Friday, May 17, 2013
Now available on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is an essay by Brooke Coleman (Seattle) entitled Celebrating Civil Rulemaking. It reviews a recent article by Lonny Hoffman (Houston), Rulemaking in the Age of Twombly and Iqbal, which will appear in the U.C. Davis Law Review.
Prof. Ion Meyn (Wisconsin) has posted on SSRN a draft of his article Discovery and Darkness: The Information Deficit in Criminal Disputes, which will appear in the Brooklyn Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
Scholarship has long recognized a disparity between the discovery rights afforded to civil litigants and those afforded to criminal defendants. The consensus is that this disparity is caused by resource constraints and limited access to the prosecutorial file. This Article challenges that conception, contending that criminal defendants are in fact structurally precluded from conducting any formal investigation. Merely entitled to disclosures of the State's evidence, a criminal defendant must rely on the fruits of the opponent's investigation to somehow suggest a counter-narrative. This dynamic is inconsistent with the design of the adversarial system and results in a failure to engage in adequate pretrial testing. This Article recasts a criminal defendant as an essential party to a criminal investigation who should have the pretrial power to compel information from multiple sources. Certainly, greater access to the prosecutorial file and more resources will mitigate discovery deprivations that currently plague criminal defendants. But without extending a criminal defendant the power to direct an independent and formal investigation, adequate pretrial testing cannot occur. Evaluating the investigative tools that should be extended to a criminal defendant, the Article utilizes a case study to ascertain how the application of these tools might affect a pretrial investigation. Finally, the Article surveys and responds to policy arguments against permitting the participation of criminal defendants in criminal investigations.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Raymond H. Brescia and Edward J. Ohanian, both of Albany Law School, have posted on SSRN their new paper, "The Politics of Procedure: An Empirical Analysis of Motion Practice in Civil Rights Litigation Under the New Plausibility Standard."
civil procedure political? In May of 2009, the Supreme Court issued its
decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which explicitly extended the
“plausibility standard,” first articulated in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly
two years earlier, to all civil pleadings. That standard requires that
pleadings, in order to satisfy Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, must state a plausible claim for relief. For many, these
rulings represented a sea change in civil pleading standards. Where
prior Supreme Court precedent had provided that a pleading should not be
dismissed “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove
no set of facts in support of his claim,” the new standard requires that
judges utilize their own “judicial experience and common sense” to
determine whether claimants have set forth facts sufficient to “nudge
their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” In the
years since their issuance, this standard has provoked many questions.
One such question, which lurks behind all otherwise neutral rules of
procedure is the following: could this apparently neutral principle of
procedure be subject to political manipulation?
After Twombly, and again after Iqbal, many expressed fears that the new plausibility standard offered judges too much discretion; a judge could dismiss a case where a plaintiff’s claims did not comport with that judge’s experience and common sense. There was a particular fear that this discretion would have a disparate and adverse impact on civil rights cases: i.e., if members of the federal bench were predisposed to disfavor such claims, they might use these precedents to dismiss civil rights cases too readily. Several years have now passed since the Court issued these decisions, and the district courts have compiled a body of thousands of decisions citing these precedents. As a result, it is now possible to assess the impact of these decisions on practice in the lower courts, particularly their effect on civil rights cases. The study described here attempted to do just that by looking at outcomes and trends in motions challenging the specificity of the pleadings in over 500 employment and housing discrimination cases over a period of six years (including decisions issued both before and after Twombly and Iqbal). This research reviewed the outcomes in such cases based on a number of metrics, including, most importantly, the political affiliation of the president who appointed the judge issuing each decision reviewed.
The study revealed a statistically significant relationship between the outcomes in civil rights cases and time period (i.e. pre-Twombly, post-Twombly but pre-Iqbal, and post-Iqbal) where the political affiliation of the president who appointed the judge reaching the decision in each case was Republican. For cases decided by judges appointed by Democrat-affiliated presidents, no such relationship was observed. This paper reports on the findings of this study and discusses their implications.
Two years ago we covered the strange set of developments in Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, a class action lawsuit against a number of chemical and energy companies based on their alleged contribution to climate conditions that exacerbated the force and effect of Hurricane Katrina. The district court had dismissed the case on political question grounds, but a Fifth Circuit panel reversed — rejecting the political question argument and finding that the plaintiffs had standing. See 585 F.3d 855 (2009).
The en banc Fifth Circuit granted rehearing, although due to several recusals only nine of the sixteen Fifth Circuit judges were able to vote. Then one of those nine judges recused, thus depriving the en banc court of its quorum. However, the quorum-less en banc court chose not to revert to the Fifth Circuit panel’s decision, which would have reversed the district court’s dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings. Rather, the quorum-less en banc court (per five of the remaining eight judges) dismissed the appeal in its entirety, thereby reinstating a district court ruling that had already been unanimously reversed by a three-judge Fifth Circuit panel. See 607 F.3d 1049 (2010).
In 2011, the plaintiffs filed a new lawsuit alleging many of the same claims. This week, a Fifth Circuit panel affirms the dismissal of that lawsuit, finding it barred by res judicata. In Comer II (No. 12-60291, May 14, 2013), the panel concludes that — despite the unusual chain of events at the Fifth Circuit two years ago — the first lawsuit satisfied all the elements of res judicata: “(1) the parties are identical or in privity; (2) the judgment in the prior action was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (3) the prior action was concluded by a final judgment on the merits; and (4) the same claim or cause of action was involved in both actions.” [Slip Op. 7]
(Hat Tip: David Coale)
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
S.I. Strong (Missouri/Supreme Court Fellow) has posted two articles about international commercial arbitration to SSRN.
International commercial arbitration has long been considered one of the paradigmatic forms of private international law and has achieved a degree of legitimacy that is virtually unparalleled in the international realm. However, significant questions have recently begun to arise about the device’s public international attributes, stemming largely from a circuit split regarding the nature of the New York Convention, the leading treaty in the field, and Chapter 2 of the Federal Arbitration Act, which helps give effect to the Convention in the United States.
Efforts have been made to place the debate about the New York Convention within the context of post-Medellin jurisprudence concerning self-executing treaties. However, that framework does not adequately address the difficult constitutional question as to what course should be adopted when a particular issue is governed by both a treaty and a statute that is meant to incorporate that treaty into domestic law.
This Article addresses that question by considering the role of and relationship between the New York Convention and the Federal Arbitration Act, and by providing a robust analysis of the constitutional, statutory and public international issues that arise in cases involving international treaties and incorporative statues. Although the discussion is rooted in the context of international commercial arbitration, the Article provides important theoretical and practical insights that are equally applicable in other types of public international law.
For many years, courts, commentators and counsel agreed that 28 U.S.C. §1782 – a somewhat extraordinary procedural device that allows U.S. courts to order discovery in the United States “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal” – did not apply to disputes involving international arbitration. However, that presumption has come under challenge in recent years, particularly in the realm of investment arbitration, where the Chevron-Ecuador dispute has made Section 1782 requests a commonplace procedure. This Article takes a rigorous look at both the history and the future of Section 1782 in international arbitration, taking care to distinguish between requests made in the context of international commercial arbitration and requests made in the context of international investment arbitration. In so doing, the Article considers issues relating to grants of jurisdiction, state interests and standard interpretive canons.
Monday, May 13, 2013
SCOTUS cert grant on the ability of in forma pauperis filers to amend their complaints under the Prison Litigation Reform Act
Whether the Sixth Circuit erred in holding—in conflict with all eleven other federal circuit courts of appeals—that the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), prohibits indigent defendants from amending their complaints.
You can find a link to the decision below and the cert-stage briefing at SCOTUSblog’s casefile.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an important decision on personal jurisdiction: Ainsworth v. Moffett Engineering, Ltd., No. 12-60155 (May 9, 2013). In an opinion by Judge Patrick Higginbotham (joined by Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod), the court reaffirms its “stream-of-commerce approach to personal jurisdiction” [Slip Op. 1] in the wake of J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro, 131 S. Ct. 2780 (2011). Below are some excerpts (footnotes omitted). From Slip Op. 3-4:
In cases involving a product sold or manufactured by a foreign defendant, this Circuit has consistently followed a “stream-of-commerce” approach to personal jurisdiction, under which the minimum contacts requirement is met so long as the court “finds that the defendant delivered the product into the stream of commerce with the expectation that it would be purchased by or used by consumers in the forum state.” Under that test, “mere foreseeability or awareness [is] a constitutionally sufficient basis for personal jurisdiction if the defendant’s product made its way into the forum state while still in the stream of commerce,” but “[t]he defendant’s contacts must be more than ‘random, fortuitous, or attenuated, or of the unilateral activity of another party or third person.’”
On interlocutory appeal, Moffett argues that application of the Fifth Circuit’s stream-of-commerce approach is no longer proper after the Supreme Court’s decision in McIntyre…. We disagree and find that application of the stream-of-commerce approach in this case does not run afoul of McIntyre’s narrow holding….