Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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Braden and Strong used the Tennessee state courts to resolve the dissolution of their business partnership. During that process, Strong believed she was the victim of legal malpractice. She hired the Parrish Law Firm to represent her in a lawsuit against her original attorney. Strong’s malpractice case was later dismissed when the Parrish Firm did not comply with discovery deadlines. Strong assigned some of her rights in the partnership dissolution action to the Parrish Firm for costs and expenses in the malpractice action. When the Parrish Firm sued to recover $116,316 under the assignment, Strong filed counterclaims, which were resolved in state court. A jury awarded Strong $2,293,878.70. The Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed. The Firm filed suit in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment, alleging that the Tennessee Court of Appeals judges made false statements in a judicial opinion violating its rights to a “fair trial” under the Due Process Clause and “to access justice” under the Equal Protection Clause. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit and directed the Firm and its counsel to show cause why sanctions should not be assessed. The suit is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; the complaint essentially sought another round of state appellate review. The complaint failed to present a justiciable case or controversy. Federal courts “are not in the business of pronouncing that past actions which have no demonstrable continuing effect were right or wrong.” View "Larry E. Parrish, P.C. v. Bennett" on Justia Law

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High school students from Kentucky received widespread attention for their conduct at the Lincoln Memorial during the 2019 March for Life rally. An incident occurred after the march between Covington Catholic students, including the plaintiffs, and others, including “a self-described Native American Elder.” In the wake of negative coverage and critical posts on social media, the students sued several media defendants and people who had engaged in online commentary about the incident, alleging civil harassment, harassing communications, menacing, and terroristic threatening.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the cases against Twitter users Chandrasekhar, a doctor who lives in New Jersey, and Griffin, a comedian who lives in California, for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court rejected an argument that filing a notice of appearance automatically waives the personal jurisdiction defense; precedent that seemingly implied such a rule involved the defendant’s extensive participation in the litigation. Griffin had not filed any responsive pleading that omitted the defense, nor had she “participated in any other way that would lead plaintiffs to conclude that [she] would not assert the defense.” The defendants’ conduct is plainly outside the scope of the Kentucky long-arm statute since neither Griffin nor Chandrasekhar committed any act “in [the] Commonwealth” of Kentucky under KRS 454.210(2)(a)(3). View "Doe v. Griffin" on Justia Law

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The Moore family, individually or in trust, has owned and maintained the 108-acre Hiram, Ohio property since 1813. They have operated a small airport on the Property since 1948. Around 1951, the Township enacted a zoning resolution that zoned the Property as Rural-Residential and classified the airport as a nonconforming use, permitted to continue so long as the use is not abandoned for two years. The airport remained active in varying degrees but its use for ultralight aircraft and hang gliders started recently, and prompted nuisance complaints from neighbors. In 2016, Township officials told Moore that he needed a certificate of nonconforming use to continue the airport’s operations.The Board of Zoning Appeals voted to grant Moore a certificate but imposed several conditions. The Portage County Common Pleas Court modified the conditions. The Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed.While his state court appeal was pending, Moore filed a federal suit, alleging violations of his procedural and substantive due process rights and his equal protection rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that the suit was barred by principles of claim preclusion. There was a prior final, valid decision on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction; this action involves the same parties; this action raises claims that were or could have been litigated in the Ohio action; and this suit arose out of the transaction or occurrence that was the subject matter of the Ohio action. View "Moore v. Hiram Township" on Justia Law

