Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Happy new year to everyone! I've spent some time between shopping, cooking, and eating – will the holidays NEVER END?? – looking at the public comments submitted on the proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
I looked at all the comments filed up to December 19, 2013. Most of the comments were filed by self-identified plaintiffs' lawyers. A fair number of commenters did not explicitly identify the type of client they primarily represented. As 2013 progressed, a smattering of self-identified defendants' attorneys commented. I counted only three full-time law professors among the commenters and two federal judges (most were opposed to the amendments). I plan to comment and am presently working on my draft. I oppose most of the amendments.
The results so far: of 328 non-duplicate filings, 281 commenters, or 86%, were opposed to all the amendments they commented on. (Most commenters did not address all of the amendments.) Thirty-one commenters (9%) were opposed to some of the amendments and supported some of the amendments. These were primarily lawyers who opposed most of the amendments but found one or two amendments to say something nice about, probably for the sake of politeness or credibility.
That leaves 11 commenters (3%) supporting the amendments. Of those 11, six were self-identified defendants' lawyers, and five did not identify the type of client primarily represented.
Plaintiffs' lawyers gave example after example of meritorious cases they had handled where the proposed presumptive limits on discovery and the proposed redefinition of the scope of discovery would have stopped them from surviving a summary judgment motion.
Before the so-called "Duke Conference" that germinated these proposals, the Federal Judicial Center surveyed attorneys who handled cases that terminated in the last quarter of 2008. The results of private attorney responses to the statement "The outcomes of cases in the federal system are generally fair" were:
Federal Judicial Center Survey, 2009
Private Attorney Responses to the Statement
"The outcomes of cases in the federal system are generally fair"
(frequencies are estimated, not provided by FJC)
Agree or Strongly Agree
Disagree or Strongly Disagree
"Neither Agree Nor Disagree" or "Can't Say"
Number of Private Attorneys
Private attorneys primarily representing plaintiffs
N = 436
N = 182
N = 192
Private attorneys primarily representing defendants
N = 769
N = 40
N = 149
These results were not included in the FJC's final report on the survey. They are contained in the preliminary report, although not in the detail above, which I estimated from other information the FJC provided.
Plaintiffs' attorneys, in other words, were more than five times more likely than defendants' attorneys to believe that the outcome of cases in the federal system is substantively not fair. Now, as evidenced by the public comments, the vast majority of plaintiffs' attorneys oppose the proposed amendments to the FRCP while the vast majority of defendants' attorneys support the amendments.
Please, someone convince me not to give in to cynicism. We're starting a new semester on Monday.
See you at AALS.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
The Federal Court Management Statistics for fiscal year 2013 (ending September 30, 2013) are posted here.
District court filings were 391,652 in FY 2013, up 1% from 386,664 in 2012 but less than filings in 2011 or 2010.
The annual report for FY 2013 is not yet available.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Professors Charlie Sullivan and Tim Glynn (Seton Hall) have uncovered what appears to be a draft Supreme Court opinion in Pasquinade v. Quillet Enterprises, Inc. Or not. Here’s the abstract:
The opinion reproduced below was delivered to us anonymously, with a cover note stating that it had been found on a photocopy machine in the Supreme Court of the United States. Efforts to identify the source of the note have been unsuccessful; further, we have been unable to confirm that a case denominated Pasquinade v. Quillet Enterprises, Inc., was ever filed in that Court or in any other federal court.
In light of its unverified origins, the Pasquinade opinion should not be cited as authority. Nevertheless, it contains a few points of interest, and, who knows, could represent a kind of trial run by the Justice who supposedly authored it, complete with reaction to anticipated dissent. We express no opinion on the matter and merely offer Pasquinade “for what it’s worth.”
The Third Branch News reports "25 Years Later, PACER, Electronic Filing Continue to Change Courts."
Apparently without irony, Third Branch notes, "Lawyers speak of reduced stress at a workday’s end, knowing they can electronically file a document until midnight, without fear that the courthouse doors will close on them."
