Monday, April 30, 2018
Whether the Federal Arbitration Act forecloses a state-law interpretation of an arbitration agreement that would authorize class arbitration based solely on general language commonly used in arbitration agreements.
Whether, or in what circumstances, a cy pres award of class action proceeds that provides no direct relief to class members supports class certification and comports with the requirement that a settlement binding class members must be “fair, reasonable, and adequate.”
Friday, April 27, 2018
Yesterday the Supreme Court adopted amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (covered earlier here) and transmitted them to Congress. These amendments affect Rules 5, 23, 62, and 65.1. Unless Congress intervenes, they will take effect on December 1, 2018.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Supreme Court decision in Cyan: SLUSA & state court jurisdiction over 1933 Securities Act class actions
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund. In an opinion authored by Justice Kagan, the Court addresses the effect of the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA) on class actions that allege violations of only the Securities Act of 1933 (which governs the original issuance of securities). The defendants argued that SLUSA deprives state courts of jurisdiction over such class actions. The Solicitor General proposed what Justice Kagan called a “halfway-house position,” whereby state courts have jurisdiction but defendants may remove such class actions to federal court.
The Court unanimously rejects both arguments. First, the Court holds that state courts retain jurisdiction over class actions that allege only 1933 Act violations: “SLUSA’s text, read most straightforwardly, leaves in place state courts’ jurisdiction over 1933 Act claims, including when brought in class actions.” Second, the Court holds that when such class actions are filed in state court, they may not be removed to federal court. SLUSA did not exempt such class actions from the general bar on removal currently codified at 15 U.S.C. § 77v(a).
Thursday, March 1, 2018
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)
Monday, February 26, 2018
Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) provides that the FAA does not apply “to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” 9 U.S.C. § 1. Respondent is an independent contractor whose agreement with interstate trucking company New Prime, Inc. (“Prime”) includes a mandatory arbitration provision requiring Respondent to arbitrate all workplace disputes with Prime on an individual basis. Respondent does not challenge the validity of the arbitration agreement he signed or the delegation clause contained therein, which mandates that all disputes regarding arbitrability be decided by an arbitrator. Nonetheless, Respondent filed a putative class action in court and opposed arbitration on the basis of the Section 1 exemption.
The questions presented are:
1. Whether a dispute over applicability of the FAA’s Section 1 exemption is an arbitrability issue that must be resolved in arbitration pursuant to a valid delegation clause.
2. Whether the FAA’s Section 1 exemption, which applies on its face only to “contracts of employment,” is inapplicable to independent contractor agreements.
A couple of decisions from the federal circuits in recent weeks:
In Hagy v. Demers & Adams, the Sixth Circuit addressed Article III standing and the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Spokeo. Judge Sutton’s opinion dismisses a case brought under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) “[b]ecause the complaint failed to identify a cognizable injury traceable to [the defendant] and because Congress cannot override this baseline requirement of Article III of the U.S. Constitution by labeling the violation of any requirement of a statute a cognizable injury.” (H/T: Howard Bashman)
In Simpson v. Trump University, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s approval of a class action settlement involving seminars offered by Trump University. Here’s the introduction from Judge Nguyen’s opinion:
Trump University, now defunct, was a for-profit entity that purported to teach Donald J. Trump's “secrets of success” in the real estate industry. During the 2016 presidential election, Trump University and Trump were defendants in three lawsuits alleging fraud and violations of various state and federal laws: two class actions in the Southern District of California, and a suit by the New York Attorney General in state court. Each suit alleged that Trump University used false advertising to lure prospective students to free investor workshops at which they were sold expensive three-day educational seminars. At these seminars, instead of receiving the promised training, attendees were aggressively encouraged to invest tens of thousands of dollars more in a so-called mentorship program that included resources, real estate guidance, and a host of other benefits, none of which ever materialized.
In the California cases, the district court certified two classes of over eight thousand disappointed “students,” and scheduled the cases for trial in late November 2016. On November 8, 2016, Trump was elected President of the United States. Within weeks, the parties reached a global settlement on terms highly favorable to class members. Plaintiffs would receive between 80 to 90 percent of what they paid for Trump University programs, totaling $21 million. The defendants agreed to pay an additional $4 million in the case brought by the Attorney General of New York.
