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September 2014

August 2014

Information about relatively new federal judges

If you want to research the background of a federal judge, either on a district court or on the U.S. Fifth Circuit, check out the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s web site. There, you will find oodles of public information about judicial nominees. Under the Nominations tab, select Judicial Nominations to find information about the status of recent nominees, both pending and confirmed. To find and download publicly available documents about a nominee or judge, click on the Library tab, where you’ll find the nominees’ questionnaires (their CVs for the Judiciary Committee) and answers to written questions. On both pages, you’ll find a handy Search box on the right.

The information available there appears to date back t0 2010. So if the judge you’re researching was appointed more than four or five years ago, you may not find much. But if you want to look up someone nominated or confirmed within the last few years, you’ll may hit a mother lode.


Remand to arbitrators for clarification not appealable

Here is an interesting decision on one of the finer points of federal appellate jurisdiction. In Murchison Capital Partners, L.P. v. Nuance Communications, Inc., No. 13-10852 (5th Cir. July 25, 2014), the court holds that it does not have appellate jurisdiction to review a district court’s order remanding a case to an arbitration panel for clarification. Judge Jones filed a seven-page dissent.


ERISA standard of review

In case anyone needed a reminder about the district court’s standard of review in an ERISA case, the U.S. Fifth Circuit recently drove the message home, with some harsh words for the district judge:

It apparently bears repeating here that district courts hearing complaints from disappointed ERISA plan members or their beneficiaries for the administrative denial of benefits are not sitting, as they usually are, as courts of first impression. Rather, they are serving in an appellate role. And, their latitude in that capacity is very narrowly restricted by ERISA and its regulations, as interpreted by the courts of appeals and the Supreme Court, including the oft-repeated admonition to affirm the determination of the plan administrator unless it is “arbitrary” or is not supported by at least “substantial evidence”—even if that determination is not supported by a preponderance. We had thought that by now this was understood and accepted by all district judges of this circuit. But, as this case demonstrates that we were wrong, at least as to one of them, we try yet again to drive that message home.

McCorkle v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., No. 13-30745, slip op. at 6–7 (5th Cir. July 3, 2014) (footnotes omitted, emphasis by the court). The opinion goes on to articulate the abuse-of-discretion standard of review applicable in ERISA cases. For anyone who practices in this area, it’s a must-read.