Justia U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Shelby Advocates for Valid Elections v. Hargett
The plaintiffs sued, alleging that, in future elections, the defendants (various officials) will burden their right to vote, dilute their votes, and disenfranchise them in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses. The plaintiffs cited election administration problems: election workers are poorly trained, sometimes distributing the wrong ballots, sometimes recording the wrong address when registering a voter; failure to recertify the voting machines; failure to follow fair protocols for uploading votes; the use of digital voting machines, vulnerable to hacking and cyberattacks, that do not produce a paper record of each voter’s choices. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The complaint’s allegations with respect to injury all reference prior system vulnerabilities, previous equipment malfunctions, and past election mistakes; nearly all of the allegations of past harm stem from human error rather than errors caused by the voting machines or hacking. Fear that individual mistakes will recur, generally speaking, does not create a cognizable imminent risk of harm. The plaintiffs do not allege that Shelby County election officials always make these mistakes or that the government entities ordered the election workers to make such mistakes. The plaintiffs have not plausibly shown that there is a substantial risk of vote flipping. Without imminent harm, the individual plaintiffs have no standing to sue. The plaintiffs allege only policies that add risk to the ever-present possibility that an election worker will make a mistake. View "Shelby Advocates for Valid Elections v. Hargett" on Justia Law
Van Hoven v. Buckles & Buckles, P.L.C.
Van Hoven, a Michigan attorney, defaulted on a credit card debt. The Buckles law firm, collecting the debt, won a state court lawsuit. Van Hoven did not pay. Buckles filed four requests for writs of garnishment. Van Hoven says those requests violated the Michigan Court Rules by including the costs of the request ($15 filing fee) in the amount due and, in later requests, adding the costs of prior failed garnishments. Van Hoven filed a class-action lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits debt collectors from making false statements in their dunning demands, 15 U.S.C. 1692e. Years later, after “Stalingrad litigation” tactics, discovery sanctions, and professional misconduct allegations, Van Hoven won. The court awarded 168 class members $3,662 in damages. Van Hoven’s attorneys won $186,680 in attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit vacated. When Buckles asked for all total costs, including those of any garnishment request to date, it did not make a “false, deceptive, or misleading representation.” It was a reasonable request at the time and likely reflected the best interpretation of the Michigan Rules. The court remanded for determinations of whether Buckles made “bona fide” mistakes of fact in including certain costs of prior failed garnishments and whether its procedure for preventing such mistakes suffices. In some instances, Buckles included the costs of garnishments that failed because the garnishee did not hold any property subject to garnishment or was not the debtor’s employer. View "Van Hoven v. Buckles & Buckles, P.L.C." on Justia Law
Saginaw County. v. STAT Emergency Medical Services, Inc.
Saginaw County has nearly 200,000 residents. A single company, Mobile Medical, has provided the county’s ambulance services since 2009. The county guaranteed Mobile the exclusive right to operate within its borders; Mobile pledged to serve all eight of Saginaw County’s cities and incorporated villages and its 27 rural townships. In 2011, STAT, a competing ambulance company, entered the Saginaw market, providing patient-transport services for an insurer as part of a contract that covered six Michigan counties. A municipality, dissatisfied with Mobile’s response times and fees, hired STAT. When Saginaw County proposed to extend Mobilel’s contract in 2013, STAT objected, arguing that the arrangement violated state law, federal antitrust law, and the Fourteenth Amendment. The county approved Mobile's new contract and enacted an ordinance that codified the exclusivity arrangement but never enforced the ordinance. STAT continued to insist that Michigan law permitted it to offer ambulance services. Saginaw County sought a federal declaratory judgment that Michigan law authorizes the exclusive contract and that it does not violate federal antitrust laws or the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting STAT from operating in the county. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim for lack of jurisdiction. The county failed to establish an actual or imminent injury. Federal courts have the power to tell parties what the law is, not what it might be in potential enforcement actions. View "Saginaw County. v. STAT Emergency Medical Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Hueso v. Barnhart
