Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit held that the Chisom decree, which created Louisiana's one majority-black supreme court district, does not govern the other six districts. Therefore, the district court properly denied Louisiana's motion to dismiss this Voting Rights Act suit for lack of jurisdiction. In this case, the state argued that the Chisom decree centralizes perpetual federal control over all supreme court districts in the Eastern District of Louisiana, which issued the decree. The court concluded that the district court rejected that reading for good reason because it is plainly wrong. Rather, the present suit addresses a different electoral district untouched by the decree. View "Allen v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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About two months before the 2020 general election, a village government, a nonpartisan political organization, and two individual Alaska voters sought to enjoin the State from enforcing a statute that required absentee ballots to be witnessed by an official or other adult. They argued that, under the unusual circumstances posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the witness requirement unconstitutionally burdened the right to vote. The superior court granted a preliminary injunction, concluding that the State’s interests in maintaining the witness requirement were outweighed by the burden that requirement would impose on the right to vote during times of community lockdowns and strict limits on person-to-person contact. The court also rejected the State’s laches defense, reasoning that the unpredictability of the pandemic’s course made it reasonable for the plaintiffs to wait as long as they did before filing suit. The State petitioned for review. After an expedited oral argument the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision, finding no abuse of discretion. This opinion explained the Court's reasoning. View "Alaska, Office of Lieutenant Governor, Division of Elections v. Arctic Village Council, et al." on Justia Law

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In 1969, Beasley founded a band, “The Ebonys,” one of many bands that created the “Philadelphia Sound.” The Ebonys achieved some commercial success in the 1970s but never reached the notoriety of similar artists such as The O’Jays. Beasley alleges that The Ebonys have performed continuously. Howard joined the band in the mid-1990s. Beasley obtained a New Jersey state service mark for THE EBONYS in 1997. Beasley and his bandmates performed with Howard for several years before parting ways. Each artist claimed the Ebonys name. In 2012, Howard registered THE EBONYS with the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO). Beasley alleges that Howard’s registration has interfered with his business; he has not been able to register a band website that uses “the Ebonys” in its domain name, Howard has kept concert venues from booking Beasley’s performances, Howard has tried to collect royalties from Beasley’s recordings, and Howard has claimed to be the Ebonys’s true founder. Beasley filed unsuccessful petitions with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to cancel the mark, contending that Howard defrauded the PTO. The district court relied on claim preclusion to dismiss Beasley’s subsequent complaint. The Third Circuit remanded for a determination of the scope of Beasley’s claims. Trademark cancellation proceedings before TTAB do not have claim preclusive effect against federal trademark infringement lawsuits. TTAB’s limited jurisdiction does not allow trademark owners to pursue infringement actions or the full scope of infringement remedies. The court affirmed the dismissal of any claim that Howard defrauded the PTO. View "Beasley v. Howard" on Justia Law

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Consolidated cases presented a certified question from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. The Oregon Supreme Court was asked to determine whether Oregon law precluded an insurer from limiting its liability for uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) benefits on the basis that another policy also covered the insured’s losses. Each plaintiff suffered injuries caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, and each plaintiff incurred resulting damages that qualify as covered losses under multiple motor vehicle insurance policies issued by defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm). Each plaintiff alleged a loss that exceeded the declared liability limits of any single applicable policy and sought to recover the excess under additional applicable policies, up to the combined total of the limits of liability. In each case, however, State Farm refused to cover the excess loss, citing a term in the policies that allowed State Farm to limit its liability to the amount that it agreed to pay under the single policy with the highest applicable limit of liability. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that that term made State Farm’s uninsured motorist coverage less favorable to its insureds than the model coverage that the legislature has required and, thus, was unenforceable. View "Batten v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Two juvenile dependency cases raised an issue of the scope of a juvenile court’s temporary emergency jurisdiction under ORS 109.751, which was part of Oregon’s enactment of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Parents were residents of Washington who were living temporarily at a motel in Oregon. The juvenile court asserted temporary emergency jurisdiction over their 15-month-old son after police, investigating the death of his infant brother, found him living in squalid and dangerous conditions in the motel room. The court later entered several dependency judgments concerning that child as well as another child later born to Parents in Washington. Parents challenged the juvenile court’s authority under ORS 109.751 or any other provision of the UCCJEA to issue dependency judgments making their two children wards of the court in Oregon. On Parents’ appeals, the Court of Appeals affirmed the juvenile court, holding that the juvenile court had properly exercised temporary emergency jurisdiction as to both children under ORS 109.751 and did not exceed its temporary emergency jurisdiction when it issued dependency judgments as to the children. Only mother filed a petition for review, which the Oregon Supreme Court allowed. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court’s denial of mother’s motions to dismiss the dependency petitions, because the juvenile court had temporary emergency jurisdiction under the UCCJEA to enter dependency judgments as to the children. However, the juvenile court exceeded the scope of its temporary emergency jurisdiction, and therefore we vacate certain parts of the dependency judgments. As a result, the appellate court was affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Dept. of Human Services v. J. S." on Justia Law

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In an interlocutory appeal, defendants challenged the trial court’s denial of their motion to dismiss plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim. They contended dismissal was required because plaintiff did not file a certificate of merit (COM) with her complaint as required by 12 V.S.A. 1042(a) and the trial court did not find, nor did the complaint show, that this was a “rare instance” where expert testimony was unnecessary under section 1042(e). The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with defendants and therefore reversed the trial court’s decision. View "Bittner v. Centurion of Vermont, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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George Russell, doing business as Carl's Country, appealed a circuit court order dismissing his declaratory-judgment action, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., because the action did not state a justiciable controversy. Carl's Country was a bar operated under a Class 1 lounge liquor license in Autauga County, issued by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC Board). The bar was located in Autauga County, outside the corporate limits of the City of Prattville ("the City") but within the City's police jurisdiction. At the time of Russell's declaratory-judgment action, there was no no law or ordinance in effect authorizing the sale of draft beer in Autauga County. In 2013, the State legislature enacted a statute pertaining to the City's authority to regulate the sale and distribution of draft beer. In turn, the City enacted an ordinance allowing for on-premises consumption of draft beer sold by licensees of the ABC Board within the City's corporate limits and police jurisdiction. In May 2020, after the enactment of Ordinance, the sheriff of Autauga County ordered Russell to cease and desist selling draft beer at his bar; Russell did not comply. The ABC Board also contacted Russell's draft-beer distributors and ordered them to cease delivering draft beer to the bar. Thereafter, an attorney for the Autauga County Commission, an attorney for the ABC Board, and the "City of Prattville- Police Committee" discussed whether the City could enact an ordinance authorizing the City to regulate the sale and distribution of draft beer within its police jurisdiction in Autauga County. It was determined that the City did not have the authority to regulate the sale and distribution of draft beer in the portions of Autauga County outside the City's corporate limits because such authority was reserved for the local governing body of Autauga County, i.e., the County Commission, and not the City. Russell, acting pro se, filed suit seeking a declaration the City had the authority to enact an ordinance extending the sale of draft beer to its police jurisdiction and, specifically, a judgment declaring the legality of draft-beer sales at his bar. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed, finding that Russell did not claim the ordinance at issue was either invalid or unreasonable. There was, therefore, no bona fide justiciable controversy to be settled between Russell and the defendants. View "Russell d/b/a Carl's Country v. Sedinger, et al." on Justia Law

