School to Host 8th Circuit Special Session, Confer Legal Practice Excellence Awards

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit will hold a special session from 9 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, February 13 in the Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom. The public is invited to hear the three appeals cases related to: the dismissal of a fraud and contract case for alleged misconduct during discovery; a wrongful death case related to the death of an 8-year-old boy in foster care; and a First Amendment retaliation case, involving a $1.3 million verdict awarded to a bar owner who lost her liquor license following the publishing of her husband’s critical letters to the editor.

Hearing oral arguments will be Judges Raymond W. Gruender (MBA/JD ’87), Michael J. Melloy, and Bobby E. Shepherd. A Q&A period on procedural issues and judicial clerkships will follow the session. The court periodically holds special sessions in law schools as part of an educational program.

Visitors are asked to enter and exit only during breaks between oral arguments. Due to security reasons, backpacks, laptops, duffle bags, and cameras are not allowed in the courtroom. All cell phones must be turned off.

Case briefs for the oral arguments will be on temporary reserve in the Law Library under "8th Circuit Special Session." See below for more details on the cases.

Following the court session and Q&A, the law school and judges will confer the Legal Practice Excellence Awards at 11:30 a.m. The book award is given to one student in each Legal Practice section for excellent performance in the class during the first year of law school.

This year’s recipients are: Alexander Elson, Travis England, Selena Gillham, Anthony Grice, Jennifer Heydemann, Colin O’Brien, Bryan Pennington, Stephanie Quick, Hilary Reid, Benjamin Sandahl, Elizabeth Siemer, and Megan Sindel. These students are being recognized for consistently drafting high quality memoranda and briefs in his or her section, and for otherwise significantly contributing to the class as a first-year law student.

The cases in the order they will be argued are:

20 minutes per side

Coral Group et al. v. Shell Oil Company et al. involves an appeal of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri’s dismissal of the case with prejudice, as a sanction for misconduct during discovery. The original case involved two operators of gas station/convenience stores in the Kansas City area, Coral Group and Sentis Group, who were seeking more than $28 million in damages for fraud and breech of contract violations. The operators had sued the stores’ previous owners, Shell Oil Company and Equilon Enterprises.

In the appeal, the plaintiffs are claiming that the discovery orders were unclear and that their alleged violation was not in bad faith and did not prejudice the case. They also argue that some of the material was protected through attorney-client privilege and that the court exceeded its authority.

15 minutes per side

McLean v. McGinnis et al. arises from a wrongful death claim involving an 8-year-old boy who was in foster care. The boy was shot by the biological son of his foster parents while he was under the custody of the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS). The child’s mother brought the suit against a DSS circuit manager and social worker; she also alleged substantive due process claims under Section 1983.

The defendants are appealing the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri’s denial of a motion for summary judgment. The defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified and official immunity. Additionally, DSS claims sovereign immunity. The court also denied the mother’s motion for summary judgment in her 1983 claim.

20 minutes per side

In Brian Hodak et al. v. City of St. Peters (Missouri) et al., the defendants are appealing a jury verdict awarding $375,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages against the city and the mayor for a claim of First Amendment retaliation under Section 1983. In the case, the city revoked a restaurant/bar’s liquor license after the owner’s husband wrote letters to the editor critical of several city proposals, the mayor, and/or board actions. The plaintiff alleges that the mayor threatened to have the license revoked and ordered increased police patrols. Several arrests and license violations at the establishment were the ultimate basis for the license revocation.

The city is appealing the United States District Court for the Eastern District for Missouri’s judgment. The defendants argue that the city is not liable because there is no proof that the mayor “acted with animus”; the mayor was “legally impotent”; there was no probable cause to demonstrate the actions were retaliatory; the increased level of police presence should not be construed as harassment; and the plaintiff lacks standing.