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ERICK PEEPLES; PERRY ANDERSON; VINCENT FIELDS; ARNOLD FREEMAN; RALPH GLENN, JR.; JAMAL JENNINGS; LEE JONES; ANTHONY MCCLOUD; EXANDER POE; DAVID RIVERA; SAMUEL SHACK,
Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees,
v.
CITY OF DETROIT, MICHIGAN, Law Department; INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 344,
Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants.
   Nos. 17-1222/1250
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit.
No. 2:13-cv-13858—Sean F. Cox, District Judge.
Argued: April 25, 2018
Decided and Filed: June 1, 2018
Before: COLE, Chief Judge; GUY and DONALD, Circuit Judges.


_________________________
OPINION
_________________________

BERNICE BOUIE DONALD, Circuit Judge. Plaintiffs-Appellants are eleven minority firefighters who were laid off by the City of Detroit (“City”) in August 2012 as part of a reduction in force (“RIF”). Plaintiffs brought suit against the City and their union, the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, Local 344, IAFF, AFL-CIO (“DFFA”), alleging that they were laid off in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The district court granted summary judgment to both the City and the DFFA as to Plaintiffs’ claims. The court concluded that as against the City, only one Plaintiff had exhausted his administrative remedies to pursue a Title VII claim, but that even proceeding to the merits, Plaintiffs failed to present direct evidence or to establish a prima facie case under the circumstantial evidence approach, which includes a heightened burden in a RIF. As to the DFFA, the district court concluded that Plaintiffs could not establish that the DFFA breached its duty of fair representation to the Plaintiffs, which the court held Plaintiffs must do to proceed with a Title VII claim against a union. Finally, the district court denied the DFFA’s motion for attorney fees and costs. Plaintiffs appeal both rulings. The DFFA cross-appeals the district court’s denial of its motion for attorney fees and costs.

For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM in part and REVERSE in part the district court’s judgment and REMAND for proceedings consistent with this opinion.



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N RE: HNRC DISSOLUTION COMPANY,
Debtor.
___________________________________________

TERRY GIESE,
Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
LEXINGTON COAL COMPANY,
Defendant-Appellee.
   No. 16-8013
Appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Court
for the Eastern District of Kentucky at Ashland.
No. 02-14261—Tracey N. Wise, Judge
Argued: August 22, 2017
Decided and Filed: June 1, 2018
Before: HARRISON, OPPERMAN, and PRESTON, Bankruptcy Appellate Panel Judges.


_________________________
OPINION
_________________________

DANIEL S. OPPERMAN, Chief Bankruptcy Appellate Panel Judge. This case involves a dispute regarding funds allegedly held in escrow to pay royalties connected to coal mining. According to Appellant, Terry Giese (“Giese”), a company known as Horizon Natural Resources Company (“HNRC”) paid royalties derived from those mining operations into an account for the benefit of someone identified as E. Begley and Begley’s heirs and successors. After buying the property on which the relevant mining operations occurred, Giese filed a complaint in a Kentucky state court asserting a right to the escrowed royalties.

Appellee Lexington Coal Company (“Lexington Coal”) disputed Giese’s claim, arguing it purchased all cash and accounts of HNRC and HNRC’s parent company during a bankruptcy case involving those entities. Lexington Coal had been a defendant in an interpleader action, before the Bankruptcy Court, to determine the rightful owner of the funds at issue. Following notice to all interested parties, the Bankruptcy Court overseeing that interpleader action determined that Lexington Coal and another company—International Coal Group, Inc. (“ICG”)—owned the funds. Ultimately, Giese’s state court action was removed and referred to the Bankruptcy Court.

In response to the case being removed, Giese argued, as he argues here, that the Bankruptcy Court was required to abstain from adjudicating two counts of his state court complaint. The Bankruptcy Court declined to abstain. The Court, after determining it had jurisdiction over all of Giese’s claims, dismissed his complaint. Giese appeals both the Court’s decision to not abstain and the Court’s decision to dismiss his adversary complaint. Because the Bankruptcy Court acted properly, this Panel affirms its decision.