Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March Oral Arguments at SCOTUS

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

 

 

 

 

March 21, 2017 in Class Actions, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Morley on Federal Equity Power

Michael Morley has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, The Federal Equity Power. Here’s the abstract:

Erie killed general law. Due to statutory, constitutional, and fairness constraints, a federal court generally must apply state substantive law in diversity and supplemental jurisdiction cases.

Since our nation’s founding, however, federal courts have treated equity as an independent branch of general law, binding of its own force in all cases that come before them. In Guaranty Trust Co. v. York, the Supreme Court held that, notwithstanding Erie, federal courts may continue to rely on traditional principles of equity derived from the English Court of Chancery to determine the availability of equitable relief, such as injunctions, receiverships, and equitable liens, in cases arising under state law. This so-called “equitable remedial rights doctrine” is based on an anachronistic misunderstanding of the nature of the federal equity power. This Article offers a bold new approach to understanding the nature and limits of the federal equity power. 

There is no single body of equity law that federal courts must apply in all cases that come before them. In cases arising under state law, there is no basis in the Constitution, federal law, or Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for courts to impose their own equitable standards for relief. Rights and remedies are inextricably intertwined. The manner in which state-created rights are protected is as much a matter of substantive state policy as the state’s initial creation and allocation of those rights. A federal court must apply state statutes and precedents — not uniform, centrally devised federal standards — to determine the availability of equitable relief for state-law claims.

Conversely, for cases arising under federal statutes, the equitable principles that apply are a question of statutory interpretation. When a federal law authorizes equitable relief, a court may presume Congress intended to incorporate traditional equitable principles, absent a clear statement to the contrary in the law’s text or legislative history. And for constitutional cases, federal courts may presumptively apply traditional equitable principles as a matter of constitutional common law, unless Congress chooses to displace it. Thus, contrary to received wisdom, there is no single federal equity law. The scope of equitable relief a federal court may afford depends on the underlying law from which a claim arose.

 

 

 

March 12, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 10, 2017

House of Representatives Passes H.R. 725 & H.R. 985

We covered earlier several bills that could make significant changes to federal civil procedure. Two of these passed the House of Representatives yesterday.

Stay tuned. Getting to 60 votes in the Senate will be a more difficult proposition.

 

 

 

 

March 10, 2017 in Class Actions, Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Mass Torts, MDLs, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Professor Thomas Creates a TED-Ed Video on the Vanishing Jury

Professor Suja Thomas (Illinois) has produced an entertaining TED-Ed video called "What Happened to Trial by Jury?"   Ten online review questions follow the video.

In my opinion, the video is suitable for law students and also the general public.  I think there is a great need for clear, brief videos on various aspects of the U.S. government.  There appears to be a dearth of knowledge on that score.  For example, the Annenberg Public Policy Center recently found that only 27% of Americans could name all three branches of government, and 31% could not name any of the three branches.  

 

March 6, 2017 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 27, 2017

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Habeas Review of Unexplained State Court Decisions

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Wilson v. Sellers, which presents the following question:

Did this Court's decision in Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011), silently abrogate the presumption set forth in Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797 (1991) - that a federal court sitting in habeas proceedings should "look through" a summary state court ruling to review the last reasoned decision - as a slim majority of the en banc Eleventh Circuit held in this case, despite the agreement of both parties that the Ylst presumption should continue to apply?

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog.

 

 

 

 

February 27, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Whether FRAP 4(a)(5)(C) is Jurisdictional

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, which presents the following question:

Whether Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5)(C) can deprive a court of appeals of jurisdiction over an appeal that is statutorily timely, as the Second, Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits have concluded, or whether Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5)(C) is instead a nonjurisdictional claim-processing rule because it is not derived from a statute, as the Ninth and D.C. Circuits have concluded, and therefore subject to equitable considerations such as forfeiture, waiver, and the unique-circumstances doctrine.

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog.

 

 

 

February 27, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Supplemental Jurisdiction & 1367(d)'s Tolling Provision

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Artis v. District of Columbia, which presents the following question:

Section 1367 of Title 28 authorizes federal district courts in certain circumstances to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims arising under State law.

Section 1367 further provides that "[t]he period of limitations for any [such] 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." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d).

The question presented is whether the tolling provision in §1367(d) suspends the limitations period for the state-law claim while the claim is pending and for thirty days after the claim is dismissed, or whether the tolling provision does not suspend the limitations period but merely provides 30 days beyond the dismissal for the plaintiff to refile.