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At a Michigan gun show, Turaani attempted to buy a gun. When the dealer ran Turaani’s name through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, he received a “delay” response, requiring the dealer to wait three days before completing the sale. The next day, FBI agent Chambers visited the dealer to see what information Turaani had provided and explained that “we have a problem with the company” Turaani “keeps.”. He showed photographs of Turaani with another person of apparent Middle Eastern descent, whom the dealer did not recognize. Days later, Turaani contacted the dealer, who reported the visit from the FBI. While he “technically could sell the gun,” the dealer stated that he was “no longer comfortable doing so.” Turaani sued the FBI's Director, Chambers, and the director of the Terrorist Screening Database, citing the Privacy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the stigma-plus doctrine, and 42 U.S.C. 1981.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case for lack of standing. Turaani focused on his “right to obtain a weapon” and the direct and indirect injuries that flowed from the dealer’s decision not to sell him one but the dealer’s decision not to sell the gun was an independent choice that the government did not require. Turaani failed to show that his injury was traceable to the FBI’s actions. There was no coercion; making an inquiry, and passing along ambiguous information, “is a distant cry from forcing action.” View "Turaani v. Wray" on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs filed suit against Ocwen Loan Servicing and Deutsche Bank to prevent the lenders from foreclosing on their home, the district court granted summary judgment to Ocwen and Deutsche Bank. The lenders filed a motion to dismiss the appeal based on lack of jurisdiction. Plaintiffs then sought an injunction to prevent Deutsche Bank and Ocwen from taking possession of their home. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the lenders. Plaintiffs, through their counsel, appealed by placing a paper notice of appeal and a cashier's check for the filing fee into the drop box provided by the district court.The Sixth Circuit held that plaintiffs met the 30-day filing deadline to file a notice of appeal and denied the lenders' motion to dismiss. In this case, the lenders do not dispute that counsel for plaintiffs placed the notice of appeal into the district court's drop box on September 11, and the lenders cannot dispute that the drop box served as an acceptable way to deliver documents to the court. The court explained that a court's drop box serves as an invitation to file court documents, precluding a court from treating its use by a party as a trespass or a non-event. Furthermore, the lenders' contention that plaintiffs missed the September 11 filing deadline because they did not file electronically until September 14 is foreclosed by precedent. View "Pierce v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Coal companies (last signatory operators) must provide health and retiree benefits through individual employer plans (IEPs), 26 U.S.C. 9711(a), (b); the 1992 Plan provides benefits for retirees who do not receive benefits through a company’s IEP, section. Last signatory operators fund and provide security for the 1992 Plan. If the 1992 Plan assumes responsibility for IEP benefits, the Plan may assert that a prior employer must pay the benefits.A CONSOL entity sold mining operations to Debtors in 2013. Debtors provided healthcare and retiree benefits to about 2,200 Beneficiaries under an IEP. Debtors filed chapter 11 petitions in 2019, having negotiated agreements that compelled Debtors to minimize their liabilities to the Beneficiaries. To address the Coal Act obligations, the Trustee appointed a committee to represent Debtors’ retirees. Debtors and the Retiree Committee ultimately agreed that the parties would cooperate to transition the Beneficiaries from the IEP to the 1992 Plan to assure no coverage gap. The 1992 Plan would receive $12.5 million from the posted security. Debtors would cooperate in the Plan’s efforts to hold CONSOL responsible as the last signatory operator for those Beneficiaries who transferred to Debtors in 2013.The bankruptcy court approved the Settlement over CONSOL’s objection and confirmed Debtors’ Chapter 11 Plan. The order reserved CONSOL’s right to dispute its potential Coal Act liability for the Benefits, stating that its approval of the Settlement "in no way constitutes a finding that CONSOL is the last signatory operator.”The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel dismissed an appeal, finding that CONSOL lacks standing. Whether an order directly and adversely affects an appellant’s pecuniary interests is interpreted narrowly; “person aggrieved” standing does not arise from concerns about separate litigation unrelated to an interest protected by the Bankruptcy Code. View "In re Murray Energy Holdings Co." on Justia Law

