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
Monday, September 30, 2013
The BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes reports that the Justice Department has released a Contingency Plan for FY 2014 (which starts tomorrow) "in the event of a lapse in appropriations" (the phrase used in the Contingency Plan). Most Civil Division employees will be subject to furlough because their activities do not relate to "emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property," or meet some other category of exemption. Although the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has indicated "that federal courts will continue to hear and decide cases without interruption," Justice is directing its civil litigators "to approach the courts and request that acvtive cases, except for those in which posponement would compromise . . . the safety of human life or the protection of property, be postponed until funding is available."
Thursday, September 26, 2013
The federal judiciary, which has been releasing dire warnings about its financial situation for months, has just released an announcement on Third Branch News that reads:
In the event of a government shutdown on October 1, 2013, the federal Judiciary will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On or around October 15, 2013, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised. Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
The Eighth Circuit's decision last week in Horras v. American Capital Strategies, Ltd. (No. 12-3886), __ F.3d __, 2013 WL 4711389, includes a partial dissent by Judge Colloton that is worth a read for his approach to pleading standards after Iqbal and Twombly. (Hat tip to Ryan Koopmans, who covers the case in this post.) The majority in Horras affirms the district court's dismissal of Horras’s complaint. Judge Colloton dissents as to Horras's claim for breach of fiduciary duty.
Judge Colloton writes that while the Supreme Court's approach to pleading in Iqbal and Twombly is an “important development,” courts “must be careful not to embellish it.” Citing Erickson, Swierkiewicz, Form 11, and articles by Judge, Dean, and chief drafter of the original FRCPs Charles E. Clark, he concludes: “Under the simplified pleading standard of Rule 8(a), I think the complaint here was sufficient to give ACS fair notice of the fiduciary duty claim that Horras has amplified in his briefing.”
Here are some excerpts from Judge Colloton's opinion:
Friday, September 6, 2013
Plaintiffs filed suit in Pennsylvania state court asserting state-law claims arising from a plane crash. Defendants removed the case to federal district court, asserting diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs moved to remand the case, asserting that one of the defendants was a citizen of Pennsylvania, and therefore not diverse from all plaintiffs. The district court granted plaintiffs' motion and ordered the case remanded to state court. One of the defendants moved for reconsideration. The district court also denied the motion for reconsideration. Defendants appealed.
The Third Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) provides that "[a]n order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewble on appeal or otherwise . . ." The court noted that the purpose of this provision "is to prevent a party to a state lawsuit from using federal removal provisions and appeals as a tool to introduce substantial delay into a state action." Allowing an appeal from a denial of a motion to reconsider an order to remand would circumvent this purpose.
The district court itself had jurisdiction to consider the motion to reconsider, however, because "at the time when the District Court considered the motion for reconsideration, a certified copy of the remand order had not yet been mailed from the District Court Clerk to the state court." Agostini v. Piper Aircraft Corp., No. 12-2098 (3d Cir. Sept. 5, 2013).
Saturday, August 31, 2013
The Ninth Circuit dismissed an appeal from the district court's denial of an ex parte application for an exemption from PACER fees (the fees associated with electronic access to federal court records) for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the denial was not a final decision under 28 U.S.C. Section 1291. In Re: Application for Exemption from Electronic Public Access Fees, No. 12-16373 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2013).
Judge O'Scannlain, who wrote the opinion, also filed a concurrence acknowledging "the elephant in the room" -- if the denial was unappealable, to whom might one go for review? -- and suggesting that it "will be up to Congress to decide whether to fashion an appellate-review mechanism." I'm not holding my breath.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Stephen Vladeck (American University) has posted Military Courts and the All Writs Act to SSRN.
When it comes to the role of the federal courts in the federal system, few statutes play as significant a role — or are as routinely misunderstood — as the All Writs Act. It is the All Writs Act that rounds Article III’s sharp jurisdictional edges by investing courts of such limited subject-matter jurisdiction with a species of common-law authority; as Justice Stevens has explained, “The Act was, and is, necessary because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction having only those powers expressly granted by Congress, and the statute provides these courts with the procedural tools — the various historic common-law writs — necessary for them to exercise their limited jurisdiction.”
