Western District may nix court-annexed arbitration

The Western District of Michigan is taking comments on a proposed local court rule amendment that would eliminate court-annexed arbitration as a means of alternative dispute resolution.

Administrative Order No. 12-028 explains:

[T]his Court hereby gives notice of its consideration of amendments to Local Civil Rule 16, to eliminate reference to court-annexed arbitration.

The Court’s experience with alternative means of dispute resolution in this district shows that attorneys and clients rarely resort to court-annexed arbitration, as they prefer other methods of dispute resolution, especially voluntary facilitative mediation.

After consulting with this Court’s Standing VFM/ADR Advisory Committee, the Court has concluded that court-annexed arbitration should no longer be offered as a method of alternative dispute resolution in this district.

Send comments by April 23 to:

Tracey Cordes, Clerk
United States District Court
399 Ford Federal Building
110 Michigan, N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

The court will act on the matter at its June 2012 meeting.

Western District suspends bankruptcy lawyer

Southfield bankruptcy attorney Jeffrey David Thav has been suspended from practice for one year in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

A three-judge panel issued the suspension after concluding that Thav

failed to meet the basic practice standards of this District in failing to show up for hearings on repeated occasions and despite multiple warnings from more than one Bankruptcy Judge in this District.

Thav had been on an informal probation, designed by Bankruptcy Judge Scott Dales to address Thav’s failure to appear for scheduled hearings. The informal probation was lifted, after which Thav missed more scheduled hearings, prompting disciplinary proceedings under the Western District’s Local Rule 83.1(k).

Other matters involving Thav “illustrates an underlying practice management problem that is at the root of why the panel believes a one-year suspension is necessary.”

The panel noted Thav’s late payment of court fees.

On no less that forty-two occasions over less than ten months[,] payments from Attorney Thav’s office were significantly late, even when the fees at issue had been collected in advance from the client

Thav’s required fee disclosures “in several matters appeared inaccurate, or at least incomplete, in some material aspects,” according to the panel’s order.

The panel also noted that Thav

who lives and works outside the [Western] District[,] [had] some kind of arrangement with an attorney who lived and worked in the Western District to cover [Thav’s] hearings in the [Western] District.

It did not appear, however, that the arrangement was disclosed to or approved by the affected clients.

Thav was engaged in a multi-district bankruptcy practice but was unable to meet the Western District’s “basic practice standards,” said the panel.

A one-year suspension will give Attorney Thav an opportunity to consolidate his practice, concentrate his resources and build his legal and management skills to the point where he may well be able to handle a multi-district practice that includes … [the Western] District … .

The case is In the Matter of Attorney Jeffrey David Thav. Administrative Order 12-019.

Western District proposes local court amendments

Beginning June 1, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan will require electronic filing of civil complaints under a proposed amendment to the court’s local rules.

W.D. Mich. LCivR 5.7(c) and (d)(i) currently allow for, but do not require, electronic filing of complaints and other initial pleadings. According to Administrative Order 11-126:

Over 70% of initial pleadings are now filed electronically, and only a few attorneys are not making use of electronic filing of complaints.

The Court has concluded that electronic filing of complaints should be made mandatory for all attorneys, for cases filed on and after April 1, 2012.

Exceptions will be made on a showing of hardship or other good cause and for cases that are sealed in their entirety, such as qui tam actions.

Unrepresented litigants will continue to file their complaints — and all other documents — on paper.

Under the proposed changes, W.D. Mich. LCrimR 9 would be repealed.

Local Criminal Rule 9.1 (requiring delivery of original arrest warrants to the Marshal) is hereby REPEALED. The rule is no longer necessary, in light of W.D. Mich. LCrimR 49.10(h)(i) which allows the Court to issue and to transmit warrants in electronic form.

Under proposed W.D. Mich LCivR 5.7(d)(ii)(F) and (d)(vii), a 5 MB filing restriction would be lifted.

The Local Rules presently prohibit the electronic filing of any document over 5 MB in size.

Technological changes now allow the filer to divide such oversized documents into parts, each smaller than 5MB, for purposes of electronic filing.

The Local Criminal and Civil Rules are therefore amended to remove this restriction and to require appropriate division of oversized documents.

The Western District has tenatively approved the amendments but is seeking comments on the proposed changes.

All comments should be in writing and must be received by the Court no later than January 27, 2012. Comments should be addressed to:

Tracey Cordes, Clerk
United States District Court
399 Ford Federal Building
110 Michigan, N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

or submitted electronically to ecfhelp@miwd.uscourts.gov. The Court will consider all comments at its March 2012 meeting before promulgating a final version of the proposed rules.

Western District amends local file-sealing rule

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan has amended its local court rule regarding sealed cases.

The amendment, released yesterday, took effect Oct. 7.

Under the amended version of Local Civil Rule 83.3(c):

The court may enter an order sealing an entire civil case file only if (a) sealing is required by statute or court rule, or (b) sealing is justified by a showing of extraordinary circumstances and the absence of narrower feasible and effective alternatives (such as sealing discrete documents or redacting specific information), such that sealing an entire case file is a last resort.

Any order sealing an entire case file under ground (b) of this rule must contain specific findings justifying sealing. The order may be vacated on motion of any party or on the court’’s own motion when the reason for sealing has ended.

The former version of the rule allowed suppression of court files upon a motion from a party “for good cause shown.”

Western District Chief Judge Paul L. Maloney explains in Administrative Order 11-100 that the change was necessary to comply with a policy adopted last month by the the Judicial Conference of the United States.

The court will consider comments on the amended rule through Nov. 15, and then determine whether further amendment of the rule is needed.

Send the comments to:

Tracey Cordes
Clerk of the Court
399 Federal Bldg
110 Michigan St NW
Grand Rapids MI 49503