Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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The Network filed suit under the Clean Water Act against Dynegy, the owner of an Illinois power station, claiming that Dynegy’s station was releasing contaminants into groundwater. The district court dismissed the suit concluding that the Act does not regulate groundwater. An appeal focused on whether and how the Act applies to the alleged groundwater contamination after the Supreme Court’s 2020 “County of Maui” decision. Three organizations sought permission to file amicus briefs in support of Dynegy’s position. The Network argued that each brief only parrots Dynegy’s arguments, wasting the court’s time. The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure state that a prospective amicus must explain why its brief is desirable and why the matters asserted are relevant. The Seventh Circuit Practitioner’s Handbook adds that the court looks at whether the submission will assist the judges by presenting ideas, arguments, theories, insights, facts, or data that are not found in the parties' briefs.The Seventh Circuit granted the motion, stating that amicus briefs should not serve only to count which interest groups are promoting which outcome. In this case: the Illinois Environmental Regulatory Group briefly presents the history of Illinois groundwater regulation from before the Clean Water Act, lending context to the cited cases; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides insight into how an alternative federal scheme would apply, absent Clean Water Act regulation; and the Washington Legal Foundation’s brief offers its own theory for how to best fit "Maui" into the existing federal scheme regulating the pollutants at issue. View "Prairie Rivers Network v. Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC" on Justia Law

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Ricci was awarded custody of his daughter in divorce proceedings. Ricci’s daughter receives supplemental security income from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Ricci served as the representative payee to receive and manage her benefits until SSA employees determined that he was not his daughter’s legal guardian. Ricci filed a pro se action in state court.The federal employees removed the case to federal court under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, then moved to dismiss it under the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction. They argued that the state court had no jurisdiction over the case when it was originally filed, so the federal court could not hear the case after it was removed. Ricci, with counsel, amended his complaint to invoke federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1361, which applies to mandamus actions against federal employees.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the amended complaint without prejudice. The derivative jurisdiction doctrine, best understood as a procedural bar to the exercise of federal judicial power, has not been abrogated with respect to the federal officer removal statute at issue. When a defendant timely raises the doctrine, it erects a mandatory bar to the court’s exercise of federal jurisdiction; a plaintiff cannot circumvent that bar merely by filing an amended complaint invoking federal jurisdiction. The court noted that Ricci can file a new complaint in federal court. View "Ricci v. Salzman" on Justia Law

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The Democratic National Committee claimed that Wisconsin statutes would abridge some voters’ rights during the pandemic. A district judge extended the deadline for online and mail-in registration from October 14 to October 21; extended the deadline for delivery of absentee ballots by mail from October 22 by allowing for online delivery and access by October 29; and extended the deadline for the receipt of mailed ballots from November 3 (Election Day) to November 9, if the ballots are postmarked on or before November 3. The Seventh Circuit denied a stay, concluding that none of the appellants has a legal interest for purposes of appeal.The district court did not order the Republican Party intervenors to do something or forbid them from doing anything. The deadlines do not affect any legal interest of either organization or of their members.Appeal by the state, or someone with rights under the contested statute, is essential to review of a decision concerning the validity of a statute. The interest at stake here is not the power to legislate but the validity of rules established by legislation. All of the legislators’ votes were counted; all of the statutes they passed appear in the state’s code. The constitutional validity of a law does not concern any legislative interest. State executive officials are responsible for the vindication of the state’s interest in the validity of enacted legislation.While the Seventh Circuit previously held that Wis. Stat. 803.09(2m) permits the legislature to act as a representative of the state, the Wisconsin Supreme Court subsequently held that the interpretation violates the state’s constitution, which commits to the executive branch the protection of the state’s interest in litigation. View "Wisconsin State Legislature v. Bostelmann" on Justia Law

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An aircraft engine caught fire during testing in South Carolina. Rolls-Royce had manufactured and sold the engine to Boeing for incorporation into a 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Boeing demanded compensation from Rolls-Royce. In 2017, the companies settled for $12 million. Rolls-Royce then sought indemnification from Servotronics, the manufacturer of a valve. Under a long-term agreement between Rolls-Royce and Servotronics, any dispute not resolved through negotiation or mediation must be submitted to binding arbitration in England, under the rules of the Chartered Institute of Arbiters (CIArb). Rolls-Royce initiated arbitration with the CIArb. Servotronics filed an ex parte application in the Northern District of Illinois, seeking a subpoena compelling Boeing to produce documents for use in the London arbitration. The subpoena was issued, then quashed.The Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of Rolls-Royce. A district court may order a person within the district to give testimony or produce documents “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal,” 28 U.S.C. 1782(a). Section 1782(a) does not authorize the district court to compel discovery for use in a private foreign arbitration. View "Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of a taxpayers' suit, challenging Cook County’s pre-2008 property tax assessments. The district court had determined that it lacked jurisdiction under the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 1341, because Illinois offered the taxpayers a “plain, speedy and efficient remedy.” The Seventh Circuit held that Illinois’s procedures left these taxpayers no remedy. Mandate issued in April 2020, The case returned to the district court. In June, the defendants sought a stay pending the resolution of a petition for a writ of certiorari that they planned to submit in September. The Seventh Circuit denied their request but the district court granted relief.The Seventh Circuit vacated the district court order. Declining to consider the taxpayers’ argument under 28 U.S.C. 2101(f), which governs cases in which a “final judgment” is subject to Supreme Court review, the court stated that the district court’s stay was in direct opposition to the mandate. When a court of appeals has reversed a final judgment and remanded the case, the district court is required to comply. The Seventh CIrcuit noted that it had already denied the defendants’ request for the same relief. The spirit of the mandate entailed more than changing the status of the case from “closed” to “reopen”; it presupposed that further proceeding would be at an ordinary pace. View "A.F. Moore & Associates, Inc. v. Kocoras" on Justia Law