In 2010, Hueso was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for drug crimes. In 2013, Hueso unsuccessfully moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. His second unsuccessful petition, in 2018, argued that his state convictions were not “felony drug offenses” and that his mandatory minimum should have been 10 years. A 2019 Ninth Circuit case subsequently undercut the substantive portion of the district court’s denial of relief. Hueso filed another petition. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 permits a second 2255 motion only if there is new evidence of innocence or a new rule of constitutional law from the Supreme Court. Prisoners seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241 must show that section 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of [their] detention.” Hueso argued that prisoners barred from filing a second 2255 motion may seek habeas relief under section 2241 based on new circuit court decisions. The Fourth Circuit has accepted that position. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. Hueso’s cited circuit court cases do not render a 2255 motion “inadequate or ineffective” within the meaning of section 2255(e); the two circuit decisions cannot establish section 2255’s inadequacy and his cited Supreme Court decision issued when his direct appeal was pending, so he could have cited it in the ordinary course. View "Hueso v. Barnhart" on Justia Law
Hamama v. Adducci
The federal government entered final removal orders against about 1,000 Iraqi nationals in 2017, and has detained them or will detain them. Most remain in the U.S. due to diplomatic difficulties preventing their return to Iraq. The district court certified three subclasses: (1) primary class members without individual habeas petitions who are or will be detained by ICE, (2) those in the first subclass who are also subject to final removal orders, and (3) those in the first subclass whose motions to reopen their removal proceedings have been granted and who are being held under a statute mandating their detention. The Sixth Circuit previously vacated two preliminary injunctions, citing lack of jurisdiction under 8 U.S.C. 1252(g) and (f)(1). One prevented the removal of certain Iraqi nationals; another required bond hearings for each class member who had been detained for at least six months. A third injunction requires the government to release all primary subclass members, those in the first subclass, once the government has detained them for six months, no matter the statutory authority under which they were held. The district court concluded that the class members showed that the government was unlikely to repatriate them to Iraq in the reasonably foreseeable future and that the government “acted ignobly.” The Sixth Circuit vacated the injunction. Congress stripped all courts, except the Supreme Court, of jurisdiction to enjoin or restrain the operation of 8 U.S.C. 1221–1232 on a class-wide basis. View "Hamama v. Adducci" on Justia Law
Buchholz v. Meyer Njus Tanick, PA
Buchholz received two letters about overdue payments he owed on credit accounts. The letters came from MNT law firm, on MNT’s letterhead. Each referred to a specific account but the content is identical except for information regarding that specific account. MNT attorney Harms signed both letters; Buchholz alleges that MNT must have inserted “some sort of pre-populated or stock signature.” The letters do not threaten legal action but purport to be communications from a debt collector and explain that MNT has been retained to collect the above-referenced debts. Buchholz alleges that he felt anxiety that he would be subjected to legal action if prompt payment was not made and sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e, e(3), and e(10), asserting that MNT processes such a high volume of debt-collection letters that MNT attorneys cannot engage in meaningful review of the underlying accounts. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint for lack of standing. Buchholz has shown no injury-in-fact that is traceable to MNT’s challenged conduct. Buchholz’s allegation of anxiety falls short of the injury-in-fact requirement; it amounts to an allegation of fear of something that may or may not occur in the future. Buchholz is anxious about the consequences of his decision to not pay the debts that he does not dispute he owes; if the plaintiff caused his own injury, he cannot draw a connection between that injury and the defendant’s conduct. View "Buchholz v. Meyer Njus Tanick, PA" on Justia Law
McNeil v. Community Probation Services, LLC
