Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Fulton received an unsolicited fax from Bisco and sued for damages under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. Before Fulton moved for class certification, Bisco tried to moot its claim by tendering an offer ($3,005 plus costs) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 that, Bisco claimed, gave Fulton all possible individual relief. Two days after Bisco’s offer, the Supreme Court held that “an unaccepted settlement offer or offer of judgment does not moot a plaintiff’s case.” Fulton rejected the offer. Bisco then moved to deposit $3,600 with the court under Rule 67. The court dismissed the suit, concluding that Bisco’s maneuver mooted Fulton’s individual claim and disqualified it from serving as a class representative. The Seventh Circuit remanded, finding dismissal premature. Bisco’s payment did not moot the case; the court’s registry does not function as plaintiff’s account. An unaccepted offer to settle a case, accompanied by a payment intended to provide full compensation into the registry of the court under Rule 67, is no different in principle from an offer of settlement made under Rule 68. It is not clear, as a matter of law, that the unaccepted offer was sufficient to compensate Fulton for its loss of the opportunity to represent the putative class. View "Fulton Dental, LLC v. Bisco, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ijbara owned a strip mall in Oak Lawn, Illinois, but defaulted on his mortgage payments, precipitating a foreclosure. He blamed Oak Lawn officials for waging a campaign of regulatory harassment that included frivolous inspections and citations for nonexistent or trumped-up building-code violations, which cost him money and scared off prospective tenants. In December 2013, he filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that this abuse of power violated his right to equal protection of the law. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the suit as time-barred. Ijbara’s claim accrued when the foreclosure action was filed, or at the very latest, when the judge presiding in that action appointed a receiver to take control of the mall on April 22, 2011. Ijbara’s suit, filed almost three years later, missed the two-year limitations deadline. The court rejected an argument that his claim did not accrue until the state court entered final judgment in the foreclosure action. “Ijbara confuses the eventual consequences of a constitutional violation with the constitutional injury that starts the limitations clock. Ijbara was well aware of his injury and its cause long before the entry of final judgment in the foreclosure proceeding.” View "Amin Ijbara Equity Corp v. Village of Oak Lawn" on Justia Law

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Because the state proposed to use federal highway funds to widen Wisconsin Route 23, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued an environmental impact statement (EIS). USDOT made a record of decision (ROD) permitting the use of federal funds. Opponents filed suit. The court denied a request for an injunction because Wisconsin can proceed using its own money regardless of whether USDOT satisfied the requirements for a federal contribution, but set aside the ROD, finding that the statement projecting 2035 traffic loads had not adequately disclosed all assumptions. USDOT issued a revised EIS with additional details about how the traffic estimates had been generated. The district court reiterated the order vacating USDOT’s ROD. The judge stated that plaintiff was entitled to a declaratory judgment but neglected to issue one. The order setting aside the ROD was appealed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal. USDOT did not appeal. Wisconsin remains free to continue the project at the state’s expense. The National Environmental Policy Act, on which the suit rests, applies only to the national government, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C). Wisconsin cannot seek relief against a judgment that does not bind it. Wisconsin does not contend that USDOT had a statutory duty to fund the project, to prepare a better EIS, or to appeal the decision. View "1000 Friends of Wisconsin, Inc v. Wisconsin Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Coleman was hired to work at Carmen High School and was fired about three weeks later, based on allegations of sexual harassment. Coleman filed a pro se suit, alleging racial discrimination. The suit ended with a stipulated dismissal. Coleman sought relief from the state Equal Rights Division; an ALJ dismissed Coleman’s case for failure to meet deadlines. Coleman filed another pro se suit, contending that the Commission had denied him due process and requesting to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), 28 U.S.C. 1915. He consented to proceed before a magistrate, who found the request to proceed IFP financially supported but ordered Coleman to submit an amended complaint. The new complaint also failed to “offer any details that could plausibly present a federal cause of action.” The magistrate entered judgment, citing 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2), which calls for “the court” to “dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that … the action … fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Because the Commission had not been served, the magistrate was proceeding with the consent of only one litigant. The Seventh Circuit remanded: A plaintiff’s consent alone cannot give a magistrate the necessary authority to resolve a case on the basis that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, in a case that otherwise requires an Article III judge. View "Coleman v. Department of Labor Review Commission" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of two prisoner cases for failure to prosecute. Dupree had sued Illinois prison staff under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for allegedly prolonging his incarceration. Proceedings were protracted, primarily because Dupree, who had been in and out of jail, dropped out of contact with the court and the lawyer the court had recruited on his behalf. Schneider’s suit also claimed that the defendants detained him for too long. The Seventh Circuit considered Schneider’s case twice before. Schneider tried repeatedly to disqualify the defendants’ counsel, filed an interlocutory appeal, neglected to prepare his case for trial, failed to attend a witness’s deposition, did not respond to defense counsel’s communications, and failed to submit a witness list, exhibit list, proposed jury instructions, proposed voir dire questions, or his objections to the defendants’ pretrial submissions. His subsequently-recruited attorney stated that she had been unable to convince Schneider to attend any meetings and had not heard from him in months. At one point, Schneider “literally threw” a motion to recuse the judge at the courtroom deputy and told the judge “you’re recused” then “abruptly left.” The Seventh Circuit stated that the district courts showed more patience than necessary before dismissing the suits. View "Dupree v. Hardy" on Justia Law

