Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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In May 2020, the chairs of the California Assembly and Senate committees that consider election-related matters prepared a formal letter to Governor Gavin Newsom indicating they were working on legislation to ensure Californians could vote by mail in light of the emergency occasioned by COVID-19. The Governor issued Executive Order No. N-64-20 on May 8, 2020, which required all voters to be provided vote-by-mail ballots. That order affirmed, however, that the administration continued to work “in partnership with the Secretary of State and the Legislature on requirements for in-person voting opportunities and how other details of the November election will be implemented” and “[n]othing in this Order is intended, or shall be construed, to limit the enactment of legislation on that subject.” The order was signed on June 3, 2020. The issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review concerned an order of the Sutter County Superior Court, entered on June 12, 2020, granting a temporary restraining order against the Executive Order, finding it constituted “an impermissible use of legislative powers in violation of the California Constitution and the laws of the State of California.” The Court of Appeal determined there was no basis for the superior court to grant real parties in interest relief using ex parte procedures prescribed by California law. "The hearing on the ex parte application, conducted only one day after the underlying action was filed in superior court, was held without proper notice to the Governor or his appearance. Apart from these procedural deficiencies, real parties in interest also failed to make the requisite substantive showing for use of an ex parte proceeding. In short, the real parties in interest failed to present competent evidence establishing imminent harm from the Governor’s executive order requiring immediate action." View "Newsome v. Superior Court (Gallagher)" on Justia Law

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Schneider, a longtime Hay employee, was elevated to CEO in 2001. Hay terminated Schneider in 2003 for “good cause.” Schneider sued in the Labor Court of Germany and in the Netherlands. The Dutch courts found that under Dutch law there had been no valid resolution approving Schneider’s termination. In 2012, the German trial court dismissed Schneider’s claims. The German Higher Regional Court reversed in part in 2014, giving preclusive effect to the Dutch court’s findings concerning Schneider’s contract. The Hay entities were required to pay Schneider over $13 million. In 2004, Hay filed suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging nine causes of action with varying degrees of overlap with the German litigation. After the German proceedings became final, the district court lifted a stay and granted Schneider summary judgment, holding that Hay’s claims were precluded by the German judgment, assuming that the relevant inquiry was whether Hay could have brought its claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. The Third Circuit reversed in part. Under Pennsylvania preclusion law, the correct question is whether Hay was required to bring its claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. Under German law, Hay was not required to plead these claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. Since Hay’s contract assignment claim seeks to functionally undo the German litigation, however, the court affirmed summary judgment on that claim. View "Hay Group Management Inc v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit dismissed the petition for permission to appeal in No. 19-8004 and related appeal in No. 19-7083 for lack of jurisdiction. In this case, the district court certified an order for interlocutory appeal but no petition was filed by 28 U.S.C. 1292(b)'s deadline. The district court then granted a motion to recertify its order and the litigants filed both a petition for permission to appeal and a notice of appeal within ten days after recertification. The court held that a district court cannot restart the jurisdictional clock in this manner. View "Strange v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

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Members of the Valambhia family filed an action to recognize the High Court of Tanzania's judgments in the District of Columbia. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Tanzania's motion to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The court held that the Valambhias have not explained how even a loose construction of the third clause of the FSIA commercial activity exception could support the conclusion that Tanzania's previous and optional use of a New York bank account constitutes a direct effect or an immediate consequence in the United States of Tanzania's conduct abroad. Furthermore, the Valambhias' claim of a direct effect stemming from the family's citizenship and residence in the United States is insufficient. The court dismissed the remaining claims and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Valambhia v. United Republic of Tanzania" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a number of independent school districts, school boards, parents, students, and citizens, challenged the implementation of Act 46, as amended by Act 49, regarding the involuntary merger of school districts. The Vermont Legislature enacted those laws in 2015 and 2017, respectively, to improve educational outcomes and equity by designing more efficient school governance structures in response to long-term declining student enrollment and balkanized educational governance and delivery systems. In separate decisions, the civil division dismissed several counts of plaintiffs’ amended complaint and then later granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the remaining counts. In two consolidated appeals, plaintiffs argued that: (1) the State Board of Education and the Agency of Education failed to carry out the plain-language mandate of Act 46; and (2) the Board’s implementation of the law, as manifested in its final order, violated other statutes in Title 16 and several provisions of the Vermont Constitution. