Thursday, July 18, 2019
The Fifth Circuit issued an interesting decision earlier this month. A Texas federal court had enjoined the Department of Labor from enforcing its proposed Fair Labor Standards Act overtime rule. Several months later, a plaintiff in New Jersey sued her employer in a New Jersey federal court, relying on the proposed overtime rule. The Texas federal court then held the New Jersey plaintiff and her counsel in contempt, reasoning that they were bound by the injunction against the Department of Labor.
In a unanimous decision, the Fifth Circuit has now reversed the Texas district court’s contempt order. The whole opinion is worth a read, but here’s a summary from the opinion’s introductory section:
We conclude that the Texas federal court did not have the authority under Rule 65(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to hold Alvarez and her attorneys in contempt, because Alvarez and her attorneys did not act in privity with, and she was not adequately represented by, the DOL in the injunction case; hence, the Texas federal court lacked personal jurisdiction over Alvarez and her attorneys. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the District Court, including the award of attorneys’ fees against Alvarez and her lawyers, and we render judgment in their favor.