wise as an owl, smart as a fox – Sarah Vance, Federal District Judge Eastern District Louisiana

The most difficult decisions that a Court can make require it to balance the need for finality and procedural regularity against the possibility, however faint, of injustice.  Any effort to draw a proper line between the two will never be perfect, nor will it be satisfactory to all involved. Nevertheless, the Court’s duty is to ensure that one side of the balance does not swallow the other.

Order and Reasons, Imperial Trading v Travelers, Federal District Judge Sarah Vance EDLA

When I ran into Imperial Trading v Travelers while checking for the latest on MRGO (nothing new there), it felt a bit like running into an old friend  – one you left stranded at a parte.  It wasn’t that I didn’t intend to follow up after posting good-ol-boys gone wild but Judge Vance in no mood for a parte.I just didn’t. With so much to cover in Katrina litigation here on the Coast, it just slipped my mind.  So, with a better late than never, here’s the end of the story about the good-ol-boys parte.

Minute Entry, September 16, 2009 Show Cause Hearing

Court begins.
Counsel and parties address the Court.
Court declines to sanction counsel.
Court adjourns.

I kid you not, that’s all it says.  If you recall, counsel for both parties wanted to interview jurors. I’ll let Judge Vance tell what happened next, quoting from her Order and Reasons for denying the motion:

The specifics of the underlying dispute between plaintiffs and defendant have been detailed in numerous previous orders and need not be revisited here. In August of 2009, this Court presided over a six-day jury trial regarding an insurance dispute that arose from commercial property damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Before the conclusion of the trial, the Court prepared a special verdict form for the jury to use in deliberations and to fill in once they reached their verdict…

On August 13, the jury returned a verdict… After the foreman of the jury announced that there was a verdict, the Court had its deputy read the jury’s verdict verbatim into the record. This included the jury’s verdict as to each question on the special verdict form. The deputy then asked the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is this your verdict?” The jury replied with “yes.” The Court then asked counsel for the parties if either side wished to have the jury polled. Defense counsel asked the Court to poll the jury. Neither party disputes that each juror stated in open court that he or she agreed with the verdict read by the Court’s deputy. The Court then ordered that the verdict be made part of the record and excused the jury.

good-ol-boys gone wild but Judge Vance in no mood for a parte fills the gap between the Court excusing the jury and the show cause hearing – and Judge Vance’s eleven plus pages of citations for her reasons do likewise until she reaches the point just before her conclusion denying the motion:

The most difficult decisions that a Court can make require it to balance the need for finality and procedural regularity against the possibility, however faint, of injustice. Any effort to draw a proper line between the two will never be perfect, nor will it be satisfactory to all involved. Nevertheless, the Court’s duty is to ensure that one side of the balance does not swallow the other. In the absence of clerical error in entering a verdict into a verdict form, or improprieties of the nature described in Rule 606, any rule that a juror could impeach a sworn statement she made in open court agreeing with a verdict would open the door to the overturning of verdicts based on second thoughts, changed minds, improper influence, and hindsight.

There would be no principled boundaries for the application of such a rule, and no verdict would be truly final. Jury deliberations would become the fodder for fishing

expeditions launched by those disappointed with the unfavorable verdicts. Accordingly, plaintiffs have not shown good cause for leave to conduct juror interviews. There is no evidence that the supposed disagreement arose from a clerical error, and the affidavits they seek would be inadmissible under clear Fifth Circuit precedent because they seek to impeach a verdict that the jury twice stated under oath represents its unanimous verdict.

Finally, this matter could not be meaningfully or reliably inquired into without delving into the deliberations of the jury, which is forbidden by Rule 606.

Principled boundaries –  Judge Sarah Vance, wise as an owl and smart as a fox.

