Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Fuery, her friends Sciortino and Tomaskovic, and Chicago police officer Szura were involved in an altercation on the side of the road. The three women were arrested for battery of a police officer; each was acquitted. The women sued the City and Officer Szura under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1985. At trial, the defendants objected to various testimony as violating the court’s rulings on motions in limine, moved for a mistrial, and requested dismissal of all claims and attorneys’ fees as a sanction. The judge stated, “[t]here are plenty of options once the trial is concluded to deal with the misconduct … I am not letting it go.” The jury awarded Tomaskovic $260,000 against Szura on her excessive force claim, finding that Szura was acting within the scope of his employment, but found in favor of the defendants on all other claims. The court entered judgment in favor of the City and Szura on all claims but denied the claims for attorneys’ fees. The court found misconduct by plaintiffs’ attorney and that “plaintiffs actively participated.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that it was apparent, “even from the two-dimensional record, the judge’s patience being tried.” District courts “possess certain inherent powers, not conferred by rule or statute, to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases. That authority includes the ability to fashion an appropriate sanction for conduct which abuses the judicial process.” View "Fuery v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The warrant application was supported by statements from “Doe,” that for the previous six months she regularly bought heroin from T (Doe only knew him by sight and street name) in a house, which she identified while driving with the police. A judge questioned Doe under oath and issued the warrant. Executing the warrant, officers found Walker in a house that looked like a drug house. Walker stated that she had a gun but could not remember where it was. The search took 90-120 minutes. Officers left without drugs or evidence of T’s whereabouts. Walker sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court granted defendants summary judgment; more than 16 months passed before the judge released her opinion. Walker appealed that day. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first noting that under Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(7)(A)(ii), a judgment is deemed to be entered on the earlier of the Rule 58 judgment or 150 days after a dispositive order is entered. “Deferring the opinion until after the time allowed by Rule. 4(a)(7)(A)(ii) is never appropriate, as it can spell disaster for a litigant not versed in the appellate rules.” Addressing the merits, the court stated that Walker’s goal was to have a jury decide whether the state judge should have issued the warrant but with the benefit of “great deference” the state judge’s probable-cause evaluation must prevail. Nothing was concealed from the judge and, under the circumstances, a two-hour search was not unreasonable. View "Walker v. Weatherspoon" on Justia Law

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Wheelchair-using detainees sued Cook County, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, based on purportedly inaccessible ramps and bathroom facilities at six county courthouses. The district court certified a class for purposes of injunctive relief. The named plaintiffs also sought damages individually for the same alleged violations. The district court held an evidentiary hearing on the equitable claims and entered a permanent injunction, finding that the defendants had violated the ADA. Relying largely on the same findings, the court granted the plaintiffs partial summary judgment on liability in their personal damage actions, then submitted the question of individual damage awards to a jury. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part. The district court improperly relied on its own findings of fact when it granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs on their damage claims. When equitable and legal claims are joined in a single suit, common questions of fact should be tried first to a jury unless there are extraordinary circumstances or an unequivocal waiver by all parties of their jury trial rights. The court upheld the class certification. View "Lacy v. Cook County, Illinois" on Justia Law

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Hamer, a former Intake Specialist for Housing Services and Fannie Mae, sued her former employers, citing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621, and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The court granted the defendants summary judgment. The deadline for her Notice of Appeal was October 14, 2015. On October 8, Hamer’s counsel filed a “Motion to Withdraw and to Extend Deadline.” The court extended the deadline to December 14. Hamer filed her Notice of Appeal on December 11, consistent with the order, but exceeding the extension allowable under Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(5)(C). The Seventh Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning that the statutory requirement for filing a timely notice was jurisdictional and Rule 4(a)(5)(C) limits a district court’s authority to extend the deadline to 30 days. The Supreme Court vacated, holding that statutory time limits are jurisdictional but that those imposed by rules are not—though they remain mandatory if properly invoked. On remand, the Seventh Circuit reached the merits and affirmed. Rights under nonjurisdictional rules can be waived in docketing statements; defendants’ docketing statement included affirmative statements that Hamer’s appeal was “timely”. Hamer did not establish a causal link between her EEOC complaint and an adverse action. To retaliate against a complainant, decision-makers must be aware of the complaint. Hamer has not established a genuine dispute about the decision-makers’ knowledge; all filed affidavits asserting they were never told of Hamer’s plan to file an EEOC complaint. View "Charmaine Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services" on Justia Law

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Lowe’s expanded its retail home improvement stores into Mexico. Lowe’s Mexico contracted with Karum to provide private-label credit card services there. The program failed to meet expectations. Karum sued, claiming breach of contract. Early on, Karum disclosed its summary “damages model,” a 37-page estimate of damages with hundreds of figures contained in charts and graphs. Karum intended to have its Chairman and former CEO Johnson and/or its current CEO and CFO Ouchida present the damages model at trial as lay opinion testimony. Karum never retained a damages expert. Two months before trial, Lowe’s moved to preclude Johnson and Ouchida from testifying as to the damages model because any testimony regarding the model required the specialized knowledge of an expert. The district court granted the motion, finding that Karum had never properly disclosed an expert pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2). Since this was a case-dispositive sanction, the court granted judgment in favor of Lowe’s. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plain meaning of Rule 26(a)(2) demands a formal designation for expert disclosures. Although Lowe’s deposed Johnson about the model and knew Karum intended to call him to testify about its content, Lowe’s should not have to assume a particular witness will testify as an expert. View "Karum Holdings LLC v. Lowe's Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

