9th Circuit Court of Appeals Agrees With Civil Rights Attorney, Illston's Imposed $25,000 Sanction Was Illegal

Jun 23, 2010, 13:27 ET from Law Offices of Waukeen Q. McCoy

SAN FRANCISCO, June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Civil rights attorney Waukeen McCoy received a favorable ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week, reversing Judge Susan Illston's sanctions because the District Court violated his constitutional right to due process of law.

In 2007, after a 5-year fight with FedEx, McCoy's clients - Edward Alvarado, Pernell Evans and Charlotte Boswell - received jury awards in the amount of $500,000, $975,000, and $3,000,000 respectively.  Also in 2007, McCoy achieved a $55 million settlement in a class action law suit against FedEx.

In December 2009, Judge Susan Illston, sanctioned McCoy $25,000 because she alleged "Mr. McCoy attempted to avoid rigorous scrutiny of his reported hours," claiming that McCoy submitted false time records for statutory attorney's fees.  Alvarado et al v. FedEx (3:04-cv-00098-SI)

However, on June 17, 2010, the Ninth Circuit reversed Illston's sanctions with prejudice and remanded the case back to the District Court, handing down an additional blow to FedEx.  The Court found that the sanctions imposed by Judge Ilston were "criminal in nature" because they were "intended to punish McCoy for his conduct and to vindicate the court's authority and integrity of the judicial process, not to compensate FedEx for losses sustained or to coerce McCoy into compliance with a court order."

A point of contention in the matter was whether McCoy filed false declarations of his time records, which are used in the Court's assessment of attorney's fees.  According to McCoy, it would have been impossible to submit contemporaneous time records for the three prevailing parties - Alvarado, Evans and Boswell – because the matter originated as a multi-plaintiff case in which McCoy represented 24 FedEx employees.  The majority of McCoy's legal preparation was for the group benefit as a whole rather than one plaintiff in particular.  At no time did McCoy attempt to mislead the Court by claiming that he kept contemporaneous time records.  

When one party files false declarations, the opposing party may file a Rule 11 motion to request that the Judge impose sanctions.  To challenge McCoy's time records filing, FedEx ignored this established remedy, which would have allowed McCoy to respond or correct the problem. Instead FedEx filed an Inherent Powers motion which allowed Judge Ilston to bypass the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to impose sanctions and deny McCoy his due process.  

McCoy avers that Judge Ilston maintains a personal vendetta against him.  Despite lacking customary justifications for choosing to seal documents, Ilston selectively sealed only documents related to the payments of attorneys' fees and the amount of money the class representatives received in Satchell, a related case. McCoy calls for more transparency in the Court's records so that the public can witness the District Court's abuse of power.  

SOURCE Law Offices of Waukeen Q. McCoy