Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Hellerstein, J.).
Ransmeier v. UAL Corporation, et al.
Rulings by summary order do not have precedential effect. Citation to a summary order filed on or after January 1, 2007, is permitted and is governed by Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32.1 and this court's Local Rule 32.1.1. When citing a summary order in a document filed with this court, a party must cite either the Federal Appendix or an electronic database (with the notation "summary order"). A party citing a summary order must serve a copy of it on any party not represented by counsel.
At a stated term of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, held at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, in the City of New York, on the 26th day of June, two thousand twelve.
PRESENT: PETER W. HALL, SUSAN L. CARNEY,*fn1 Circuit Judges.
UPON DUE CONSIDERATION, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.
Appellant Ellen Mariani appeals from the district court's November 15, 2010, order denying her motion to intervene and the March 1, 2010, order denying (once again) her attorney's motion for admission pro hac vice.*fn3 We assume the parties' familiarity with the facts, procedural history, and issues on appeal.
A thorough examination of the record demonstrates that Mariani has only one true argument on appeal--that she was entitled to intervene as of right under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2). Rule 24(a)(2), of course, was the very basis for Mariani's first motion to intervene. The district court denied that motion, and we affirmed that decision on appeal. See N.S. Windows, LLC v. Minoru Yamasaki Associates, Inc., 351 F. App'x 461, 467 (2d Cir. 2009) (summary order). Mariani's renewed attempt to intervene is foreclosed by the doctrine of the law of the case. This doctrine, in reality, consists of two closely-related rules. The first, the so-called mandate rule, "requires a trial court to follow an appellate court's previous ruling on an issue in the same case." United States v. Quintieri, 306 F.3d 1217, 1225 (2d Cir. 2002) (emphasis added). Under the second rule, which is somewhat more flexible, a court--be it a district court or an appeals court--will generally follow its own earlier ruling on an issue in later stages of a litigation unless "cogent and compelling reasons militate otherwise." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
Mariani argues that her second motion to intervene does not implicate the law of the case doctrine because it presented a brand-new reason for intervening, to wit, her alleged discovery that Ransmeier was operating under a conflict of interest. The flaw in that assertion, however, is that the district court did not rely on this new argument when it determined to deny Mariani's second motion to intervene. Rather, the court denied the motion for the same reason as the first time around--that Mariani did not have an interest in the litigation.
The first time Mariani tried to intervene, her chief argument was that a so-called "individual loss of consortium" claim constituted a sufficient "interest" to give her the absolute right, under Rule 24(a)(2), to intervene in the proceedings below.*fn4 The district court definitively rejected that argument in its November 5, 2007, order denying intervention, holding that, by virtue of her agreement with Peters, Mariani had "no legal status" in the federal action and that any arguments she had regarding her individual loss of consortium claim needed to be made in New Hampshire probate court. As the district court explained, federal courts "do not sit to review decisions of the probate court."
On appeal, this court expanded on Judge Hellerstein's analysis. Between the time the district court denied Mariani's motion and the time we decided her first appeal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court had raised some doubt regarding whether Mariani even had an individual loss of consortium claim, and, if so, whether Ransmeier had the authority to settle that claim. See N.S. Windows, 351 F. App'x at 466-67. We held, however, that Mariani's probate court agreement with Peters demonstrated her clear intention and commitment to abandon all her claims, including her loss of consortium claims, and to let Ransmeier pursue them on her behalf in the Peters litigation. Id. Like Judge Hellerstein, we explained that for the purposes of the federal litigation Mariani was bound by her agreement in New Hampshire probate court. Id. at 467. If she wanted to challenge that agreement, she had to do so in the probate court. Id. The necessary implication of our decision in N.S. Windows is that, by handing over her claims to Ransmeier, Mariani no longer possessed a sufficient interest to justify intervention as of right under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2). To gain such an interest, she had somehow to dissolve the agreement she had reached in the probate court, which is why we pointed her back there.
Consequently, in deciding Mariani's second motion to intervene, Judge Hellerstein was not just permitted, he was required to follow our prior ruling. See DeWeerth v. Baldinger, 38 F.3d 1266, 1271 (2d Cir. 1994) (law of the case doctrine applies to issues previously decided by necessary implication). And that is exactly what he did, denying the motion on the basis of his own prior ruling and our decision in N.S. Windows. Crucially, although Mariani had briefed her new argument regarding Ransmeier's alleged conflict in great detail, Judge Hellerstein did not at all rely on this new argument, which arguably goes to the "adequate representation" prong of Rule 24(a)(2). Instead, he explained that he had "already ruled that Ms. Mariani has no interest to justify intervention because her complaints belong before the New Hampshire Probate Court," and that, despite Mariani's new arguments, there was "no basis to reconsider" his prior decision. (Emphasis added.)
Mariani may have a right to have a court hear her concerns regarding Ransmeier's representation. For example, to the extent Ransmeier's alleged conflict of interest compromised his obligations to her as administrator of her husband's estate, she may be able to pursue those claims in New Hampshire probate court. We express no view in that regard. We are firm in our holding, however, that such claims ...