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CHKRS leased Friedman’s property and paid $8,500 for an option to purchase by giving 30 days’ notice. With respect to eminent-domain, the lease stated that any money from the City of Dublin was payable to Friedman “until [CHKRS] has procured on the purchase option.” Dublin was constructing a roundabout near the property. Weeks later, Dublin notified the residents that workers would be entering to construct a bike path through the leased property. Dublin initiated a “quick-take” action, adding CHKRS to the suit, and deposited $25,080. with the court. CHKRS emailed Friedman, indicating that CHKRS intended to buy the property. Ohio courts ruled that the email did not “procure” the purchase option and that Friedman was entitled to Dublin’s funds. Dublin began construction. CHKRS sued, citing the driveway's removal. In 2016, the city constructed a new driveway, which CHKRS asserts suffers from design flaws, violates building and traffic codes, creates a hazard, and limits access. CHKRS completed its purchase of the property.CHKRS filed federal litigation, asserting takings and due-process claims, seeking payment for the defective replacement driveway. CHKRS disavowed any attempt to again seek payment for the appropriation of the bike-path easements. The court held that CHKRS lacked Article III standing, reasoning that the state courts had already held that CHKRS lacked a protectable interest in the property.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Article III standing was not the correct doctrine. CHKRS established its standing by alleging a colorable interest in the property for its takings claim. The district court misread Ohio issue-preclusion law in reaching the contrary result. The court affirmed the dismissal of CHKRS’s due-process claims as forfeited. View "CHKRS, LLC v. City of Dublin, Ohio" on Justia Law

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Dorsa, a Miraca executive, learned of a purported scheme to defraud the government. Dorsa filed a qui tam action, alleging violations of the False Claims Act (FCA). Dorsa was fired and added a claim for FCA retaliation, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h). The government intervened. Dorsa and the government dismissed the qui tam claims. Miraca unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the retaliation claim because Dorsa had agreed to binding arbitration in his employment agreement. The court found that the arbitration clause did not cover Dorsa’s claim, which did not "have any connection with, an employment agreement."The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. There was no final order and the narrow provision of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA, 9 U.S.C. 16) that authorizes immediate appeals of certain interlocutory orders does not apply. Miraca filed its motion to dismiss without asking the court for a stay or an order compelling arbitration. The FAA provides that “[a]n appeal may be taken from an order” either “refusing a stay of any action,” or “denying a petition ... to order arbitration.” Even if the denial of the motion to dismiss had the same impact as refusing to stay the action or denying a petition to order arbitration, there is no test for appealability that hinges on the practical effect of a court’s order. View "Dorsa v. Miraca Life Sciences, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1971, Perna was hired by Health One, a federally-insured, Michigan-chartered credit union. Perna signed an employment agreement with an arbitration clause; it was set to expire in 2015. In 2014, the state concluded that Health One was operating in an “unsafe and unsound condition. The federal National Credit Union Administration Board was appointed as Health One’s liquidator and terminated Perna’s employment, 12 U.S.C. 1787(c)(1). The Board sold Health One’s assets.Perna sought unpaid benefits. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs dismissed Perna’s claim, citing the arbitration clause. Perna then submitted a claim to the Board under the claims-processing rules that apply when the Board acts as a credit union’s liquidating agent. 12 U.S.C. 1787(b)(5). The Board denied his claim as untimely under its notice to creditors. In 2018, Perna filed a claim for unpaid wages with the American Arbitration Association. Health One and the National Credit Union Administration refused to participate. The arbitrator found that Perna's firing was “without cause” and awarded him $315,645.02 but found that this decision could bind only Health One, not the Administration.Perna sued Health One and the Administration, seeking to confirm the award and make the Administration subject to it. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Federal Credit Union Act provides that “no court shall have jurisdiction over” claims against covered credit unions asserted outside its exclusive framework, 12 U.S.C. 1787(b)(13)(D). View "Perna v. Health One Credit Union" on Justia Law

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Hale, employed by Morgan Stanley since 1984, was disciplined on several occasions between 2013 and 2016. Hale initiated an arbitration action and requested damages for his claims of negligence, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Following a four-day hearing, the arbitrator issued an award denying all of Hale’s claims. Hale filed suit, requesting that the arbitration award be vacated pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1. The district court dismissed, holding that it lacked diversity and federal question jurisdiction over the suit.The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. There is complete diversity of citizenship between the disputing parties as required by 28 U.S.C. 1332(a) and the amount in controversy is met because Hale requested a damages award of $14.75 million in his complaint (filed as a motion to vacate). In actions where a party seeks to vacate a $0 arbitration award pursuant to section 10 of the FAA, courts should look to the complaint, including the amount sought in the underlying arbitration, for purposes of assessing whether the jurisdictional amount in controversy requirement has been met. View "Hale v. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC" on Justia Law