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the Agency’s and Board’s implementation of the law was consistent with the challenged Acts and other statutes in Title 16, did not result from an unlawful delegation of legislative authority, and did not violate any other constitutional provisions. Accordingly, the civil division’s decisions were affirmed. View "Athens School District et al. v. Vermont State Board of Education et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Huntington School District appealed the civil division’s order dismissing its complaint on motion of the two state defendants and granting defendant Mount Mansfield Modified Unified Union School District's motion for judgment on the pleadings. This case was one of several lawsuits challenging the implementation of Act 46 (as amended by Act 49) regarding the involuntary merger of school districts. Plaintiff raised four issues on appeal; three of those were resolved by the Vermont Supreme Court in a contemporaneously issued opinion concerning another challenge to the implementation of Acts 46 and 49, Athens Sch. Dist. et al. v. State Board of Education, 2020 VT 52. In this opinion, the Supreme Court set forth only the law and procedural history relevant to plaintiff’s single claim of error not decided in Athens School District: that the State Board of Education exceeded its delegated authority under Act 46 “by designating Huntington as a member of Mount Mansfield and purporting to subdelegate to Mount Mansfield the power to merge Huntington.” In relevant part, plaintiff alleged in its complaint that because Mount Mansfield was a union school district receiving incentives under Acts 153 and 156, the Board could not order Huntington to merge or otherwise alter its governance structure pursuant to Act 46, section 10(b). Plaintiff also alleged that the Board acted beyond its authority by calling for Mount Mansfield to vote on merger pursuant to 16 V.S.A. 721, while at the same time not allowing plaintiff to veto the merger by its own vote under the same statute. The state defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a viable claim for relief, and Mount Mansfield moved for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Court found "unavailing" plaintiff's argument that Act 46 as amended did not authorize the Board to order Huntington to merge with Mount Mansfield, conditioned upon the consent of coters in Mount Mansfield's member districts. Nor did the Court found any merit to plaintiff's argument that the Board's authority was unlawfully subdelegated. As we stated with respect to the plaintiffs in Athens School District, plaintiff in this case did not demonstrate the Board failed to apply any Title 16 provisions in circumstances in which they were applicable. View "Huntington School District v. Vermont State Board of Education et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Matthew Kamil (Husband), appealed, and respondent Robin Kamil (Wife) cross-appealed various circuit court orders in their divorce action. The parties were married in September 2007 and had two children. Husband filed for divorce in 2015, and Wife cross-petitioned. Husband was awarded temporary primary residential responsibility for the children and Wife was awarded supervised visitation. The court also appointed a parenting coordinator. By March 31, 2017, “the parenting evidence was that [Wife] was not allowing the therapeutic reunification plan to succeed.” The court nevertheless continued to order supervised visitation for Wife at a visitation center, and, in January 2018, the court “appointed Tracey Tucker to serve in an evaluative, structured, scripted reunification capacity, focusing on the children’s needs to have safe and appropriate contact with their mother.” After only four sessions, Tucker cancelled the reunification work “when [Wife] made some impulsive and inappropriate comments to [her].” At that point, Wife’s supervised contact with the children ended. Meanwhile, the court held a series of hearings to determine the authenticity and enforceability of a prenuptial agreement executed by the parties approximately one month prior to their wedding. The court ultimately found the prenuptial agreement unenforceable. In October 2018, the circuit court issued a final divorce decree. After choosing a February 2015 asset valuation date, the court awarded Husband the marital residence, awarded Wife the entirety of her Roth IRA, and equitably divided the remaining assets between them. To effectuate the equitable division, Husband was ordered to pay Wife $1,011,359.88. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded Husband failed to meet his appellate burden of demonstrating reversible error with respect to all the issues he raised on appeal. The Court concurred with Wife that with respect to the supervised parenting time visits with Ms. Tucker: while the the trial court had already ordered a plan, it also gave Tucker the sole discretion to determine when and if the parties would resume following that plan. This constituted an improper delegation of judicial authority, and the Supreme Court vacated that portion of the final decree. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of Matthew & Robin Kamil" on Justia Law

