Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Claimants, Wiggins and Allison, were at the Cleveland Airport for a flight to Orange County, California. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), aware of their itineraries and that each had previous felony drug convictions, observed them engaging in conversation before they walked toward the security checkpoint. The government alleged, and Wiggins denied, that Wiggins consented to a search. Agents found $31,000 hidden in the lining of his suitcase. He could not answer why he was traveling with the money. He denied knowing Allison. An agent found $10,000 in Allison’s sock. Allison stated that he had won the money at a casino but could not provide details. A canine alerted to the odor of narcotics on the separate boxes containing the money. The government seized the funds and filed a civil in rem forfeiture complaint under 21 U.S.C. 881(a)(6), which allows the government to seize items it suspects were used in furtherance of criminal activity without charging the property’s owner with a crime. The district court granted the government’s motion to strike claimants’ claims to the currency. The Sixth Circuit reversed, noting that the government apparently moved to dismiss the claim before it engaged in any discovery. The government asserted that the claimant’s pleadings must do more than assert ownership and must provide sufficient detail to draft interrogatories allowing the government to test the claim of ownership. The procedural rules governing civil forfeiture actions do not demand such a heightened standard. View "United States v. $31,000.00 in U.S. Currency" on Justia Law

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Giasson and RCO were working together to secure a contract to make airline seats for a jet manufacturer. According to Giasson, RCO cut it out of the deal. Giasson sued RCO for breach of contract. During discovery, in anticipation of settlement talks, Giasson submitted interrogatories to RCO requesting pricing and sales information for the seats RCO would be selling. RCO responded, indicating that some answers were “speculative and subject to change.” The parties settled the dispute in 2010; the district court entered a consent order of dismissal. RCO agreed to pay Giasson a running royalty for 10 years. In 2014, Giasson became aware that RCO was charging higher gross sales prices for two types of seats than the fixed prices the parties agreed to. Giasson inferred that RCO misrepresented seat pricing information during settlement talks. Giasson brought filed a new lawsuit. Claims of breach of contract, specific performance, and silent fraud were immediately dismissed. After discovery, the court dismissed Giasson’s claim of fraud in the inducement, noting that RCO never represented the future prices of aircraft seats would remain static. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Relief under FRCP 60(d)(1), the “savings clause,” is “available only to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice.” Giasson’s allegations do not satisfy that demanding standard. View "Giasson Aerospace Science Inc. v. RCO Engineering Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Flint, Michigan residents, filed a purported class action against city and state officials in state court, alleging that they have been harmed since April 2014 by the toxic condition of the Flint water supply. Defendants sought removal under 28 U.S.C. 1442, the federal-officer removal statute, and 28 U.S.C. 1441, which allows removal of state-law causes of action that raise substantial federal questions. Defendants claimed that they are being sued for actions that they took while acting under the direction of the federal EPA, which delegated primary enforcement authority to the state to implement the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in Michigan, and that the EPA retains “tremendous oversight authority.” Defendants also asserted “a substantial federal question”: whether the MDEQ Defendants complied with federal law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a remand to state court. Complete diversity of citizenship is lacking, and no federal question is presented on the face of the complaint. Simply complying with a regulation is insufficient, even if the regulatory scheme is “highly detailed” and the defendant’s “activities are highly supervised and monitored.” Despite the EPA’s authority to intervene, Michigan was governing itself when the alleged actions and inactions giving rise to the Plaintiffs’ claims occurred. View "Mays v. City of Flint, Michigan" on Justia Law

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Three of Hand’s four wives died, two as victims of violent, unsolved home invasions. The death of Hand’s fourth wife, Jill, occurred while he was at home. Hand confronted and shot the intruder, who turned out to be his friend and employee Welch. An investigation revealed a plot between the men to kill all three women in order to receive life insurance proceeds. Hand was convicted of the aggravated murders of Jill and Welch, with death-penalty specifications, conspiracy to commit the aggravated murders, and an attempt to escape police custody after he was arrested. The jury recommended and the judge imposed the death penalty. After unsuccessful state appeals and post-conviction proceedings, Hand unsuccessfully sought federal habeas relief. The Sixth Circuit rejected several claims involving the adequacy of the voir dire at his trial to screen jurors because of pretrial publicity and ineffective assistance of counsel claims related to the voir dire; ineffective assistance claims related to mitigation evidence and the reintroduction of evidence of guilt during the sentencing phase; and the adequacy of evidence supporting the death penalty specifications. View "Hand v. Houk" on Justia Law

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The Zappones own OSC, an Ohio scrap-metal recycling business. In November 2012, IRS Agents executed search-and-seizure warrants on OSC’s offices and the Zappones’ home while investigating alleged tax evasion and illegal restructuring. Agents arrested the Zappones and seized their computers, cell phones, business records, and cash from the company safe, which was taken to Brink’s, the security company. Brinks issued a receipt for $1,264,000. The Zappones maintain that the safe contained $3,150,000 and that the Agents pocketed the difference. In 2013, the government brought a civil-forfeiture proceeding against the $1,264,000; the Zappones asserted claims against the currency, alleging that the amount was understated. In 2014, the Zappones submitted administrative claims to the IRS seeking $1,886,000 with power-of-attorney forms that identified their counsel as Arnold and listed counsel’s address. Six months later, the IRS mailed letters denying the claims via certified mail to Arnold, stating that the Zappones could file suit no later than six months after the date of the mailing of the notification. The Zappones had switched counsel but had not notified the IRS. More than six months later, they sued IRS employees and one IRS subcontractor, based on the execution of the search-and-seizure warrants and the purported misappropriation of their cash. The Sixth CIrcuit affirmed that the Zappones filed their state-law and constitutional claims outside the appropriate limitations periods and rejected their requests for equitable tolling. View "Zappone v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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In 1990, Stan and Bara Jurcevic opened an account at the St. Paul Croatian Federal Credit Union (SPCFU). The National Credit Union Administration Board (NCUAB) charters and insures credit unions, 12 U.S.C. 1766, and can place a credit union into conservatorship or liquidation. From 1996-2010, Stan obtained $1.5 million in share-secured loans from SPCFU. Federal auditors discovered that SPCFU’s COO had been accepting bribes in exchange for issuing loans and disguising unpaid balances. SPCFU had $200 million in unpaid debts. NCUAB placed SPCFU into conservatorship and eventually liquidated its assets. NCUAB alleged that Jurcevic failed to disclose a $2,500,000 loan from PNC and an impending decrease in his income; and that he planned to use the loan funds to save his company, Stack. PNC obtained a $2,000,000 judgment against Jurcevic and Stack. NCUAB sued the Jurcevics and Stack and obtained an injunction, freezing the Jurcevics’ and Stack’s assets, except for living expenses. The district court dismissed claims of fraud, conspiracy, and conversion as time-barred and dismissed claims against Bara and Stack as a matter of law. Jurcevic appealed and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Board cross-appealed and intervened in the Chapter 7 proceedings. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the asset freeze; the court properly employed the preliminary injunction factors. The court reversed the dismissals because the court did not consider the date of the NCUAB’s appointment and the date of discovery as possible accrual dates for the limitations statute. View "National Credit Union Administration Board v. Jurcevic" on Justia Law

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Cummings worked for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority for 27 years. She alleges the Authority paid her less than her male colleagues and refused to promote her when she complained about the disparity. She filed suit. The parties entered a settlement on February 4, 2015. The Authority agreed to pay Cummings $45,000 and to suspend her for a six-month period at a pay rate of $600 per month. For 18 months, Cummings could exhaust her paid leave at her regular salary. If Cummings did not obtain other public sector employment with corresponding state retirement benefits, the Authority would again place her on a six-month suspension at $600 per month through January 31, 2017, or the first date she became eligible to retire with 30 years of service credit. Cummings released the Authority from all claims. On July 15, 2016, Cummings asked the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System to calculate her retirement service credit and learned that she would not accumulate additional retirement credit under the settlement because the payments did not count as “earnable salary,” Cummings sought to vacate the judgment and reinstate her complaint. The Sixth Circuit affirmed rejection of her motion as time-barred under Civil Rule 60(b)(1), which permits motions to vacate in the event of “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect” filed within one year of the judgment. The one-year bar also applies in cases of “fraud ... misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party.” View "Cummings v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Martinez was convicted of distribution of controlled substances, mail fraud, wire fraud, health care fraud, and health care fraud resulting in the death of patients. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Martinez filed, pro se, a 628-page motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The district court granted a motion to strike because the motion based on the 20-page limit in Northern District of Ohio Local Rule 7.1. The court later dismissed Martinez’s case with prejudice. The Sixth Circuit remanded to allow Martinez to re-file a compliant motion. Martinez filed a new motion, 23 pages long and accompanied by two letters and a 628-page affidavit. The court granted the government’s renewed motion to strike but gave Martinez an opportunity to file a compliant motion. Martinez did not timely re-file. The court dismissed the action. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court correctly applied Local Rule 7.1. Section 2255 motions can be considered civil in nature but even if such proceedings are more criminal in nature, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 57 allows district courts to apply local rules if the litigant has notice. Martinez clearly had notice. Local Rule 7.1 is not inconsistent with any provision of section 2255. View "Martinez v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Tennessee Republican Party, the Georgia Republican Party, and the New York Republican State Committee challenged the legality of 2016 amendments to rules proposed by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) that are “deemed to have been approved” by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 15 U.S.C. 78s(b)(2)(D). The rules arose out of concern “that brokers and dealers were engaging in a variety of ethically questionable practices in order to secure underwriting contracts,” and are intended to limit pay-to-play practices in the municipal securities markets. The amendments limit the campaign activities of persons who advise city and state governments on issuing municipal securities. The Sixth Circuit dismissed because the plaintiffs failed to establish their standing to challenge the amendments. There was no “self-evident” injury to the plaintiffs and only limited information on the number of persons possibly affected by the amendments. At most, there were approximately 713 registered non-dealer municipal advisory firms in the United States that would be affected by the Amendments, but it is unclear how many municipal advisor professionals are associated with these firms, let alone the likelihood that they would donate to plaintiffs if not for the Amendments. It is unknown whether the Amendments have hindered individual candidates who are members of the plaintiff organizations. View "Georgia Republican Party v. Securities & Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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An unidentified individual alleged that Doe had engaged in nonconsensual sexual activities with a female University of Kentucky student. After an investigation, a Hearing Panel found that Doe had violated the Code of Student Conduct and assessed a one-year suspension. The University Appeals Board (UAB), reversed, finding violations of Doe’s due process rights and the Code of Student Conduct because Simpson, Director of the Office of Student Conduct, withheld critical evidence and witness questions from the Panel. After a second hearing, the Panel again found Doe had violated the policy. The UAB reversed, finding due process errors, including improper partitioning of Doe and his advisors from the student, denying Doe the “supplemental proceeding” described in the Code, and ex parte communications between the student, Simpson, and the Panel. A third hearing was scheduled, but Doe sought an injunction, citing 42 U.S.C. 1983, and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, 20 U.S.C. 1681. Defendants argued that any constitutional problems would be cured in the third hearing, with new procedures. The court granted Defendants’ request that the court abstain from providing injunctive relief under Younger and held that Simpson was entitled to qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the abstention decision, reversed as to Simpson, and instructed the court to stay the case pending completion of the University proceedings. View "Doe v. University of Kentucky" on Justia Law