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Last Week at the 6th Circuit: Substantive unreasonableness, maiden voyages, and railroaded state law

No arguments at the court last week, but we received 13 published opinions and 9 unpublished opinions. Plus, as we’ll discuss later this week, one white-hot denial from en banc review that produced four separate opinions. Here’s what you may have missed: A substantively unreasonable sentence – A divided Sixth Circuit panel vacated the sentence … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Vacates Convictions Due to “Flagrant Misconduct” by Prosecutor

On Wednesday, the Sixth Circuit vacated the convictions of two defendants charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.  Although there was sufficient evidence to support their convictions, the Court held—on plain error review—that certain “remarks made by the prosecutor rose to the level of flagrant misconduct and deprived [defendants] of a fair trial.” Writing … Continue Reading

Last week at the Sixth Circuit: Suspended licenses, (Dis)honor Codes, and Re-redistricting

Showing no signs of a Kentucky Derby hangover (or any follow-on litigation, at least not yet), last week the court wrapped up arguments during the second half of its May sitting. Your quick recap: A rational basis for suspended licenses – In a blow to con-law professors and indigent drivers, a divided panel held in … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Issues Interesting Decision on Use of Representative Evidence in FLSA Collective Actions

Earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit released an interesting opinion addressing the use of representative evidence in “collective actions” brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act. As discussed below, the Court held that uniform testimony from dozens of individual employees can establish liability without the need for statistical evidence. At the same time, the decision … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Amends “Chalking” Decision to Clarify Scope

Earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit issued a decision addressing a constitutional challenge to the practice of “chalking” the tires of parked cars for parking enforcement purposes. As we noted, that decision garnered a lot of attention from the national media. Yesterday, the Court issued an amended opinion clarifying the scope of its ruling. The … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Erases Chalking of Parked Cars

It’s not often that a dispute over parking tickets ends up in federal court. But that’s exactly what happened this week in Taylor v. City of Saginaw – a case that has already drawn the attention of the national media. Taylor involved a challenge to “a common parking enforcement practice known as ‘chalking,’ whereby City parking … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Rules on Turbulent Air-Line Merger

In an opinion colored by aviation-themed puns, Judge Thapar, writing for the Sixth Circuit in Flight Options, LLC v. Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters, Local 1108, ordered airlines and pilot unions to arbitrate their long-running dispute. A few years ago, two luxury airlines merged, leading to a spate of litigation. Most recently, the airlines attempted to … Continue Reading

Split Panel of the Sixth Circuit Holds that Written Policy Trumps Company’s Actual Practices

In Stein v. hhgregg, a split panel of the Sixth Circuit held that a written policy would trump the company’s actual practices. hhGregg employs retail sales employees that are paid under a “draw-on-commission policy.” Under that policy, sales employees are paid on the basis of commissions only. If after dividing the employee’s weekly commission by … Continue Reading

Managing A Corporation Located In Michigan Can Create Personal Jurisdiction

In MAG IAS Holdings, Inc. v. Schmuckle (No. 16-1550), the Sixth Circuit issued its first published decision interpreting the reach of specific jurisdiction under Walden v. Fiore, 134 S. Ct. 1115 (2014).  The panel held that Walden stands for the idea that “an out-of-state injury to a forum resident, standing alone, cannot constitute purposeful availment” … Continue Reading

Split Panel of the Sixth Circuit Holds that Cat’s Paw Theory Applies to FMLA Retaliation Claims

Last week in Marshall v. Rawlings, a split panel of the Sixth Circuit held that the cat’s paw theory of liability applies to FMLA retaliation claims.  In Marshall, an employee was fired after using FMLA leave.  The employee sued for FMLA retaliation, ADA discrimination, FMLA interference, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The district court … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Clarifies Exhaustion Requirement in ERISA Suits

In Hitchcock v. Cumberland University 403(b) DC Plan, the Sixth Circuit decided what could be a very important case in ERISA litigation. Practitioners are familiar with the common injunction upon plaintiffs to exhaust administrative remedies before they seek relief in court, as well as the limited and narrow exceptions to that requirement. But the question … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit To Rehear Legislative Prayer Case En Banc

Last week, the Sixth Circuit granted en banc review in Bormuth v. County of Jackson, where a split panel had held that a district court had erred in rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that the prayer preceding a Michigan county’s Board of Commissioners’ monthly meeting violated the First Amendment by coercing residents to support and participate in the … Continue Reading

