counsel that contact was permitted.

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A gavel in a courtroom.

Appeals Court Considers Prosecutor’s Subpoena for Letter Held by Former Defense Counsel

Ethics guru Mark Fucile analyzes a Court of Appeals decision to overturn a lower court’s ruling for contempt against a defendant’s former counsel. Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals recently addressed a subpoena duces tecum to former counsel in State v. Rogers, ___ Wn. App. ___, 414 P.3d 1143, 2018 WL 1602957 (2018). […]

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