Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Plaintiffs, Palestinians who mostly reside in the disputed West Bank territory, sued pro-Israeli American citizens and entities, including a former U.S. deputy national security advisor, claiming that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to expel all non-Jews from the territory by providing financial and construction assistance to “settlements” and that the defendants knew their conduct would result in the mass killings of Palestinians. The claims cited the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350; American-citizen plaintiffs also brought claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 102-256. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the complaint raised nonjusticiable political questions. The D.C. Circuit reversed after holding that the court correctly treated the issue as jurisdictional. The court first identified two relevant questions: Who has sovereignty over the disputed territory Are Israeli settlers committing genocide? The court then applied the Supreme Court’s “Baker" factors, concluded that the only political question concerned who has sovereignty, and held that the question is extricable because a court could rule in the plaintiffs’ favor without addressing who has sovereignty if it concluded that Israeli settlers are committing genocide. If it becomes clear at a later stage that resolving any of the claims requires a sovereignty determination, those claims can be dismissed. View "Al-Tamimi v. Adelson" on Justia Law

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Assuming the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act's immunity applies, the DC Circuit held that it leaves intact the district courts' subject-matter jurisdiction over federal criminal cases involving foreign sovereigns. The court affirmed the district court's order holding the subpoena's target, a corporation owned by a foreign sovereign, in contempt for failure to comply. In this case, the court held that there was a reasonable probability the information sought through the subpoena at issue concerned a commercial activity that caused a direct effect in the United States. The court held that the Act, even where it applies, allows courts to exercise jurisdiction over such activities and the ancillary challenges in this appeal lacked merit. View "In re: Grand Jury Subpoena" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint challenging the Committee's denial of his application to sit for the DC Bar Examination. The court held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not apply because plaintiff did not ask the district court to review and reject the Superior Court's dismissal of the state complaint; the court need not decide whether the Younger doctrine applied at the time of the district court's decision because plaintiff's state court proceedings were not currently ongoing; and the DC doctrine of res judicata did not apply because the state complaint was dismissed based on lack of jurisdiction, rather than on the merits. View "Jackson v. Office of the Mayor of the District of Columbia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his complaint, denial of his motion for leave to amend the complaint, and rejection of his motion to transfer the case to the United States Court of Federal Claims. After plaintiff served in the Marine Corps, he received an other-than-honorable discharge stemming from conduct. Plaintiff sought judicial review of the Correction Board's denial of his request to upgrade his discharge on the basis that his misconduct resulted from his mental and physical disabilities. The DC Circuit dismissed the action for want of jurisdiction because the Federal Circuit has exclusive rights over appeals from orders granting or denying the transfer of an action to the Court of Federal Claims. The court held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint, and it correctly determined that amendment to cure the jurisdictional defect would have been futile. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and dismissed in part. View "Palacios v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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While district courts generally have discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) to adjust the terms of an existing consent decree in light of changed circumstances, the issuance of a new injunction must meet the strict preconditions for such exceptional relief set out in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65. This case stemmed from a putative class action brought by a broad group of Medicaid applicants and recipients against the District. The parties eventually reached a settlement and a consent decree was issued. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and renewals under the Affordable Care Act. About a week after briefing on the preliminary injunction concluded, plaintiffs filed a motion under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) and (b)(6) to "modify" the Consent Decree to achieve precisely the same relief as the pending motion for a preliminary injunction. The district court granted the motion to modify and denied the motion for a preliminary injunction as moot. The DC Circuit held that the district court's order provided brand new relief based on brand new facts alleging violations of a new law without the requisite findings for an injunction, and thus it crossed the line from permissibly modifying into impermissibly enjoining. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment, vacated the new injunctive relief, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, seeking compensatory and punitive damages after a thirteen-year delay in receiving a jury award against the RNC. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's sua sponte dismissal of the complaint for want of federal jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The court held that, to the extent the complaint called for appeal of a District of Columbia court order issued in plaintiff's suit against the RNC, any such claim was barred by Rooker-Feldman. However, Rooker-Feldman did not bar those portions of the complaint against the Joint Committee that did not seek to appeal orders in his Superior Court suit against the RNC. In this case, neither plaintiff's claim that Superior Court administrative personnel violated his property rights by misleading him and mishandling his award, nor his claim that court administrators neglected their legal duty to make the courts accessible to persons with disabilities like his, necessarily called for the federal courts to review any state court judgment. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Croley v. Joint Committee on Judicial Administration" on Justia Law

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Liquidators petitioned for writ of mandamus to compel the DC district court's compliance with a Second Circuit mandate in an action involving claims to $6.8 million of alleged illegal proceeds from a New York bank account in the name of Kesten Development Corporation. The Second Circuit held that enforcement of Brazil's criminal forfeiture order violated the penal law rule barring United States courts from enforcing the penal laws of foreign countries. The court held that the proper standard of review in this case was the same as all mandamus cases and applied the Cheney factors. Applying the first Cheney factor, the court held that Liquidators have no right to relief and thus failed to satisfy the legal standard for obtaining mandamus. View "In Re: Trade and Commerce Bank" on Justia Law

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Commercial truck drivers and their industry association filed suit claiming that they were injured by the Department's violation of its statutory obligation to ensure the accuracy of a database containing driver-safety information. In Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016), the Supreme Court held that Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation. The DC Circuit held that, under Spokeo, the asserted injury was, by itself, insufficiently concrete to confer Article III standing to plaintiffs. However, the court reversed with respect to two drivers whose information was released to prospective employers because dissemination of inaccurate driver-safety data inflicts an injury sufficiently concrete to confer standing to seek damages. View "Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association v. DOT" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's employer failed to respond to his suit for wage underpayment, plaintiff obtained a default judgment for himself and two other employees. The district court subsequently vacated its default judgment as to the two employees because they failed to opt-in to the lawsuit, concluding that it had lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter the judgment. The DC Circuit held that the opt-in omission did not oust the district court of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held, nonetheless, that the judgment may be void for a different reason. In this case, two defendants claimed they were never served with the complaint and thus the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing on remand. View "Montes v. Janitorial Partners, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant after it attempted to collect debt from plaintiff, alleging that the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the District of Columbia Consumer Protections Procedures Act (CPPA), and the District of Columbia Debt Collection Law (DCDCL). Plaintiff eventually accepted defendant's offer of judgment regarding the FDCPA claim and the district court determined the attorney's fees to which she was entitled for this success. The DC Circuit held that Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2)(D) and 72(b)(3) foreclose the district court from using a "clearly erroneous or contrary to law" standard when evaluating a magistrate judge's proposed disposition of an attorney's fee request. The correct standard of review is de novo. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded to allow the trial judge to reconsider this matter in the first instance applying de novo review. The court affirmed as to the remaining orders challenged on appeal. View "Baylor v. Mitchell Rubenstein & Assoc." on Justia Law