Thursday, June 18, 2009

The McZeal case: the CAFC can't get no respect

Within the MCZEAL v. SPRINT case, the CAFC discusses a district court's treatment of an earlier CAFC ruling:

The district court discussed our decision to vacate and remand this case, stating
at oral argument on December 4, 2007: “I’m actually comfortable simply holding the
same way I held last time”; “‘Their writ,’ to quote a 1920s lawyer, does not run to the
rational faculties”; and “this is absurd.”

The CAFC also wrote:

The district court dismissed the case for failure to
state a claim and for want of prosecution. At the hearing, the district judge stated,
“Because I was obliged by a gross error in the Court of Appeals to readdress the case, I
did. I asked you to do a few fairly straightforward, simple things that would have helped
Sprint understand what you thought you were doing, and Sprint sent you the stuff I
asked it to.”

The first sentence of the CAFC discussion:

The district court improperly dismissed for failure to state a claim, explicitly
disregarding our prior mandate in this case.

A claim chart was at issue:

When the district judge initially ordered McZeal to provide the claim chart, stating
“you have the opportunity to explain precisely what it is in your patent that has been
violated by this particular defendant,” he also warned McZeal that failure to comply
would result in dismissal. Initially the district judge told McZeal to produce the chart in
one month, but after listening to complaint by McZeal the district judge then gave
McZeal three months to comply.

For justification for claim charts, the CAFC cited FIRST to the rules of ED Tx [!]:

See, e.g., Eastern District of Texas Patent Rule 3-1 (available at; Northern District of
California Patent Rule 3-1 (available at; Northern District
of Georgia Rules LPR 3.1, 4.1, 4.4 (available at
NDGARulesPatent.pdf); see also O2 Micro Int’l Ltd. v. Monolithic Power Sys., Inc., 467
F.3d 1355, 1364–66 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (upholding contested local patent rules from the
Northern District of California).

Recusal also arose:

McZeal also claims that the district judge should have disqualified himself.
The issue of recusal is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Weingart v. Allen & O’Hara,
Inc., 654 F.2d 1096, 1107 (5th Cir. 1981); see also In re Pioneer Hi-Bred Int’l, Inc., 238
F.3d 1370, 1374 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (issues that are not unique to patent disputes are
reviewed under regional circuit law). The Supreme Court has stated “judicial rulings
alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion.” Liteky v.
United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994). McZeal has not met his burden of showing
that the judge abused his discretion in not recusing himself.

[The non-precedential opinion was by Judge Dyk.]


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