Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Recently, in a 5-4 opinion, the Court held in Spring Communications Co. L.P. v. APCC Services, Inc., No. 07-552, that a plaintiff that has been assigned the right to pursue a legal claim has standing under Article III, even though he stands to gain no proceeds from the outcome of the litigation. The entire relief requested would run to a party not before the court. Chief Justice Roberts wrote a dissenting opinion stating, “There is a legal difference between something and nothing.” He then quotes Bob Dylan: “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”
To read more about the decision handed down by the Court, read this article on SCOTUS blog. --Counseller/nc
19 years ago, an Exxon supertanker spilled millions of gallons of crude oil off the coast of Alaska. After trial, the jury awarded $287 million in compensatory damages and $5 billion in punitive damages against Exxon. The Ninth Circuit remitted the punitive damages award to $2.5 billion, which was still nearly nine times the amount of compensatory damages awarded.
Recently, the Supreme Court held in Exxon Shipping Co. et al. v. Baker et al., (No. 07-219), that the punitive damages award against Exxon was excessive and should be limited to an amount equal to compensatory damages. The decision is not a constitutional ruling and arises only in the context of maritime law. However, the Court seems to be sending a signal that punitive damage awards are out of control and is trying to provide a workable guideline in numbers rather than words.The final footnote of the opinion suggests that “the constitutional outer limit may well be 1:1.”
For more discussion, read this article on SCOTUS blog. --Counseller/nc
Over on Slate.com there is an interesting article comparing the swing voting styles of Justices Kennedy and former Justice O’Conner. This article examines the liberal and conservative swings of these two justices in light of important issues such as abortion and the war on terror in an examination of their status as the “swing voters” of the high court. Click Here to read the article on Slate.com. --Counseller/jm