Friday, March 23, 2018
Bryan Lammon has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, Cumulative Finality, which will be published in the Georgia Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
A proper notice of appeal is a necessary first step in most federal appeals. But federal litigants sometimes file their notice of appeal early, before district court proceedings have ended. When those proceedings finally end and no new notice is filed, the law of cumulative finality determines what effect-if any-the premature notice has. Sometimes the notice is effective and the appeal proceeds as normal. Sometimes it's not, and litigants lose their right to appeal.
At least, that's how the law of cumulative finality looks from a distance. Up close, the courts of appeals are hopelessly divided on matters of cumulative finality. They disagree what law governs cumulative finality issues-whether they're governed solely by Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(2) or also by a common-law cumulative finality doctrine that preceded the rule-and under what conditions a premature notice of appeal is saved. Three distinct approaches to cumulative finality have emerged, resulting in a deep circuit split. To make matters worse, decisions within several of the circuits have applied different approaches, resulting in intra-circuit divides.
This Article offers a fix. Neither the text of the Rules of Appellate Procedure nor their history provide a clear cumulative finality rule. But looking to the practicalities of the issue suggests allowing a subsequent judgment to save any prematurely filed notice of appeal. Doing so imposes few costs while preserving litigants' right to appeal.
The current cumulative finality mess illuminates a larger issue with the appellate jurisdiction literature and its attendant reform efforts. The literature has long maligned the unnecessary complexity and uncertainty of the entire federal appellate jurisdiction regime and advocated reform. But most of that literature focuses on only one part of that regime-appeals before a final judgment. Equally important are issues with determining when district court proceedings have ended and parties thus have a right to appeal. Cumulative finality is only one piece in this other aspect of appellate jurisdiction. There are more. Successful reform might require establishing a new, clearer point at which parties have a right to appeal. So this other aspect of appellate jurisdiction needs similar attention if reform is to succeed.
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Abbe Gluck, Ashley Hall, and Gregory Curfman have posted on SSRN a draft of their article, Civil Litigation and the Opioid Epidemic: The Role of Courts in a National Health Crisis, which will be published in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. Here’s the abstract:
The devastating impact of the national opioid epidemic has given rise to hundreds of lawsuits. The plaintiffs -- who range from states, to counties, to Indian tribes, and individuals -- have cast an exceedingly broad net for defendants. They have sued not only the opioid manufacturers and the doctors who prescribed the drugs, but also the companies that distribute them, the pharmacies that sell them, and even the hospital accreditation organization that encouraged doctors to stop undertreating pain -- which they were -- two decades ago.
This is not the first major national public health litigation effort -- tobacco, fast food, and guns offer earlier blueprints -- but it has some unique features. First, unlike the litigation it most resembles -- tobacco -- the opioid narrative has a far more complicated chain of causation. Opioids, unlike tobacco, have an important therapeutic purpose; they are FDA approved as safe and effective; they are often prescribed by doctors for sound medical reasons; and then they wind their way from manufacturer, to distributor, to pharmacy, to patient. This complicates litigation because defendants can argue that intervening factors (including other defendants) make any single defendant's culpability hard to isolate.
Second, more than 400 of the opioid cases have now been consolidated before a single federal judge in a so-called "multidistrict litigation." That judge has chided the federal and state governments for punting the problem to the courts; he has made clear he thinks everyone is to blame; and has vowed to get a settlement, with systemic change as part of it, by the end of 2018 -- a breathtaking pace for resolution that makes his courtroom the game changer.
None of this is to say that litigation is the ideal way to solve a public health problem. Concerns abound about attorneys fees', conflicts of interests, inadequate settlement and the possible overreach of the presiding judge. But litigation has already spurred change in both the industry and the practice of medicine. It has played a central role in the public response to the epidemic. This article details that story.
We covered earlier the Supreme Court’s cert grant in the Salt River case, which presents the question: “Whether orders denying state-action immunity to public entities are immediately appealable under the collateral-order doctrine.” This week, the parties entered into a Stipulation of Dismissal pursuant to Sup. Ct. R. 46, taking the case off the Court’s docket.