7 thoughts on “wise as an owl, smart as a fox – Sarah Vance, Federal District Judge Eastern District Louisiana”

  1. I guess it’s all a question of whose ox is being gored. Vance initiated the disciplinary Complaint against me which resulted in my disbarrment, on top of a suspension for 5-years (a veritable “death sentence”, anyway, which added insult to injury). But in so doing, she “parrotted” a false statement which Lemelle had included in his Order of suspension, namely that, at one of the hearings, “O’Dwyer stated that he could not think of a fairer Judge” to decide the disciplinary case against him than Lemelle. In point of fact, I did not say any such thing, and the record clearly reflects that I said the exact opposite to Lemelle in calling for him to disqualify himself from deciding the case against me, because of actual personal bias and prejudice. In plain simple English, Lemelle and Vance are both LIARS, who wilfully included false statements in pleadings bearing their signatures, knowing that if lies are repeated often enough, people start believing them, beacuse no one will ever go to the trouble of actually checking the record or having the guts to call them what they are, namely: liars. They ARE “Federal Judges”, you know. Good luck in the case pending in Vance’s Court, Nowdy, but don’t talk to me in “glowing” terms about Sarah Vance, because throwing accolades her way makes me want to throw up.

  2. I hear you guys – and point out that I didn’t suggest Judge Vance made perfect decisions.

    With my files still locked in my old computer, I did a google and suggest others do the same for a broader sample of her legal writing.

    I knew her background was in insurance defense – and point to our own Judge Randolph (MSSC Corban opinion) as another.

    Such a background can cut both ways and they are two who rely on that history in a way that has produced examples of decisions that have been both exacting and balanced.

    (giving me hope that Judge Ozerden will look to them as models – and do the kind of thinking he is capable of doing)

    What impresses me about Judge Vance – and what sets her apart from all but Judge Senter – is her writing reflects a human struggling to reach a just decision (as opposed to those who think/ write as if they are God handing down an addendum to the Tablets).

    In this one case, she has revealed personal anger, indignation, remorse, and an amazing capacity for self-regulation; i.e., private reflection and public correction of a error in judgment.

    Such self-regulation is an all too rare indication of a strength of character worthy of admiration.

    JMHO, Nowdy

  3. To me the cut turns on whether or not an ordinary citizen can go into Judge Blank’s courtroom and expect to receive justice. The answer with Senter is yes except for his out of control Magistrate. IMHO the answer with Vance is also yes and that is not the case with Ginger Berrigan and Kurt Engelhardt.

    That doesn’t mean she has gotten every case right (and in Ashton’s case she might be jealous of his legs) but on balance I’d have no problem having her as a judge in a case involving myself.

    sop

  4. You’re just about “right”, SOP. Before I was suspended, and later disbarred, I respected Judge Vance. Her son went to Newman (Ryan O’Dwyer “broke my heart” by not transferring to Jesuit for High School – a 3 generation “legacy”) with my son. She and her husband, a bankruptcy lawyer with Jones Walker live in Mr. Lemle’s (of Lemle & Kelleher, which was my professional “home” for 35 years before 9/17/05) former house on State Street. Having personally experience her “circling the wagons” around her “Brothers and Sisters” on the Bench, and denying me due process and LYING in my disciplinary case, I wouldn’t give you a “plugged nickle” for her.

  5. and, Ashton, in spite of all that’s happened to you (and especially the way you’re alleging it happened, which I, for one, don’t doubt for a nanosecond that it didn’t happen that way in “yall’s” venue), I don’t blame you a bit! Hell, I’d feel the same way! Who wouldn’t?

    I MISS WRITING AND HEARING FROM ALL YOU GUYS & GALS! I’VE BEEN REALLY BUSY W/SCHOOL (MADE A’S IN BOTH MY CLASSES THOUGH! 🙂 THAT WOULD BE PSYCHOLGOY AND SOCIOLOGY. Now I’m in another Psychology course (level 400) and it involves counseling theories and a Science course (level 300).

    This term though it doesn’t appear to be as time consuming as last term, so I’M BACK!! 🙂

    SHIRLEY HEFLIN

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