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Atlantic Marine Constr. Co. v. United States Dist. Court for Western Dist. of Tex. (No. 12-929), which considers the proper procedural vehicle for enforcing a contractual forum-selection clause when the plaintiff files in a federal district that violates that clause. A few highlights from the opinion by Justice Alito:
- Motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) are not appropriate in this situation. A forum-selection clause does not make a venue “improper” for purposes of Rule 12(b)(3) or “wrong” for purposes of § 1406(a). [See pp. 4-8]
- A motion to transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) is appropriate in this situation. Section 1404(a) “provides a mechanism for enforcement of forum-selection clauses that point to a particular federal district.” [p.9]
- “[T]he appropriate way to enforce a forum-selection clause pointing to a state or foreign forum is through the doctrine of forum non conveniens.” [pp.9-10]
- It remains an open question whether a forum-selection clause could be enforced through other vehicles, such as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. This possibility had been urged by Professor Stephen Sachs in amicus brief, but the Court did not address it because the parties themselves did not raise it. Justice Alito adds: “Even if a defendant could use Rule 12(b)(6) to enforce a forum-selection clause, that would not change our conclusions that § 1406(a) and Rule 12(b)(3) are not proper mechanisms to enforce a forum-selection clause and that §1404(a) and the forum non conveniens doctrine provide appropriate enforcement mechanisms.” [p.11]
The opinion then addresses how a court should decide a § 1404(a) motion to enforce a forum-selection clause. Justice Alito writes:
“When the parties have agreed to a valid forum-selection clause, a district court should ordinarily transfer the case to the forum specified in that clause.5 Only under extraordinary circumstances unrelated to the convenience of the parties should a §1404(a) motion be denied.” [p.11]
(Footnote 5 makes clear that the Court’s analysis “presupposes a contractually valid forum-selection clause,” which leaves open the possibility that such a clause could be challenged as contractually invalid.) Justice Alito then explains: “The presence of a valid forum-selection clause requires district courts to adjust their usual §1404(a) analysis in three ways.” [p.12] They are:
- “First, the plaintiff ’s choice of forum merits no weight. Rather, as the party defying the forum-selection clause, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that transfer to the forum for which the parties bargained is unwarranted.” [p.13]
- “Second, a court evaluating a defendant’s § 1404(a) motion to transfer based on a forum-selection clause should not consider arguments about the parties’ private interests…. As a consequence, a district court may consider arguments about public-interest factors only.” [pp.13-14]
- “Third, when a party bound by a forum-selection clause flouts its contractual obligation and files suit in a different forum, a § 1404(a) transfer of venue will not carry with it the original venue’s choice-of-law rules.” [p.14]
Footnote 8 states that “the same standards should apply to should apply to motions to dismiss for forum non conveniens in cases involving valid forum-selection clauses pointing to state or foreign forums.”
The Court ultimately reverses the Fifth Circuit, but it remands for further proceedings: “Although no public-interest factors that might support the denial of Atlantic Marine’s motion to transfer are apparent on the record before us, we remand the case for the courts below to decide that question.” [p.17]
Monday, December 2, 2013
See how the Supreme Court of Tennessee addresses these issues in Cooper v. Glasser, __ S.W.3d __, 2013 WL 6174469 (Tenn. Nov. 26, 2013). The opinion is here. It begins:
Monday, November 18, 2013
Earlier this month we covered Chief Justice Roberts’ statement in Marek v. Lane, a case challenging a class action settlement that included cy pres remedies. In his statement, Chief Justice Roberts agreed with the decision to deny certiorari but raised a number of concerns about cy pres remedies, concluding that “[i]n a suitable case, this Court may need to clarify the limits on the use of such remedies.”
Today, Justice Alito issued a similar statement “respecting the denial of the petition for writ of certiorari” in another case involving a class action settlement: Martin v. Blessing (No. 13-169). You can find his six-page statement in today’s order list, beginning on page 13 of the pdf file. It begins:
The petition in this case challenges a highly unusual practice followed by one District Court Judge in assessing the adequacy of counsel in class actions. This judge insists that class counsel “ensure that the lawyers staffed on the case fairly reflect the class composition in terms of relevant race and gender metrics.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 35a. The uniqueness of this practice weighs against review by this Court, but the meaning of the Court’s denial of the petition should not be misunderstood.
The judge is U.S. District Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York, and Justice Alito writes that “[b]ased on the materials now before us, I am hard-pressed to see any ground on which Judge Baer’s practice can be defended.” [p.3]
Friday, November 15, 2013
H.R. 2655, the so-called "Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2013," passed the House of Representatives yesterday 228-195 (sigh . . . ).
In 2011, Professor Lonny Hoffman testified against this bill before the House Judiciary Committee.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
A project providing free online access to federal court opinions has expanded to include 64 courts. The federal Judiciary and the Government Printing Office partner through the GPO’s Federal Digital System, FDsys, to provide public access to more than 750,000 opinions, many dating back to 2004.
The Judicial Conference approved national implementation of the project in September 2012, expanding participation from the original 29 courts. FDsys currently contains opinions from 8 appellate courts, 20 district courts, and 35 bankruptcy courts.
