Know Your Judge: Walter H. Rice

Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...

By Carmen Castro-Pagan

This week in Know Your Judge, we feature Walter H. Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Rice was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. He served as chief judge from 1996 to 2003, and he assumed senior status a year later.

One of Rice’s recent rulings on employee benefits cases is an order prohibiting Honeywell International Inc. from cutting health-care benefits to retirees of a Greenville, Ohio, plant. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed this ruling and provided employers with better guidance on what language a collective bargaining agreement must include to vest retiree health-care benefits.

Last year, Rice partially dismissed a lawsuit alleging trucking company Navistar International Corp. misappropriated $26 million of Medicare Part D subsidies that were earmarked for retirees’ prescription drugs. In 2014, while sitting by designation in the Sixth Circuit, Rice held that a former coal miner’s subsequent service as a federal mine inspector didn’t qualify him as a coal miner eligible for federal black lung benefits.

Numbers & Statistics

Employers should know that Rice denies more than half of the motions to dismiss filed in the employment, labor, and benefits cases he presides over, according to data in Bloomberg Law’s Litigation Analytics.

Rice’s rulings are overwhelmingly affirmed by the Sixth Circuit—the appeals court that reviews decisions from federal district courts in Ohio. His rulings in employment, labor, and benefits matters have been affirmed more than 80 percent of the time.

On average, Rice takes less than a year to resolve lawsuits involving employee benefits and wage-and-hour matters. He usually takes longer to resolve employment discrimination and labor disputes. On average, it takes Rice:

  • 392 days to resolve a lawsuit under the American with Disabilities Act (he heard 19);
  • 237 days to dispose of an Employee Retirement Income Security Act matter (he heard 100);
  • 403 days to close an employment discrimination lawsuit (he heard 87);
  • 301 days to close a wage and hour dispute (he heard 34); and
  • 402 days to resolve general labor disputes (he heard 15).

Looking for more analytics on judges? Check back each Wednesday for our Know Your Judge feature or try Bloomberg Law’s Litigation Analytics. And contact us if there’s a judge you want us to highlight.

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