« Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 1 today (and 2 NFP) | Main | Law - Mean girls and social media »

Friday, August 05, 2011

Ind. Decisions - One Indiana case and three other opinions of interest from the 7th Crrcuit today

In the Indiana case, Matthews-Sheets v. Comm. of Social Security (SD Ind., Lawrence), a 12-page opinion, Judge Posner writes:

After prevailing in this suit for social security disability benefits, the plaintiff asked for an award of attorney’s fees of $25,200. The district judge cut the amount down to $6,625. He thought the hours her lawyer had spent on the case excessive and sliced them from 112 or 116 (we’re about to see that it’s unclear how many hours the lawyer was seeking compensation for) to 53. Although the judge’s explanation for this drastic cut was skimpy, it was skimpy in part because he had simply adopted objections made by the Social Security Administration’s lawyer—and those objections were compelling. * * *

The judge also thought the hourly rate the lawyer was seeking—$225—excessive, and cut that down to the rate specified in the statute (the presumptive ceiling, as we’re about to see)—$125. Although the lawyer’s argument for a higher rate was weak, the judge rejected it on an improper ground. * * * That said, a fee of $125 for legal services rendered in 2009 in a social security disability appeal seems awfully low, especially when multiplied by the cut-down level of hours allowed by the district judge to yield a total fee award of $6,625. Can a contested social security case really be litigated to judgment in a district court at a cost in legal fees of so minute an amount? Even at $170 an hour the total fee award would be only $9,010. In the circumstances, as we have explained, it was not improper for the lawyer to request the cost of living increase for the first time in his reply brief. The judge’s stated reason for rejecting the enhancement— that the request was untimely—was thus invalid. His mistake in invoking forfeiture, and the meagerness of the fee award, which resulted in part from that mistake, persuade us that he should take a further look at the plaintiff’s request for a cost of living adjustment. * * *

When inflation is not a factor, the lawyer does have to show that there is something special about the particular type of case that justifies the higher fee. That special factor has not been invoked in this case.

And so on remand the plaintiff’s lawyer will have to show that without a cost of living increase that would bring the fee award up to $170 per hour, a lawyer capable of competently handling the challenge that his client mounted to the denial of social security disability benefits could not be found in the relevant geographical area to handle such a case.

Here are some snippets from the opinions in the three interesting non-Indiana cases:

Fields, et al. v. Smith, et al. (ED Wis.)

In this appeal, we are asked to review the decision of the district court invalidating a Wisconsin state statute which prohibits the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (“DOC”) from providing transgender inmates with certain medical treatments. * * *

Having determined that the district court properly held that Act 105 violates the Eighth Amendment, both on its face and as applied to plaintiffs, we need not address the district court’s alternate holding that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause.

Bd. of Regents, U. of Wis. v. Phoenix International Software (WD Wis.)
This case presents complex questions about the law of trademark and the law of sovereign immunity, as the latter applies to a state university. The contending parties are Phoenix International Software, Inc., a small software developer, and the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, which is an arm of the state of Wisconsin. Their dispute centers around two computer programs, each of which holds the registered trademark “CONDOR.” We delve into the details of the case below. For now, it is enough to say that two central issues have occupied us on appeal: first, the question whether the likelihood of confusion between Wisconsin’s CONDOR mark and Phoenix’s identical mark could be ascertained in summary judgment proceedings; and second, whether Wisconsin is entitled to immunity from Phoenix’s federal counterclaims. When we first heard this case, the panel unanimously concluded that summary judgment on the trademark dispute was inappropriate and thus further proceedings were needed, and a majority ruled that the university was entitled to immunity from Phoenix’s counterclaims. The panel granted rehearing limited to the immunity questions. We now reaffirm our ruling rejecting summary judgment; this portion of our opinion draws heavily on Judge Tinder’s original opinion. After the benefit of the arguments on rehearing, we conclude that the state is not entitled to assert sovereign immunity over the counterclaims, and so we reverse that part of the district court’s judgment as well.
Premium Plus Partners v. Goldman, Sachs & Co. (ED Ill.)
Attending a meeting at the Treasury Department on October 31, 2001, Peter J. Davis, Jr., learned that the government was suspending the sale of new 30-year bonds. The meeting ended at 9:25 AM; attendees were told that the information was embargoed until 10 AM, when the news would be announced to the public. Defying the embargo, Davis swiftly passed the information to some of his clients, including John M. Youngdahl, an economist who worked for Goldman Sachs. Youngdahl relayed the information to Goldman Sachs’s traders, who at 9:35 AM began to buy futures contracts for 30-year Treasury securities, which they expected would rise in price. (There is no perfect substitute for their risk-return combination.) At 9:43 AM the Treasury posted the news on its web site, and word spread among traders. Goldman Sachs had an eight-minute head start and reaped substantial profits. It had been right: the price did rise, the largest one-day increase in 14 years. The Treasury did not issue 30-year bonds again until February 2006.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 5, 2011 02:05 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions