Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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When Joseph Morris died of mesothelioma, his family and personal representative filed suit against Foster Wheeler and others in Maryland state court. After removal to federal court, the district court granted plaintiffs' motion to remand to state court because Foster Wheeler did not make a sufficient showing that it had a colorable federal defense and that, in any event, the conduct for which it was sued was not causally connected to official authority. The Fourth Circuit reversed and held that the district court applied the wrong standard for determining removability under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1), and that Foster Wheeler met the statute's requirements. The court remanded for the district court to determine in the first instance whether Foster Wheeler's removal was timely noticed. View "Sawyer v. Foster Wheeler LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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A California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation, Abella, sought relief from the enforcement of a final class action judgment against MI Windows entered in this multidistrict litigation. The district court rejected Abella's arguments that the district court lacked authority to enjoin its prosecution of the state action against MI Windows and that Abella should not be bound by the class action judgment because of the excusable neglect of its counsel in overlooking the opt-out deadline. The Fourth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court's injunction was justified by the "relitigation exception" of the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 2283, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the neglect of Abella's counsel was not excusable. View "Abella Owners’ Ass'n v. MI Windows & Doors, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's denial of Wells Fargo's motion to set aside the bankruptcy court's order. Wells Fargo filed the motion two years after the bankruptcy court cancelled its deed of trust covering a piece of real property, and several months after the property was sold in foreclosure to a bona fide purchaser for value. The court held that Wells Fargo failed to carry its burden under FRCP 60(b) by filing its motion within a reasonable time. Even if Wells Fargo did satisfy Rule 60(b)'s threshold requirements, it still did not meet the requirements of that Rule's enumerated sections for relief. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. AMH Roman Two NC, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed in substantial part the district court's issuance of a nationwide injunction as to Section 2(c) of the challenged Second Executive Order (EO-2), holding that the reasonable observer would likely conclude EO-2's primary purpose was to exclude persons from the United States on the basis of their religious beliefs. Section 2(c) reinstated the ninety-day suspension of entry for nationals from six countries, eliminating Iraq from the list, but retaining Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Determining that the case was justiciable, the Fourth Circuit held that plaintiffs have more than plausibly alleged that EO-2's stated national security interest was provided in bad faith, as a pretext for its religious purpose. Because the facially legitimate reason offered by the government was not bona fide, the court no longer deferred to that reason and instead may look behind the challenged action. Applying the test in Lemon v. Kurtzman, the court held that the evidence in the record, viewed from the standpoint of the reasonable observer, created a compelling case that EO-2's primary purpose was religious. Then-candidate Trump's campaign statements revealed that on numerous occasions, he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his intent, if elected, to ban Muslims from the United States. President Trump and his aides have made statements that suggest EO-2's purpose was to effectuate the promised Muslim ban, and that its changes from the first executive order reflect an effort to help it survive judicial scrutiny, rather than to avoid targeting Muslims for exclusion from the United States. These statements, taken together, provide direct, specific evidence of what motivated both executive orders: President Trump's desire to exclude Muslims from the United States and his intent to effectuate the ban by targeting majority-Muslim nations instead of Muslims explicitly. Because EO-2 likely fails Lemon's purpose prong in violation of the Establishment Clause, the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim. The court also held that plaintiffs will likely suffer irreparable harm; the Government's asserted national security interests do not outweigh the harm to plaintiffs; and the public interest counsels in favor of upholding the preliminary injunction. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that a nationwide injunction was necessary to provide complete relief, but erred in issuing an injunction against the President himself. View "International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The United States filed an application for prejudgment remedies under the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act (FDCPA), 28 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., seeking writs of attachment against personal and real property owned by defendants and writs of garnishment against bank accounts totaling approximately $16.7 million. The government argued that, because defendants violated the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b, and the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., defendants owed the United States at least $298 million. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's denial of their motions to quash the writs of attachment against real and personal property and writs of garnishment against two bank accounts. The court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the denial was an unreviewable interlocutory order. View "Bluewave Healthcare v. United States" on Justia Law

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Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg filed suit, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that Bishop Mark J. Lawrence violated the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., by falsely advertising himself to be the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. The district court applied Brillhart v. Excess Insurance Co. of America and Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., abstaining in favor of related state court proceedings. The court vacated on appeal, concluding that Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, not Brillhart and Wilton, governs abstention decisions in actions where the plaintiff seeks both declaratory and nondeclaratory relief. On remand, the district court again abstained. The court concluded that, because the state and federal cases involve different parties and different claims, the district court abused its discretion under Colorado River by abstaining in favor of the state court proceedings. Accordingly, the court vacated the abstention order and remanded for further proceedings. View "vonRosenberg v. Lawrence" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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In these consolidated appeals, veterans who received medical treatment and health care at the Dorn VAMC, filed separate actions against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Dorn VAMC officials, alleging violations of the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552(a) et seq., and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701 et seq. Plaintiffs sought to establish Article III standing based on the harm from the increased risk of future identity theft and the cost of measures to protect against it. The district court dismissed based on lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal, concluding that plaintiffs failed to establish a non-speculative, imminent injury-in-fact for purposes of Article III standing. View "Beck v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, landowners, filed suit in state court seeking a declaration of their rights to build a dock on property subject to a flowage easement. The power company, owner of the easement, removed to federal court. The district court denied plaintiffs' motion to remand to state court and dismissed the complaint. The court concluded that this controversy does not necessarily raise a federal question; this case does not necessarily raise any federal issue; no federal question in this case is actually disputed where this case presents solely a dispute as to state property law; and any federal interest in interpreting the flowage easement is not substantial and that asserting federal jurisdiction over cases like this would disrupt the congressionally approved federal-state balance. Therefore, the court concluded that 28 U.S.C. 1331 provides no basis for federal jurisdiction over this case. Because this case does not “arise under” federal law for purposes of federal question jurisdiction under section 1331, there is no basis for exclusive jurisdiction under 16 U.S.C. 825p. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment and remanded. View "Pressl v. Appalachian Power Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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CIT obtained a judgment against defendant in the Eastern District of Virginia. Under Virginia law, that judgment remained viable for 20 years. Roughly 10 years after the judgment had been entered, on August 27, 2003, CIT registered the judgment in the District of Maryland pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1963. Under Maryland law, made relevant by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 69(a), judgments expire 12 years after entry. After CIT sold the judgment to Wells Fargo, Wells Fargo began collection efforts in April 2015. The district court concluded that the time limitation for enforcement of the judgment began with the date of its registration in Maryland, on August 27, 2003, and that therefore it was still enforceable against defendant. The court held that the registration of the Virginia district court judgment in the District of Maryland at a time when the judgment was not time-barred by Virginia law functions as a new judgment in the District of Maryland, and Maryland’s 12-year limitations period for enforcement on the judgment begins running from the date of registration. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Wells Fargo Equipment Finance v. Asterbadi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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On March 8, 2012, as high school students were being released from school, Officer Church received a call for back-up and arrived to find juveniles running through the streets. Officer Jackson was struggling to arrest one of them. Smith was standing outside of her car with her phone up as if videotaping. Officer Church, over 50 feet away, yelled, “Ma’am, pull your car to the side or keep on going.” Smith replied, “I’m not going to let you hurt that young boy. I ain’t moving.” Church moved closer, told her this was a traffic stop, and asked for her license. Smith “ran back into her car.” A struggle ensued. The parties disagree about the details. Church arrested Smith. The charges were eventually dropped. Smith sued the police department and officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983. At trial, the court allowed defense counsel to elicit testimony that Smith had been arrested three times before. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the officers on all counts. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded, finding Smith’s prior arrests not relevant to her claim for damages, which was the sole reason the court admitted them, and that any probative value of those arrests was far outweighed by prejudice to Smith, in violation of Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). View "Smith v. Baltimore City Police Department" on Justia Law