Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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In this case against members of the Rhode Island Board of Bar Examiners the First Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of attorneys’ fees in favor of Plaintiff and affirmed the court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s amended complaint, holding that Plaintiff’s supposed “prevailing party” status was not justified. Plaintiff, an individual with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and anxiety, filed suit against members of the Board challenging the Board’s denial of his request for certain accommodations to assist him in taking the Rhode Island bar exam. The district court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) requiring the Board to permit Plaintiff the requested accommodations, dismissed Plaintiff’s amended complaint, and allowed Plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees. On review, the First Circuit held (1) Plaintiff’s success in gaining a TRO did not warrant an award of attorneys’ fees; and (2) the district court’s decision to allow the Board’s motion to dismiss the damage claim in the complaint was correct. View "Sinapi v. Rhode Island Board of Bar Examiners" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed as moot a school district’s challenge to the district court’s order compelling the school district to determine a student’s eligibility for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) without first obtaining its own evaluations and reversed the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees to the student’s parents, holding that the challenge to the order was moot and the attorneys’ fee award was mistaken. M.S., a student formerly enrolled in the Westerly School District in Westerly, Rhode Island, suffered from Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Plaintiffs, M.S.’s parents, unsuccessfully sought to have Westerly determine that M.S. was eligible for an IEP under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. During the dispute, the district court entered an order forcing Westerly to forego conducting its own evaluations and decide immediately if M.S. was eligible for an IEP, resulting in a determination that M.S. was not eligible. The court then awarded Plaintiffs attorneys’ fees as the prevailing parties. On appeal, the First Circuit held (1) because M.S. and Plaintiffs have since moved out of the Westerly school district, this Court lacked the power to review the order that Westerly determine M.S.’s eligibility without first conducting its own evaluations; and (2) the attorneys’ fees award was not proper because Plaintiffs were not the prevailing parties. View "J.S. v. Westerly School District" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit granted a writ of advisory mandamus sought by the Rhode Island Department of Education and Training (Department) and directed the district court to vacate its denial of a motion to quash a federal grand jury subpoena of certain Department records, holding that the District of Rhode Island erred in ruling that the attorney-client privilege is categorically unavailable to a state government in receipt of a federal grand jury subpoena. A federal grand jury sitting in the District of Rhode Island subpoenaed certain records from the Department. The Department moved to quash the subpoena to the extent it sought to compel production of documents containing confidential communications between Department staff and legal counsel. The district court denied the motion to quash, concluding that, as a categorical matter, the attorney-client privilege does not shield communications between government lawyers and their clients from a federal grand jury. The First Circuit granted the Department’s petition for a writ of advisory mandamus directing the district court to quash the subpoena, holding that this Court does not sustain the categorical rule that a state government has no attorney-client privilege that can be invoked in response to a grand jury subpoena. View "In re Grand Jury Subpoena" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court exercising its ancillary jurisdiction to enforce a resolution issue by the Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice (Secretary) directing the Municipality of Juana Diaz (Municipality) to indemnify two municipal police officers found liable under Puerto Rico tort law after a federal jury trial for using excessive force resulting in a death, holding that ancillary enforcement jurisdiction was appropriate. Appellee and other family members filed this action after the shooting death of their relative at the hands of police. The jury returned a verdict for Appellee with respect to her negligence claims against two municipal police officers in their personal capacities, and the district court entered judgment against the officers. After the Secretary issued a resolution under a Puerto Rico statute referred to as “Law 9” requiring the Municipality to pay the judgments against its officers, Appellee filed a motion requesting the garnishment of the Municipality’s assets. The district court granted the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court had jurisdiction to enforce the Secretary’s Law 9 resolution against the Municipality. View "Burgos-Yantin v. Municipality of Juana Diaz" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this contract action for lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendants in Maine, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the exercise of jurisdiction over Defendants would not comport with due process. The underlying dispute involved agreements about Defendants’ interests in an Illinois limited partnership, Elm Street Plaz Venture, LLLP. LP Solutions LLC (LPS), a Maine company, offered to buy limited interests owned by Defendants, who mostly resided in Illinois. Defendants accepted the offer and made distribution payments. When Defendants later refused to deliver partnership distributions that LPS said were assigned to it, LPS sued Defendants in Maine. The case was removed to federal district court, which determined that there was no personal jurisdiction because Defendants' contacts with Maine did not make the exercise of personal jurisdiction foreseeable. