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Federal Bar Update: Northern District order changes judicial assignments

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FedBarMaley-sigThe Northern District of Indiana has implemented new protocols for assignment of cases to judges, both for certain pending cases and for newly filed cases. Specifically, the court issued General Order No. 2017-4 in late March, effective May 1.

Newly filed cases — The order provides that “all civil cases filed in the Northern District of Indiana shall be randomly assigned to a United States district judge then resident in the division in which the case is filed, with one exception: Judge Philip P. Simon will be treated as a judge sitting in the South Bend Division. As there is no resident judge currently in Lafayette, all civil cases filed in the Lafayette courthouse shall be randomly assigned to a district judge located in Hammond.”

The order then sets forth, “Except as hereinafter provided, civil cases filed in Fort Wayne will be assigned to Judge William C. Lee or Judge Theresa L. Springmann. Civil cases filed in Hammond and Lafayette will be assigned to Judge James T. Moody, Judge Rudy Lozano or Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen. Civil cases filed in South Bend will be assigned to Judge Jon E. DeGuilio, Judge Philip P. Simon or Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr.”

Senior judges — As for senior judges (Judges William Lee, Rudy Lozano, Robert Miller and James Moody), the order provides that each “senior judge shall receive a percentage of the total number of cases assigned to an active judge. The percentage of any senior judge’s caseload is subject to change and shall be based upon the judge’s annual request for certification under the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, 28 U.S.C. § 371, the Judicial Conference rules implementing § 371, see Guide to Judiciary Policies and Procedures, Vol. 12, § 620.45, and the Seventh Circuit Guidelines to Determine the Staffing Requirements of Senior and Recalled Judges.”

The order then delineates that Judge Moody “will share in a combined civil and criminal caseload equal to 50% of the total number of cases assigned to an active judge,” but will not be assigned certain enumerated case types (e.g., class actions). Judge Lee will share in civil caseload equal to 50 percent of the total number of cases assigned to an active judge with the same exceptions. Judge Lozano will continue to share in a full civil caseload, but will not be assigned the same enumerated case types as Judge Moody and Judge Lee. Judge Miller will share in a civil caseload equal to 50 percent of the total number of cases assigned an active judge, but will not be assigned environmental actions.

Reassigned cases — Many counsel with civil cases in the Northern District of Indiana recently received orders reassigning cases from one district judge to another. Although not expressly part of the new standing order, the court’s transmittal notice to counsel explains, “Pending cases in which the discovery period has not concluded will be transferred to a district judge sitting in the filing division, unless the presiding judge feels there is a reason the case should not be transferred.”

Magistrate Judge Cherry — Finally, the notice to counsel with the general order discusses Magistrate Judge Cherry’s assignments, stating, “Given the significant caseload in Fort Wayne, Magistrate Judge Paul R. Cherry, as of May 1, will begin sharing in civil and criminal magistrate judge responsibilities in the Fort Wayne Division and will no longer be assigned to new cases in the Hammond Division. Magistrate Judge Cherry will retain all of his pending civil cases.”

Appellate attorney fees — For those seeking or resisting attorney fees on appeal, Judge Richard Posner’s opinion in Prather v. Sun Life and Health Ins. Co., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5898 (March 30, 2017), is a must read. An ERISA case in which appellate fees were deemed to be recoverable, the 7th Circuit (Posner, Wood, Williams) ruled that the claimed $37,170 in appellate attorney fees was almost $7,000 too high.

The panel wrote: “It remains to consider Sun Life’s challenge to the amount of the award of attorneys’ fees ($37,170). We are persuaded by its argument that 3.6 hours of the attorney’s work should be subtracted because they were hours devoted to simple administrative tasks such as preparing the table of contents and appendix of the brief, and formatting the brief; 4.4 hours incurred by failing to delegate portions of the research, drafting, and editing of the brief to a more junior attorney; and 2 hours for preparation for oral argument, which was too much time given the lawyer’s experience in arguing in the courts of appeals. The result of these adjustments is to reduce the number of hours on which the $37,170 fee award is based from 59 to 49, yielding (with a further adjustment, reducing the attorney’s billing rate from $630 to $620, on the ground that the $630 rate reflected an excessive rate increase of 5 percent from his hourly rate of $600 in 2015) a total fee award of $30,380 — which is the amount we award the plaintiff.”•

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John Maley (jmaley@btlaw.com) is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg LLP, practicing federal and state litigation, employment matters, and appeals. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. The voices of the prophets are more on blogs than subway walls these days, Dawn. Here is the voice of one calling out in the wilderness ... against a corrupted judiciary ... that remains corrupt a decade and a half later ... due to, so sadly, the acquiescence of good judges unwilling to shake the forest ... for fear that is not faith .. http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/2013/09/prof-alan-dershowitz-on-indiana.html

  2. So I purchased a vehicle cash from the lot on West Washington in Feb 2017. Since then I found it the vehicle had been declared a total loss and had sat in a salvage yard due to fire. My title does not show any of that. I also have had to put thousands of dollars into repairs because it was not a solid vehicle like they stated. I need to find out how to contact the lawyers on this lawsuit.

  3. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  4. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  5. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

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