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog.

 

 

 

 

February 27, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Gugliuzza & La Belle on the Patent Venue Statute

Paul Gugliuzza and Megan La Belle have posted on SSRN a draft of their article, The Patently Unexceptional Venue Statute, which will be published in the American University Law Review. Here’s the abstract:

Legal doctrines developed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit are often derided as “exceptionalist,” particularly on issues of procedure. The court’s interpretation of the venue statute for patent infringement suits seems, at first glance, to fit that mold. According to the Federal Circuit, the statute places few constraints on the plaintiff’s choice of forum when suing corporate defendants. This permissive venue rule has lead critics to suggest that the court is, once again, outside the mainstream. The Supreme Court’s recent grant of certiorari in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods would seem to indicate that those critics are correct. 

This article argues, however, that venue is one area of Federal Circuit procedural law that is not, in fact, exceptional. Rather, the court’s capacious understanding of venue is both consistent with broader trends in venue doctrine and with the text and purpose of the governing statutes. To be clear, as a matter of pure policy, granting plaintiffs unbridled discretion over choice of forum in patent litigation may be problematic. But there are better modes of reform than a questionable interpretation of the venue statute that could have unintended consequences both in patent cases and beyond. 

This article, drafted for the American University Law Review’s annual symposium on the Federal Circuit, explores the history of the relevant venue statutes, analyzes key judicial decisions, argues that the Federal Circuit’s current approach to venue is doctrinally sound, and suggests alternative paths for reforming the law of forum selection in patent litigation.

 

 

 

 

February 23, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Burch on MDL Monopolies

Elizabeth Burch has recently published Monopolies in Multidistrict Litigation, 70 Vand. L. Rev. 67 (2017). Here’s the abstract:

When transferee judges receive a multidistrict proceeding, they select a few lead plaintiffs’ lawyers to efficiently manage litigation and settlement negotiations. That decision gives those attorneys total control over all consolidated plaintiffs’ claims and rewards them richly in common-benefit fees. It’s no surprise then that these are coveted positions, yet empirical evidence confirms that the same attorneys occupy them time and again.

Anytime repeat players exist and exercise both oligopolistic leadership control across multidistrict proceedings and monopolistic power within a single proceeding, there is concern that they will use their dominance to enshrine practices and norms that benefit themselves at consumers’ (or here, clients’) expense. Apprehensiveness should increase when defense lawyers are repeat players too, as they are in multidistrict litigation. And anxiety may peak when the circumstances exhibit these anti-competitive characteristics, but lack regulation as they do here. Without the safeguards built into class certification, judicial monitoring and appellate checks disappear. What remains is a system that may permit lead lawyers to act, at times, like a cartel.

Continue reading

February 20, 2017 in Federal Courts, MDLs, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Five Questionable Bills About Civil Lawsuits Pass House Judiciary Committee

Five bills that would generally operate to favor corporate defendants in civil lawsuits have passed the House Judiciary Committee with blinding speed and have been referred to the full House: 

Bill

Title

Original sponsor

H.R. 985

Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act

Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6)

H.R. 906

Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act

Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27)

H.R. 732

Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act

Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6)

H.R. 725

Innocent Party Protection Act

Ken Buck (R-CO-4)

H.R. 720

Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act

Lamar Smith (R-TX-21)

            We briefly described four of the bills here.  The bills are opposed by over 50 advocacy groups for civil rights, consumer protection, and environmental protection.  

February 17, 2017 in Class Actions, Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Mass Torts, MDLs, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ninth Circuit Refuses to Stay District Court’s TRO Against Trump’s Executive Order

Today the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Washington v. Trump, refusing to grant the federal government’s request for a stay of Judge Robart’s TRO:

Download WA v Trump (9th Cir 2-9-17)

  • Yes to appellate jurisdiction
  • Yes to Article III standing for Washington and Minnesota
  • No to the federal government’s request to narrow the TRO

Although this resolves the federal government’s request for a stay, the Ninth Circuit also issued a briefing schedule for the federal government’s appeal of the TRO itself:

Download 2-9-17 Procedural Order

 

 

February 9, 2017 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Wasserman on Segall on Keeping an Eight-Justice SCOTUS

Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Howard Wasserman’s essay, Eight Is Enough. Howard reviews Eric Segall’s article, Eight Justices Are Enough: A Proposal to Improve the United States Supreme Court.