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendants could not foresee the exercise of jurisdiction. View "LP Solutions LLC v. Duchossois" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the case brought by Plaintiff seeking to have the district court address the same grievances she brought without success in the Massachusetts state courts, holding that Supreme Court case law divests federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction in such cases. A bank commenced a summary process action in the Worcester Housing Court seeking to evict Plaintiff. Plaintiff counterclaimed. The Housing Court eventually entered final judgment awarding possession of the property to the bank. Plaintiff’s appeal was unsuccessful. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a civil action against the bank in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleging wrongful foreclosure and other claims relating to the same issues she addressed in the summary process action. The district court granted the bank’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the doctrine set forth in D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983) and Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415-16 (1923), deprived the federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the district court lacked jurisdiction where Plaintiff’s federal suit sought to invalidate the antecedent state courts’ judgments. View "Klimowicz v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction against a German corporation did not offend the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, holding that on the facts of this case the exercise of jurisdiction would not violate due process. Plaintiff, a Maine corporation, sued Defendant, a German corporation, in federal district court in Maine for trademark infringement. As a basis for personal jurisdiction over Defendant, Plaintiff said that Defendant’s nationwide contacts with the United States supported specific jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(2). On prima facie review, the district court concluded that it could constitutionally exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Defendant under Rule 4(k)(2). The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff met all three requirements to establish personal jurisdiction. View "Plixer International, Inc. v. Scrutinizer GMBH" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit held that federal law requires prior FDA approval for a manufacturer of prescription eye drops to change the medication’s bottle so as to alter the amount of medication dispensed into the eye, and therefore, state law claims challenging the manufacturers’ refusal to make this change are preempted. Plaintiff sued in federal court on their own behalf and on behalf of a putative class of prescription eye solution purchasers, asserting that Defendants deliberately designed their dispensers to emit unnecessarily large drops. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants’ practice was “unfair” under Massachusetts state law and twenty-five other states and allied claims for unjust enrichment and for “money had and received.” The district court dismissed the complaint without ruling on the merits, finding that FDA regulations preempted Plaintiffs’ suit. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) changing a product bottle so as to dispense a different amount of prescription eye solution is a “major change” under 21 C.F.R. 314.70(b); and (2) therefore, Plaintiffs’ state law claims were preempted. View "Gustavsen v. Alcon Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this action filed by Plaintiffs seeking to enjoin their property’s foreclosure sale, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and the denial of Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the statute of limitations applied to the bulk of Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs obtained a loan from Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. to refinance their Massachusetts property. After Plaintiffs defaulted on their loan they initiated this action to void their transaction and enjoin their property’s foreclosure sale. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the bulk of Plaintiffs’ claims as time-barred and denied Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly found that the statute of limitations applied to the majority of Plaintiffs’ claims; and (2) the remainder of Plaintiffs’ arguments were meritless. View "Harry v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed this appeal in part for want of appellate jurisdiction and otherwise affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the underlying action asserting a claim under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350, and common-law claims for negligence and civil conspiracy, holding that this Court lacked jurisdiction to consider two of Defendant's claims on appeal. Plaintiff’s complaint premised jurisdiction both on the ATS and on diversity of citizenship. Plaintiff also invoked the district court’s supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. The district court dismissed the ATS claim for want of subject-matter jurisdiction and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. Defendant appealed. The First Circuit held (1) this Court lacked jurisdiction to consider Defendant’s request to purge certain unflattering comments from the district court’s opinion; (2) judicial estoppel barred Defendant’s argument that the district court, even after dismissing the ATS claim, had an alternative basis for federal subject-matter jurisdiction; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state-law claim; and (4) this Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Defendant’s claim that the district court erred in declining to grant his first motion to dismiss. View "Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively" on Justia Law