Court holds up settlement

July 30, 2008
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Even though the parties involved in litigation of a wrongful imprisonment suit want to settle after a jury already announced its award, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to throw out the jury award to clear the way for the settlement.

Larry Mayes was convicted and sent to prison in 1980 for a rape that he was later cleared from committing based on DNA evidence. Mayes filed a suit in 2006 against the Hammond Police Department, which allegedly fudged the evidence in order to send Mayes to prison. Mayes won the suit, and a jury awarded him $9 million.

The City of Hammond and Mayes’ attorneys have since agreed to settle the case out of court for half that amount. The catch? The parties can’t settle unless there is an order vacating the jury verdict and the judgment from the 7th Circuit.

The 7th Circuit denied a joint motion July 15 to vacate the jury verdict and judgment and remanded to the U.S. District Court to determine and inform the federal appellate court if the District Court is inclined to vacate the judgment and jury verdict. The 7th Circuit has taken a firm position of denying motions to vacate opinion and judgment of a District Court decision on a condition of settlement on appeal.

In an opinion and order issued July 29, Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry from the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, denied making a decision on whether the District Court would throw out the jury award.

The joint motion only cited one 2006 unpublished 7th Circuit decision that vacated an underlying judgment because the appeal had become moot – not because a settlement was reached.

Magistrate Judge Cherry ordered the parties to file a joint brief on or before Aug. 8 setting forth the laws and facts necessary for the District Court to tell the 7th Circuit whether or not it is inclined to vacate the jury verdict and judgment in the case as a condition of settlement. He encouraged the parties to fully brief the issue of vacatur and not to limit themselves to the issues raised by the District Court in the order.

What do you think? Should settlement be a valid reason for tossing out a jury award and verdict or should parties have to meet “extraordinary circumstances” standards for vacatur as a condition of settlement on appeal, as defined in U.S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall Partnership, 513 U.S. 18, 29 (1994).
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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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