The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has asked an appellate court in the District of Columbia to weigh in on whether D.C. law allows estates of dissolved law firms to pursue legal claims related to unfinished client matters that partners take with them to new firms.

The Ninth Circuit on Tuesday certified three separate questions to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in the bankruptcy of defunct intellectual property and litigation powerhouse Howrey. The move echoes a similar tack the Ninth Circuit took in the Heller Ehrman bankruptcy, where the federal appellate court asked the California Supreme Court to consider questions about whether so-called “unfinished business” claims are legitimate under California law. The California Supreme Court held arguments in the Heller case in December, but has yet to rule.

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