Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contains an interesting and nuanced option for civil defendants to settle a case. Rule 68 states in part, “At least 14 days before the date set for trial, a party defending against a claim may serve on an opposing party an offer to allow judgment on specified terms, with the costs then accrued.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 68(a). Essentially, the defendant may offer the plaintiff a settlement amount to try and end the case.
Here’s the catch for the defendant: if the plaintiff accepts the offer, judgment is entered against the defendant. Similar to a plea bargain in a criminal case, the defendant is admitting liability to avoid going to trial.
Now, here’s the catch for the plaintiff: if the plaintiff does not accept the offer and takes the case to trial and the jury awards the plaintiff an amount in damages less than the defendant’s offer or no damages at all, the plaintiff must pay for all of the defendant’s costs that were incurred after the offer.
In other words, Fed.R.Civ.P. 68(d). Rule 68 seems to be a double-edged sword when not used strategically. [click to continue…]
In an alarming video posted to YouTube this week, two St. Paul police officers violently arrested and tazed a black man who was simply waiting in the skyway to pickup his children from New Horizon’s Academy. The CityPages reports that the man is Chris Lollie; his mugshot is posted below.
Officers. M. Johnson and Bruce Schmidt filed a report that indicated Lollie had refused to leave the area; paradoxically, the report made no mention of why Lollie wasn’t allowed in the skyway. The officers inexplicably charged Lollie with three crimes, all of which were dismissed. Based on the video and the available information, a lawsuit against the officers seems highly likely.
Madia Law, who does not represent Lollie, prosecutes lawsuits against police officers in Minnesota and Wisconsin who violate the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by performing unreasonable searches and seizures, unlawful arrests, or using excessive force. Additionally, Madia Law holds government officials accountable for racism, sexism, sexual orientation discrimination, and more, by bringing suit for violations of the 14th Amendment.
See also: April 2012: Madia Law Wins Jury Trial in Federal Court for Excessive Force By St. Paul Police
See also: June 2014: Madia Law Jury Trial Verdict: Officer Violated 4th Amendment
In just a few short weeks, an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) that will provide a right to a jury trial for claims arising under that law will go into effect.
The MHRA prohibits discrimination and retaliation for opposing such discrimination in a variety of contexts, including public and private employment, housing, education, public accommodation, and more. Protected classes under the MHRA include race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, status with regarding to public assistance, sexual orientation, and age. [click to continue…]
Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act that will ensure victims of discrimination and retaliation are entitled to a jury trial. The bill, SF2322, was passed by the House and Senate in previous weeks and will go into effect on August 1, 2014.
Previously, there was uncertainty over whether a victim of workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation would receive a jury trial, and to what level the jury’s verdict was entitled to deference. Due to a legal intersection of federal, state, common, and statutory law, and depending on what claims were brought and in what venue, there were often instances were individuals who have been the target of illegal activity by their employer have only been allowed a trial by judge. [click to continue…]
It’s been a busy week for employment law and civil rights. The impact of the past week’s Supreme Court decisions on these two areas of law cannot be understated. The Voting Rights Act was gutted, killing protections put in place to prevent discrimination at the ballot box. The Civil Rights Act was substantially weakened, stripping minority employees across the country from access to Title VII remedies. And although the news for same-sex couples was brighter, the Court’s narrow decisions on that front leave much work to be done in the struggle for equality.
Wednesday, the Supreme Court released its decisions in United States v. Windsor (the “DOMA” case) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (the “Prop 8” case). These two cases each had the potential to become landmark civil rights precedent, with monumental significance for gay and lesbian Americans; they were heralded by pundits as the most important civil rights cases of our generation.
Indeed, the decision in Windsor will go down as one of the most significant decisions in Supreme Court history; it struck at the heart of DOMA and declared gay and lesbians deserving of equal protection under the law. The Court’s decision in Perry, on the other hand, will soon be brushed into the dusty corners of irrelevance; in that case, a group of five strange bedfellow Justices entirely ducked the question of whether same-sex couples are entitled to marriage equality. Thus, the struggle for gay civil rights marches on – and there is a lot of ground to cover. [click to continue…]
Today, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”), which is considered by many to be the most important civil rights law to have ever been authored by Congress. In short: the Supreme Court gutted our country’s chief mechanism for preventing the South from engaging in racially discriminatory voting practices.
From Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County v. Holder:
Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today. The Court makes no genuine attempt to engage with the massive legislative record that Congress assembled. Instead, it relies on increases in voter registration and turnout as if that were the whole story. See supra, at 18–19. Without even identifying a standard of review, the Court dismissively brushes off arguments based on “data from the record,” and declines to enter the “debat[e about] what [the] record shows.” Ante, at 20–21. One would expect more from an opinion striking at the heart of the Nation’s signal piece of civil-rights legislation.
The Court has time and again declined to upset legislation of this genre unless there was no or almost no evidence of unconstitutional action by States. See, e.g., City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U. S. 507, 530 (1997) (legislative record “mention[ed] no episodes [of the kind the legislation aimed to check] occurring in the past 40 years”). No such claim can be made about the congressional record for the 2006 VRA reauthorization. Given a record replete with examples of denial or abridgment of a paramount federal right, the Court should have left the matter where it belongs: in Congress’ bailiwick.
Instead, the Court strikes §4(b)’s coverage provision because, in its view, the provision is not based on “current conditions.” Ante, at 17. It discounts, however, that one such condition was the preclearance remedy in place in the covered jurisdictions, a remedy Congress designed both to catch discrimination before it causes harm, and to guard against return to old ways. 2006 Reauthorization §2(b)(3), (9). Volumes of evidence supported Congress’ determination that the prospect of retrogression was real. Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.
The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear ance is no longer needed. Ante, at 21–22, 23–24. With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself. The same assumption—that the problem could be solved when particular methods of voting discrim ination are identified and eliminated—was indulged and proved wrong repeatedly prior to the VRA’s enactment. Unlike prior statutes, which singled out particular tests or devices, the VRA is grounded in Congress’ recognition of the “variety and persistence” of measures designed to impair minority voting rights. Katzenbach, 383 U. S., at 311; supra, at 2. In truth, the evolution of voting discrimination into more subtle second-generation barriers is powerful evidence that a remedy as effective as preclearance remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.
Beyond question, the VRA is no ordinary legislation. It is extraordinary because Congress embarked on a mission long delayed and of extraordinary importance: to realize the purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment. For a half century, a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.
The record supporting the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA is also extraordinary. It was described by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee as “one of the most extensive considerations of any piece of legisla tion that the United States Congress has dealt with in the 271⁄2 years” he had served in the House. 152 Cong. Rec. H5143 (July 13, 2006) (statement of Rep. Sensenbrenner).
After exhaustive evidence-gathering and deliberative process, Congress reauthorized the VRA, including the coverage provision, with overwhelming bipartisan support. It was the judgment of Congress that “40 years has not been a sufficient amount of time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination following nearly 100 years of disregard for the dictates of the 15th amendment and to ensure that the right of all citizens to vote is protected as guaranteed by the Constitution.” 2006 Reauthorization §2(b)(7), 120 Stat. 577. That determination of the body empowered to enforce the Civil War Amendments “by appropriate legislation” merits this Court’s utmost respect. In my judgment, the Court errs egregiously by overriding Congress’ decision.
The Twin Cities leads the nation in racial inequality in the workplace. A study released last month by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School suggests one potential contributory reason for the inequity between black and white employees in Minneapolis and St. Paul: segregation that begins in school.
In the late 1980’s, Minnesota began allowing for open enrollment between school districts. Provided that parents provide for transportation if they elect to put their children in a school outside of their home district, they may send their children to whatever Minnesota public school district they see fit. The study results suggest, however, that racial discrimination may be one reason parents are choosing to send their children’s to different districts. [click to continue…]
As published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review, Kevin M. Clermont & Stewart J. Schwab observed that from 1979-2006, plaintiffs bringing employment law matters (discrimination, wrongful termination, etc) in federal court won only 15% of the time. When paired with the observation that plaintiffs in non job-related matters won 51% of the time, that 15% figure is stunning. Questions as to why there is such an imbalance in employment law compared to other areas of law have been the focus of many journalists, lawyers and academics. But for attorneys who represent plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases, there is one key factor worth focusing on: properly preparing a case to survive motions for dismissal, particularly summary judgement motions.
[click to continue…]
In Brown v. Board (U.S. 1954), the United States Supreme Court ordered that public schools across the nation integrate, supposedly putting an end to the segregation of schools on the basis of race. Yet, Minnesota spent the better part of the next thirty years attempting to achieve that end.
In 1964, Title VII of The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination (by covered employers) on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In light of these measures, one might expect that in 2012 matters of racial inequality would be more fully addressed. Yet, Minnesota Public Radio reported Tuesday that the Twin Cities (again) lead the nation in the gap between black and white unemployment. Read More . . .