U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Judge Booted After Appeal of Jackson State's Post-Trial Directed Judgment

A federal district court judge has been booted off the case of Robinson v. Jackson State University as a result of some questionable judgments. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the terminated university employee, however, the verdict was left to languish in a post-judgment limbo due to judicial inaction.

Then when the plaintiff's attorney attempted to spur some action from the court by requesting a judicial transfer, a year after the jury rendered its verdict, Southern District of Mississippi Judge Henry Wingate ruled that the defendants post-judgment motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (as a matter of law) was granted. Escalating matters even further, Judge Wingate awarded defendants costs. Plaintiff timely appealed what, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be a spiteful ruling.

You Can't Do That Judge

While judges are afforded quite a bit of discretion, it is truly a rare case when a trial judge actually has to reverse a jury's verdict. In this matter, the appellate court reviewed the evidence presented and found that Judge Wingate did in fact grossly err in granting the motion for judgment as a matter of law. The error was so clear that it begs the question of whether the post-trial motion was granted simply to spite the plaintiff's attorney for requesting a new judge due to the year long delay in resolving the post judgment motions.

Though the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did note that much of the plaintiff's causal evidence was circumstantial, it explained that the sheer volume of circumstantial evidence painted a rather clear picture. And that clear picture was clearly enough for a jury to reliably reach a decision on the merits.

In addition to the appellate court reinstating the jury verdict, it also remanded the matter for the district court to actually rule upon the other post judgment motions that were mooted out when the jury verdict was reversed. Furthermore, it ordered Judge Wingate off the case.

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