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Appeals Court Issues Rare Public Rebuke of Judge

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In an extraordinary public rebuke of a sitting judge for one of his decisions, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has formally apologized to the parties for the cost and delay that the judge’s action caused. The case is Calderon v IBEW Local 47.

The plaintiff started a lawsuit and served one party but initially failed to serve a second party. The judge, Manuel L. Real, issued an order to “show cause” why the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. This order was served by email, which wasn’t checked by plaintiff’s counsel, so Judge Real dismissed the case. The plaintiff then did serve the second defendant and asked that the case be reinstated, which Judge Real, without argument, refused to do.

(This isn’t the first time someone has noticed Judge Manuel L. Real.)

Here’s what the appellate court said:

1. The judge failed to give the attorney proper notice of the hearing.
2. At the time the judge issued the order to “show cause” the time for service on the second defendant had not even expired.

The court of appeals went on:

The district judge’s unseemly haste in dismissing the case, and his failure to heed the perfectly plausible (and meritorious) explanation proferred by plaintiff in his motion for reconsideration, has cost the parties significant money and delay in pursuing this wholly unnecessary appeal. Justice suffers when judges act in such an arbitrary fashion. We apologize to the parties and admonish the district judge to exercise more care and patience in the future.

Here’s the opinion.