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Jones v. Singing River Health System

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

September 15, 2017

THOMAS JONES, et al., on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated PLAINTIFFS
v.
SINGING RIVER HEALTH SYSTEM, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER DENYING OBJECTORS' MOTION TO STAY PROCEEDINGS

          LOUIS GUIROLA, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT is the Motion to Stay Proceedings [338] filed by the Objectors in these consolidated class action lawsuits. After reviewing the Motion, the record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion to Stay Proceedings should be denied.

         DISCUSSION

         On July 27, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit entered an opinion vacating and remanding this Court's Order and Final Judgment [300] approving the settlement of these consolidated class action lawsuits. The Fifth Circuit did “not hold that the settlement should not be approved, or cannot be approved as modified, ” but remanded the case for further consideration of certain issues. Jones v. Singing River Health Servs. Found., 865 F.3d 285, 303 (5th Cir. 2017). The Objectors to the settlement filed a Petition for Rehearing En Banc, seeking reconsideration of certain findings made by the Fifth Circuit, including its determination that the release of Jackson County, Mississippi, pursuant to the proposed settlement agreement would not render the settlement agreement inadequate. On September 6, 2017, the Fifth Circuit denied the Petition for Rehearing En Banc, because “[n]o member of the panel nor judge in regular active service of the court . . . requested that the court be polled on Rehearing En Banc.” Jones v. Singing River Health Servs. Found., No. 16-60550 (5th Cir. Sept. 6, 2017). The Judgment and Mandate were issued on September 14, 2017.

         Pursuant to the Mandate and the Fifth Circuit's opinion, this Court entered an Order Scheduling a Pretrial Status Conference for September 25, 2017. The Objectors filed the present Motion to Stay Proceedings, stating “Objectors have ninety (90) days from the denial of the Petition, or until December 5, 2017, to file their Petition for Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, and aver that the certiorari petition shall present a substantial question, showing good cause for a stay in this proceeding.” No additional argument was included in the Motion and no legal authority was cited in the Motion.

         The Fifth Circuit's mandate provided this Court with jurisdiction to conduct further proceedings in this matter. See BHTT Entm't, Inc. v. Brickhouse Café & Lounge, LLC, 858 F.3d 310, 312-13 (5th Cir. 2017) (“The list of cases in which this court states unequivocally that the district court re-assumes jurisdiction once the mandate issues is long.”). The Fifth Circuit has explained:

The mandate rule requires a district court on remand to effect our mandate and to do nothing else. . . . Further, on remand the district court must implement both the letter and the spirit of the appellate court's mandate and may not disregard the explicit directives of that court. . . . In implementing the mandate, the district court must take into account the appellate court's opinion and the circumstances it embraces.

Gen. Universal Sys., Inc. v. HAL, Inc., 500 F.3d 444, 453 (5th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “It is well established that an inferior court has no power or authority to deviate from the mandate issued by an appellate court.” In re Time Warner Cable, Inc., 470 F. App'x 389, 390 (5th Cir. 2012).

         “There are two avenues by which a party may obtain a stay of a mandate: . . . 28 U.S.C. § 2101(f) and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 41(d)(2)(A).” Campbell Harrison & Dagley, L.L.P. v. Hill, No. 3:12cv4599-L, 2015 WL 3541576, at *1 (N.D. Tex. June 3, 2015). Neither of these avenues provide a means by which a district court can grant a stay of a mandate issued by a court of appeals. Even if there is a means by which a district court can grant a stay after a court of appeals has issued a mandate, the standard of review for such a motion to stay should be no less than a motion to stay filed pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 41(d)(2)(A) or 28 U.S.C. § 2101(f). Therefore, the Court will analyze the Objectors' Motion under both of these standards.

         I. Fed. R. App. P. 41(d)(2)(A)

         Fed. R. App. P. 41(d)(2)(A) provides: “A party may move to stay the mandate pending the filing of a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court. The motion must be served on all parties and must show that the certiorari petition would present a substantial question and that there is good cause for a stay.” The Fifth Circuit considers the likelihood that the Supreme Court will grant certiorari when determining whether a certiorari petition would raise a substantial question. See Scott v. Sclesinger, 498 F.2d 1093, 1095-96 (5th Cir. 1974).

         As explained previously, the Objectors should have filed their Motion for a Stay with the Fifth Circuit prior to issuance of the mandate, but they failed to do so. See Campbell Harrison & Dagley, L.L.P., 2015 WL 3541576, at *2. Even if this Court were permitted to issue a stay pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 41(d)(2)(A), the Objectors' conclusory assertion that their petition for a writ of certiorari will raise a substantial question is insufficient grounds for granting a stay. The Objectors have not stated the grounds that will be the basis for their petition, so they have not shown that the petition would present a substantial question. Nevertheless, the Court will assume that the Objectors intend to raise the following issues that were raised in their Petition for a Rehearing En Banc:

1) Was it the burden of proof on [sic] the Objectors to provide definitive legal authority holding that a Mississippi county is responsible for the debts of its “independent” entity, the absence of which resulted in the Panel dismissing the argument?
2) Did the [O]bjectors waive the objection to the unsolicited, post-hearing letter from class counsel regarding the release of Jackson County, despite properly objecting to the submission of the letter in the District Court through a Rule 59 ...

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