We’ve reported several times about Thorogood v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., the endless class action drama currently playing in the Seventh Circuit. In “There’ll Always Be Posner: Final Rinse,” we summarized Judge Posner’s opinion holding that the district court should have enjoined plaintiffs and plaintiff’s counsel from filing class actions concerning Sears stainless steel drums in Kenmore dryers. Judge Posner’s colorful opinion also excoriated plaintiff’s counsel for his litigation tactics.
Naturally, the pugnacious plaintiff’s lawyer petitioned for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc. Not surprisingly, the Seventh Circuit denied the petition, as no judge on the Seventh Circuit requested a vote on rehearing the case en banc. Usually such denials are not explained. This panel issued a per curiam order responding to the rehearing petition. Thorogood v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., order (7th Cir. Dec. 2, 2010). The order’s author is not identified, but the language is pure Posner. If it ain’t Posner, it’s panel members Judge Kanne or Judge Evans channeling Posner. Even for those of us who are not a Posner fanboys and think that he puts his robes on one sleeve at a time like every other judge, the order is as entertaining as a good one-sided brawl, with Judge Posner as Andre Johnson and plaintiff’s counsel as Courtland Finnegan. Here are a few highlights:
The order says that the panel was responding for the benefit of readers of the opinion, readers of the rehearing petition, and plaintiff’s counsel himself, “whose accusations are over the top . . . and who may wish to moderate his fury.” Order at 1. The order then describes plaintiff’s counsel as the lawyer who asked panel members during oral argument to ask their wives if they worry that a stainless steel dryer might cause rust stains. “The wives unanimously answered ‘no.’” Id. at 2. The order continues:
Given [plaintiff’s counsel’s] challenge (ask your wives), that should have ended this litigation. (And speaking of gender, we note [plaintiff’s counsel’s] remark at the oral argument: “Not to be sexist, your honor, but maybe we should have this en banc so some of the female judges on this court could sit and might weigh in.” This may be an unacknowledged ground on which he is seeking not only panel rehearing but rehearing en banc.)
Id. The results of the rehearing en banc petition speak for themselves about the success of this tactic. Nothing fits so comfortably around a fool’s neck as his own words.
Perhaps because the petition accused the panel of “blatantly ignor[ing] the record evidence,” the order says over and over again – we stopped counting at seven – that the petition “ignores” several points in the court’s opinion. Note to Seventh Circuit litigators: don’t ever accuse Judge Posner of ignoring something, or you might have your own ignorance thrown back in your face. And don’t pick a fight with someone who get published in F.3d.
Posner, uh, the panel gets particularly colorful in responding to the petition’s charges that the opinion contains ad hominem language. The panel says that plaintiff’s counsel “ignores” (there’s that word again) “the right and indeed the duty of judges to criticize lawyers who try the patience of other members of the bar, and the courts.” Order at 3. Plaintiff’s counsel complains that he is entitled to respect; the panel responds: “Well, he doesn’t treat us with much respect, stating [that] ‘the Panel’s opinion reads more like a posting in its author’s well-known blog (http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/) . . . . ’” Id. at 4. The petition referred to the panel as “’the self-assured Simon Colwell of the Circuits,’” and the order helpfully tells us that Simon “was” (Posner has the tense right – he must be an up-to-date fan) “the cantankerous judge on ‘American Idol’” and includes a link to a clip on YouTube. Id. at 4.
The panel cranks it up even more in response to the petition’s charge that the panel called plaintiff class action lawyers corrupt. The panel responds that its opinion said only that Rule 23 gives them an incentive to enrich themselves: “Class action attorneys have an ‘inherent motivation’ to enrich themselves at the expense of the class (and with the connivance of defendants), but motivation is not a synonym for action; any actual corruption or selling out is gauged case by case.” Order at 5.
The order then cites numerous examples of judges and other authorities who have made similar criticisms of some class action lawyers. After listing 15 or 20, the order says: “Want more? There is plenty more, including references in Supreme Court as well as court of appeals opinions to the danger of collusion between class action lawyers and defendants’ lawyers.” Id. at 6. The order lists another dozen opinions. If you ever want support for this argument, the entire list in this order is an excellent place to start, and perhaps finish.
There’s a lot more good stuff in the rest of the order. Get your popcorn ready and enjoy it.