Seventh Circuit Notes Split Re Limiting An Appeal to Monetary Sanctions

Per Seymour v. Hug, --- F.3d ----, 2007 WL 1287513 (May 03, 2007):

The “general rule [is] that a nonparty cannot challenge on appeal the rulings of a district court.” Gautreaux v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 475 F.3d 845, 850 (7th Cir.2007) (citing Marino v. Ortiz, 484 U.S. 301, 304 (1988) (per curiam); B.H. ex rel. Pierce v. Murphy, 984 F.2d 196, 199 (7th Cir.1993)). We have recognized that an attorney can bring an appeal on her own behalf when challenging a district court decision imposing monetary sanctions on the attorney, but this rule does not allow an appeal of otherwise critical comments by the district court when no monetary sanctions have been imposed. Crews & Assoc., Inc. v. United States, 458 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir.2006); Clark Equip. Co. v. Lift Parts Mfg. Co. Inc., 972 F.2d 817, 820 (7th Cir.1992) (citing Bolte v. Home Ins. Co., 744 F.2d 572, 573 (7th Cir.1984)). Judge Cole has not imposed a monetary sanction on Ms. Matlaw in this case and therefore she cannot base her appeal on the alleged damage to her professional reputation regardless of how harmful Judge Cole's comments might have been.

Ms. Matlaw notes that our position of limiting an appeal to monetary sanctions conflicts with the positions taken by other circuits. We recognize that other circuits allow appeals involving critical comments but those circuits have split among themselves over whether the district court must formally sanction the attorney to allow the appeal or whether critical comments by themselves, without a formal sanction, are sufficient for an appeal. See Bowers v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 475 F.3d 524, 542-44 (3d Cir.2007); Bulter v. Biocore Med. Tech., Inc., 348 F.3d 1163, 1166-69 (10th Cir.2003); Precision Specialty Metals, Inc. v. United States, 315 F.3d 1346, 1350-53 (Fed.Cir.2003); In re Williams, 156 F.3d 86 (1st Cir.1998) (discussing the positions of the various circuits in this area of law).

We reaffirm our decision that it is appropriate to limit an appeal to situations involving monetary sanction only. This limitation on our jurisdiction is based on the realization that allowing appeals by those allegedly harmed by a judge's comments, including “[l]awyers, witnesses, victorious parties, victims, [and] bystanders” would result in a “breathtaking expansion in appellate jurisdiction.”


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