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The joint motion only cited one 2006 unpublished 7th Circuit decision that vacated an underlying judgment because the appeal had become moot – not because a settlement was reached.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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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