Friday, May 18, 2018
Brooke Coleman has posted on SSRN a draft of her essay, #SoWhiteMale - Federal Civil Rulemaking, which is forthcoming in the Northwestern University Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
116 out of 136. That is the number of white men who have served on the 82-year old committee responsible for creating and maintaining the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The tiny number of non-white, non-male committee members is disproportionate even in the context of the white-male-dominated legal profession. Were the rules simply a technical set of instructions made by a neutral set of experts, perhaps these numbers might not be as disturbing. But that is not the case. The Civil Rules embody normative judgments about the values that have primacy in our civil justice system, and the rulemakers—while expert—are not apolitical actors. This essay argues that the homogeneous composition of the rulemaking committee, not only historically, but also today, limits the quality of the rules produced and perpetuates inequality. The remedy to this problem is straightforward: appoint different people to the rulemaking committee. To be sure, the federal civil rulemaking process is but one small part of where and how gender and racial identity matter. Even still, this essay argues that the rulemaking committee members, the Judiciary, and the Bar should demand that the civil rulemaking committee cease being #SoWhiteMale.
Monday, April 30, 2018
Whether, or in what circumstances, a cy pres award of class action proceeds that provides no direct relief to class members supports class certification and comports with the requirement that a settlement binding class members must be “fair, reasonable, and adequate.”
Friday, April 27, 2018
Yesterday the Supreme Court adopted amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (covered earlier here) and transmitted them to Congress. These amendments affect Rules 5, 23, 62, and 65.1. Unless Congress intervenes, they will take effect on December 1, 2018.
Monday, April 23, 2018
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Agnieszka McPeak (Toledo Law) has published an article entitled Disappearing Data at 2018 Wis. L.R. 17, which considers the discovery implications of ephemeral social media platforms like Snapchat. Here's the abstract:
“Ephemeral” applications like Snapchat facilitate social interaction in a format that mimics the impermanence of face-to-face conversations. In the age of “big data” and the growing privacy concerns it raises, platforms offering ephemeral social media tools are meeting a market demand for smaller digital footprints. Additionally, these platforms are responding to regulatory pressure to embrace “privacy by design,” the idea that new technology should be built with privacy as a goal from the ground up. Indeed, ephemeral platforms, though imperfect in their impermanence, mark a positive shift in the direction of data minimization.
But the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for broad discovery of electronically stored information. And they mandate, along with other rules, preservation of potentially relevant data in anticipation of litigation. Preservation duties for this new brand of ephemeral data, however, have not been clearly defined.
This article urges for a fair and balanced approach to defining preservation duties for disappearing data. While ephemeral content may be discoverable, onerous preservation duties are unwarranted and will negatively impact both corporate and individual litigants alike. For corporate interests, overly broad preservation duties lead to risk-averse companies stockpiling all things digital, often at great cost. For individuals, the law should recognize that mobile technology has become ubiquitous and social media is a key tool for personal expression, free speech, and social interaction. But individuals also have become the unwitting stewards of vast amounts of data, some of which is dynamic and ever-changing. Deletion or revision of personal information is a normal occurrence on social media platforms — indeed, some are a product of privacy by design. Overly broad preservation duties for individual litigants thus impose unwarranted burdens and are out of step with technological change.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Three Terms ago, we held that one of multiple cases consolidated for multidistrict litigation under 28 U. S. C. §1407 is immediately appealable upon an order disposing of that case, regardless of whether any of the others remain pending. Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., 574 U. S. ___ (2015). We left open, however, the question whether the same is true with respect to cases consolidated under Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id., at ___, n. 4 (slip op., at 7, n. 4). This case presents that question.
And the answer to that question is yes:
Rule 42(a) did not purport to alter the settled understanding of the consequences of consolidation. That understanding makes clear that when one of several consolidated cases is finally decided, a disappointed litigant is free to seek review of that decision in the court of appeals.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
In Lozman v. Riviera Beach, the Supreme Court granted certiorari on the following question: “Does the existence of probable cause defeat a First Amendment retaliatory-arrest claim as a matter of law?” There were several moments during yesterday’s oral argument where the Justices and petitioner’s counsel Pam Karlan addressed Twombly, Iqbal, and pleading standards.
The most significant exchanges are on pp.9-16 of the transcript. Here’s one example featuring Justice Alito:
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, let's take this particular case then. Suppose -- obviously, there is no love lost between your client and the City of Riviera Beach, but, so suppose he comes back to another meeting and he is disruptive and he's arrested. Will he not be able to file a suit for retaliation and get to the jury on that?
KARLAN: It might be very difficult for him to get to a jury if the level of disruption is such that, under the way this Court has treated plausible pleading in Twombly and Iqbal, it's not plausible to believe that it was the animus that caused the arrest.
