Seventh Circuit Notes Split Re Limiting Appeal of Critical Comments by Court when No Monetary Sanctions Have Been Imposed

Per Seymour v. Hug, 485 F.3d 926 (7th Cir. 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, 108 S.Ct. 586, 98 L.Ed.2d 629 (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); Butler 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.” Bolte, 744 F.2d at 573; see also Hoagland ex rel. Midwest Transit, Inc. v. Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard, P.C., 385 F.3d 737, 740 (7th Cir.2004)


At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Leslie V. Matlaw said...

Professor Spencer, a Petition for Certiorari for review of the Seventh Circuit's Decision in Seymour v. Hug et al (Appeal of Matlaw) was filed and docketed by the Supreme Court as #07-121 on August 1, 2007. Defendants below submitted a Brief in Opposition, but it has not yet been docketed and appears not to be Rule-compliant.

The Supreme Court's site only posts Questions Presented for already-Accepted and Noted cases. My own website and Blogspot can't add a PDF of this size, so until I find a way to establish a link to the Petition, interested folks can email [send_2_leslie@hotmail.com]; a printer-friendly version (34 pages; easy 2-sided printout) is available as well as the complete (694 KB / 142 pages) Petition and Appendix.

The question presented is:

Petitioner is an attorney licensed to practice before all state
Courts of Illinois, the General and Trial Bars of the United
States District Court for Northern District of Illinois, and
before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In representing
a Fair Housing Act Plaintiff, Petitioner was found to have
engaged in misconduct, as set forth in published Orders of
the District Court (which nevertheless imposed no monetary
sanctions). On appeal to the Seventh Circuit, jurisdiction was
found to be lacking under 28 U.S.C. §1291 for Petitioner’s
claims of injury, consistent with its previous rulings in Bolte
v. Home Insurance Co., 744 F.2d 572 (7th Cir. 1984) and
Clark Equipment Co. v. Lift Parts Manufacturing Co., 972
F.2d 817 (7th Cir. 1992). The Seventh Circuit is the only
federal Court of Appeals to maintain that jurisdiction over
such claims is never conferred by 28 U.S.C. §1291; to date,
every other Circuit which has construed this issue allows
attorneys to appeal published findings of wrongdoing, either
always or under certain enumerated circumstances, such as
those presented here.

Thus, in this context, this Petition presents the following
questions: may an attorney appeal on her own behalf a
District Court ruling which explicitly finds misconduct
and harms her professional reputation, even though no
monetary sanctions were imposed, and if so, under what

My Website [www.fairhousinglaw.net] and Blog [http://fairhousinglawnet.blogspot.com] are both regularly "under construction" but contain further information.

Thank you for noting the Circuit Split presented by this case. Sincerely, Leslie V. Matlaw

At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 7th Circuit states "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.”

However this assertion is clearly contrary to existing empirical evidence. There as been very few such cases brought in other circuits over the last thirty years. As Matlaw argued in her cert petition, the cost of pursuing such an action in a court of appeals is sufficient to deter all but the most determined individuals.


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