Hendricks & Lewis PLLC v. Clinton

Docket Number: 13-35010
Judge: Morgan Christen
Opinion Date: August 26, 2014

Clinton is a musician, bandleader, and touring performance artist. H&L, a law firm, represented Clinton in in 2005-2008, billed Clinton $3,341,650, received $1,000,578 in payment, and wrote off $600,000 of the remaining balance. This left $1,779,756.29 due. H&L initiated arbitration. Clinton did not participate; the panel ruled in favor of H&L. The district court confirmed the award of $1,675,639.82, plus interest plus $60,786.50 in attorney fees. H&L pursued collection, including garnishments, levies, and liens across the country. Clinton’s attorney declared that they created a financial “stranglehold” so that Clinton “[c]an’t pay his taxes … it is going to affect… his ability to make a living at 72 years old.” A year later, Clinton sued H&L for legal malpractice. H&L asserted counterclaims and sought an order authorizing the sale of master sound recording copyrights to satisfy its judgments. The district court appointed a receiver and authorized the receiver to use the copyrights to satisfy the judgments. Amending its earlier order, the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Under Washington law Clinton’s copyrights in the masters were subject to execution to satisfy judgments against him. Section 201(e) of the federal Copyright Act does not protect Clinton from the involuntary transfer of his copyrighted works. Clinton could raise claims of fraud on the court and judicial estoppel for the first time on appeal, but the claims were meritless.

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