 

 

 

 

February 3, 2017 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Nash on Sovereign Preemption State Standing

Jonathan Remy Nash (Emory) has posted Sovereign Preemption State Standing to SSRN.

When does a state have standing to challenge the executive branch’s alleged under-enforcement of federal law? The issue took on importance during the Obama administration, with “red states” suing the executive branch over numerous issues, including immigration and health care. The question of standing looks to remain critical during the Trump administration, only with the political orientation of the actors reversed.

This Article argues in favor of sovereign preemption standing, under which a state would enjoy Article III standing to sue the federal government when (i) the federal government preempts state law, yet (ii) the executive branch allegedly under-enforces the federal law that Congress enacted to fill the regulatory gap to which the preemption gave rise. Sovereign preemption state standing arises naturally out of the function of states in the federal system. It is grounded upon parens patriae injury — that is, injury to the state’s ability to protect its citizens against harm. The federal government can properly preempt state law, on the logic that it then assumes from the state the obligation to protect the state’s citizens from harm. Where the executive branch then fails adequately to enforce federal law, it leaves the state’s citizens unprotected. The state then has Article III standing to sue the federal government on behalf of its citizenry.

The universe of cases where sovereign preemption state standing operates is not large, which should assuage concerns over opening the floodgates of state-federal litigation. Moreover, prudential doctrines can be overlaid such that more cases would be screened out. Alternatively, sovereign preemption state standing also can be construed somewhat more broadly so that it applies not only to the setting of executive branch under-enforcement, but to the setting of horizontal federal disagreement in general — i.e., to the setting of executive branch over-enforcement as well.

January 31, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Parrillo on Contempt Findings Against the Federal Government

Nick Parrillo has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, The Endgame of Administrative Law: Governmental Disobedience and the Judicial Contempt Power. Here’s the abstract:

Scholars of administrative law focus overwhelmingly on lawsuits to review federal government action while assuming that, if plaintiffs win such lawsuits, the government will do what the court says. But in fact, the federal government’s compliance with court orders is imperfect and fraught, especially with orders compelling the government to act affirmatively. Such orders can strain a federal agency’s resources, interfere with its other legally-required tasks, and force it to make decisions on little information. An agency hit with such an order will often warn the judge that it badly needs more latitude and more time to comply. Judges relent, cutting slack and extending deadlines. The plaintiff who has “won” the suit finds that victory was merely the start of a tough negotiation that can drag on for years. 

These compliance negotiations are little understood. Basic questions about them are unexplored, including the most fundamental: What is the endgame? That is, if the judge concludes that the agency has delayed too long and demanded too much, is there anything she can do, at long last, to make the agency comply? 

What the judge can do, ultimately, is the same thing as for any disobedient litigant: find the agency (and its high officials) in contempt. But do judges actually make such contempt findings? If so, can judges couple those findings with the sanctions of fine and imprisonment that give contempt its potency against private parties? If not, what use is contempt? The literature is silent on these questions, and conventional research methods, confined to appellate case law, are hopeless for addressing it. There are no opinions of the Supreme Court on the subject, and while the courts of appeals have handled the problem many times, they have dealt with it in a manner calculated to avoid setting clear and general precedent. 

Through an examination of thousands of opinions (especially of district courts), docket sheets, briefs, and other filings, plus archival research and interviews, this Article provides the first general assessment of how federal courts handle the federal government’s disobedience. It makes four conclusions. First, the federal judiciary is willing to issue contempt findings against agencies and officials. Second, while several federal judges believe they can (and have tried to) attach sanctions to these findings, the higher courts have exhibited a virtually complete unwillingness to allow sanctions, at times swooping down at the eleventh hour to rescue an agency from incurring a budget-straining fine or its top official from being thrown in jail. Third, the higher courts, even as they unfailingly thwart sanctions in all but a few minor instances, have bent over backward to avoid making pronouncements that sanctions are categorically unavailable, deliberately keeping the sanctions issue in a state of low salience and at least nominal legal uncertainty. Fourth, even though contempt findings are practically devoid of sanctions, they have a shaming effect that gives them substantial if imperfect deterrent power. 

