In a decision issued on February 4, 2014, the Seventh Circuit examined the mootness doctrine in an appeal of the denial of a preliminary injunction that challenged a facility use policy for a war memorial. Smith v. Exec. Dir. of Ind. War Mem’l Comm’n, No. 13-1939 (7th Cir. Feb. 4, 2014). The defendants, who revised the policy at issue during the appeal, maintained that the revision had mooted the appeal.
Budinich v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 486 U.S. 196 (1988), established that a district court’s decision resolving the merits of a case is final for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and must be appealed within 30 days, even if an unresolved motion for attorney’s fees is pending in the district court. In Budinich, the source of the attorney’s fee entitlement was a state statute. Since the case was decided, the circuits have split on whether a different rule should govern a claim for attorney’s fees based on a contract, on the theory that those fees are an item of damages, bound up in the merits, so that the merits decision of the district court is not final until the fee issue is resolved. The Second, Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits held that Budinich governs contractual fee claims, while the First, Third, Fourth, Eighth, and Eleventh Circuits held that it did not.
On January 15, the Supreme Court resolved the split, unanimously ruling in Ray Haluch Gravel Co. v. Central Pension Fund, No. 12-992, that the presence of an unresolved attorney’s fee motion never deprives the district court’s merits decision of finality, so that the time to appeal runs from the entry of that decision. In other words, Budinich created a bright-line rule.
The Seventh Circuit recently issued two opinions with interesting evidentiary issues. We wrote about the multiple levels of hearsay in Jordan v. Binns, No. 11-2134 (7th Cir. Apr. 4, 2013), last week. And, this week, the court’s decision in Lees v. Carthage College, No. 11-3061 (7th Cir. Apr. 16, 2013), reversed part of a district court’s decision about the admissibility of an expert’s testimony.
To update our earlier post on this case: The Court took no action on Elmbrook School District’s cert petition in its April 15, 2013 order. The case has been relisted for the April 19, 2013 conference. You can access the Court’s docket for the case here. If the Court decides the petition this time, it will issue its decision on an Orders List released on the following Monday around 8:30 a.m. Central Time.
During its conference this Friday, April 12, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to consider Elmbrook School District’s petition for a writ of certiorari seeking reversal of a decision issued last summer by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Doe v. Elmbrook School District, 687 F.3d 840 (7th Cir. 2012). Continue reading this entry