There are a number of significant recent venue opinions in the past few days – significant because they’re all from different judges. The week is getting busy with hearings and hearing prep, but I wanted to start rolling out commentary, beginning with this one from Judge Mazzant in Sherman.
It’s a sad day with Jason Witten retiring from our beloved Cowboys, so I decided I had to wear the jersey to work. Which made for interesting sidewalk conversation when I asked a herd of lawyers headed past my office how they were expecting their hearing with Judge Gilstrap to go, where they were on the docket, and which pretrial motions they had rulings on already. (This time next week Law.com will probably be running a story about how homeless people in Marshall quiz visiting lawyers about federal civil procedure).
But life goes on … as it did for the parties in this case in which Judge Mazzant entered judgment for $24 million and change following a jury verdict last fall in which the jury found that there was no patent infringement but that there was a breach of contract, specifically a confidentiality agreement, and assessed $15 million in damages.
This is a patent infringement case involving medical devices that are currently in clinical trials across the country, including at sites in the Eastern District of Texas. The original motion to dismiss for improper venue was denied pre-TC Heartland. The renewed motion was denied because the issue of improper venue could not be addressed at the motion to dismiss stage because the basis for the defense depended on factual questions that could not be resolved at that stage.
But once further discovery into the infringing acts in the EDTX was conducted, at the summary judgment stage the Court could address the question of the relevance of the § 271(e)(1) safe harbor defense in determining whether venue was proper.
Some afternoons it’s not the weather than sends chills down your spine but the thought that you could have been in a party’s position in a case you’re reading. In the attached, Judge Mazzant denied a party’s motion to withdraw a party’s motion to withdraw and amend deemed admissions. The order provides a useful guide on what facts are important when you find yourself in a similar situation. Or, let’s be clear here – how not to respond to discovery requests.
Okay, maybe that’s a tad bold, but seriously – what’s not to like about an opinion that lays out jurisdictional facts and tells you when you have enough? Of course it also notes that there isn’t general personal jurisdiction, but then you already knew that, right?
Last month I mentioned a law professor of mine telling me that the thing that lawyers are most interested in learning about federal court is how to get out, hence the interest in standards for removal and remand. It turns out that’s not exactly true – they are actually even more interested in the standards for setting aside default judgments (which includes the subsidiary issue of setting aside the clerk’s entry of default. This case by Judge Mazzant is not the freshest egg in the drawer, but Westlaw apparently just decided that it needed publishing, and after all, ten months is not such a long time. So here are the standards you need if you find yourself in this very uncomfortable situation.
This is a patent case dealing with mobile antennas. Defendant filed a motion to exclude testimony from two of the Plaintiff’s experts. Judge Mazzant granted the motion in part, and in doing so set forth the relevant standards for expert testimony and answered a number of questions about whether certain types of opinions are categorically inadmissible.
On the surface, it just says it’s a ruling on a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative to transfer venue, but under that plain exterior lurks a detailed analysis of the defenses of personal jurisdiction (which is not, repeat NOT what you were taught in law school) , improper venue under the general venue statute (and how to throw it away), and a motion to transfer under Section 1404.
So while it’s not exactly everything you need to know about these motions – it’s not the Magna Charta of venue law as Judge Heartfield once (well, maybe more than once) described his magnus opus Mohamed v Mazda, it’s still a thorough and useful recitation of the applicable standards.
Many years ago when I was asked to prepare my first federal update paper, I called my federal courts professor from law school and asked him what people want to hear in a federal update. He didn’t hesitate. “Removal and remand.” Why? “Most lawyers don’t know anything about federal court and don’t want to be there. The thing they want to know is how to get out.” So it’s always good to keep a few recent decisions on motions to remand handy, in case you fall into that category. This recent opinion by Judge Mazzant fits the bill nicely, as it addresses a requirement few think about.
Defendants in this case filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on Statute of Limitations, Preemption, and Preclusion. Magistrate Judge Craven recommended that the motion be denied with two exceptions, and Judge Mazzant addressed the objections in the attached order.