Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
by
On July 24, 2020, the district court denied Payton’s motion for compassionate release or a reduction of his sentence under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). A notice of appeal, dated August 9, was filed in the district court on August 10. A defendant’s notice of appeal in a criminal case must be filed in the district court no later than 14 days after the challenged judgment or order is entered. Fed. R. App. P. 4(b)(1)(A). A section 3582(c) motion is a continuation of the criminal proceedings, so the 14-day deadline applies. Rule 4(b)(1)(A)'s deadline is not jurisdictional but is a claims-processing rule; the government can waive an objection to an untimely notice. If the government raises the issue of timeliness, the court must enforce the time limits.In response to the government’s motion to dismiss, Payton asserted that the prison has been “on an institution-wide lockdown and getting copies in this environment is problematic” and argued excusable neglect. Rule 4(b)(4) authorizes the district court to extend the time for filing an appeal for up to 30 days if the court finds “good cause” or “excusable neglect.” The Sixth Circuit remanded for the limited purpose of allowing the district court to determine whether Payton has shown excusable neglect or good cause. View "United States v. Payton" on Justia Law

by
Tennessee voters must apply to vote absentee. The county administrator of elections determines whether the voter has established eligibility to vote absentee, and compares the signature of the voter on the request with the signature on the voter’s registration record. Voters who qualify to vote absentee receive a ballot, an inner envelope and an outer envelope, and instructions. The inner envelope has an affidavit; the voter must verify that he is eligible to vote in the election. The ballot must be received no later than when the polls close. Upon receipt by mail of the absentee ballot, the administrator "shall open only the outer envelope and compare the voter’s signature on the [affidavit] with the voter’s signature" on the registration record. If the administrator determines the signatures do not match, the ballot is rejected; the voter is “immediately” notified in writing. Voters who are concerned that their absentee ballot might be rejected may cast a provisional ballot before being notified of a rejection.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction to prohibit the enforcement of the signature verification procedures. The plaintiffs cannot cite with certainty or specification any past erroneous rejection of an absentee ballot; their speculative allegations of harm are insufficient to establish standing. The plaintiffs have not demonstrated that anyone whose ballot may be erroneously rejected will ultimately be unable to vote, either absentee or by provisional ballot; there is no evidence that anyone’s constitutional rights are likely to be infringed. View "Memphis A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Hargett" on Justia Law

by
Fuerst fell at a military base, which left her disabled. She returned to work part-time. The Air Force removed Fuerst from service after determining that her ability to work only part-time was affecting the office’s mission. The Department of Labor subsequently determined that Fuerst was no longer disabled. Fuerst applied to participate in a fast-track reemployment program for civil-service employees who were removed from service because of a disability but have recovered, 5 U.S.C. 8151(b). The Air Force did not place her on the priority reemployment list. Fuerst appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which found that her removal was not improper or motivated by discrimination, but ordered the Air Force to rehire her. The Air Force offered Fuerst two jobs at her pay grade. Fuerst did not accept the offers. The Board ruled that the Air Force had complied. Fuerst appealed to a federal district court.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Employees must generally appeal Board decisions to the Federal Circuit. Fuerst’s case could not qualify as a “mixed case” within the district court’s jurisdiction; it was not an appeal of an agency's action, but a petition for enforcement, although Fuerst sought to enforce an order issued in a mixed case. In a mixed case, the Board decides "both the issue of discrimination and the appealable action[s].” When Fuerst petitioned for enforcement, the Board had decided those issues already. Fuerst had a chance to ask a district court to review those decisions but did not do so. View "Fuerst v. Secretary of the Air Force" on Justia Law