Disappointed appellate-jurisdiction junkies may perhaps find solace in the jurisdictional portion of yesterday’s Ayestas decision.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Ayestas v. Davis, which involves a capital habeas petitioner seeking funding for investigative services, as authorized by 18 U.S.C. § 3599. Justice Alito’s opinion concludes that the courts below applied the wrong legal standard in denying Ayestas’s motion for funding and remands for further proceedings to apply the correct legal standard.
First, however, the Court confronts the question of whether appellate courts—including the Supreme Court—have jurisdiction to review a district court’s denial of such a request for funding. Here’s how Justice Alito tees up the issue:
When the District Court denied petitioner’s funding request and his habeas petition, he took an appeal to the Fifth Circuit under 28 U. S. C. §§1291 and 2253, which grant the courts of appeals jurisdiction to review final “decisions” and “orders” of a district court. And when the Fifth Circuit affirmed, petitioner sought review in this Court under §1254, which gives us jurisdiction to review “[c]ases” in the courts of appeals. As respondent correctly notes, these provisions confer jurisdiction to review decisions made by a district court in a judicial capacity. But we have recognized that not all decisions made by a federal court are “judicial” in nature; some decisions are properly understood to be “administrative,” and in that case they are “not subject to our review.” Hohn v. United States, 524 U. S. 236, 245 (1998).
The need for federal judges to make many administrative decisions is obvious. The Federal Judiciary, while tiny in comparison to the Executive Branch, is nevertheless a large and complex institution, with an annual budget exceeding $7 billion and more than 32,000 employees. See Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts, The Judiciary FY 2018 Congressional Budget Summary Revised 9–10 (June 2017). Administering this operation requires many “decisions” in the ordinary sense of the term—decisions about such things as facilities, personnel, equipment, supplies, and rules of procedure. In re Application for Exemption from Electronic Pub. Access Fees by Jennifer Gollan and Shane Shifflett, 728 F. 3d 1033, 1037 (CA9 2013). It would be absurd to suggest that every “final decision” on any such matter is appealable under §1291 or reviewable in this Court under §1254. See Hohn, supra; 15A C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure §3903, pp. 134–135 (2d ed. 1992). Such administrative decisions are not the kind of decisions or orders—i.e., decisions or orders made in a judicial capacity—to which the relevant jurisdictional provisions apply.
The Court concludes that the district court’s funding decision “does not remotely resemble the sort of administrative decisions noted above.” It is therefore subject to appellate review under the usual jurisdictional provisions.
Justice Sotomayor authors a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg, arguing that—under the proper legal standard—“there should be little doubt that Ayestas has satisfied §3599(f)” and is entitled to funding.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Maggie Lemos & Ernie Young have posted on SSRN a draft of their article, State Public Law Litigation in an Age of Polarization. Here’s the abstract:
Public-law litigation by state governments plays an increasingly prominent role in American governance. Although public lawsuits by state governments designed to challenge the validity or shape the content of national policy are not new, such suits have increased in number and salience over the last few decades — especially since the tobacco litigation of the late 1990s. Under the Obama and Trump Administrations, such suits have taken on a particularly partisan cast; “red” states have challenged the Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s immigration orders, for example, and “blue” states have challenged President Trump’s travel bans and attempts to roll back prior environmental policies. As a result, longstanding concerns about state litigation as a form of national policymaking that circumvents ordinary lawmaking processes have been joined by new concerns that state litigation reflects and aggravates partisan polarization.
This Article explores the relationship between state litigation and the polarization of American politics. As we explain, our federal system can mitigate the effects of partisan polarization by taking some divisive issues off the national agenda, leaving them to be solved in state jurisdictions where consensus may be more attainable — both because polarization appears to be dampened at the state level, and because political preferences are unevenly distributed geographically. State litigation can both help and hinder this dynamic. The available evidence suggests that state attorneys general (who handle the lion’s share of state litigation) are themselves fairly polarized, as are certain categories of state litigation. We map out the different ways states can use litigation to shape national policy, linking each to concerns about polarization. We thus distinguish between “vertical” conflicts, in which states sue to preserve their autonomy to go their own way on divisive issues, and “horizontal” conflicts, in which different groups of states vie for control of national policy. The latter, we think, will tend to aggravate polarization. But we concede — and illustrate — that it will often be difficult to separate out the vertical and horizontal aspects of particular disputes, and that in some horizontal disputes the polarization costs of state litigation may be worth paying.
