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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In Choice Hotels International In v. Anuj Grover (ND Ind., Van Bokkelen), a 7-page opinion, Judge Easterbrook writes:

As a substantive matter, relief under Rule 60(b)(6) requires the movant to establish that “extraordinary circumstances” justify upsetting a final decision. See Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 535–38 (2005).

The district court thought these circumstances to be short of “extraordinary.” Lawyers sometimes fail to protect their clients’ interests, and the district judge observed that the remedy for legal neglect lies in a malpractice suit against the lawyer, rather than continuing the original litigation and upsetting the adversary’s legitimate expectations based on a final judgment. Litigants who choose a poor lawyer may bear the costs themselves, or shift them to the lawyer, but cannot shift them to an adversary who bore no fault for the problem. (Johnson unquestionably is a poor lawyer. The Supreme Court of Indiana suspended him from practice on March 20, 2014, less than four years after his admission to the bar, following five disciplinary complaints against him. His suspension—for failure to cooperate in the investigation of these grievances—is of indefinite duration, and he has been removed from the roll of attorneys authorized to practice in the Northern District of Indiana.)

The district court’s approach is well grounded in decisions of the Supreme Court and this circuit. * * *

The Investors recognized that Chawla was not protecting their interests, and they sensibly insisted that he find someone who would. When they began to suspect that Johnson likewise was not protecting their interests, they did not replace him. Sending him emails, and making unreturned phone calls, is no substitute for action. They readily could have consulted the docket in the litigation and learned that Johnson was not filing essential documents, but they didn’t. Johnson did not abandon the investors; he performed some legal tasks, though not enough, and responded to three of Anuj Grover’s inquiries. Unlike the attorneys in Thomas and Maples, he had not cut off all communication with his clients and walked away from the litigation. But even if we were to treat the Investors as abandoned by Johnson, still they must bear the consequences of their own inaction. They were sued and did not defend the litigation, personally or by counsel. They were able to monitor the proceedings yet did not follow through. The district judge therefore did not abuse his discretion in denying their motion for relief from judgment. AFFIRMED

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 7, 2015 01:05 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions