Monday, August 6, 2018
Dissolution Obligations At Issue
Certified questions in the Howrey bankruptcy case are up for argument before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on September 12
No. 18-SP-0218 ALLAN B. DIAMOND, CHAPTER TRUSTEE OF HOWREY, LLP V. BENSON KASOWITZ, ET AL
Christopher R. Murray, Esquire
Christopher Sullivan, Esquire
Shay Dvoretzky, Esquire
Michael Ryan Pinkston, Esquire
Robert Radasevich, Esquire
Jack Mckay, Esquire
Robert Novick, Esquire
Gregory G. Garre, Esquire
Brian R. Matsui, Esquire
Logan G. Haine-Roberts, Esquire
In a February 2018 opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sought guidance on governing District of Columbia law
Pursuant to D.C. Code § 11-723 we respectfully ask the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to resolve three questions of District of Columbia law that “may be
determinative” of this bankruptcy appeal. D.C. Code § 11- 723(a):
(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?
Our phrasing of the questions should not restrict the Court’s consideration of the issues. The Court may rephrase a question as it sees fit in order to best address the contentions of the parties or the specifics of D.C. law.
The Ninth Circuit cites the 1990 D.C. decision in Beckman v. Farmer on partnership dissolution.
The case is one of the career highlights of my friend and mentor Jake Stein, perhaps the most universally beloved lawyer in the history of the District of Columbia Bar. (Mike Frisch)