The Sixth Circuit Weighs in on the Phrase “Applicable Nonbankruptcy Law” Under the Bankruptcy Code

In Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County v. Hildebrand, the Sixth Circuit explains how to read the phrase “applicable nonbankruptcy law” as used in the Bankruptcy Code.  The chapter 13 individual bankruptcy case discussed the phrase in the context of 11 U.S.C. § 511(a), which provides that the appropriate interest rate for tax claims … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Rejects Commissioner’s Claim that Taxpayers Aren’t Allowed to Avoid Roth IRA Limits

In Summa Holdings, Inc. v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue, a unanimous panel reversed the judgment of a United States Tax Court and rejected the Tax Commissioner’s attempt to reclassify a series of transactions which had originally allowed two taxpayers to avoid Roth IRA contribution limits and lower their tax obligations.  The Court recognized that the … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Provides Guidance in Trademark Cases

In NetJets, Inc. v. IntelliJet Group, LLC, the Sixth Circuit offered important interpretations, regarding trademark infringement, of both federal law and Ohio common law on trademarks. In a careful and deliberate analysis that in part affirmed, reversed, and remanded the district court’s holding, the Court offered a view into what trademark holders, and alleged trademark … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit: Foster Parents Can Enforce Right to Foster Care Payments Under Federal Law

A unanimous panel of the Sixth Circuit held today in D.O., et al. v. Glisson that the Child Welfare Act creates a private right to foster-care maintenance payments enforceable by a foster parent under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.  The CWA provides for federal foster care and adoption assistance to eligible states.  To be eligible, a state … Continue Reading

The Sixth Circuit Clarifies Pleading Standards

United States ex rel. Andrew Hirt v. Walgreen Company offers an important cautionary tale for plaintiffs considering claims, or defendants facing claims, brought under the False Claims Act. But it also offers some insights regarding allegations of fraud more generally. The Sixth Circuit faced, head-on, the question of the heightened pleadings standard, and made clear … Continue Reading

Tire Company Can’t Compel Arbitration in China Under Expired Contract

Yesterday, in Linglong Americas, Inc. v. Horizon Tire, Inc., a unanimous panel of the Sixth Circuit rejected a tire manufacturer’s attempt to compel arbitration of claims in China under a contract that had already expired.  The manufacturer and its distributor had a “Collaboration Agreement” with an arbitration clause. The agreement expired in 2011 and was … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Issues Split FCA Decision in Fracking Case

In United States ex rel. Harper v. Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit interpreted the 2010 amendments to the False Claims Act (FCA) and affirmed the district court’s dismissal of relators’ qui tam action filed under the FCA’s reverse-false-claim and conversion provisions.  Relators alleged that Muskingum Watershed Conservatory District (MWCD), … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit, Enforcing Notice of Appeal Rule, Denies Challenge to $225M Auto Part Price Fixing Settlement

On Friday, the Sixth Circuit refused to overturn a $225 million settlement deal reached between end-payor plaintiffs and auto parts makers accused of price fixing. Two objectors to the deal had asked the court to review a June order by U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani granting final approval to settlement in 19 cases that … Continue Reading

Flint Water Controversy Provides Civil Procedure Lesson Under CAFA Exception

In Mason v. Lockwood, Andrews & Neuman, a split panel of the Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision to remand a class action to state court under the “local controversy” exception to the Class Action Fairness Act.  CAFA requires a court to “decline” jurisdiction over a class action that otherwise qualifies for federal court … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit: Standard For Sealing Judicial Records “Vastly More Demanding” Than For Rule 26 Protective Order

In Shane Group, Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mich., a unanimous panel of the Sixth Circuit vacated the district court’s orders sealing “most of the parties’ substantive filings” and approving a class action settlement in a price-fixing action against an insurer. In vacating the orders placing documents under seal and the settlement approval, … Continue Reading

Car Dealership That Sets Terms of Credit Must Comply With Equal Credit Opportunity Act

Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”), creditors who deny credit or change the terms of credit arrangements must notify applicants of the specific reasons why.  At issue in the Sixth Circuit’s recent decision in Tyson v. Sterling Rental, Inc. is whether a “middle man” like a car dealership is a “creditor” that must meet … Continue Reading
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