Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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The Talladega County Commission ("the Commission") appealed a trial court's dismissal of its mandamus petition filed against the Commission by the City of Lincoln ("the City"), that left in place a prior order interpreting provisions of a local act. At issue was a dispute between the Commission and the City regarding the interpretation of Act No. 91-533, Ala. Acts 1991 ("the Act"), as amended by Act No. 2000-758, Ala. Acts 2000 ("the amended Act"). The Act, which local to and operative only in Talladega County, levied special county "privilege license and excise taxes" in parts of Talladega County located outside the corporate limits of cities within the county. Initially, the Act required the revenues from the taxes to be used for the retirement of the County's indebtedness. The amended Act, enacted after the retirement of the County's indebtedness, created the "Talladega County Special Tax Fund" ("the fund") into which all revenues from the taxes, less the costs of collection, were to be deposited. The City claimed in its petition that the Commission did not have any discretion to withhold the disbursement of moneys contained in the fund once the delegation had authorized the disbursement. The City asked the trial court to order the Commission to disburse $494,639 collected to the City as had been recommended by the TCEDA and approved by the delegation. In order to resolve the Commission's declaratory-judgment counterclaim, the trial court was required to determine whether the Commission had authority under the amended Act to "veto, overrule, or otherwise deny" the delegation's approval of the TCEDA's recommendation. At the time the trial court entered the October 30 order on the Commission's declaratory- judgment counterclaim, the Alabama Supreme Court determined there existed a clear justiciable controversy between the City and the Commission concerning the Commission's duties and authority under the amended Act. Once State representatives withdrew their approval, a necessary precursor to the disbursement of moneys from the fund under the amended Act, the City was no longer entitled to the funds and there ceased to be a controversy between the City and the Commission. The Supreme Court therefore determined the action was moot and dismissed the appeal. View "Talladega County Commission v. State of Alabama ex rel. City of Lincoln" on Justia Law

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Appellant filed suit claiming damages under the Consent Decree created in the 1999 settlement between the Department of Agriculture and a class of African American farmers. After the arbitrator denied the claims, appellant petitioned the district court for "monitor review" of the arbitrator's decision. The district court denied the petition and appellant's two motions for reconsideration. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that monitor review of the arbitrator's decision would have been futile because there was no evidence of appellant's incompetency in the record before the arbitrator. In this case, appellant's actions could be interpreted as a product of irrationality or confusion or frustration but do not support an inference of incompetence. The court also affirmed the district court's decision declining to modify the consent decree under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5), because appellant's counsel failed to meet the arbitration deadlines. View "Pigford v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case before the Vermont Supreme Court was the meaning of “date of loss” for the purpose of an insurance policy’s condition that any action be commenced within one year after the “date of loss.” The trial court concluded that the insurance provision requiring that an action be brought “within one year after the date of loss” was ambiguous and had to be interpreted against insurer to mean that the one-year period began to run when insurer breached its obligations (i.e., at the time homeowner received final, allegedly insufficient, payment from insurer). The court accordingly denied insurer summary judgment and granted partial summary judgment to homeowner. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded the provision was unambiguous in requiring suit to be brought within one year of the date of the occurrence giving rise to coverage and reversed the partial summary judgment for homeowner. View "Brillman v. New England Guaranty Insurance Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Applicant, the Snyder Group, Inc., which initially obtained approval from the City of South Burlington Development Review Board (DRB) to construct a planned unit development (PUD), appealed an Environmental Division’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, that the City’s governing zoning bylaw concerning the transfer of development rights (TDRs) with respect to PUD applications did not comply with two subsections of the enabling statute and was unconstitutionally vague. Neighbors, as interested parties opposing the PUD, cross-appealed with respect to the Environmental Division’s rulings that the TDR bylaw complied with three subsections of the enabling statute. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the rulings challenged by neighbors, reversed the rulings challenged by applicant, and remanded the matter for Environmental Division to enter summary judgment in favor of applicant. View "In re Snyder Group, Inc. PUD Final Plat" on Justia Law