We argue, moreover, that state litigation cannot be understood in a vacuum, but must be assessed as part of a broader phenomenon in American law: our reliance on entrepreneurial litigation to develop and enforce public norms. In this context, state attorneys general often play roles similar to “private attorneys general” such as class action lawyers or public interest organizations. And states, with their built-in systems of democratic accountability and internal checks and balances, compare well with other entrepreneurial enforcement vehicles in a number of respects. Nevertheless, state litigation efforts may not always account well for divergent preferences and interests within the broad publics that the states represent, and this deficiency becomes particularly important in politically polarized times. Although our account of state litigation is, on the whole, a positive one, we caution that state attorneys general face a significant risk of backlash by other political actors, and by courts, if state litigation is (or is perceived to be) a bitterly partisan affair.
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).
Monday, March 19, 2018
Marin Levy has published Panel Assignment in the Federal Courts of Appeals, 103 Cornell L. Rev. 65 (2017). Here’s the abstract:
It is common knowledge that the federal courts of appeals typically hear cases in panels of three judges and that the composition of the panel can have significant consequences for case outcomes and for legal doctrine more generally. Yet neither legal scholars nor social scientists have focused on the question of how judges are selected for their panels. Instead, a substantial body of scholarship simply assumes that panel assignment is random.
This Article provides what, up until this point, has been a missing account of panel assignment. Drawing on a multiyear qualitative study of five circuit courts, including in-depth interviews with thirty-five judges and senior administrators, I show that strictly random selection is a myth, and an improbable one at that – in many instances, it would have been impossible as a practical matter for the courts studied here to create their panels by random draw. Although the courts generally tried to “mix up” the judges, the chief judges and clerks responsible for setting the calendar also took into account various other factors, from collegiality to efficiency-based considerations. Notably, those factors differed from one court to the next; no two courts approached the challenge of panel assignment in precisely the same way.
These findings pose an important challenge to the widespread assumption of panel randomness and reveal key normative questions that have been largely ignored in the literature. Although randomness is regarded as the default selection method across much of judicial administration, there is little exposition of why it is valuable. What, exactly, is desirable about having judges brought together randomly in the first place? What, if anything, is problematic about nonrandom methods of selection? This Article sets out to clarify both the costs and benefits of randomness, arguing that there can be valid reasons to depart from it. As such, it provides a framework for assessing different panel assignment practices and the myriad other court practices that rely, to some extent, on randomness.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
There has been a lot of coverage of Donald Trump’s relationship with Stephanie Clifford (known by her stage name Stormy Daniels), and the $130,000 payment she received in connection with a nondisclosure agreement during the heat of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Earlier this month, Clifford filed a lawsuit against Trump and Essential Consultants, LLC, in California state court (Los Angeles County). Essential Consultants, which was a party to the nondisclosure agreement, is apparently a Delaware LLC, and Trump attorney Michael Cohen is its sole member. Clifford’s complaint seeks a declaration that the “Hush Agreement” is unenforceable.
Yesterday, Essential Consultants removed the case to federal court. The notice alleges that, for purposes of diversity jurisdiction, Clifford is a Texas citizen and Trump and Essential Consultants are New York citizens. It also alleges that “the value of the object of the litigation” exceeds $75,000. The federal case has been docketed as Clifford v. Trump, No. 2:18-cv-02217 (C.D. Cal.)
Donald Trump filed a separate document joining in Essential Consultants’ notice of removal. This appears to be his effort to comply with 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(2)(A), which provides: “When a civil action is removed solely under section 1441(a), all defendants who have been properly joined and served must join in or consent to the removal of the action.”