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When Goplin began working at WeConnect, he signed the “AEI Alternative Entertainment Inc. Open Door Policy and Arbitration Program,” which referred to AEI throughout; it never mentioned WeConnect. Goplin brought a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. WeConnect moved to compel arbitration, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), attaching an affidavit from its Director of Human Resources stating, “I am employed by WeConnect, Inc.—formerly known as Alternative Entertainment, Inc. or AEI.” Goplin claimed that WeConnect was not a party to the agreement and could not enforce it. He cited language on WeConnect’s website: WeConnect formed when two privately held companies, Alternative Entertainment, Inc. (AEI) and WeConnect Enterprise Solutions, combined in September 2016… we officially became one company. WeConnect asserted that WeConnect and AEI were two names for the same legal entity, stating: This was a name change, not a merger. The court held that WeConnect did not establish that it was a party to the agreement or otherwise entitled to enforce it. The court rejected subsequently-submitted corporate-form documents and affidavits, stating that new evidence cannot be introduced in a motion for reconsideration unless the movant shows “not only that [the] evidence was newly discovered or unknown to it until after the hearing, but also that it could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced such evidence.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Goplin v. WeConnect, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kennedy had decades of experience working for Schneider Electric and taught classes, part-time, in electrical and industrial safety at Prairie State community college. Schneider requires its employees to obtain advance approval before they teach classes or submit articles for publication. Without obtaining permission, Kennedy published articles about power-distribution equipment, identifying himself as a Prairie State instructor. When Schneider learned of these articles a manager contacted Prairie State to ask about Kennedy’s course materials, which she worried might contain proprietary information. Weeks later, while reviewing instructors' credentials, Prairie State realized that Kennedy did not possess the qualifications to teach and did not rehire Kennedy as an adjunct instructor. A year later, Kennedy sued Schneider, alleging defamation and malicious interference with an advantageous relationship. The court granted Schneider summary judgment, finding that Prairie State acted solely because Kennedy did not meet its credentialing requirements and not because of Schneider’s telephone call. More than a year later, Kennedy moved to set aside the judgment (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(d)(3)), asserting that Schneider’s lawyers knowingly submitted perjured evidence. The court denied the motion, stating that the cited evidentiary discrepancies were known at the time of summary judgment, and granted Rule 11 sanctions against Kennedy’s lawyer for having to defend against the motion ($10,627.16). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Kennedy could have challenged the same evidence on summary judgment. If the court made a mistake, Kennedy could have asked for reconsideration or appealed. View "Kennedy v. Schneider Electric" on Justia Law

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1997 Wisconsin Act 292, designed to address the effects of prenatal substance abuse, brings unborn children and their mothers within the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts if the mothers exhibit a habitual lack of self‐control with respect to alcohol or drugs that raises a substantial health risk for their unborn children. Loertscher sought treatment at a county health facility. Her caregivers determined that she was pregnant and that she had tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamines, and tetrahydrocannabinol. The court ordered Loertscher to report to an alcohol and drug abuse treatment center for assessment and possible treatment. When she failed to comply, the court found her in contempt and placed her in county detention. She eventually agreed to participate in the program. Loertscher filed suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983 challenging the constitutionality of Act 292, then moved out of Wisconsin. The district court denied a motion to dismiss, concluded that Act 292 was void for vagueness and granted injunctive relief against the state defendants but determined that the county defendants were not personally liable. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Loertscher’s case is moot. She has moved out of Wisconsin and has no plans to return. It is not reasonably likely that she will again be subject to the Act. View "Loertscher v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust filed a purported class action in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that in 1944 the Hungarian national railway transported Fischer and up to 500,000 other Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs had neither exhausted remedies that may be available in Hungary nor established that the national railway is engaged in commercial activity in the U.S., as necessary to support the exercise of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) expropriation exception. In 2016, Kellner, a member of the putative class, filed her own complaint against the Hungarian national railway in Budapest’s Capital Regional Court, which dismissed the case. In 2017, the district court received a “Motion to Reinstate” based on “class member” Kellner’s efforts to exhaust remedies in Hungary. The district court rejected the motion: [A]lthough there was a proposed class in this case and Kellner may have been a putative class member, … No class was certified …. Kellner ... is not a named party … and lacks any standing.” The Seventh Circuit held that it lacked authority to consider an appeal from a party not subject to the order sought to be challenged. View "Fischer v. Magyar Allamvasutak Zrt." on Justia Law

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Fryer and the Alliance for Water Efficiency collaborated on a study about drought. The Alliance worked on funding. Fryer circulated a draft of the report. The Alliance expressed concern with the methodology and sued Fryer under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101. Under a settlement Fryer agreed to turn over his data from public utilities in exchange for $25,000. If any utility had disclosed data with a confidentiality agreement, the Alliance was required to secure a release. Each party could publish a report, but could not acknowledge the other’s involvement. The parties have litigated ever since. The district court concluded that the Alliance was entitled to specific data and that Fryer was bound by the settlement to refrain from acknowledging disputed organizations unless they contacted him first and asked to be recognized. The judge required the Alliance to provide those organizations with Fryer’s contact information. The Seventh Circuit reversed solely on the acknowledgment issue. Fryer returned to the district court, seeking restitution for injuries caused by the court’s erroneous injunction and attorney’s fees under section 505 of the Copyright Act for having prevailed in the first appeal. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of both motions. Fryer does not present genuine claims for restitution; he seeks to relitigate unrelated claims for breach of the settlement. He did not prevail on the Alliance’s copyright claim. View "Alliance for Water Efficiency v. Fryer" on Justia Law