A witness at a debtor examination was improperly held in contempt for invoking her privilege against self-incrimination, according to a case decided today by the Oregon Court of Appeals. In Redwine v. Starboard, LLC, plaintiff obtained a judgment against Starboard LLC. Tamara Sawyer was then ordered to appear for a judgment debtor examination and to produce documents relating to Starboard and its financial affairs. Starboard and Sawyer were both the target of an ongoing federal criminal investigation. Sawyer appeared at the exam but refused to answer questions about her connections with Starboard or to produce documents, citing her privilege against self-incrimination. The trial court determined that she was subject to the sanction of summary contempt.
The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment, holding that, given the criminal investigation, Sawyer was entitled to refuse to answer regarding her connections with Starboard. This was the case even though the government might have readily obtained information about those connections from other sources.
The Ninth Circuit this week agreed to review en banc a case in which a Mutual Strike Assistance Agreement entered into by four supermarket chains was held to be a violation of antitrust law. In an opinion issued last year, a three-judge panel of the court directed the entry of summary judgment against the supermarkets, which had agreed to redistribute and share profits during a strike by unionized employees.
See our earlier coverage of the case here.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held last week that designating an in-state agent for service of process does not, by itself, subject a company to general personal jurisdiction in the state. In King v. American Family Mutual Insurance, defendant was an out-of-state insurance company that contemplated doing business in Montana. As the first step in obtaining authorization to sell insurance in the state, and as required by state law, the company appointed the Commissioner of Insurance as its agent for service of process. Before defendant obtained authorization to sell insurance in Montana, and before it did any business or had any other contacts there, it was sued in Montana by policyholders who lived in another state.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the action, agreeing with the district court that the appointment of an agent for service of process in Montana was not enough to subject defendant to general personal jurisdiction there. The court reached that conclusion notwithstanding a 1917 U.S. Supreme Court opinion -- Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Co. v. Gold Issue Mining & Milling Co. -- holding that, where state law requires an insurer to appoint an agent for service in the state, that appointment by itself is sufficient for personal jurisdiction of the insurer.