Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Judges and Law Clerks Should Prevent Impropriety

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Judges and Law Clerks Should Prevent Impropriety

Article excerpt

Consider this scenario. Law firm Murphy, Weir & Butler represented First Interstate Bank of Arizona and Talley Real Estate Finance Co., secured creditors, in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Scottsdale Pinnacle Associates. Although not known by the partner who handled the case, Murphy, Weir hired the bankruptcy judge's law clerk during the pendency of the proceeding, the employment to begin at the end of her clerkship. But the Chinese wall developed chinks, and the clerk continued to have some contact with the bankruptcy judge and the case.

The bankruptcy judge ruled in First Interstate's favor, but when Pinnacle learned of the hiring, she recused herself. A new trial was ordered before a different judge. This time First Interstate and Talley lost, and they sued Murphy, Weir for malpractice, contending that Murphy, Weir owed them a duty to ensure that the firm's hiring of the law clerk did not jeopardize its interests. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted summary judgment to the law firm. …

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