• October 20, 2016
Attribution: https://goo.gl/phwGst

Attribution: https://goo.gl/phwGst

Update (October 20, 2016): Here is the Shattuck school’s response to the motion for one trial by three plaintiffs, all allegedly sexually abused by the same Shattuck teacher (I discuss plaintiffs’ motion to consolidate in the original post):

From Shattuck’s perspective, the Motion to Consolidate for Trial is a prejudicial attempt to create a montage of a single Plaintiff composed of the testimony of several. If the Motion is granted, cautionary or limiting instructions would have little to no effect as the jury blurs together facts on foreseeability, damages, and other material issues in a way that would significantly prejudice Shattuck and create a composite Plaintiff who does not exist. This is not a class-action. These are three separate cases commenced by three different Plaintiffs, each with unique testimony on his contacts with Seibel and therefore unique claims of liability and damages.

The school argues that allowing the three plaintiffs’ lawsuits to be consolidated for trial would “effectively creat[e] a single Plaintiff whose claims would be virtually impossible to defend.” That seems to me to be an unjustifiable overstatement. I do not believe it is unreasonable or unlikely to expect one jury to be able to separate and distinguish three plaintiffs’ claims. I am predicting a win for the plaintiffs’ motion to consolidate. We’ll see…

Original post (October 12, 2016): I have repeatedly described civil trial as staging a play (most recently, here) with no rehearsals and with some of the actors and stagehands (that is, one’s adversaries) determined to make the production a failure.

The judge always plays a central role, literally and figuratively, in these productions not only in the performance but in the pre-performance staging. A great many of a judge’s decisions on logistics are determined by court rules, the rules of evidence, and other written guides. But there is no way that any set of written rules can apply to the multitude of decisions required to stage a trial.

Some judges receive high praise for their expertise in conducting trials, their perfomance before trials and during them. Other judges are ridiculed or even excoriated by trial lawyers because some fail to fill the vacuum of decision-maker before trial (and/or during trial). They are absent. They dither. They are not in control. They are inexperienced or they just do not care. And, of course, other judges are accused of bias, rightly or wrongly. (These criticisms are under one’s breath or private, of course. One risks repercussions for criticism of judges, both formally and informally.)

U.S. District Court Judge Ann D. Montgomery  (D. Minn.) enjoys broad admiration and respect throughout the Minnesota bar. And she now presides over the pre-trial skirmishing in the Doe v. Shattuck-St. Mary cases…

This week, Plaintiff’s counsel has asked the Court to consolidate the three plaintiff’s cases into a single trial or, alternately, to have the first-filed case tried first. There are obvious economies in trying three cases at once. On the other hand, presumably defendant Shattuck-St. Mary would prefer to try one at a time. Civil litigators should note the plaintiffs’ lawyers techniques of making a request (consolidation) and adding a back-up proposal. That is good lawyering. It reflects candid recognition of alternatives, seems less stubborn/more reasonable, and gives judges latitude where extreme, polar, or “all or nothing” propositions push judges into corners (which they do not tend to appreciate).

Time will tell how Judge Montgomery will stage this production. Stay tuned…

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