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The joint motion only cited one 2006 unpublished 7th Circuit decision that vacated an underlying judgment because the appeal had become moot – not because a settlement was reached.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. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  2. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  3. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

  4. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  5. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

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