Federal court opinions are one of the most heavily used collections on FDsys, with millions of retrievals each month. Opinions are pulled nightly from the courts’ Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) systems and sent to the GPO, where they are posted on the FDsys website. Collections on FDsys are divided into appellate, district or bankruptcy court opinions and are text-searchable across courts. FDsys also allows embedded animation and audio – an innovation previously only available with opinions posted on a court’s own website or on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER).
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Coverage of the Second Circuit’s order in the Stop-and-Frisk case—staying Judge Scheindlin’s rulings and ordering her removed from the case—continues:
- Emily Bazelon, Slate: Shut Up, Judge!
- Anil Kalhan (Drexel University), Dorf on Law: The Appearance of Impropriety and Partiality
- Anna Merlan, Village Voice: Appeals Court Blocks Judge Shira Scheindlin's Stop-and-Frisk Ruling, Removes Her From Case
- The New York Times, Room for Debate: The Appearance of Impartiality, featuring contributions by: Nancy Gertner (Former U.S. District Judge, District of Massachusetts); David Lat (Above the Law); Charles Ogletree (Harvard University); Deborah Rhode (Stanford University); Kermit Roosevelt (University of Pennsylvania)
More coverage here.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
We covered earlier the Second Circuit’s order staying District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s rulings in the stop-and-frisk litigation and removing her from the case. For more, here are a few links worth taking a look at:
- Judge Richard G. Kopf (U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska), Hercules and the Umpire: A cheap shot
- Katherine Macfarlane (Louisiana State University), The Danger of Nonrandom Case Assignment: How the Southern District of New York’s 'Related Cases' Rule has Shaped the Evolution of Stop-and-Frisk Law, Michigan Journal of Race & Law (forthcoming 2014) (an article examining the district court local rule that was mentioned in the Second Circuit’s order)
- Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker: The Preposterous Removal of Judge Scheindlin
- Howard Wasserman (Florida International University), PrawfsBlawg: Stays and appellate benchslaps
Friday, November 1, 2013
There is a lot of action on the civil procedure & federal courts front next week. Mark your calendars (especially if you’ll be in D.C.).
- Monday, November 4: SCOTUS oral argument in Walden v. Fiore (personal jurisdiction and venue)
- Tuesday, November 5: Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, Changing the Rules: Will limiting the scope of civil discovery diminish accountability and leave Americans without access to justice? (witnesses: Arthur Miller, Andrew Pincus, Sherrilyn Ifill)
- Tuesday, November 5: SCOTUS announces one or more opinions in argued cases (could it be Daimler v. Bauman?)
- Tuesday, November 5: SCOTUS oral argument in Sprint v. Jacobs (Younger abstention)
- Wednesday, November 6: SCOTUS oral argument in Mississippi ex rel. Jim Hood v. AU Optronics Corp. (Class Action Fairness Act)
- Thursday, November 7: Public hearing on the proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Second Circuit Stays SDNY's Stop-and-Frisk Rulings Pending Appeal, Orders District Judge Removed From Case
In August, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the New York City Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policy was unconstitutional and ordered a series of remedies. Today the Second Circuit not only stayed Judge Scheindlin’s orders and opinions pending appeal; it also ordered that she be taken off the case. From the Second Circuit’s order (footnotes omitted):
Upon review of the record in these cases, we conclude that the District Judge ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, Canon 2 (“A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.”); see also Canon 3(C)(1) (“A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned . . . .”), and that the appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation was compromised by the District Judge’s improper application of the Court’s “related case rule,” see Transfer of Related Cases, S.D.N.Y. & E.D.N.Y. Local Rule 13(a), and by a series of media interviews and public statements purporting to respond publicly to criticism of the District Court.
Accordingly, we conclude that, in the interest, and appearance, of fair and impartial administration of justice, UPON REMAND, these cases shall be assigned to a different District Judge, chosen randomly under the established practices of the District Court for the Southern District of New York. This newly-designated District Judge shall implement this Court’s mandate staying all proceedings and otherwise await further action by the Court of Appeals on the merits of the ongoing appeals.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Friday, October 18, 2013
This week the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Daimler AG v. Bauman (covered earlier here and here). Daimler resembles last Term's Kiobel case, in that it involves claims against a foreign defendant (Daimler) for human rights and other violations committed abroad (in Argentina, during the "dirty war" of the 1970s and 1980s) under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). But the question for which the Court granted certiorari in Daimler involves personal jurisdiction and is not limited to ATS cases: "whether it violates due process for a court to exercise general personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation based solely on the fact that an indirect corporate subsidiary performs services on behalf of the defendant in the forum State."
