Friday, March 11, 2011

Northern California Daily Digest

Here are some of today's orders in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Meaux v. Northwest Airlines is an employment discrimination case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related California state laws.  In 2004, Mr. Meaux filed a claim based on a 2003 wrongful demotion and a 2004 wrongful termination.  Subsequently, Northwest filed for bankruptcy which stayed Mr. Meaux's case.  While stayed, he instituted a grievance proceeding under a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the parties.  The Northwest Airlines Flight Attendant Board of Adjustment affirmed the plaintiffs termination on June 27, 2008.  Northwest requested the bankruptcy court to reopen the case and then sought summary judgment of the claims.  The court granted summary judgment on the termination claim, but not the demotion claim.  On March 2, 2010 Mr. Meaux filed a stipulated dismissal of the remaining demotion claim, the court granted the request and entered judgment in the case.  Now, Mr. Meaux seeks to vacate that judgment, because he feels his attorney has given him bad advice.  Judge Claudia Wilken disagreed.
Plaintiff’s argument is unpersuasive. Although he now regrets dismissing some of his claims, at the time his attorney filed the motions for voluntary dismissal, he apparently concurred with his prior attorney’s analysis. Plaintiff’s prior attorney litigated Plaintiff’s claims over the course of many years. Plaintiff’svoluntary dismissal of some of his claims was not a dismissal ofhis case, but merely of one relatively minor claim againstNorthwest and claims against the peripheral union Defendants.
Plaintiff’s situation is more like that in Latshaw [v. Trainer Wortham & Co., Inc. (9th Cir. 2006)], where the Ninth Circuit held that a judgment resulting from the client’s acceptance of an offer of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68, even if based upon the attorney’s grossly negligent conduct, did not constitute grounds for Rule 60(b)(6) relief.
She denied the motion to vacate judgment.

In re the Republic of Ecuador is a request for the issuance of a subpoena for the taking of depositions and the production of documents in a foreign proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 1782.  Back in 1993, residents of Orient, Ecuador  sued Texaco in New York federal court for damages allegedly caused by Texaco's pollution of forests and rivers.  In 2001 the New York court dismissed the action for forum non conviens and the plaintiffs subsequently tried again in Ecuadorian court.  Chevron bought out Texaco and is now the defendant in the case.  The court appointed an expert to assess the damage, but Chevron complained that the expert was corrupt and his report was a fraud, so Chevron initiated a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) Arbitration with Ecuador claiming that Ecuador abused the justice system.  As proof it provided a video that shows the arbitrator discussing the contents of the report with the plaintiffs and their attorneys. (Chevron put the videos on YouTube here).

Diego Fernando Borja Sanchez (Borja) made the video (according to Chevron).  Ecuador wants to depose Mr. Borja in San Francisco and Mr. Borja would rather not be deposed since he believes this information will be used in later criminal proceedings against him and his wife in Ecuador.  Judge Charles R. Breyer stated that he is mindful of the need for a protective order, but that does not mean that Mr. Borja lacks discoverable information that Ecuador has an interest in discovering.
Even if the new evidence underscores the degree of cooperation between Ecuador and the Lago Agrio plaintiffs, it does not gainsay the relevance of the information sought to the BIT arbitration or thatfact that Ecuador is an interested party to that arbitration. To the extent Mr. Borja and Chevron argue that this evidence establishes the application is brought in bad faith, evidence of cooperation and the specter that evidence relevant and discoverable in one proceeding might be shared with an interested party in parallel or related proceedings does not constitute bad faith sufficient to deny anotherwise valid application under § 1782.
Judge Breyer denied the motion to reconsider his denial of Mr. Borja's request for a protective order.

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