This appeal involves a lone objector, Sherri Simpson, who seeks to opt out of the class and bring her claims in a separate lawsuit, which would derail the settlement. Simpson does not dispute that she received, at the class certification stage, a court-approved notice of her right to exclude herself from the class and chose not to do so by the deadline. She argues, however, that the class notice promised her a second opportunity to opt out at the settlement stage, or alternatively, that due process requires this second chance. Neither argument is correct. We affirm.
(H/T: Adam Zimmerman) (Full disclosure: I joined an amicus brief on behalf of civil procedure professors in support of the objector in this case.)
Friday, December 8, 2017
Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in several cases, including these two:
United States v. Sanchez-Gomez presents the question: “Whether the court of appeals erred in asserting authority to review respondents’ interlocutory challenge to pretrial physical restraints and in ruling on that challenge notwithstanding its recognition that respondents’ individual claims were moot.”
China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh presents the question: “Whether the American Pipe rule tolls statutes of limitations to permit a previously absent class member to bring a subsequent class action outside the applicable limitations period.”
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Last night, during Game 1 of the World Series, the Senate passed House Joint Resolution 111, which would repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule on arbitration agreements (covered earlier here). The CFPB’s rule would prohibit providers of certain consumer financial products and services from using an arbitration agreement to bar consumers from filing or participating in a class action.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Betty Dukes, the lead plaintiff in the historic class action Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. C-01-2252 (N.D. Calif.), has died at age 67. Although the lower courts granted and affirmed class certification in a gender- and race-based discrimination suit, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority, reversed the grant of class certification.
Hat tip: Janet Alexander.
Monday, July 10, 2017
From the summary:
First, the final rule prohibits covered providers of certain consumer financial products and services from using an agreement with a consumer that provides for arbitration of any future dispute between the parties to bar the consumer from filing or participating in a class action concerning the covered consumer financial product or service. Second, the final rule requires covered providers that are involved in an arbitration pursuant to a pre-dispute arbitration agreement to submit specified arbitral records to the Bureau and also to submit specified court records. The Bureau is also adopting official interpretations to the regulation.
Friday, July 7, 2017
Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its decision in In re Petrobras Securities. Among other things, the panel’s opinion addresses the role of “ascertainability” for class certification under FRCP 23:
“We take this opportunity to clarify the ascertainability doctrine’s substance and purpose. We conclude that a freestanding administrative feasibility requirement is neither compelled by precedent nor consistent with Rule 23, joining four of our sister circuits in declining to adopt such a requirement. The ascertainability doctrine that governs in this Circuit requires only that a class be defined using objective criteria that establish a membership with definite boundaries.”
Specifically, the Second Circuit rejected what it called “[t]he heightened ascertainability test, as articulated by the Third Circuit,” which “treats administrative feasibility as an absolute standard: plaintiffs must provide adequate ‘assurance that there can be a reliable and administratively feasible mechanism for determining whether putative class members fall within the class definition.’”
“We conclude that an implied administrative feasibility requirement would be inconsistent with the careful balance struck in Rule 23, which directs courts to weigh the competing interests inherent in any class certification decision.”
Monday, June 12, 2017
Today the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, a case for which cert was granted nearly a year and a half ago. The plaintiffs in the case had sought certification of a class action, but the district court refused. After failing to receive permission to appeal the class-certification ruling under Rule 23(f), the plaintiffs (in the words of Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion) “stipulated to a voluntary dismissal of their claims ‘with prejudice,’ but reserved the right to revive their claims should the Court of Appeals reverse the District Court’s certification denial.”
Today’s decision finds that such a stipulated voluntary dismissal did not create appellate jurisdiction, although the Court splits 5-3 on the basis for that conclusion. Joined by Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, Justice Ginsburg writes:
We hold that the voluntary dismissal essayed by respondents does not qualify as a “final decision” within the compass of §1291. The tactic would undermine §1291’s firm finality principle, designed to guard against piecemeal appeals, and subvert the balanced solution Rule 23(f) put in place for immediate review of class-action orders.
A concurring opinion by Justice Thomas (joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito) concludes that there was a “final decision” for purposes of § 1291, because the district court’s order “dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice and left nothing for the District Court to do but execute the judgment.” Justice Thomas, however, reasons that “the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction under Article III of the Constitution,” because “[w]hen the plaintiffs asked the District Court to dismiss their claims, they consented to the judgment against them and disavowed any right to relief from Microsoft.”
