U.S. court rejects General Motors’ call to remove judge from FCA lawsuit

General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

A U.S. appeals court on Monday rejected General Motors’ call to remove a lower court judge from its racketeering lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), but said the automakers’ CEOs need not meet to settle the issue.

The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated U.S. District Judge Paul Borman abused his discretion by requiring GM CEO Mary Barra and FCA’s head, Mike Manley, to meet face-to-face for reasons non-related to the case, and without taking into account the risks of travel during the coronavirus crisis.

The district judge’s order for the parties to report back to the court in just eight days was also unwarranted, the appeals court stated. Borman in June ordered Barra and Manley to meet by July 1 and later amended his order to permit other officials in their place.

“We do not mean to say, however, that the district judge may not order a pretrial settlement conference and/or mediation in the normal course,” according to the appeals court.

The court in June stayed Borman’s order needing officials from the two automakers to resolve the lawsuit, and on Monday declined GM’s request for a new judge to oversee the case, saying Borman’s desire for a quick settlement was “not so extreme” that he should be replaced.

GM said in a statement it was grateful that the court swiftly reviewed and granted its petition for a writ of mandamus. However, the company did not discuss the rejection of its request to reassign the case to another judge.

GM sued FCA in 2019, alleging the Italian-American automaker’s executives of bribing United Auto Workers (UAW) union officials to secure labor agreements to take advantage. FCA has rejected these allegations as meritless.

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