The 12 plaintiffs’ attorneys who were found to have abused the court system in their manipulation of a controversial class-action case maintain they didn’t do anything wrong in the handling of the case, according to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals brief filed last week by their attorney.
“Novel interpretations of law are not a proper basis for sanctions,” attorney Gregory P. Joseph of Joseph Hage Aaronson LLC of New York wrote in the 57-page brief.
He said that Chief U.S. District Court Judge P.K. Holmes III made several errors when he reached his final decision in August. Holmes reprimanded five of the attorneys, including John Goodson of Texarkana, who is the husband of a state Supreme Court justice, because Holmes found that they acted in bad faith.
The other seven plaintiffs’ attorneys who have joined in the appeal were found to have abused the judicial process, but Holmes did not sanction them because he said their misconduct did not rise to the level of bad faith.
Joseph argues that the reprimand was an abuse of discretion and that Holmes made errors in his interpretation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as they relate to class-action dismissals and settlements.
The case at the center of the matter was Adams v. United Services Automobile Association, which concerned the method used to calculate homeowners’ insurance claims. It was pending in Holmes’ court for 17 months until both sides agreed to dismiss it in June 2015.
The case was refiled the next day, with a class-action settlement agreement attached, in Polk County Circuit Court, where the settlement was approved without any questions by Circuit Judge Jerry Ryan. Holmes called the maneuver improper “forum shopping” and said he wouldn’t have approved the settlement.
Joseph argued in his filing that there was nothing improper about that dismissal from federal court. And he said that until this case, no court had ever sanctioned a voluntary dismissal stipulation because it was motivated by forum shopping.
Joseph also said the attorneys didn’t abuse the judicial process in this case. Joseph asked the 8th Circuit to reverse Holmes’ orders.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys “are subject to the stigma of the Orders and the harm flowing from them, which has been magnified by the substantial publicity in this case,” he wrote.
Joseph has asked for 30 minutes to argue his case before the 8th Circuit in St. Louis.