Justice Gorsuch—who was not yet on the Court at the time of oral argument—took no part in the case.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Today’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court featured lots of civil procedure and federal courts issues. Transcripts below:
- Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board (earlier coverage here)
- Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates (earlier coverage here)
- California Public Employees Retirement System v. ANZ Securities (earlier coverage here)
Friday, April 7, 2017
Russell Gold has posted on SSRN his article, “Clientless” Lawyers, 92 Wash. L. Rev. 87 (2017). Here’s the abstract:
Class counsel and prosecutors have a lot more in common than scholars realize. These lawyers have clients, but their clients are diffuse and lack a formal decisionmaking structure. Because of the nature of their clients, class counsel and prosecutors have to make decisions for their clients that one would ordinarily expect clients to make — and indeed that legal ethics rules would expressly require clients to make in other contexts — such as decisions concerning objectives of representation or whether to settle or plead guilty. Both complex litigation and criminal law scholars recognize that these lawyers’ self-interests diverge from their clients’ interests. But the complex litigation and criminal law literatures discuss the ensuing accountability problem solely in their own spheres. This article considers the insights about accountability that complex litigation can learn from criminal law.
More specifically, the article argues that although there are real differences between the two systems, these differences do not justify the completely different approaches to accountability that the two contexts employ. Rather, the comparison suggests that internal checks within class counsel’s firm, between plaintiffs’ firms, or between third-party funders and class counsel can improve accountability, much as internal checks improve accountability within some prosecutors’ offices.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Nora Freeman Engstrom has posted on SSRN her article, Retaliatory RICO and the Puzzle of Fraudulent Claiming, 115 Mich. L. Rev. 639 (2017). Here’s the abstract:
Over the past century, the allegation that the tort liability system incentivizes legal extortion and is chock-full of fraudulent claims has dominated public discussion and prompted lawmakers to ever-more-creatively curtail individuals’ incentives and opportunities to seek redress. Unsatisfied with these conventional efforts, in recent years, at least a dozen corporate defendants have "discovered” a new fraud-fighting tool. They’ve started filing retaliatory RICO suits against plaintiffs and their lawyers and experts, alleging that the initiation of certain nonmeritorious litigation constitutes racketeering activity—while tort reform advocates have applauded these efforts and exhorted more “courageous” companies to follow suit.
Curiously, though, all of this has taken place against a virtual empirical void. Is the tort liability system actually brimming with fraudulent claims? No one knows. There has been no serious attempt to analyze when, how often, or under what conditions fraudulent claiming proliferates. Similarly, tort reformers support RICO’s use because, they say, conventional mechanisms to deter fraud fall short. But are conventional mechanisms insufficient? Hard to say, as there is no comprehensive inventory of the myriad formal and informal mechanisms already in use; nor do we have even a vague sense of how those mechanisms actually operate. Further, though courts have started to green-light retaliatory RICO actions, no one has carefully analyzed whether these suits are, on balance, beneficial. Indeed, few have so much as surfaced relevant risks. Addressing these questions, this Article attempts to bring overdue attention to a problem central to the tort system’s operation and integrity.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Several interesting civil procedure cases on the Supreme Court’s March 2017 oral argument calendar (more details in the links)...
Today (3/21): Microsoft v. Baker
Tomorrow (3/22): Water Splash v. Menon
Monday (3/27): TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods
Friday, March 10, 2017
We covered earlier several bills that could make significant changes to federal civil procedure. Two of these passed the House of Representatives yesterday.
- H.R. 725 (the Innocent Party Protection Act) passed by a vote of 224–194.
- H.R. 985 (the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act) passed by a vote of 220-201-1.
Stay tuned. Getting to 60 votes in the Senate will be a more difficult proposition.
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Suzette Malveaux’s essay, The Impact of Wal-Mart v. Dukes on Employment Discrimination Class Actions Five Years Out: A Forecast That Suggests More a Wave Than a Tsunami. Suzette reviews a recent article by Michael Selmi & Sylvia Tsakos, Employment Discrimination Class Actions After Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 48 Akron L. Rev. 803 (2015).
Monday, March 6, 2017
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Alexandra Lahav’s essay, (Almost) Everything You Wanted to Know About Class Actions. Alexandra reviews John Coffee’s recent book, Entrepreneurial Litigation: Its Rise, Fall, and Future.