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Davis sued, asserting malpractice and breach of contract claims, and federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Civil Rights Act claims, arising out of Fenton’s legal representation of Davis in a mortgage foreclosure action in which Davis lost her home. Davis alleged that Fenton’s representation of her was deficient and that he had targeted her for deficient representation because of her race. Because Fenton’s contract with Davis required the parties to arbitrate any disputes, the district judge ordered the suit “stayed pending arbitration.: Arbitrators awarded Davis $82,528.10 in damages for malpractice but denied her other claims. Fenton sued in Illinois state court to have the award vacated. Davis moved the federal court to reinstate her suit, to confirm the award under 9 U.S.C. 9, and to permit her to file a new FHA claim, accusing Fenton of retaliating against her for having filed her original claim. Fenton failed to appear; the judge entered a default judgment granting the motion. The court refused to vacate the default and remand to state court but dismissed the retaliation claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The federal judge had jurisdiction over the case when it was filed; the order staying the case, subject to reinstatement, retained jurisdiction to confirm or vacate an arbitral award. The court affirmed the dismissal; filing a lawsuit cannot be considered retaliation, except in extraordinary circumstances. View "Davis v. Fenton" on Justia Law

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Dr. Parungao began practicing surgery at Galesburg Cottage Hospital in 2006. He accepted employment with Knox Clinic, which supplies doctors for the hospital. Knox told Dr. Parungao in 2013 that it was discharging him without cause, as allowed under his employment agreement. Parungao believes that the hospital orchestrated this discharge to harm his career. He asserts that before Knox fired him, the hospital’s medical executive committee manipulated the peer-review process to insinuate that he had performance problems and make it difficult for him to secure future employment. Parungao later resigned from Galesburg and sought other employment, but alleges that he was thwarted in those efforts by the hospital and its doctors. Based on those events, Parungao filed a suit against the hospital that he voluntarily dismissed, was denied permission to refile the case under seal with a fictitious name, then filed another state court suit against the chief of medical staff, Piper for defamation. The Piper suit was dismissed for failure to state a claim. Parungao’s federal suit against the hospital was subsequently dismissed as barred by res judicata. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although the federal suit did not mention Piper, the elements of privity, identity of causes of action, and finality were met. View "Parungao v. Community Health Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The “Old Mill” in Belgrade, Serbia, was confiscated, allegedly from plaintiffs' ancestors, in 1945, without compensation, and later sold to private developers. Prigan now holds title and, with Carlson, renovated the Old Mill. The property is now a four‐star Radisson Blu Hotel complex. Carlson is the licensor of the Radisson Blu brand and participates in the hotel’s management. Ten years before the hotel's construction, plaintiffs began trying to recover their rights over the Old Mill. In 2009 a Serbian court annulled the declaration that plaintiffs’ family were enemies of the state. They sued Carlson, alleging trespass, conversion, conspiracy, unjust enrichment, constructive trust, and violation of the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Carlson agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of the Serbian Restitution Agency, which was empowered by Serbia's 2011 “Law on Property Restitution and Compensation” to determine rights in the property, including improvements. The judge dismissed the suit on the ground of forum non conveniens. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the plaintiffs produced no documentary evidence that they have inherited the land and that the dispute is appropriate for the Serbian Agency . Although one plaintiff is an American citizen and a resident of Illinois, the other is a citizen of Canada but a resident of Paris; no aspect of the dispute has any relation to Illinois. View "Veljkovic v. Carlson Hotels, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appeal of dismissal of challenge to city’s order requiring that police officers cover tattoos was rendered moot by city’s revocation of the order. Plaintiffs, military veterans employed as Chicago police officers, have tattoos relating to their military service and religion. The department issued an order without prior notice, requiring all officers on duty or otherwise “representing” the department to cover their tattoos. The announced reason was to “promote uniformity and professionalism.” Plaintiffs complained that covering their tattoos with clothing caused overheating in warm weather and that cover-up tape irritated their skin. The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that the order violated theirs’ First Amendment rights, attorneys’ fees and costs, and “other legal and/or equitable relief.” Without addressing class certification and before discovery, the court dismissed the suit on the merits, finding that wearing tattoos was a “personal expression,” not an effort at communicating with the public on matters of public concern, and was not protected by the First Amendment. Meanwhile, the police union filed a grievance. An arbitrator ruled that the order violated the collective bargaining agreement. The city conceded and agreed to reimburse officers for expenses in complying with the invalidated policy. The Seventh Circuit directed that the judgment vacated as moot. View "Medici v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Dead Man’s Act barred testimony regarding now-deceased employer’s response to being told employee would file a worker’s compensation claim. Plata sued Eureka under 42 U.S.C. 2000e, claiming that he was fired in retaliation for having filed such a claim. He claimed that Bittner, Eureka’s owner, told him he was “done” after he told Bittner that he intended to file the claim. Bittner died suddenly, leaving Plata the only witness to the conversation. Eureka cited the Illinois Dead Man’s Act, 735 ILCS 5/8-301, which “forbids a party to a suit by or against a firm to testify about any conversation with a dead agent of the firm, unless a living agent of the firm was also present.” Federal Rule of Evidence 601 states that “in a civil case, state law governs the witness’s competency regarding a claim or defense for which state law supplies the rule of decision.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed that Plata could testify that he had told Bittner that he intended to file a claim, but could not testify to Bittner’s response. The courts rejected the federal claims as time-barred and unsupported by evidence, noting that Plata was a difficult litigant, whose lawyer was allowed to withdraw after Plata refused to respond to discovery requests. View "Plata v. Eureka Locker, Inc." on Justia Law