The efficacy of litigation against agencies rests on a widespread perception that federal officials simply do not disobey court orders and a concomitant norm that identifies any violation as deviant. Contempt findings, regardless of sanctions, are a means of weaponizing that norm by designating the agency and official as violators and subjecting them to shame. But if judges make too many such findings, and especially if they impose (inevitably publicity-grabbing) sanctions, they may risk undermining the perception that officials always comply and thus the norm that they do so. The judiciary therefore may sometimes pull its punches to preserve the substantial yet limited norm-based power it has.

 

 

 

 

January 31, 2017 in Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Legal Challenges to Trump Executive Orders on Immigration and Refugee Policy

Yesterday several legal challenges to Trump’s Executive Orders were filed. If you want to keep track of the various filings and orders as these cases proceed, the University of Michigan’s Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse is collecting them here.

 

 

 

January 29, 2017 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Today's Lawsuit Challenging Trump's Executive Order on Immigration

Here is the complaint in Darweesh v. Trump, which was filed early this morning in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York:

Download Darweesh v Trump Complaint

Some coverage of the case:

 

 

 

 

January 28, 2017 in Class Actions, Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Bruhl on Article III Standing and the One Plaintiff Rule

Aaron Bruhl has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, One Good Plaintiff is Not Enough. Here’s the abstract:

This Article concerns an aspect of Article III standing that has figured in many of the highest-profile controversies of recent years, including litigation over the Affordable Care Act, immigration policy, and climate change. Although the federal courts constantly emphasize the importance of ensuring that only proper plaintiffs invoke the federal judicial power, the Supreme Court and other federal courts have developed a significant exception to the usual requirement of standing. This exception holds that a court entertaining a multiple-plaintiff case may dispense with inquiring into the standing of each plaintiff as long as the court finds that one plaintiff has standing. This practice of partially bypassing the requirement of standing is not limited to cases in which the plaintiffs are about to lose on other grounds anyway. Put differently, courts are willing to assume that all plaintiffs have standing as long as one plaintiff has it and then decide the merits either for or against all plaintiffs despite doubts as to the standing of some of those plaintiffs. We could call this the “one-plaintiff rule.”

This Article examines the one-plaintiff rule from normative and positive perspectives. On the normative side, the goal is to establish that the one-plaintiff rule is erroneous in light of principle, precedent, and policy. All plaintiffs need standing, even if all of them present similar legal claims and regardless of the form of relief they seek. To motivate the normative inquiry, the Article also explains why the one-plaintiff rule is harmful as a practical matter, namely because it assigns concrete benefits and detriments to persons to whom they do not belong. The Article’s other principal goal is to explain the puzzle of how the mistaken one-plaintiff rule could attain such widespread acceptance despite the importance usually attributed to respecting Article III’s limits on judicial power. The explanatory account assigns the blame for the one-plaintiff rule to the incentives of courts and litigants as well as to the development of certain problematic understandings of the nature of judicial power.

 

 

 

 

January 20, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Today’s SCOTUS Decision on Federal Jurisdiction & Fannie Mae

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Lightfoot v. Cendant Mortgage Corp. Justice Sotomayor’s opinion begins:

The corporate charter of the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, authorizes Fannie Mae “to sue and to be sued, and to complain and to defend, in any court of competent jurisdiction, State or Federal.” 12 U. S. C. §1723a(a). This case presents the question whether this sue-and-be-sued clause grants federal district courts jurisdiction over cases involving Fannie Mae. We hold that it does not.

Download Lightfoot v Cendant Mortgage

 

 

 

January 18, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Oral Argument in Abbasi

Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in three consolidated cases raising issues relating to Bivens, qualified immunity, and pleading standards.

The cases are Ziglar v. Abbasi (No. 15-1358), Ashcroft v. Abbasi (No. 15-1359), and Hasty v. Abbasi (No. 15-1363). You can find more details on the cases here.

Here’s the transcript from today’s argument.

 

 

 

 

January 18, 2017 in Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Supreme Court Cases, Twombly/Iqbal | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 13, 2017

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Judicial Review of MSPB Decisions

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, which presents the following question:

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is authorized to hear challenges by certain federal employees to certain major adverse employment actions. If such a challenge involves a claim under the federal anti-discrimination laws, it is referred to as a “mixed” case. This case presents the following question:

Whether an MSPB decision disposing of a “mixed” case on jurisdictional grounds is subject to judicial review in district court or in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog.

 

 

January 13, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)