Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On whether a motion to remand is dispositive

In Deskins v. Consol Energy, Inc., Judge Jones sustained the Defendant's objections to the recommendations of the Magistrate Judge on whether to grant the Plaintiffs' motion to remand the case to state court. It happens sometimes, but rarely - that the District Judge and the Magistrate Judge disagree on the application of the law.

Interestingly, some district courts (but no appeals courts) have held that a remand motion is not a dispositive motion, in the sense that a Magistrate Judge has the power to decide it directly, instead of merely making a report and recommendations. See Peter J. Gallagher, IN SEARCH OF A DISPOSITIVE ANSWER ON WHETHER REMAND IS DISPOSITIVE, Seton Hall Circuit Review, Volume 5, Number 2, Spring 2009, 303. As Mr. Gallagher wrote, "Nearly every district court has treated remand as nondispositive and thus within the scope of this authority, but all four circuit courts that have confronted the issue have deemed remand dispositive and thus beyond the scope of a magistrate's authority. Although seemingly trivial, the difference is significant because district courts review magistrate judges' findings on dispositive motions under a de novo standard, while nondispositive motions receive the less stringent review only for clear error of law."

On not getting costs

In perhaps the last opinion from the hard-fought case of Musick v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Judge Jones denied the Defendant's request for costs, citing the plaintiff's family's inability to pay, and relying on its prior decision in Crusenberry v. Boddie-Noell Enterprises, Inc.

In a footnote, the Court considered whether it was improper for defense counsel having won the case in the trial court to propose that the defendant would not seek its costs if the plaintiff agreed not to appeal, and concluded in the circumstances that there was nothing wrong with such an offer, even though the Court declined to award costs. I was glad to read this, having done the same thing myself a time or two.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Musical chairs in the 28th Circuit

Last night in Marion, almost a dozen lawyers spoke at a meeting of the Smyth County Bar, seeking endorsements for either the Juvenile Court position being vacated by the retirement of Judge Charles Lincoln, or the General District Court position that would become vacant if Judge Sage Johnson, who has just been reappointed, is selected to fill the position of retiring Circuit Court Judge Larry Kirksey. Just over the horizon are the retirements of District Judge Joseph Tate and Circuit Judge Isaac Freeman, in 2013.

The candidates included among others Melissa Carico, Adrian White, David Hutton, Eric Thiessen, Helen Phillips, Larry Harley, Kurt Pomrenke, Mike Bishop, Mark Haugh, and our own Lucas Hobbs. Jeff Campbell is a candidate but not seeking endorsements and Blake McKinney sent in a resume. It was interesting to listen to the philosophical ruminations of many good friends.