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The Town of Ludlow appealed a Property Valuation & Review Division (PVR) hearing officer’s decision lowering the fair market value of two quartertime-share condominium properties, Jackson Gore Inn and Adams House, located at the base of Okemo Ski Resort. On appeal, the Town argued that the time-share owners in Jackson Gore Inn and Adams House failed to overcome the presumption of validity of the Town’s appraisal. The Town also argued that hearing officer incorrectly interpreted 32 V.S.A. 3619(b) and failed to properly weigh the evidence and make factual findings. After review of the PVR hearing officer’s decision, the Vermont Supreme Court first held that the hearing officer correctly determined that the time-share owners met their initial burden of producing evidence to overcome the presumption of validity by presenting the testimony of their expert appraiser. Second, the Supreme Court conclude that the hearing officer correctly determined that section 3619 addressed who receives a tax bill when time-share owners were taxed but said nothing about how to value the common elements in condominiums. Finally, the Supreme Court concluded the hearing officer made clear findings and, in general, provided a well-reasoned and detailed decision. Accordingly, the decision was affirmed. View "Jackson Gore Inn, Adams House v. Town of Ludlow" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs rented an apartment in a large residential complex from the defendant with a lease term beginning on October 1, 2014, with a security deposit of $1290. The plaintiffs moved out on September 30, 2016. In October 2016, the defendant returned the full security deposit but did not pay security interest on that deposit at any time, as required by the Security Deposit Interest Act, 765 ILCS 715/0.01. Plaintiffs brought two class-action claims and an individual claim but did not file a class-certification motion. Defendant responded by tendering plaintiffs’ requested damages and attorney fees on one count and later moving to dismiss the other two. Plaintiffs refused that tender, and the defendant later argued that its tender made that cause of action moot. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the case. Reaffirming its own precedent, the court held that an effective tender made before a named plaintiff purporting to represent a class files a class certification motion satisfies the named plaintiff’s individual claim and moots her interest in the litigation. The court distinguished U.S. Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit decisions that dealt with an offer of judgment under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which are an offer of settlement, as opposed to a tender that completely satisfies a plaintiff’s demand. On remand, the defendant is to deposit the tender with the circuit court, which is to determine the plaintiffs’ costs and reasonable attorney fees before dismissing contingent upon payment of those costs and fees. View "Joiner v. SVM Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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Gayden was convicted of unlawful use or possession of a weapon for possessing a shotgun “having one or more barrels less than 18 inches in length” and was sentenced to two years in prison and one year of mandatory supervised release (MSR). Gayden argued that his attorney was ineffective for failing to move to suppress the evidence. The appellate court declined to decide that claim, finding the record insufficient to determine the issue. The court noted that Gayden could pursue collateral relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act. Gayden sought rehearing, informing the court that he lacked standing to seek postconviction relief because he had completed his MSR while his appeal was pending and arguing that the court erred in finding the record insufficient to consider his ineffective assistance claim. Upon denial of rehearing, the appellate court held that, because Gayden had not informed the court that he had been released from custody when he filed his appeal, the court would not consider this new argument upon rehearing and that an argument concerning his ineffective assistance claim was impermissible reargument. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The appellate court properly concluded that the record was insufficient to decide the ineffective assistance claim on direct appeal. The court rejected Gaydens’s request to allow him to file a petition for postconviction relief or to order the appellate court to retain jurisdiction and remand the case for an evidentiary hearing in the trial court. View "People v. Gayden" on Justia Law

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California resident Nicholas Nadhir sued non-resident Yousef Zehia for defamation, violation of the online impersonation law, appropriation of name or likeness, and intentional infliction of emotional distress based on Zehia's sending of allegedly defamatory statement to California residents through private online social media messages with the aim of interfering with the residents' personal relationships. Zehia moved to quash service of summons and the trial court denied the motion to quash on grounds that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over Zehia was proper. Zehia filed a petition for writ of mandate requesting that the Court of Appeal direct the trial court to vacate its order denying his motion to quash and enter a new order granting the motion to quash. The Court concluded Zehia's suit-related conduct created a substantial connection between Zehia and California sufficient to support the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over him. Therefore, the trial court correctly denied the motion to quash. Zehia's writ petition was denied. View "Zehia v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The Chancery Court granted summary judgment in favor of Darnice Wiggins in a conversion case she brought against Chastity Anderson, the fiancée of Wiggins’s deceased son Jhonte Sanders. Sanders and Anderson met each other while serving in the military in 2009. The two lost touch with one another. In 2011, Sanders was diagnosed with leukemia while living in Chicago, Illinois. In May 2013, Sanders reconnected with Anderson online. Sanders then moved to Rankin County, Mississippi and continued his chemotherapy treatment at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). In 2014, Sanders settled a personal-injury claim and received a monetary settlement in excess of $350,000. Sanders made multiple transfers of those settlement funds to Anderson. Sanders died soon after the transfer of his funds. Following Sanders’s death, the Chancery Court appointed Wiggins administratrix of his estate. Wiggins filed a “Complaint for Conversion” against Anderson, the crux of her complaint revolved around transfers Sanders made after his personal-injury settlement. In support of her conversion claim, Wiggins alleged that Anderson was aware of Sanders’s pending settlement, that Sanders qualified as a vulnerable adult, and that Anderson either unduly influenced him to transfer the funds or utilized her position of trust to take advantage of him while he was a vulnerable adult. During the summary judgment hearing, Wiggins offered multiple exhibits into evidence. Wiggins argued that the court should grant her motion because Anderson’s admissions, the established facts, and a doctor's affidavit proved that no genuine issue of material fact existed. The chancellor agreed and granted summary judgment, reasoning that the pleadings, answers to discovery and requests for admission, together with the affidavit of the doctor showed no genuine issue of material fact. De facto affirming the chancery courts decision by a 5-5 vote, the prevailing opinion wrote that Anderson’s failure to respond to the motion for summary judgment meant she rested upon her allegations, and those were insufficient to show there was a genuine dispute of material fact. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the Chancery Court erred by granting the motion for summary judgment. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party left genuine issues of material fact unresolved. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Anderson v. Wiggins" on Justia Law

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On November 8, 2019, the district court entered judgment dismissing Young’s prisoner civil-rights complaint. A notice of appeal was due to be filed by December 9. Young’s notice of appeal was dated December 17 and filed on December 30. Young claimed that he did not see the judgment until November 21, because “he was placed on dry cell protocol” on October 22, and was transferred on October 30, and placed in the prison’s psychiatric unit. An attached exhibit confirmed the transfer. Young stated that inmates in the psychiatric unit are not permitted to have property in their possession. The Sixth Circuit remanded for a determination of whether Young has shown excusable neglect or good cause to warrant an extension of time for filing a notice of appeal. Both 28 U.S.C. 2107(c) and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5) provide for an extension of time where the party seeking such an extension files a motion asking for more time. While no particular form of words is necessary, a simple notice of appeal does not suffice. However, district courts must liberally construe a document that could reasonably be interpreted as a motion for an extension of time. Young’s notice of appeal effectively reads as a motion for an extension of time to file and will be treated as such. View "Young v. Kenney" on Justia Law