You can find more coverage of the removal to federal court here:
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Bryan Lammon has posted on SSRN a draft of his essay, Hall v. Hall: A Lose-Lose Case for Appellate Jurisdiction, which is forthcoming in the Emory Law Journal Online. Here’s the abstract:
In Hall v. Hall, the Supreme Court will decide when parties in consolidated actions can appeal. But the Court has no great options in deciding the case. The Court can adopt a straightforward rule that rule would produce pragmatically unsound results. Or the Court can take a more flexible approach to appeals in this context, but doing so could inject further uncertainty and complexity into this area of the law. This problem is not unique to Hall; it exists when courts decide many issues of federal appellate jurisdiction. But Hall also illustrates the alternative way forward: although it's too late for Hall itself, the issue in Hall is an ideal one for rulemaking. More generally, rulemaking can avoid many of the problems federal courts run into when making rules of appellate jurisdiction.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group issues report to Judicial Conference of the United States
From Tony Mauro, Federal Judiciary Unveils First Reforms From Harassment Working Group:
A working group has come up with nearly 20 reforms aimed at dealing with concerns about workplace harassment throughout the federal judicial system.
James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, told the Judicial Conference in an interim report on Tuesday, “Any harassment in the judiciary is too much.” The 26-member conference, composed of federal judges from across the country, convened at the U.S. Supreme Court for its regular spring meeting.
The final report is expected in May.
And here are more details from the U.S. Courts website:
The following either have been accomplished or are in progress:
- Provided a session on sexual harassment during the ethics training for newly appointed judges in February.
- Established an online mailbox and several other avenues and opportunities for current and former judiciary employees to comment on policies and procedures for protecting and reporting workplace misconduct.
- Added instructive in-person programs on judiciary workforce policies and procedures and workplace sexual harassment to the curricula at Federal Judicial Center programs for chief district and chief bankruptcy judges this spring and upcoming circuit judicial conferences throughout the country this spring and summer.
- Removed the model confidentiality statement from the judiciary’s internal website to revise it to eliminate any ambiguous language that could unintentionally discourage law clerks or other employees from reporting sexual harassment or other workplace misconduct.
- Improve law clerk and employee orientations with increased training on workplace conduct rights, responsibilities, and recourse that will be administered in addition to, as well as separately from, other materials given in orientations.
- Provide “one click” website access to obtain information and reporting mechanisms for both Employment Dispute Resolution (EDR) and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act (JC&D) claims for misconduct.
- Create alternative and less formalized options for seeking assistance with concerns about workplace misconduct, both at the local level and in a national, centralized office at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, to enable employees to raise concerns more easily.
- Provide a simplified flowchart of the processes available under the EDR and JC&D.
- Create and encourage a process for court employee/law clerk exit interviews to determine if there are issues and suggestions to assist court units in identifying potential misconduct issues.
- Establish a process for former law clerks and employees to communicate with and obtain advice from relevant offices and committees of the judiciary.
- Continue to examine and clarify the Codes of Conduct for judges and employees.
- Improve communications with EDR and JC&D complainants during and after the claims process.
- Revise the Model EDR Plan to provide greater clarity to employees about how to navigate the EDR process.
- Establish qualifications and expand training for EDR Coordinators.
- Lengthen the time allowed to file EDR complaints.
- Integrate sexual harassment training into existing judiciary programs on discrimination and courtroom practices.
- Review the confidentiality provisions in several employee/law clerk handbooks to revise them to clarify that nothing in the provisions prevents the filing of a complaint.
- Identify specifically the data that the judiciary collects about judicial misconduct complaints to add a category for any complaints filed relating to sexual misconduct. The data shows that of the 1,303 misconduct complaints filed in fiscal year 2016, more than 1,200 were filed by dissatisfied litigants and prison inmates. No complaints were filed by law clerks or judiciary employees and no misconduct complaints related to sexual harassment.