During the argument, plaintiffs' counsel acknowledged that their ATS claims faced an "uphill struggle" in light of Kiobel, but they are also pursuing state law and foreign law claims – for which personal jurisdiction would remain a live issue. Given the question presented, the more significant SCOTUS precursor may be the 2011 Goodyear decision, not Kiobel. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Ginsburg wrote in Goodyear that general jurisdiction over corporations is proper "when their affiliations with the State are so 'continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State." She cited (1) a corporation's principal place of business and (2) its state or country of incorporation as "paradigms" for general jurisdiction; but it remains unclear what else could render a corporation "essentially at home" in a particular forum. In particular, Goodyear acknowledged – but did not address – the argument that distinct corporate entities might be treated as a "single enterprise" for jurisdictional purposes. In Daimler, the Ninth Circuit found that California had general jurisdiction over Daimler based on the activities its American subsidiary, Mercedes Benz USA (MBUSA).
The most common reaction to this week's oral argument has been that the Justices were quite skeptical of the idea that Daimler was subject to general jurisdiction in California. That may be so, but several interesting issues came up during the argument, and there are still a number of different ways the Court could ultimately dispose of the case (some of them quite narrow).
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Lee Epstein (USC): “Claims about the Roberts court’s activism seem overwrought.”
Suzanna Sherry (Vanderbilt): "[T]he Supreme Court had erred more often in sustaining laws than in striking them down. 'Too much of a good thing can be bad,' she wrote, 'and democracy is no exception.'" Professor Sherry's article, entitled "Why We Need More Judicial Activism," is forthcoming in early 2014. Here's the abstract:
Too much of a good thing can be bad, and democracy is no exception. In the United States, the antidote to what the drafters of the Constitution called “the excess of democracy” is judicial review. Lately, however, judicial review has come under fire. Many on both sides of the political aisle accuse the Supreme Court of being overly activist and insufficiently deferential to the elected representatives of the people. I argue in this essay that criticizing the Court for its activism is exactly backwards: We need more judicial activism, not less. Courts engaging in judicial review are bound to err on one side or the other from time to time. It is much better for the health of our constitutional democracy if they err on the side of activism, striking down too many laws rather than too few. An examination of both constitutional theory and our own judicial history shows that too little activism produces worse consequences than does too much. If we cannot assure that the judges tread the perfect middle ground (and we cannot), it is better to have an overly aggressive judiciary than an overly restrained one.
Lee Epstein (USC) & Andrew Martin (Wash U): “In a nutshell, liberal justices tend to invalidate conservative laws and conservative justices, liberal laws.” Professors Epstein and Martin co-authored an article last year on the topic of judicial activism and the Roberts Court, entitled "Is the Roberts Court Especially Activist? A Study of Invalidating (and Upholding) Federal, State, and Local Laws."
Liptak's article also quotes a number of others, including several of the Justices themselves. The article is worth a read for those interested in the judicial activism debate.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Now available on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is an essay by Jim Pfander (Northwestern) entitled James Wilson, the Committee of Detail, and the Federal Judiciary. It reviews a recent article by William Ewald (U. Penn.), The Committee of Detail, 28 Const. Comment. 197 (2012).
Monday, October 7, 2013
The Supreme Court kicked off this Term’s oral arguments today, only to have appellate jurisdiction crash the party. The Court had granted certiorari in Madigan v. Levin (No. 12-872) to decide a question about the interplay between claims for age discrimination under the ADEA and age discrimination claims brought directly under the Equal Protection Clause and § 1983. However, an amicus brief filed by law professors who (in the words of Lyle Denniston’s excellent argument recap) “specialize in the arcane field of court procedure” argued that the Seventh Circuit lacked appellate jurisdiction to decide that issue and, therefore, the Supreme Court should vacate the Seventh Circuit’s decision and return the case to the district court.
To give credit where credit is due, Prof. Steve Vladeck (American University) authored the amicus brief and did a terrific job. The issue attracted a lot of attention at oral argument (full transcript available here), as did a number of other issues that prompted some Justices to raise the possibility of dismissing the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. Lyle’s recap concludes: “It would be no surprise,… based on Monday’s developments, that the Court would act quickly to get rid of the case, and leave the next stages to lower courts.”
Sunday, October 6, 2013
The ABA Journal reports that summary judgment was granted Cooley Law School's defamation suit against a law firm and bloggers who published comments criticizing the law school's reported employment statistics.
The ABA Journal report is here.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker's ruling is here.
Cooley's statement is here.
Jesse Strauss's (founding partner in defendant law firm Kurzon Strauss) statement is here.
Thursday, October 3, 2013