by
Mohlman became a licensed securities professional in 2001. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a not-for-profit member organization, regulates practice in the securities industry and enforces disciplinary actions against its members. In 2012, Mohlman had conversations with several individuals concerning WMA. Mohlman did not attempt to sell WMA investments and did not receive compensation from WMA. Mohlman learned in 2014 that WMA was a Ponzi scheme and immediately informed all persons who had invested in WMA. Mohlman appeared for testimony as part of FINRA’s investigation. Another day of testimony was scheduled but instead of appearing, Mohlman and his counsel signed a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent, agreeing to a permanent ban from the securities industry. FINRA agreed to refrain from filing a formal complaint against him. Mohlman waived his procedural rights under FINRA’s Code of Procedure and the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78a and agreed to “not take any position in any proceeding brought by or on behalf of FINRA, or to which FINRA is a party, that is inconsistent with any part of [the Letter].” FINRA accepted the Letter in 2015.In 2019, Mohlman filed suit, alleging that FINRA fraudulently avoided considering mitigating factors in administering the sanction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit without addressing the merits. Mohlman failed to exhaust administrative remedies under the Exchange Act by appealing to the National Adjudicatory Council and petitioning the SEC for review. View "Mohlman v. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority" on Justia Law

by
The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) allows the FDA to regulate tobacco products. Tobacco products that were not on the market in February 2007 or that were modified after that date must obtain premarket authorization. The 2016 “Deeming Rule” subjected cigars, pipe tobacco, and electronic nicotine delivery systems to the TCA; about 25,000 existing products became subject to 21 U.S.C. 387j(a). The FDA planned to stagger compliance periods for deemed tobacco products.In 2018, public health organizations challenged FDA “guidance” issued under the TCA. The Maryland district court granted them summary judgment. Compliance deadlines had passed but the court concluded that it could impose a deadline because the case presented extraordinary circumstances. The court ordered the FDA to require that premarket applications be filed within 10 months (May 2020) but declined to require enforcement actions. The FDA issued new guidance in January 2020, stating that it intended to prioritize enforcement of the premarket-review requirements for e-cigarettes beginning in May 2020. Before the Fourth Circuit ruled, the district court amended its injunction, in light of the pandemic, to require that applications be submitted by September 2020. The FDA revised its guidance accordingly. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal.An e-cigarette trade organization sought a declaration that FDA’s deadline was unlawful agency action under the APA in the Eastern District of Kentucky, arguing the FDA’s brief and an attached declaration motivated the Maryland court to impose that deadline, which significantly accelerated the original FDA deadline. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that the plaintiffs lacked standing. The Maryland court’s injunction was independent of the FDA’s brief and declaration; the allegedly unauthorized court submissions do not form a plausible legal basis for an injunction against subsequent, independently-caused FDA enforcement proceedings. View "Vapor Technology Association v. United States Food and Drug Administration" on Justia Law

by
Freed owed $735.43 in taxes ($1,109.06 with penalties) on his property valued at about $97,000. Freed claims he did not know about the debt because he cannot read well. Gratiot County’s treasurer filed an in-rem action under Michigan's General Property Tax Act (GPTA), In a court-ordered foreclosure, the treasurer sold the property to a third party for $42,000. Freed lost his home and all its equity. Freed sued, 42 U.S.C. 1983, citing the Takings Clause and the Eighth Amendment.The district court first held that Michigan’s inverse condemnation process did not provide “reasonable, certain, and adequate” remedies and declined to dismiss the suit under the Tax Injunction Act, which tells district courts not to “enjoin, suspend or restrain the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy may be had" in state court, 28 U.S.C. 1341. The court reasoned that the TIA did not apply to claims seeking to enjoin defendants from keeping the surplus equity and that Freed was not challenging his tax liability nor trying to stop the state from collecting. The TIA applied to claims seeking to enjoin enforcement of the GPTA and declare it unconstitutional but no adequate state court remedy existed. The court used the same reasoning to reject arguments that comity principles compelled dismissal. After discovery, the district court sua sponte dismissed Freed’s case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, despite recognizing that it was “doubtful” Freed could win in state court. The Supreme Court subsequently overturned the "exhaustion of state remedies" requirement for takings claims.The Sixth Circuit reversed without addressing the merits of Freed’s claims. Neither the TIA nor comity principles forestall Freed’s suit from proceeding in federal court. View "Freed v. Thomas" on Justia Law

by
In multi-district litigation (MDL), the district court certified an opt-out “negotiation class” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, consisting of all cities and counties (34,458 identified entities) throughout the United States for purposes of negotiating a settlement. These municipalities brought RICO and Controlled Substances Act claims, alleging that opioid manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and retailers acted in concert to mislead medical professionals into prescribing, and millions of Americans into taking and often becoming addicted to, opiates. Unlike a litigation class, formed to aggregate and try common issues, the negotiation class would attempt to reach a settlement while the individual MDL cases continue on litigation paths. Negotiation class members would likely not have a second opportunity to opt-out and would have to decide at the class certification stage—without knowing the settlement figure— whether they wish to bind themselves. A proposed agreement could only be accepted if a supermajority of six categories of voting class members assent to it.Several defendants objected; 556 putative class members opted-out of the negotiation class. In consolidated appeals, the Sixth Circuit reversed the class certification. Rule 23 does not identify negotiation as a separate category of certification distinct from settlement. The negotiation class device frustrates a court’s analysis of whether a class action is the superior method of adjudication and avoids some of the procedural requirements of litigation class certification without halting the underlying litigation. View "In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation" on Justia Law

by
Simmons pleaded guilty to drug charges. Simmons’s judgment became final on September 22, 2016, He had until September 22, 2017, to file a motion to vacate. On August 13, 2018, Simmons moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 and cited Section 2255(f)(2), which provides “[t]he limitation period shall run from . . . the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action.” Simmons explained that, after his sentencing, he returned to state custody until December 2016 and served time at Wayne County Jail after that. Simmons claimed that those law libraries did not have federal law materials, which was an impediment to filing a 2255 Motion. He arrived at a federal facility on August 29, 2017. He claimed that the only way to obtain Section 2255 materials there was to request them but “you have to know what you need.”The district court dismissed, finding that Simmons had not sufficiently alleged what specific legal materials he was missing and how the lack of those materials prejudiced his ability to pursue his section 2255 rights. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Even if a lack of federal materials, combined with a lack of a legal assistance program, constituted an unconstitutional impediment, a prisoner is required to allege a causal connection between the purported constitutional impediment and how the impediment prevented him from filing on time. Simmons did not. View "Simmons v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Gerics and Monahan were Flint, Michigan neighbors. Gerics was regarded as “unstable” and was notorious for occupying others’ property and digging holes. Monahan was the neighborhood association president. Gerics, over several months, used a megaphone to allege that Monahan “[i]s an HIV positive mother fucking pedophile.” Gerics filed multiple unsuccessful lawsuits against Monahan and put up signs alleging that Monahan had stolen from Gerics’s family and that Gerics would kill Monahan and his partner if they came near Gerics’s house. Sergeant Hall was sent to investigate. Given Hall’s knowledge of Monahan’s allegations and his observation that morning, Hall arrested Gerics. Another officer searched Gerics’s clothing and found a bag of marijuana.The state court found Hall had no probable cause to arrest Gerics and quashed the proceedings against him. Gerics sought damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Hall violated his Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully arresting him and by unreasonably seizing his cell phone. A jury ruled in favor of the defendants. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Gerics alleged the district court, at summary judgment, erroneously found a material question of fact on whether Hall had probable cause to arrest Gerics. Although the probable-cause issue was not one for the jury, a party may not appeal an order denying summary judgment after a full trial on the merits. View "Gerics v. Trevino" on Justia Law

by
The House of Blues music studio in Memphis suffered a burglary and arson in 2015. Brown owned House of Blues through TME. He and two tenants, Falls and Mott, submitted insurance claims to Hanover for the loss. Brown submitted fraudulent documents in connection with this claim, resulting in an insurance-fraud lawsuit. Brown was found liable after admitting on the stand that he had forged documents submitted in his insurance claim. Falls prevailed before the jury, only to have the judge set aside the verdict and direct judgment for Hanover under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b). Rule 50(a) provides for a motion for judgment as a matter of law at trial; Rule 50(b) provides for “Renewing the [50(a)] Motion after Trial.” Hanover failed to make a Rule 50(a) motion at trial. The Sixth Circuit affirmed as to Mott, who failed to raise any issues on appeal, and as to Brown. The court rejected Brown’s arguments that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to allow him to introduce an exhibit that he tried to introduce several times; by intervening excessively to question witnesses; and by imposing a time limit on Brown and not on Hanover. The court reversed as to Falls. Hanover forfeited its ability to “renew” a motion for a directed verdict after trial under Rule 50(b). View "Hanover American Insurance Co. v. Tattooed Millionaire Entertainment, LLC" on Justia Law