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Judge Joel Hoppe

Feb 8, 2022

ALJ erred by relying solely on medical evidence

Where Social Security regulations provide that an administrative law judge, or ALJ, may not disregard a person’s statements about the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of symptoms solely because they are not substantiated by medical evidence, the ALJ erred by discounting a woman’s claims and looking only to the medical record. Background In February 2017, […]

Dec 2, 2021

Libel defendant sanctioned for failing to preserve documents

Where a defendant sued for making allegedly defamatory statements about the plaintiff — a counter-protestor who posted video of the “Unite the Right” rallies in Charlottesville — failed to preserve potentially relevant documents, the plaintiff was entitled to an adverse jury instruction. Background This is a defamation case arising out of the “Unite the Right” […]

Nov 8, 2021

Adverse inference warranted for failure to preserve evidence

Where a defendant sued for his alleged role in the “Unite the Right” rally failed to preserve a laptop, two cell phones and three social media accounts, an adverse inference instruction at trial was warranted. Background This matter is before the court on plaintiffs’ renewed request for evidentiary sanctions against Matthew Heimbach. After plaintiffs first […]

Aug 30, 2021

Prejudice not shown from late amendment

Where the plaintiff’s motion to amend her personal injury complaint arising out of a Segway accident came after fact discovery concluded, it was granted because the defendants failed to show prejudice. The new allegations merely elaborated on the original ones, and the defendants were aware of them before the motion was filed. Background Plaintiff filed […]

Aug 4, 2021

Ex-employee allowed limited discovery

Where a former school employee alleged the then-superintendent defamed him by telling another person that his procurement violations were “deliberate and egregious,” he may take limited discovery from the school board about its investigation, his termination, the procurement of furniture and its policies. Background This civil action concerns Ira D. Socol’s termination from employment with [[...]

Jul 30, 2021

‘Deep state’ subpoenas are quashed

Where a defendant was sued for defamation after claiming the plaintiff was a “‘deep state shill’ who was part of the state department’s attempt to cover up its involvement in instigating the attack in Charlottesville, his subpoenas to law enforcement and state officials about a “deep state” were quashed because they were largely irrelevant, unduly […]

Jun 29, 2021

Amended complaint moots default

Where default was entered against a correctional official sued for allegedly sexually assaulting and psychologically torturing a detainee, but the detainee then filed an amended complaint, the default was vacated as moot. Background Plaintiffs Viviana Anselme and Alysha Honeycutt are inmates at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, or FCCW, in Fluvanna, Virginia. In February 2020, […]

Jun 21, 2021

Prior lawyer not ‘necessary’ party in malpractice suit

Where the plaintiff sued her attorney for negligently representing her in a divorce action, and the defendant claimed a prior attorney was responsible, the former attorney was not a necessary party who needed to be involuntarily joined, even if he was a joint tortfeasor. Background Roseanne Amari is suing her attorney and his law firm […]

Jun 2, 2021

Broad discovery of libel suits against InfoWars rejected

Where a plaintiff suing Alex Jones, InfoWars and two other parties for libel sought all documents regarding prior libel or defamation suits involving the defendants for the past 10 years, its motion to compel was denied because the request was disproportionate to the needs of the case. Background This matter is before the court on […]

May 25, 2021

New counsel must ensure compliance with discovery

Where the defendant produced only four documents in response to plaintiff’s requests for production, and the plaintiff identified documents that should have been produced but were not, the defendant’s new counsel must ensure his client’s compliance with the federal rules. Background This matter is before the court on plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery from defendant […]

Apr 16, 2021

Willful noncompliance brings adverse inference

Where a man sued for his alleged role in the “Unite the Right” rallies repeatedly failed to produce relevant information and documents going to the heart of the plaintiffs’ conspiracy claims, his conduct prejudiced the plaintiffs and he demonstrated that he would not obey orders even under threat of civil contempt, arrest and detention, an […]

Mar 12, 2021

Winner on injunction not a ‘prevailing party’

Although the plaintiffs obtained a preliminary injunction enjoining a Virginia statute that automatically suspended drivers’ licenses when persons failed to pay their court debt, and the statute was subsequently repealed by the General Assembly, their request as prevailing parties for attorneys’ fees and costs was denied. The Fourth Circuit has held that a preliminary injunction […]

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