Judge Carnes, Storyteller.

I think Judge Carnes has really raised the level in terms of how to write clean, simple, narrative-driven appellate opinions.His last few all bear the hallmarks of fine storytelling — a powerful introduction, a strong hook, a sense of leaving the reader wanting more, and a matter-of-fact exposition that flows cohesively from beginning to end.

Consider the opening three paragraphs of this illegal-immigrants-serving-rich-people-fancy-steak tale:

Ruth’s Hospitality Group, the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, is proud of its origins. The company boasts that forty-five years after its founder, Ruth Fertel, mortgaged her home to purchase her first restaurant, it has grown into a chain of more than 120 steakhouse restaurants in seven countries. Though it has become an international operation, the company insists that “our success continues to be driven by our adherence to Ruth’s core values.” Ruth Fertel 1 “understood the value of each and every employee’s contribution to her success,” and that is why the business continues to be a place “where respect, integrity and pride are a way of life.”2 Not only that but the company “continues to value the unique differences of each and every team member.”3 Or so it says.The seven former employees of one Ruth’s Chris Steak House franchise who are the plaintiffs in this lawsuit not only beg to differ but also have pleaded to the contrary, at least insofar as the franchise where they worked is concerned. According to their allegations, that particular franchise had the core values of a criminal enterprise and provided anything but an atmosphere of respect, integrity, and pride for its employees. More specifically, they allege that the Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Birmingham, Alabama, knowingly provided illegal aliens with names and social security numbers of American citizens to use for illegal employment, unlawfully took employees’ tips, discriminated on the basis of race, and retaliated against employees who challenged those and other practices.

Those allegations are contained in an amended complaint that asserts claims based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and Alabama common law. The district court dismissed four of the fifteen counts in the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and certified those rulings as partial final judgments under Rule 54(b). The plaintiffs have appealed those four rulings, and they have attempted to appeal a number of others that were not certified for interlocutory appeal. Our decision, like the complaint and the district court’s judgment, is a mixed bag. We end up reversing the district court’s judgment with respect to the RICO claim, affirming the judgment insofar as it includes the other claims that were certified to us under Rule 54(b), and dismissing for lack of jurisdiction the attempted appeal of the rulings that were not certified to us.

The Judge also employs a continuing “meat” metaphor throughout the Court’s RICO discussion that — ok it’s a bit odd — but maybe that’s why it worked for me.

Of course then Judge Carnes goes on to cite Iqbal and that kind of ruined it for us, but he definitely had us going there for a good while.