Appeals court rejects GM's bid to remove judge from Fiat Chrysler lawsuit

But agrees the judge overstepped in ordering the CEOs to meet in person

A U.S. appeals court on Monday denied General Motors' petition to remove a lower court judge from its racketeering lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, but said the companies' heads need not meet to settle the issue.

The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said 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 unrelated to the case, and without taking into account the risks of travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district judge's order for the parties to report back to the court in only eight days was also unwarranted, the appeals court said. Borman in June ordered Barra and Manley to meet by July 1, and later amended his order to allow 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," the appeals court said in a filing.

The court in June stayed Borman's order requiring officials from the two firms to resolve the lawsuit, and on Monday rejected 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 needed to be replaced.

GM said in a statement it was grateful that the court had quickly reviewed and granted its petition for a writ of mandamus, that is, setting aside the requirement to meet. However, the company did not comment on the rejection of its request to reassign the case to another judge.

GM sued FCA last year, accusing the Italian-American company's executives of bribing United Auto Workers union officials to secure labor agreements that put GM at a disadvantage.

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