Friday, March 9, 2018
At the end of this month, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Hughes v. United States. One of the issues the Court will address is how to identify the holding of a decision that lacks a majority opinion. I’ve posted on SSRN a draft of my essay, Non-Majority Opinions and Biconditional Rules, forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal Forum, that examines a particularly challenging aspect of this puzzle. Here’s the abstract:
In Hughes v. United States, the Supreme Court will revisit a thorny question: how to determine the precedential effect of decisions with no majority opinion. For four decades, the clearest instruction from the Court has been the rule from Marks v. United States: the Court’s holding is “the position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds.” The Marks rule raises particular concerns, however, when it is applied to biconditional rules. Biconditionals are distinctive in that they set a standard that dictates both success and failure for a given issue. More formulaically, they combine an if-then proposition (If A, then B) with its inverse (If Not-A, then Not-B).
Appellate courts on both sides of the circuit split that prompted the grant of certiorari in Hughes have overlooked the special features of biconditional rules. If the Supreme Court makes the same mistake, it could adopt a misguided approach that would unjustifiably create binding law without a sufficient consensus among the Justices involved in the precedent-setting case. This Essay identifies these concerns and proposes ways to coherently apply Marks to non-majority opinions that endorse biconditional rules.
The particular decision at issue in Hughes is Freeman v. United States, where the Court split 4-1-4 regarding when certain defendants are eligible to seek a sentence reduction based on a retroactive lowering of the sentencing guidelines. The government in Hughes is arguing: (1) a smaller set of defendants are eligible to seek a sentence reduction under Justice Sotomayor’s concurring opinion in Freeman than under Justice Kennedy’s plurality opinion in Freeman; (2) therefore, the Freeman concurrence is the “narrowest” and is binding under the Marks rule; and (3) the defendant in Hughes is ineligible for a sentence reduction under the Freeman concurrence’s test.
The parties in Hughes disagree about Point #1 because of some uncertainty regarding the scope of the test endorsed by the Freeman plurality. But even if the government is correct on Point #1, there’s a fundamental flaw in the analysis of which opinion is narrowest. Put simply: if the Freeman concurrence would deem a narrower universe of defendants to be eligible, then it would necessarily deem a broader universe of defendants to be ineligible. This is precisely the sort of problem that can arise when applying Marks to biconditional rules. The only plausible way for the Freeman concurrence to be the Court’s complete holding is to count the views of dissenting Justices—an approach that the Supreme Court has never endorsed and that is contrary to the prevailing understanding of Marks.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Today the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in In re United States of America (earlier coverage of the case here). As the opinion describes the litigation: “Twenty-one young plaintiffs brought suit against the United States, the President, and various Executive Branch officials and agencies, alleging that the defendants have contributed to climate change in violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”
The district court had denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, prompting the defendants to seek a writ of mandamus from the Ninth Circuit. Chief Judge Sidney Thomas authors a unanimous opinion denying the government’s petition without prejudice. The opinion is joined by Judges Marsha Berzon and Michelle Friedland. Judge Alex Kozinski was on the panel when oral argument occurred, but he was replaced by Judge Friedland following his retirement.
Judge Thomas’s opinion is structured around the Bauman factors—which have long guided the Ninth Circuit when it comes to mandamus petitions. They are:
(1) whether the petitioner has no other means, such as a direct appeal, to obtain the desired relief; (2) whether the petitioner will be damaged or prejudiced in any way not correctable on appeal; (3) whether the district court’s order is clearly erroneous as a matter of law; (4) whether the district court’s order is an oft repeated error or manifests a persistent disregard of the federal rules; and (5) whether the district court’s order raises new and important problems or issues of first impression.
Here are the opinion’s concluding paragraphs:
We are mindful that some of the plaintiffs’ claims as currently pleaded are quite broad, and some of the remedies the plaintiffs seek may not be available as redress. However, the district court needs to consider those issues further in the first instance. Claims and remedies often are vastly narrowed as litigation proceeds; we have no reason to assume this case will be any different. Nor would the defendants be precluded from reasserting a challenge to standing, particularly as to redressability, once the record is more fully developed, or from seeking mandamus in the future, if circumstances justify it. And the defendants retain the option of asking the district court to certify orders for interlocutory appeal of later rulings, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).