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The Sumter County Board of Education ("the SCBE") appealed a circuit court's dismissal of its complaint asserting claims of reformation of a deed, breach of contract, and fraud, as well as seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, against the University of West Alabama ("UWA"); UWA's president Dr. Kenneth Tucker, in his individual and official capacities; and UWA's former president, Dr. Richard Holland, in his individual and official capacities. Because a new high school had been built, in early 2010 the SCBE closed Livingston High School ("LHS"). Shortly thereafter, officials from UWA approached the SCBE about the possibility of purchasing the LHS property. In 2011, a "Statutory Warranty Deed" conveying the LHS property from the SCBE to UWA ("the deed") was executed, and it was signed on the SCBE's behalf by Dr. Morton. The deed did not contain any restrictions on the LHS property or its use. The deed was recorded in the Sumter Probate Court on June 27, 2011. In May 2017, the University Charter School ("UCS") filed an application with the Alabama Public Charter School Commission ("the APCSC") to establish a charter school in Sumter County. In its application, UCS stated that the LHS property was its first choice for the location of the school. The APCSC approved UCS's application in July 2017. In October 2017, it was publicly announced that UWA had an agreement with UCS for UCS to use the LHS property to house its school.3 The SCBE's complaint alleged that in November 2017 the SCBE contacted UWA president Dr. Tucker and "requested that Defendant UWA honor its covenant not to use Livingston High School property as a K-12 charter school." However, UCS continued its preparations, and in August 2018 UCS opened its charter school on the LHS property with over 300 students attending. In May 2018, the SCBE filed the complaint at issue here, and the circuit court ultimately dismissed the complaint. Because the Alabama Supreme Court found that a restrictive covenant in the sales contract violated clear public policies of the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, the restrictive covenant was unenforceable. Therefore, the circuit court's judgment dismissing all the claims against the University defendants was affirmed. View "Sumter County Board of Education v. University of West Alabama, et al." on Justia Law

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Paradigm Investment Group, LLC, and HR IV, LLC ("the tenants"), entered into a written lease agreement, which was ultimately assigned to Dewey Brazelton ("the landlord"). The lease obligated the tenants to make rental payments to the landlord from the operation of a fast-food franchise on the leased premises. When the tenants failed to remit rental payments, the landlord sued the tenants for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the landlord, finding that the tenants had breached the lease agreement and were obligated to pay the landlord $113,869.44. The tenants appealed, arguing the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of the landlord because they abandoned the leased premises; the lease agreement does not address abandonment; and, therefore, as a matter of law, common-law principles of abandonment, rather than the terms of lease, govern the landlord's available remedies. The tenants assert that, had the trial court correctly applied common-law principles of abandonment, it would not have awarded contract damages under the lease. Finding summary judgment was properly granted in favor of the landlord, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Paradigm Investment Group, LLC and HR IV, LLC v. Brazelton" on Justia Law

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Karen Wheeler, as administrator of the estate of Eugene Drayton, appealed a probate court judgment declaring Kristin Marvin was the biological child of Drayton, and was therefore an heir of Drayton for purposes of intestate succession. The probate court appointed Wheeler, who was Drayton's daughter, as the administrator of Drayton's estate. In her filings with the probate court, Wheeler identified herself and her brother as Drayton's only heirs. Marvin, however, later filed a petition with the probate court in which she claimed to also be a biological child of Drayton. She requested that the probate court consider the results of a DNA test allegedly showing that Drayton's half brother was Marvin's uncle and, therefore, indicating that Marvin was Drayton's daughter. Wheeler testified that she was unaware that Drayton had any children other than herself and her brother. She asserted that no one, including Drayton, had ever stated to her that Marvin was Drayton's child. Wheeler claimed to have met Marvin for the first time at a funeral held after the death of Drayton's mother, but, she said, Drayton did not introduce them. On appeal, Wheeler argued primarily that the probate court erred in considering the DNA test result, because the DNA samples were collected not by disinterested parties but by Marvin and Curtis, who then mailed them outside the presence of disinterested parties. Wheeler asserts that "there is a possibility that the samples were switched because they were in the exclusive possession of interested parties prior to being mailed to [the laboratory that performed the test]." She points out that the test result itself disclaims any responsibility for how the samples were collected and is based on the assumption that they were collected correctly. The Alabama Supreme Court found after review that Wheeler did not present any authority suggesting that the probate court could not admit and consider the DNA test if it believed the testimony of Curtis and Marvin describing how the DNA samples were collected and submitted. Accordingly, she did not show the probate court erred in considering the DNA test result based on how the samples were collected and submitted. View "Wheeler v. Marvin" on Justia Law