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An August 14, 2019 subpoena duces tecum ordered the IDPS to appear before the court's grand jury and provide documents relating to the investigation of an ISP officer for misconduct or use of excessive force. IDPS complied with five of the listed document categories but filed a motion to quash categories 3 and 4, which seek any and all records relating to the investigation of Officer John Doe for misconduct and any and all records relating to complaints made against Officer John Doe. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying IDPS's motion to quash and rejected IDPS's assertion that quashing the subpoena is needed to protect the Fifth Amendment rights of IDPS employees who participated in internal investigations; the procedural protections established by Kastigar v. U.S., 406 U.S. 401 (1972), and Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), provide sufficient protection from the improper use of compelled statements; the Fifth Amendment allows the government to prosecute using evidence from legitimate independent sources; and the district court did not abuse its Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c)(2) discretion in deciding that IDPS failed to meet its substantial burden to show that compliance with the challenged portions of the grand jury subpoena would be "unreasonable or oppressive" when balanced against the interests of the government in enforcing the subpoena. View "In Re: Grand Jury Subpoena Dated August 14, 2019" on Justia Law

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Appellants Nancy and Scott Hart brought suit alleging tort damages from an automobile accident caused by Daniel Parker. Before the Harts filed their complaint, Daniel Parker passed away. The Harts were unsure as to whether Parker was still alive when they filed their complaint and named both Parker and the Estate of Daniel Parker (the “Estate”) as defendants. The Appellee-Estate moved to dismiss the Harts’ complaint on numerous grounds. The Superior Court granted the Appellee’s motion, holding that the complaint was time-barred by 12 Del. C. 2102(a). On appeal, the Harts challenged the Superior Court’s order dismissing their claims against the Estate and argued that the Superior Court erred as a matter of law when it held that the Harts’ claims were time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Delaware Supreme Court agreed that the Harts’ claims were not time-barred by Section 2102(a), reversed the dismissal, and remanded to the Superior Court for further proceedings. View "Hart v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The parties’ arbitration agreement purported to waive class actions and any “other representative action” (the representative waiver). There was no dispute that this representative waiver was broad enough to cover a Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) claim, and was thus invalid. The arbitration agreement went on to provide that the provision containing the class action and representative waiver was not modifiable nor severable. The arbitration agreement also contained a provision that if the representative waiver was found to be invalid, “the Agreement becomes null and void as to the employee(s) who are parties to that particular dispute,” the so-called "blow-up provision." Plaintiff Nichole Kec brought individual, class, and PAGA claims against defendants R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Reynolds American Inc., and three individual employees at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, alleging in essence, that she and others were misclassified as exempt employees, resulting in various violations of the Labor Code. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Reynolds American Inc., moved to compel arbitration of plaintiff’s individual claims except the PAGA claim. The court granted the motion. The court reasoned: (1) because defendants had not asked the court to rule on the enforceability of the representative waiver, it had not found the representative waiver invalid, and thus the blow-up provision had not been triggered; and (2) the blow-up provision could apply only to the attempted waiver of the PAGA claim, not to the arbitrability of plaintiff’s claims under the Labor Code. The Court of Appeal concluded defendants could not selectively enforce the arbitration agreement in a manner that defeated its goals. "Had the parties intended to permit defendants to proceed with arbitration notwithstanding an invalid waiver of representative claims, they would have simply made that provision severable, like every other term in the agreement. But that is not what they did. Instead, by specifically making section 5 not severable, the agreement evinces an intent not to allow defendants to selectively enforce the arbitration agreement." The Court issued a writ of mandate ordering the trial court to vacate its order granting arbitration, and to enter a new order denying the motion in its entirety. View "Kec v. Superior Court" on Justia Law