Parties involved in contract disputes often desire to avoid contractual limitations on recovery, fostering creative attempts to transform breach of contract claims into tort or other noncontractual causes of action. Such efforts face numerous hurdles, and the recent decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Davis in , Civil Action No. 4:23CV153, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83430 (E.D. May 7, 2024), illustrates the difficulty in squeezing the square peg of a breach of contract claim into the round hole of tort or bailment.

Litigation challenging government economic regulation has become more common, as courts appear increasingly less deferential to legislative and executive action. Most of this type of litigation focuses on federal regulation, but states have also taken a more active role in business regulation, prompting more frequent challenges to state laws in federal courts.

Virginia’s Constitution automatically disqualifies all persons convicted of any felony from voting unless their civil rights are restored by the Governor. See Va. Const. art. II, § 1. In a recent case, two plaintiffs convicted of felonies, who had completed their sentences, brought suit against several state officials alleging that this provision of Virginia’s Constitution violated the Virginia Readmission Act (the VRA). King v. Youngkin, et al., Civil Action No. 3:23CV408. The VRA is a federal law passed in 1870, which re-admitted Virginia to representation in Congress after the Civil War. A condition to re-admission under the VRA was that Virginia could not change its Constitution to deprive any citizen of the right to vote who was entitled to vote when Congress enacted the VRA. Virginia’s 1869 Constitution, which was in effect in 1870, only disenfranchised those convicted of crimes which were felonies at common law, while the current Constitution, enacted in 1971, disenfranchised all persons convicted of any felony, regardless of whether the felony was a crime at common law. The plaintiffs in King sought an injunction against enforcement of the current constitution provisions against individuals convicted of crimes that were not felonies at common law in 1870.

In Colonial River Wealth Advisors, LLC v. Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., No. 3:22cv717, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3058 (E.D. Va. Jan. 5, 2024), Judge Young granted the prevailing defendant’s fee petition, awarded $227,357 in attorneys’ fees, and concluded that block billing records provided by the defendant’s counsel “sufficiently permit[ed] the Court to assess the hours expended and the nature of the work completed.” Judge Young rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the block billing practices made it impossible to determine which attorneys’ fees were reasonable. Judge Young acknowledged that, though no per se rule against block billing exists, “in some instances, block billing may inhibit a court from accurately assessing the reasonableness of a fee request,” where lumped fee entries lacked sufficient detail and obscured the amount of time actually spent on the billed-for tasks. When block billing prevents the assessment of the reasonableness of the fees, a reduction of the fee award is appropriate. But in the case of the defendant’s fee petition, Judge Young was able to assess the reasonableness of the fee request, given the level of detail in the defendant’s counsel’s time entry descriptions. Using one example, the court noted that one 8.3 hour entry encompassed 11 discrete tasks, including review of a 309-page deposition transcript, the document production of another party, documents for use in upcoming deposition, and motion to quash various subpoenas. The court found it not unreasonable for the defendant’s counsel to have spent 8.3 hours on those tasks.