Giles County contracted with private probation companies to supervise people it convicted of misdemeanors. Probationers sued Giles County, its Sheriff, the probation companies, and some company employees, alleging RICO violations, civil conspiracy, improper debt collection, and constitutional violations. The district court granted a preliminary injunction based on a claim that the county and sheriff violated the probationers' “substantive right against wealth-based detention” by detaining them after arrest until they pay bail because the bail amount is set “without reference to the person’s ability to pay,” outside the person’s presence, and without determining whether the person poses “a danger to the community or a risk of flight.” The injunction permits bail based on evidence of the probationer’s ability to pay, the necessity of detention, and the alternatives to bail. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the probationers should have sued the state judges who determine the bail amounts instead of suing the county and sheriff who enforce them. The plaintiffs can sue the sheriff, regardless of whether he acts for the state or the county while judges have absolute immunity from suits based on their judicial acts, except in matters over which they clearly lack jurisdiction. View "McNeil v. Community Probation Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Local 1982, International Longshoremen v. Midwest Terminals of Toledo
A collective bargaining agreement between Local 1982 and Midwest consisted of a Master Agreement (MA), formed between the parties’ affiliated regional employer group and the union, and a Local Agreement. The union filed a grievance for Midwest's failure to establish and contribute to benefit trust plans under MA Section 5.5A. Midwest responded that it considered the grievance procedurally invalid. The Union escalated the grievance to Step Two under the MA, referral to a Joint Grievance Committee comprised of an employer representative and a union representative. Midwest refused to participate; the hearing went forward without Midwest. The Committee determined that Midwest had failed to comply with Section 5.5A. Midwest did not appeal the unfavorable award, which became final. The union filed suit to enforce it. The Sixth Circuit directed the district court to enforce the award. The parties returned to court over ambiguities in the award's content. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a remand to the Committee, rejecting Midwest’s argument that it complied with the award by negotiating about terms of the trust agreement. After the remand but before clarification of the award, the composition of the two-person Committee changed. The new Committee deadlocked. Local 1982 sought to escalate the grievance to Step 3 with an expanded grievance committee. The Sixth Circuit agreed. The award did not lose its effect simply because the original Committee cannot agree on clarification of its contents. Grievance procedure Step Three specifies that if a grievance “is not satisfactorily settled or adjusted in Step 2, it shall be referred to an Expanded Joint Grievance Committee.” View "Local 1982, International Longshoremen v. Midwest Terminals of Toledo" on Justia Law
Mosley v. Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc.
In 2018, Mosley visited the Kohl’s stores in Northville and Novi, Michigan and encountered architectural barriers to access by wheelchair users in their restrooms. He sought declaratory and injunctive relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions governing public accommodations, claiming that Kohl’s denied him “full and equal access and enjoyment of the services, goods and amenities due to barriers ... and a failure . . . to make reasonable accommodations,” 42 U.S.C. 12182. According to the district court, Mosley has filed similar lawsuits throughout the country. A resident of Arizona, Mosley “has family and friends that reside in the Detroit area whom he tries to visit at least annually.” Mosley, a musician, had scheduled visits to “southeast Michigan” in September and October 2018. He is planning to visit his family in Detroit in November 2018. He stated that he would return to the stores if they were modified to be ADA-compliant. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of standing. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. Mosley has sufficiently alleged a concrete and particularized past injury and has sufficiently alleged a real and immediate threat of future injury. Plaintiffs are not required to provide a definitive plan for returning to the accommodation itself to establish a threat of future injury, nor need they have visited the accommodation more than once. View "Mosley v. Kohl's Department Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
D.T. v. Sumner County Schools
D.T.’s parents, concerned that their son, who has autism, was not getting an appropriate education in the Tennessee schools, removed him from public school and placed him in a private therapy program, where he improved. They were convicted of truancy. To avoid further prosecution. they enrolled D.T. in a state-approved private school and a private therapy program. To have the option of removing him from school again in the future, they sought a preliminary injunction to keep the state from charging them with truancy. They argued they had the right to remove D.T. from school because federal disability law preempts state educational requirements. The district court found that D.T.’s parents had not yet suffered an immediate and irreparable injury. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The hypothetical threat of prosecution is not an “immediate,” “irreparable” injury that warrants the “extraordinary remedy” of a preliminary injunction. View "D.T. v. Sumner County Schools" on Justia Law