Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Northern California Courts rule in Enforcement Actions

Michaelangelo's Last Judgment
photo courtesy of Bob Swain.
There are a small group of interesting actions that occur away from the primary litigation in the case.  Here are some recent cases on these enforcement actions.

In re One Vision Park, Inc. is a bankruptcy case where Michael Ohayon and Ohayon LLC are claiming administrative priority for a "finder's fee" for selling some of the property of the estate.  Mr. Ohayon, however, never sought court permission for the finder's fee.  The court denied the request for priority and declined to reconsider the matter.  Now, Mr. Ohayon wants to stay the appeal to resolve this issue.  Judge Thomas E. Carlson stated that one element for a stay is "a likelihood of success on the merits" here it does not appear like Mr. Ohayon or his LLC will prevail since they did not seek court approval of the administrative priority.  He denied the motion for a stay pending appeal.

Ryan v. Editions Limited West is a copyright infringement suit where the defendant is now seeking attorneys fees.  Ms. Ryan allowed Editions Limited West to make copies of her artwork as posters in a 1995 contract.  By 2005, Ms. Ryan felt that Editions Limited West was in breach of the contract by selling her art in an unauthorized manner.  She then told ELW to cease and desist selling her art. In August 2006 she sued for copyright infringement, breach of contract and other matters.  After four summary judgment motions, ELW prevailed in the action and moved for attorney fees under both the Copyright Act and the language of the contract.  Notably, after the first summary judgment motion in December 2007 the court ruled that even if Ms. Ryan prevailed her damages were limited to $1.72.  For some reason, she continued in the action for a year and a half.  Magistrate Patricia V. Trumball found that attorneys fees were available and awarded a judgment against Ms. Ryan in the amount of $124,102.50

USA v. $57,890 is a forfeiture action. Unlike criminal proceedings, which require due process before property can be confiscated, in civil forfeiture proceedings the action is against the property itself.  Here, a Sonoma County judge issued a search warrant for four properties that were suspected of being involved in marijuana trafficking from Mexico.  The searches found 32 pounds of marijuana and the currency which is subject to the current action.  The government informed the property owners of the pending seizure and informed them of their opportunity to contest the seizure.  Judge William Alsup found that the government adequately complied with the forfeiture proceedings and granted judgment for the government.

Universal Trading and Investment Co v. Kirtchenko seems to be a conversion case.  UTI claims that the defendants own money to the nation of Ukraine which it is permitted to collect.  UTI moved to attach the defendant's property pending judgment and posted two bonds on its own accord.  The defendants moved for summary judgment stating that UTI could not establish standing to pursue the action.  Now, the defendants are moving to attach the assets in the bonds for wrongful attachment.  Judge Maine M.Chesney granted the motion for the full value of the bonds stating:
As defendants note, the case was actively litigated over the course of more than eight years before summary judgment ultimately was entered in defendants’ favor.The Clerk’s docket, as of the time the instant motion was filed, comprised 1862 entries.All parties are represented by experienced counsel.There can be no question that the fees and costs incurred by defendants in defending against UTI’s claims far exceed the $47,500 sought by the instant motion.Indeed, defendants’ characterization of such recovery as a “drop in the bucket” (see Mot. at 6:1) cannot be discounted as hyperbole.

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