Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The plaintiffs sought Social Security disability and/or supplemental security income benefits. In each case, the application was denied, and an ALJ upheld the denial. The Appeals Council denied relief. The plaintiffs sought judicial review. While the appeals were pending, the plaintiffs moved to raise an issue they had not raised during administrative hearings--a challenge to the ALJs’ appointments, citing the Supreme Court’s 2018 "Lucia" decision that SEC ALJs had not been appointed in a constitutionally legitimate manner and that remand for a de novo hearing before a different ALJ was required. The district courts agreed that the Appointments Clause challenges were forfeited and affirmed the denials of benefits.The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded for new hearings before constitutionally appointed ALJs other than the ALJs who presided over the first hearings. There is no question that Social Security ALJs are inferior officers who were required to be, but were not, appointed consistently with the Appointments Clause. There are no statutory or regulatory exhaustion requirements governing Social Security proceedings and, while a court may still impose an implied exhaustion rule, such a requirement is inappropriate because the regulations provide no notice to claimants that their failure to raise an Appointments Clause challenge at the ALJ level will preclude them from later seeking a judicial decision on the issue. View "Flack v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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Although not technically enrolled at the University of Kentucky, Doe hoped to attend the University and was enrolled at a Kentucky community college that allows its students to transfer credits to the University and enroll in the University through a simpler application process. Doe lived in the University’s residence halls, paid fees directly to the University for housing, board, the student government association, student activities, access to the student center, a student health plan, technology, access to the recreation center, and student affairs. Doe alleges that a student enrolled at the University raped her on October 2, 2014. She reported the rape to the University’s police department. Over the course of 30 months, the University held four disciplinary hearings. The alleged perpetrator was found responsible for the rape at the first three hearings. The University’s appeal board overturned the decisions based on procedural deficiencies. At the fourth hearing, the alleged perpetrator was found not responsible.Doe dropped out of her classes and sued, asserting that the University’s deliberate indifference to her alleged sexual assault violated Title IX, 20 U.S.C.1681. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the claims. Doe has sufficiently shown that there remain genuine disputes as to whether the University denied her the benefit of an “education program or activity,” and has standing. View "Doe v. University of Kentucky" on Justia Law

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Ohio and Tennessee filed suit in 2015 to enjoin the Clean Water Rule, which purported to interpret the phrase “waters of the United States,” as used in the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1362(7), and, in 2018, sought a preliminary injunction against the Rule’s enforcement within their borders. In a 2018 Rule, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers suspended enforcement of the 2015 Rule; the Agencies gave notice of their intent to repeal (rather than merely suspend) the 2015 Rule. In 2019, the court denied the states’ motion with respect to the 2015 Rule on the ground that, suspended or not, the states had not shown a likelihood of imminent, irreparable harm. The Agencies formally repealed the 2015 rule. In 2020 they replaced the 2015 Rule with the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule.”The Sixth Circuit dismissed the states’ appeal as moot. Since the district court’s decision, the Agencies have repealed and replaced the rule that the states sought preliminarily to enjoin. The Agencies have already provided the states with relief; a preliminary injunction against the 2015 Rule’s enforcement in Ohio and Tennessee would lack any practical effect. There is no reasonable possibility that the 2015 Rule will again become effective in Ohio or Tennessee while this case remains pending. View "Ohio v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The Tennessee Department of Health allowed two healthcare companies to merge into Ballad Health. Some of the board members of the resulting entity also had ties to another area healthcare organization, MEAC. The plaintiffs filed suit, alleging that Ballad, MEAC, and individual defendants had created an interlocking directorate in violation of the Clayton Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 19. The defendants moved to dismiss the case for lack of standing. The plaintiffs sought to amend their complaint. Their proposed 29-page complaint included “allegations” that amounted to “colorful insults,” such as that MEAC “surrendered to [Ballad] much in the manner Marshal Petain surrendered France" to Hitler.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. Plaintiffs must allege the elements of standing as they would any other element of their suit. The plaintiffs failed to alleged injury in fact by showing that they suffered “an invasion of a legally protected interest” that is “concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” The plaintiffs alleged legal conclusions, speculative risks, and the interests of the general public, saying nothing about what medical services they have sought in the past, what services they will seek in the future, or how the dissolution of MEAC would affect their access to these services. Nothing in the Clayton Act purports to create a novel injury in fact or an exception to the case-or-controversy requirement. View "Bearden v. Ballad Health" on Justia Law