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Smith v. Lewis

California Supreme Court
530 P.2d 589 (1975)


Facts

Attorney Jerome Lewis (defendant) provided legal representation to Rosemary Smith (plaintiff) to secure a divorce from Smith’s husband, Clarence, a General in the California National Guard. In the course of the representation, Lewis advised Smith that the retirement benefits earned by Clarence during the marriage were not community property and that no claim could be made for them. After the divorce decree was issued Lewis filed a motion to amend the judgment to assert a claim for Clarence’s retirement benefits. Lewis’ motion was denied. Thereafter, Smith filed a legal malpractice action against Smith alleging that he should have known that state and federal retirement pensions accumulated during the course of a marriage were community property and subject to division between the spouses. A jury held for Smith and awarded her $100,000 in damages. Lewis appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Mosk, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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Dissent (Clark, J.)

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