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Without permission from Epic, TCS downloaded thousands of documents containing Epic’s confidential information and trade secrets. TCS used some of the information to create a “comparative analysis”—a spreadsheet comparing TCS’s health-record software (Med Mantra) to Epic’s software. TCS’s internal communications show that TCS used this spreadsheet in an attempt to enter the U.S. health-record-software market, steal Epic’s client, and address key gaps in TCS’s own Med Mantra software.Epic sued. A jury ruled in Epic’s favor on all claims, including multiple Wisconsin tort claims. The jury then awarded Epic $140 million in compensatory damages, for the benefit TCS received from using the comparative-analysis spreadsheet; $100 million for the benefit TCS received from using Epic’s other confidential information; and $700 million in punitive damages for TCS’s conduct. The district court upheld the $140 million compensatory award and vacated the $100 million award. It reduced the punitive damages award to $280 million, reflecting Wisconsin’s statutory punitive-damages cap. The Seventh Circuit remanded. There is sufficient evidence for the jury’s $140 million verdict based on TCS’s use of the comparative analysis, but not for the $100 million verdict for uses of “other information.” The jury could punish TCS by imposing punitive damages, but the $280 million punitive damages award is constitutionally excessive. View "Epic Systems Corp. v. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd." on Justia Law

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Semmerling worked as a contractor for the U.S. Military Commissions Defense Organization as part of the legal team for a person charged as an al-Qaeda enemy combatant. Semmerling, who is gay, disclosed his sexuality to the lead attorney of that team. Semmerling alleges that, despite promising secrecy, that attorney disclosed his sexuality to the client and told the client that Semmerling was infatuated with the client and was pursuing that interest. Semmerling sued the lead attorney for state-law torts of defamation, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and he sued the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2674, for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court dismissed the suit.The Seventh Circuit denied the government’s motion for summary affirmance while acknowledging that Semmerling’s brief is substantively deficient in multiple ways. The court noted that the other defendant filed a brief. Sparse briefing alone is not a reason to enter a merits judgment, and this case does not rise to the level of “incomprehensible or completely insubstantial.” Semmerling may, within seven days, seek leave to strike his opening brief and to file a brief that complies with Rule 28. View "Semmerling v. Bormann" on Justia Law

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The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733, authorizes relators to file qui tam suits on behalf of the U.S. government. If such an action is successful, the relator receives part of the recovery. The Act prohibits presenting to a federal healthcare program a claim for payment that violates the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(b), Venari formed 11 daughter companies, each for the purpose of prosecuting a separate qui tam action, alleging essentially identical violations of the False Claims Act by pharmaceutical companies. CIMZNHCA, a Venari company, filed suit alleging illegal kickbacks to physicians for prescribing Cimzia to treat Crohn’s disease in patients who received federal healthcare benefits. The government did not exercise its right “to intervene and proceed” as the plaintiff but moved to dismiss the action, representing that it had investigated the Venari claims and found them to lack merit. The court denied that motion, finding the government’s general evaluation of the Venari claims insufficient as to CIMZNHCA and that the decision to dismiss was “arbitrary and capricious.”The Seventh Circuit reversed with instructions to dismiss, construing the government’s motion as a motion to both intervene and dismiss. By treating the government as seeking to intervene, a court can apply Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41, which provides: “The Government may dismiss the action” without the relator’s consent if the relator receives notice and opportunity to be heard. View "United States v. UCB, Inc." on Justia Law

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Many years ago, a class of plaintiffs sued, alleging that the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County was engaging in unlawful political patronage in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In 1972, the Clerk and the plaintiffs entered into a consent decree that prohibited the Clerk from discriminating against the office’s employees for political reasons; in 1983, a separate judgment extended that prohibition to hiring practices. Litigation has continued. In 2018, a magistrate judge appointed a special master to monitor the Clerk’s compliance. The special master sought to observe the conduct of the Clerk’s office managers at employee grievance meetings. The employees’ union sent the special master a cease-and-desist letter purporting to bar her from the room.The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment clarifying that the 2018 supplemental relief order authorized the special master to observe the grievance meetings. The union—which was not a party to the suit and did not seek to become one—filed a memorandum opposing the motion, arguing that the 1972 consent decree did not provide a basis for the supplemental relief order and that the special master’s presence violated Illinois labor law and the union’s collective bargaining agreement. The magistrate agreed with the plaintiffs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed without addressing the merits of the union’s argument. Party status is a jurisdictional requirement. View "Shakman v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law

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The Wisconsin Public Service Commission issued a permit authorizing the construction of a $500 million electricity transmission line in southwestern Wisconsin. Two environmental groups sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking to invalidate the permit. The permit holders moved to intervene. The district court denied the motion. The permit holders appealed and moved for expedited review because the case continues without them in the district court.The Seventh Circuit granted the motion, reversing the district court. The permit holders are entitled to intervene under Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; “this is a paradigmatic case for intervention as of right.” The three basic criteria for intervention are satisfied: the intervention motion was timely; the transmission companies hold a valuable property interest in the permit that is under attack; and their interest will be extinguished if the plaintiffs prevail. The only disputed question was whether the existing defendants adequately represent their interests. The Commission regulates the transmission companies, it does not advocate for them or represent their interests. The transmission companies cannot be forced to rely entirely on their regulators to protect their investment in this enormous project, which they stand to lose if the plaintiffs are successful. View "Driftless Area Land Conservancy v. Huebsch" on Justia Law