Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Northern California Daily Digest

The Presidio courtesy of
the National Park Service
Here are some of the other cases going on in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Coalition for ICANN Transparency v. Verisign is an antitrust case.  The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit established by the Department of Commerce to administer the domain name program on the Department's behalf. The Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) is a group of web domain owners that have an interest in the fair operation of the domain name system.  Verisign is the sole operator of the .com and .net domain name registries which it operates pursuant to a contract with ICANN.  In the present action CFIT is struggling to show that it has association standing.  Judge Ronald M. Whyte explained:
The court cannot find that the [Third Amended Complaint] TAC properly alleges standing. Unlike the [Second Amended Complaint] SAC, nothing in the TAC connects financial supporters of CFIT's litigation efforts to membership in CFIT for purposes of finding associational standing. The TAC never alleges that financial supporters are members of CFIT, and it provides no facts that would allow a connection to be drawn between financial supporters and members of CFIT. By failing to identify its purported members, CFIT has made it impossible to determine whether the members are participants in the alleged relevant markets, or whether they have suffered antitrust injury. Because the TAC identifies no members of CFIT, it must be dismissed.
Judge Whyte dismissed the complaint with leave to amend.

Madrigal v. Astrue is an appeal of the commissioner's denial of benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.  Mr. Madrigal raises an interesting issue on appeal that the ALJ failed to follow the instructions of the Social Security appeals counsel on remand.  In particular the ALJ used information from an application for Title II benefits from a denied 1999 decision.  Judge Richard Seeborg explained this is fine.
The ALJ correctly emphasized at the outset of his opinion that any reference to Madrigal’s medical records from outside the relevant period was made only to provide background information and give a clearer picture of Madrigal’s impairments and complaints. See, e.g., Cox v. Barnhart, (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Pyland v. Apfel, (8th Cir. 1998)) (explaining that “[e]vidence from outside theinsured period can be used in ‘helping to elucidate a medical condition during the time for which benefits might be rewarded.’”).
Judge Seeborg affirmed the ALJ's decision.

Rudwall v. Blackrock, Inc. is an employment discrimination case.  Mr. Rudwall claims that he was chosen for termination from Blackrock during a reduction in force because of his age and points to some statements his supervisor made in 2001.  Perhaps strangely, the FEHA claims failed, but the good faith and fair dealing claim survived summary judgment.  Judge Thelton Henderson explained:
BlackRock challenges Rudwall’s second claim for relief for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing on the grounds that it duplicates Rudwall’s second claim for relief for breach of contract. BlackRock cites Careau & Company v. Security Pacific Business Credit, Inc. [Cal. 1990], which states that
[i]f the allegations do not go beyond the statement of a merecontract breach and, relying on the same alleged acts, simply seek the same damages or other relief already claimed in acompanion contract cause of action, they may be disregarded a superfluous as no additional claim is actually stated. Thus, absentthose limited cases where a breach of a consensual contract termis not claimed or alleged, the only justification for asserting aseparate cause of action for breach of the implied covenant is toobtain a tort recovery.
According to Rudwall, both claims survive here because they do not rely on the same acts – the breach of the covenant claim is based upon the allegation that BlackRock wrongfully terminated Rudwall to avoid payinghim a bonus in 2008, and his breach of contract claim is based upon the allegation that BlackRock did not pay Rudwall a bonus in 2008. The Court agrees. Whether Rudwall seeks identical relief under these claims is irrelevant under Careau where, as here, the claims challenge separate conduct. In BlackRock’s reply, the company argues that Rudwall has produced no evidence that the reason BlackRock terminated Rudwall was to avoid paying him a bonus. That may be true, but because this argument was made for the first time in BlackRock’s reply, Rudwall was not afforded an opportunity to respond with citations toevidence in the record.
Therefore, Judge Henderson denied summary judgment on the contract claims.

USA v. CalTrans is the rare case that deals with interpretation of an agreement between a state and the federal government.  This case involves a 1938 agreement between CalTrans and the federal government, where California would obtain a right of way to build a highway over the Presidio in San Francisco (pictured above).  California did not pay for the right of way (which now is Park Presidio Highway) near Mountain Lake (pictured below), rather it contained a number of terms and conditions.  Subsequently the Department of War transferred the Presidio to the Department of the Army and then to the Secretary of the Interior.  Congress then created a trust for the Presidio which determined that Mountain Lake has been contaminated with lead, copper and zinc from the runoff from a poorly maintained drainage system of Park Presidio Boulevard. The trust sought damages from the United States to clean the lake and the government sought idemnification from CalTrans based on the 1938 agreement.  Judge Hamilton agreed:
Pursuant to ¶ 15 of the 1938 Permit, CalTrans is required to “construct such culverts or other drainage facilities, as, inthe opinion of the Secretary of War, or his authorized representative, shall be or become necessary to the proper use of the reservation by reason of the construction of such road.”  The United States having determined that the present overflow pipeline is damaged andrequires replacement (or repair), CalTrans is liable pursuant to ¶ 20 of the Agreement forthe costs of such replacement (or repair).
She granted the government's motion for summary judgment.


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