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The joint motion only cited one 2006 unpublished 7th Circuit decision that vacated an underlying judgment because the appeal had become moot – not because a settlement was reached.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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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