Although the All Writs Act applies on its terms to “all courts established by Act of Congress,” two recent opinions in high-profile military justice cases have rejected the power of military courts to issue relief that is routinely available from civilian courts under the All Writs Act. In the Bradley Manning court-martial proceedings, for example, the highest court in the military justice system — the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) — held that it lacked the authority under the All Writs Act to issue extraordinary relief to protect the First Amendment right of public access to criminal trials identified by the Supreme Court in Richmond Newspapers and its progeny. Similar reasoning was also offered by one of the judges of the Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR), in explaining why the CMCR lacked jurisdiction to provide analogous relief in the context of the military commission trial of the 9/11 defendants.
It is easy enough to identify the analytical errors common to these two opinions, but in addition to doing so, this short essay argues that there is more behind such analysis than a mere misreading of precedent. Ultimately, both CAAF’s decision in the Manning case and Judge Silliman’s concurrence in the CMCR’s 9/11 proceedings have at their core a misplaced and outdated understanding of both the military justice system’s exceptionalism and its relationship to the civilian courts. As I conclude, the understanding common to these two opinions has the ironic — and surely unintended — effect of weakening arguments for a separate system of military justice insofar as such crabbed understandings of the All Writs Act only bolster the need for increased Article III oversight of the military justice system through actions for collateral review.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Alan Trammell (Brooklyn Law School) has posted Jurisdictional Sequencing to SSRN.
This Article offers a critical re-assessment of subject matter jurisdiction, arguably the most fundamental constraint on federal courts. The project examines the nature and purposes of subject matter jurisdiction through the lens of jurisdictional sequencing, a practice that allows a federal court to decide certain issues — and even dismiss cases — before it has verified subject matter jurisdiction.
Despite many scholars’ antipathy toward jurisdictional sequencing, it is a legitimate practice that reveals a nuanced understanding of jurisdiction’s unique structural role in protecting federalism and separation of powers. Specifically, elected institutions have principal responsibility for crafting conduct rules that regulate people’s primary activities. Federal courts may interpret and apply conduct rules — and thus in a meaningful sense “make law” — only when they have verified their subject matter jurisdiction. By contrast, federal adjudication does not implicate the structural concerns at the heart of subject matter jurisdiction when courts dismiss cases based on other rules (what I term allocative rules). Re-imagining the precise role of subject matter jurisdiction reveals how federal courts can decide cases more efficiently and also respect essential constraints on the allocation of powers.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Michael Steven Green (William & Mary) has posted The Twin Aims of Erie to SSRN.
We all remember the twin aims of the Erie rule from first-year civil procedure. A federal court sitting in diversity must use forum state law if it is necessary to avoid "forum shopping" and the "inequitable administration of the laws." This Article offers a reading of the twin aims and a systematic analysis of their proper role in federal and state court. I argue that the twin aims apply in diversity cases not because they protect state interests, but because they serve the federal purposes standing behind the diversity statute. So understood, they are about separation of powers, not federalism. Through the twin aims, state law is incorporated into federal procedural common law in order to serve federal interests.
This reading does not merely have important consequences for diversity cases. It also has an impact on the role of the twin aims outside diversity. If the twin aims have their source in the purposes standing behind the congressional grant of jurisdiction, rather than respect for state interests, the fact that a federal court entertains a state law action is neither a necessary nor a sufficient reason for the twin aims to apply. The twin aims might apply to federal courts when entertaining federal causes of action. Conversely, they might not apply to a federal court when entertaining state law actions under jurisdictional statutes other than diversity.
I therefore examine four jurisdictional scenarios in order to assess the role of the twin aims in each: a federal court entertaining a federal cause of action, a state court entertaining a federal cause of action (sometimes called reverse-Erie), and a federal court entertaining a state law action under supplemental jurisdiction and under bankruptcy. In the course of my argument, I suggest a resolution to the current circuit split about whether a federal court sitting in bankruptcy should use forum state choice-of-law rules. I also argue that the Supreme Court has wrongly assumed that the twin aims apply in a reverse-Erie context. As a result, it has improperly limited state courts’ powers when entertaining federal civil rights actions — most recently in Haywood v. Drown, 556 U.S. 729 (2009).
This Article offers an original justification of the twin aims in diversity cases, and the first comprehensive explanation of their role in a variety of other jurisdictional contexts.