Monday, November 1, 2010

Northern California Daily Digest

Here are some of the other recently decided cases in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Nelson v. Astrue is an appeal of the denial of social security disability insurance benefits.  This blog has explained the process for making a SSDI determination and the appeal analysis in U.S. District Courts here.  The ALJ agreed with a vocational expert and found that Ms. Nelson could not do overhead reaching or full-extension reaching with her left hand, but found that she could work as a ticket seller or order clerk.  Ms. Nelson argues that the Directory of Occupational  Titles (DOT) notes that both jobs require reaching.  Here, the claimant states that the ALJ failed to comply with Social Security Ruling 00-4p (SSR 004-p) by failing to provide reasons why the ALJ agreed with a vocational expert's testimony that disagreed with material in the DOT. 
Magistrate Edward M. Chen adopted a rule used in other courts that when a conflict was "arguable" and not "apparent" then there is no need to make the SSR-004p inquiry. Here the conflict was arguable because there was no indication that the reaching involved in the ticket seller position does not intuitively mean overhead reaching and that kind of reaching is not specifically described in the DOT. Judge Chen granted summary judgment for the Commissioner.

Warner v. Reiter is an appeal of a bankruptcy court decision in an adversarial proceeding of two litigants appearing pro se.  Mr. Warner is an attorney and Mr. Reiter had an attorney ghostwrite his brief.  Through a series of events, Mr. Reiter sued Mr. Warner and obtained two judgments against him, one for abuse of process and a second for attorneys' fees.  The California Court of Appeals reversed both awards and the California Supreme Court granted review of the attorneys' fees award.  While this went on, Mr. Reiter and his wife filed the underlying bankruptcy action but did not report their interest in the appellate outcome of the judgment.  Judge Richard Seeborg ruled that there was no need to report the asset if they did not reasonably believe it would result in an award.  However, he was dismayed at Mr. Reiter's counsel who ghostwrote his brief and sanctioned him $275 (the amount needed to be admitted to the bar the Northern District of California) or ordered him to seek admission to the Bar.

Ariba v. National Grid Corp. is a contract dispute over a software purchase.  In March 2009, Ariba made a presentation to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) on a piece of software and offered to sell it for $750,000. Two months later, NGCP's acting president and CEO approved the deal.  NGCP's board of directors stated 1) the CEO was not able to enter into contracts and 2) they did not want the software.  NGCP canceled the purchase and Ariba sued for the purchase price plus interest and attorney's fees as stipulated in the contract.  Interestingly, Ariba sued for damages, but at oral argument acknowledged that it wanted specific performance (that is the purchase price).  Judge Richard Seeborg stated that it was clear from the briefs that NGCP breached the contract by failing to tenure the purchase price but it was not clear what the remedy should be.  He allowed Ariba to make a supplement brief as to remedy.

Jones v. Metropolitan Life Ins. is an ERISA case where Mr. Jones sought judicial review of his denial of long term disability benefits.  During the case, the parties engaged in confidential Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), but counsel for Mr. Jones disclosed the contents of those meetings in a series of motions and declarations supporting those motions.  Metropolitan Life moved to strike these disclosures.  Mr. Jones' counsel disputed that stating that the court is without authority for striking documents based on a breach of ADR rules.  Magistrate Donna M. Ryu disagreed and stated that the court has the inherent power to strike confidential material from the record.  She then provided an extensive list of redactions for the clerk to make.

Sharma v. Freedom Investment Club is a securities fraud and breach of contract lawsuit arising from an arrangement where Sharma and others would sell foreclosed properties for a commission from Freedom Investment Club which the plaintiffs now claim they are owed. The defendants have moved to transfer the venue of the action to Utah which the plaintiffs have not opposed.  Judge James Ware granted the motion to transfer venue.

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