Because petitioners have not satisfied the Bauman factors, we deny the petition without prejudice. Absent any discovery order, the mandamus petition is premature insofar as it is premised on a fear of burdensome discovery. The issues pertaining to the merits of this case can be resolved by the district court, in a future appeal, or, if extraordinary circumstances later present themselves, by mandamus relief. For these reasons, we decline to exercise our discretion to grant mandamus relief at this stage of the litigation.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Patchak v. Zinke, covered earlier here. By a 6-3 vote—and with no majority opinion—the Court rules that the Gun Lake Act does not violate Article III. Justice Thomas writes the plurality opinion, joined by Justices Breyer, Alito, and Kagan. Justice Ginsburg writes a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Sotomayor. And Chief Justice Roberts writes a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Kennedy and Gorsuch. Justice Breyer and Justice Sotomayor also write separate concurring opinions. There’s a lot to digest, but here’s a quick breakdown...
The Gun Lake Act involved claims regarding land known as the Bradley property, which was the subject of a lawsuit by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians. The Act provided in § 2(b):
NO CLAIMS.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an action (including an action pending in a Federal court as of the date of enactment of this Act) relating to the land described in subsection (a) shall not be filed or maintained in a Federal court and shall be promptly dismissed.
Justice Thomas’s plurality opinion finds no Article III violation because:
Section 2(b) changes the law. Specifically, it strips federal courts of jurisdiction over actions “relating to” the Bradley Property. Before the Gun Lake Act, federal courts had jurisdiction to hear these actions. See 28 U. S. C. §1331. Now they do not. This kind of legal change is well within Congress’ authority and does not violate Article III.
Justice Ginsburg’s concurring opinion reads the Gun Lake Act as concerning solely sovereign immunity:
What Congress grants, it may retract. That is undoubtedly true of the Legislature’s authority to forgo or retain the Government’s sovereign immunity from suit. The Court need venture no further to decide this case.
Chief Justices Roberts’ dissenting opinion begins:
Two Terms ago, this Court unanimously agreed that Congress could not pass a law directing that, in the hypothetical pending case of Smith v. Jones, “Smith wins.” Bank Markazi v. Peterson, 578 U. S. ___, ___, n. 17 (2016) (slip op., at 13, n. 17). Today, the plurality refuses to enforce even that limited principle in the face of a very real statute that dictates the disposition of a single pending case. Contrary to the plurality, I would not cede unqualified authority to the Legislature to decide the outcome of such a case. Article III of the Constitution vests that responsibility in the Judiciary alone.
(Full disclosure, I joined an amicus brief on behalf of federal courts scholars in support of the petitioner in this case).
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, February 23, 2018
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Howard Wasserman’s essay, The Empirical Truth About Qualified Immunity. Howard reviews Joanna Schwartz’s recent article, How Qualified Immunity Fails, 127 Yale L.J. 2 (2017).
Monday, February 5, 2018
Conference: "A Court Transformed: The Ninth Circuit, the 1978 Judgeship Act, and the Carter Judges" (Pasadena, Cal. – Feb. 17)
The announcement for the conference begins:
Judges, legal historians and members of the bar are expected to gather in Pasadena, California, later this month to recall the 40th anniversary of enactment of the Omnibus Judgeship Act of 1978. The law authorized 10 new judgeships for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, nearly doubling the size of the Ninth Circuit bench. All of the new judgeships were first filled by President Jimmy Carter, giving the nation’s 39th president a lasting legacy on the court.
Entitled “A Court Transformed: The Ninth Circuit, the 1978 Judgeship Act, and the Carter Judges,” the special program will be held February 17, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., in Courtroom 3 of the Richard H. Chambers Court of Appeals Building, 125 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena. Admission is free. Attendees should RSVP by February 9, 2018, via email to Professor Arthur D. Hellman, email@example.com.
More details here.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit issued its decision in George v. Hargett. The case involves whether state officials who are sued for constitutional violations in federal court can file a new lawsuit in state court—naming the federal-court plaintiffs as state-court defendants—and then invoke issue preclusion in the federal court action. That’s what the Tennessee officials did in George, and the Sixth Circuit panel found that the state court’s ruling must be given issue-preclusive effect in federal court. The panel even called the officials’ move “an efficient and fruitful substitute” for abstention or certification—both of which the federal district court had explicitly rejected. A petition for rehearing en banc has been filed, and the Sixth Circuit has ordered the officials to respond by Thursday, February 9.
