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Ninth Circuit Reverses Harsh Dismissal of Claims, Encourages Attorney Civility 

Wow, that’s some harsh judging.

From the Ninth Circuit’s Nov. 3 decision in Ahanchian v. Xenon Pictures, Inc., which involved claims of unfair competition under the Lanham Act:

“[Plaintiff/appellant] Amir Cyrus Ahanchian’s counsel moved for a one-week extension of time to file his opposition to defendants’ summary judgment motion, citing as good cause: (1) the extremely short eight day response deadline (with three of those days falling over a federal holiday weekend) created by the combination of an unusual local rule and defendants’ litigation tactics; (2) his preplanned absence, beginning the day defendants filed the motions, in fulfillment of an out-of-state commitment; and (3) the large number of supporting exhibits attached to defendants’ motion. Defense counsel, without regard to the previous professional courtesies extended to him by Ahanchian’s counsel, vigorously opposed the extension. Despite the presence of what most reasonable jurists would regard as good cause and the absence of prejudice to anyone, [the Central District of California] denied the motion. Even so, Ahanchian’s counsel managed to file the opposition, albeit three days late, due to a calendaring mistake and computer problems, along with a motion asking that the district court accept the late-filed opposition. Five days later, the district court construed that motion as one for reconsideration under Rule 60(b), and, applying an incorrect legal standard, denied it. That same day, having plaintiff’s opposition in hand, but refusing to consider it, the district court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, failing to provide any legal reasoning or citation to law or facts. To add injury to insult, the district court awarded defense counsel $247,171.32 in attorneys’ fees.”

The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, finding the plaintiff had demonstrated “good cause” to enlarge the time for him to file his response and “excusable neglect” for failing to meet the original deadline.

The court also admonished the defendant’s counsel for not simply agreeing to extend the response deadline in the first place.

“Our adversarial system relies on attorneys to treat each other with a high degree of civility and respect,” the court said. “Where, as here, there is no indication of bad faith, prejudice, or undue delay, attorneys should not oppose reasonable requests for extensions of time brought by their adversaries.”

The case cite is Ahanchian v. Xenon Pictures, Inc., __ F.3d __, 2010 WL 4323429, Nos. 08-56667 and 08-56906 (9th Cir. Nov. 3, 2010).

Posted on November 8, 2010 by Registered CommenterMichael Atkins in | CommentsPost a Comment

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