In re: Lorraine Brazile, No. 21-1374 (8th Cir. 2021)

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Justia Opinion Summary

The Eighth Circuit granted the petition for writ of mandamus directing the district court to reinstate petitioner's demand for a jury trial. In this case, the United States filed suit against petitioner and her ex-husband seeking an avoidance of allegedly fraudulent transfers of funds, claiming that petitioner received assets from her spouse through a "sham divorce." The court concluded that petitioner has no other adequate means to attain the relief desired; petitioner has a clear and indisputable right to a jury trial; and the remedy sought is at least partially legal. Accordingly, the court directed the district court to reinstate petitioner's demand for a jury trial.

Court Description: [Per Curiam - Before Colloton, Gruender, and Shepherd, Circuit Judges] Civil case - Mandamus. In an action by the United States seeking an avoidance of allegedly fraudulent transfers of funds to prevent the government from recovering funds to pay restitution in a criminal conviction, Brazile and her husband demanded a jury trial; the district court denied the request, concluding that the monetary damages the government sought were equitable damages; Brazille seeks a writ of mandamus to reinstate her demand for a jury trial. Held: The writ application was appropriate as Brazile had no other adequate means to attain the relief desired; Brazile and her husband had a clear and indisputable right to a jury trial; the writ is granted, and the district court is directed to reinstate the demand for a jury trial. [ April 02, 2021 ]
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United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit ___________________________ No. 21-1374 ___________________________ In re: Lorraine Brazile, lllllllllllllllllllllPetitioner. ____________ On Petition for Writ of Mandamus to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis ____________ Submitted: March 10, 2021 Filed: April 5, 2021 [Published] ____________ Before COLLOTON, GRUENDER, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges. ____________ PER CURIAM. Lorraine Brazile petitions for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to reinstate her demand for a jury trial. The United States sued Brazile and her exhusband seeking an avoidance of allegedly fraudulent transfers of funds. The complaint asserts that Brazile received assets from her spouse through a “sham divorce.” The transfer allegedly was designed to prevent the government from using the assets to pay victim restitution arising from the husband’s criminal conviction. The government alleged three counts of fraudulent transfer of assets, in violation of 28 U.S.C. §§ 3304(a)(2), 3304(b)(1)(A), and 3304(b)(1)(B), respectively. The defendants demanded a jury trial, and the government moved to strike the demand. The government maintained that the relief sought in the action is equitable in nature, so the case should be tried to the court. The district court concluded that no jury trial is permitted, because the government is seeking restitution in equity, not in law. The court reasoned that because the monetary relief sought by the government constitutes “equitable damages stemming from an alleged fraudulent transfer of property that otherwise would have been used to pay restitution to the victim,” the defendants are not entitled to a jury trial. After the case was transferred to a new presiding judge, Brazile moved to reconsider the order, but the court rejected the entreaty. A writ of mandamus is extraordinary relief for which three conditions must be satisfied. First, the party seeking relief must have no other adequate means to attain the relief desired. Second, the petitioner must show that his right to issuance of the writ is clear and indisputable. Third, the court, in the exercise of its discretion, must be satisfied that the writ is appropriate under the circumstances. See Cheney v. U.S. Dist. Ct. for D.C., 542 U.S. 367, 380-81 (2004); In re Borowiak IGA Foodliner, Inc., 879 F.3d 848, 849 (8th Cir. 2018) (per curiam). Brazile has no other adequate means to attain the relief desired. An appeal after final judgment is not sufficient: “the right to grant mandamus to require jury trial where it has been improperly denied is settled.” Beacon Theaters, Inc. v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 511 (1959); see In re Borowiak, 879 F.3d at 850. So too, a petitioner need not first seek discretionary interlocutory review under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) before mandamus is an appropriate remedy. In re Apple, Inc., 602 F.3d 909, 912 (8th Cir. 2010) (per curiam); Caleshu v. Wangelin, 549 F.2d 93, 96 n.5 (8th Cir. 1977). Brazile also has a clear and indisputable right to a jury trial. The government seeks a judgment against Brazile for “the full value of the property” that was -2- transferred in the divorce, and for an award of “such other relief as may be appropriate and just.” A plaintiff may seek restitution in equity where money or property can “clearly be traced to particular funds or property in the defendant’s possession,” Great-West Life & Annuity Ins. Co. v. Knudson, 534 U.S. 204, 213 (2002), such as in “actions for disgorgement of improper profits.” Chauffeurs, Teamsters & Helpers, Local No. 391 v. Terry, 494 U.S. 558, 570 (1990) (internal quotation and brackets omitted). But the government here seeks a money judgment against Brazile that would also account for funds that are not traceable to a particular transfer, but have been dissipated or commingled with other funds. Under those circumstances, the remedy sought is at least partially legal, and Brazile has a right to trial by jury. See Knudson, 534 U.S. at 213-14; Granfinanciera, S.A. v. Nordberg, 492 U.S. 33, 47-49 & n.7 (1989). For these reasons, the petition for writ of mandamus is granted, and the district court is directed to reinstate Brazile’s demand for a jury trial. ______________________________ -3-
Primary Holding
The Eighth Circuit granted the petition for writ of mandamus directing the district court to reinstate petitioner's demand for a jury trial.

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