In the initial round of Sixth Circuit briefing, Suzanna Sherry authored a law-professor amicus brief arguing against giving the state-court judgment preclusive effect. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the signatories to that amicus brief.) Here’s Suzanna’s summary of the George case and the panel’s recent ruling:
Eight private plaintiffs filed a federal-court lawsuit against state officials alleging various constitutional violations, some of which were intertwined with questions about the meaning of a state constitutional provision.
When the district court denied motions to dismiss, abstain under Pullman, or certify, the state officials didn’t seek interlocutory review. Instead they filed suit against the eight private plaintiffs in state court seeking a declaratory judgment that their actions were lawful under the state constitution. After denying any discovery, the state court quickly issued summary judgment for the state officials, one day before the federal court issued its judgment for the plaintiffs.
The state-court judgment wasn’t appealed, and became final before the Sixth Circuit ruled on appeal. The Sixth Circuit gave the state-court judgment issue-preclusive effect, and thus held that the state constitutional provision had to be interpreted the way the state court had interpreted it rather than the way the federal court had. (Remember, this is a just a state trial court: Its opinion wouldn’t be binding under the Erie doctrine.)
What this decision seems to do is to invite any government official sued in federal court to answer the federal complaint with a state lawsuit, in hopes of stymying the pending federal suit and intimidating civil-rights plaintiffs. It rewrites § 1983 law to allow state officials to essentially require exhaustion of state remedies. It undermines the role of the federal courts as guarantors of constitutional rights.
Here’s the opinion of the Sixth Circuit panel:
And here’s the plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing en banc:
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Pamela Bookman’s essay, Cooperative Procedure-Making. Pam reviews Robin Effron’s forthcoming article, Ousted: The New Dynamics of Privatized Procedure and Judicial Discretion, 98 B.U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2018).
Monday, January 22, 2018
Today the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Artis v. District of Columbia (covered earlier here), which addresses the tolling provision of the supplemental jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d). Section 1367(d) often comes into play where a federal court dismisses all claims for which there is an independent basis for federal subject-matter jurisdiction, and then declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction (pursuant to § 1367(c)) over the remaining claims. Anticipating that the parties would then pursue any such claims in state court, § 1367(d) provides that the limitations period for such a claim “shall be tolled while the claim is pending and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed unless State law provides for a longer tolling period.”
Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion (joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) frames the question this way:
Does the word “tolled,” as used in §1367(d), mean the state limitations period is suspended during the pendency of the federal suit; or does “tolled” mean that, although the state limitations period continues to run, a plaintiff is accorded a grace period of 30 days to refile in state court post dismissal of the federal case? Petitioner urges the first, or stop-the-clock, reading. Respondent urges, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals adopted, the second, or grace-period, reading.
The choice between these interpretations is crucial for Artis, because she refiled her state-law claims 59 days after the federal-court dismissal. Since she filed her federal-court suit with 2 years remaining on the state statute of limitations, this would be timely under the stop-the-clock approach but not under the grace-period approach.
The majority adopts the “stop-the-clock” reading: “We hold that § 1367(d)’s instruction to ‘toll’ a state limitations period means to hold it in abeyance, i.e., to stop the clock.” Part II of the opinion justifies this conclusion as a matter of the statutory text. Part III of the opinion then considers whether the statute “exceed[s] Congress’ authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause because its connection to Congress’ enumerated powers is too attenuated or because it is too great an incursion on the States’ domain” and whether the Court should adopt the grace-period reading to “avoid constitutional doubt.” The majority rejects this line of argument, relying on its unanimous decision in Jinks v. Richland County upholding the constitutionality of § 1367(d). It also notes that both stop-the-clock and grace-period provisions “are standard, off-the-shelf means of accounting for the fact that a claim was timely pressed in another forum. Requiring Congress to choose one over the other would impose a tighter constraint on Congress’ discretion than we have ever countenanced.”
Justice Gorsuch authored the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito.