Thursday, March 1, 2018

Justices discuss class actions in Jennings v. Rodriguez

In this week’s Jennings v. Rodriguez decision, the Supreme Court rules 5-3 that certain noncitizens detained in the course of immigration proceedings have no statutory right to periodic bond hearings. The Court remands the case, however, to address the plaintiffs’ constitutional arguments.

All three opinions in the case have something to say about class actions—Justice Alito’s (mostly) majority opinion, Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion, and Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion. In remanding the case for the Ninth Circuit to consider the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims, Justice Alito writes:

[T]he Court of Appeals should consider on remand whether it may issue classwide injunctive relief based on respondents’ constitutional claims. If not, and if the Court of Appeals concludes that it may issue only declaratory relief, then the Court of Appeals should decide whether that remedy can sustain the class on its own. See, e. g., Rule 23(b)(2) (requiring “that final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief [be] appropriate respecting the class as a whole” (emphasis added)).

The Court of Appeals should also consider whether a Rule 23(b)(2) class action continues to be the appropriate vehicle for respondents’ claims in light of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U. S. 338 (2011). We held in Dukes that “Rule 23(b)(2) applies only when a single injunction or declaratory judgment would provide relief to each member of the class.” Id., at 360. That holding may be relevant on remand because the Court of Appeals has already acknowledged that some members of the certified class may not be entitled to bond hearings as a constitutional matter. See, e. g., 804 F. 3d, at 1082; 715 F. 3d, at 1139–1141 (citing, e. g., Shaughnessy v. United States ex rel. Mezei, 345 U. S. 206 (1953)). Assuming that is correct, then it may no longer be true that the complained-of “‘conduct is such that it can be enjoined or declared unlawful only as to all of the class members or as to none of them.’” Dukes, supra, at 360 (quoting Nagareda, Class Certification in the Age of Aggregate Proof, 84 N. Y. U. L. Rev. 97, 132 (2009)).

Similarly, the Court of Appeals should also consider on remand whether a Rule 23(b)(2) class action litigated on common facts is an appropriate way to resolve respondents’ Due Process Clause claims. “[D]ue process is flexible,” we have stressed repeatedly, and it “calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands.” Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U. S. 471, 481 (1972); see also Landon v. Plasencia, 459 U. S. 21, 34 (1982).

Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion responds:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) permits a class action where “final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole.” (Emphasis added.) And the Advisory Committee says that declaratory relief can fall within the Rule’s term “corresponding” if it “serves as a basis for later injunctive relief.” Notes on Rule 23(b)(2)–1966 Amendment, 28 U. S. C. App., p. 812.

* * *

Neither does Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U. S. 338 (2011), bar these class actions. Every member of each class seeks the same relief (a bail hearing), every member has been denied that relief, and the differences in situation among members of the class are not relevant to their entitlement to a bail hearing.

And Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion flags in a footnote the issue of whether class actions can seek a habeas corpus remedy: “This Court has never addressed whether habeas relief can be pursued in a class action. See Schall v. Martin, 467 U. S. 253, 261, n. 10 (1984) (reserving this question). I take no position on that issue here, since I conclude that respondents are not seeking habeas relief in the first place.”

(H/T: Adam Zimmerman)

Class Actions, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink


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