In U.S. ex rel. Little v. Shell Exploration & Production Co., 14-20156 (5th Cir. Feb. 23, 2015) (unpublished), the Fifth Circuit not only reversed a summary judgment, but also ordered that, on remand, the case be reassigned to a different district judge. Why? Here is the sequence of events in a nutshell:
- The district court rendered summary judgment in defendants’ favor.
- On appeal, the Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the district court applied the wrong legal standard. The Fifth Circuit remanded with instructions for the district court to apply the correct legal standard.
- A year later, the district court again rendered summary judgment in defendants’ favor, apparently applying the same legal standard that the Fifth Circuit had rejected. The Fifth Circuit concluded that, in rendering this judgment, the district court disregarded the Fifth Circuit's instructions on remand.
Starting at page 25, the decision includes a survey of caselaw enunciating various standards applied by circuit courts in deciding whether to reassign a case to a different judge on remand. So this decision is worth tucking away for future reference in case you ever find yourself in need of similar relief.