JUSTICE ALITO: Do you really think a suit like that could be dismissed under Twombly?
Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy pursued similar lines of questioning.
(H/T: Saul Zipkin)
Monday, February 26, 2018
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.)
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).
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in two cases:
- Dalmazzi v. United States (transcript here) involves a challenge to judges serving simultaneously on military Courts of Criminal Appeals and the Court of Military Commission Review. It raises some interesting jurisdictional issues, including whether Article III permits Supreme Court jurisdiction over the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Here’s Amy Howe’s analysis of the Dalmazzi argument for SCOTUSblog.
- Hall v. Hall (transcript here) involves the appealability of judgments in cases consolidated under FRCP 42. Here’s Howard Wasserman’s analysis of the Hall argument for SCOTUSblog.
Monday, January 8, 2018
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Tharpe v. Sellers. In a per curiam opinion, it grants certiorari and vacates the Eleventh Circuit’s refusal to grant a certificate of appealability (COA) to a habeas petitioner challenging the district court’s denial of his Rule 60(b)(6) motion to reopen his federal habeas proceedings. It remands the case for further consideration of whether Tharpe is entitled to a COA.
Justice Thomas authors a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Alito and Gorsuch.
Zayn Siddique has posted on SSRN his article, Nationwide Injunctions, 117 Colum. L. Rev. 2095 (2017). Here’s the abstract:
One of the most dramatic exercises of a court’s equitable authority is the nationwide injunction. Although this phenomenon has become more prominent in recent years, it is a routine fixture of the jurisprudence of federal courts. Despite the frequency with which these cases arise, there has been no systematic scholarly or judicial analysis of when courts issue nationwide injunctions and little discussion of when they should issue such relief.
This Article presents the first comprehensive account of when nationwide injunctions issue. Earlier attempts to answer this question have focused exclusively on challenges to federal regulatory action and have concluded that the domain is one of unconstrained judicial discretion. By contrast, this Article considers not only cases involving the federal government but also those exclusively between private parties. The conclusion from this expanded focus is that courts determining the geographic scope of injunctions in disputes between private parties are largely guided by a single principle: The injunction should be no broader than “necessary to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs.” While the “complete relief” idea has echoes throughout equitable jurisprudence, it proves particularly robust at organizing the conditions under which nationwide injunctions issue. The Article then examines the body of cases involving the federal government to test the explanatory power of the complete relief principle. Although there is more variation, here too complete relief provides a useful tool for categorizing seemingly disparate cases under a common classification scheme. The Article concludes by arguing not only that the complete relief principle is descriptively useful for focusing debates about nationwide injunctions but also that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 should be amended to codify the principle as a formal limit on the appropriate geographic scope of an injunction.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Allan Erbsen’s essay, Sequential Progression of Dispute Resolution in Federal Courts. Allan reviews Alexandra Lahav’s recent article, Procedural Design.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Eleventh Circuit reverses grant of summary judgment against plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s lethal injection protocol
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a unanimous decision in Grayson v. Warden. The plaintiffs-appellants are challenging Alabama’s three-drug lethal injection protocol, and the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment against them. The opinion considered a number of procedural issues, including the summary judgment standard, law-of-the-case doctrine, and statute of limitations.
With respect to summary judgment, the Eleventh Circuit found that it was error for the district court to reject at the summary judgment phase the appellants’ contention that a single-drug protocol was an available alternative method of execution that sufficiently reduced the risk of pain:
The District Court reached this conclusion with respect to Appellants’ proposed single-drug protocol based on the testimony of the ADOC’s General Counsel, Anne Adams Hill. In deciding to credit Hill’s testimony and then weigh it against Appellants’ proof, the District Court functioned as a finder of fact and ultimate decision maker and therefore erred. See Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. of Educ., 93 F.3d 739, 742 (11th Cir. 1996) (“It is not the court’s role to weigh conflicting evidence or to make credibility determinations; the non-movant’s evidence is to be accepted for purposes of summary judgment.”). The Court performed the same role when it determined the credibility of testimony and weighed the evidence in summarily disposing of Appellant’s midazolam proposal.
Also notable are the concluding pages of the opinion, which criticized the pleadings on both sides:
Thursday, August 24, 2017
On October 13, 2017, the Vanderbilt Law Review will be hosting a symposium entitled The Future of Discovery. From the announcement:
The Vanderbilt Law Review and Professor Brian Fitzpatrick are pleased to announce the 2017 Vanderbilt Law Review Symposium: The Future of Discovery. This year’s Symposium will take place on Friday, October 13, 2017 at Vanderbilt Law School. The Symposium will feature three panels of scholars discussing their recent work in the area of e-discovery, a keynote address delivered by U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm, and a round-table discussion with sitting federal judges to consider advances in and future challenges of discovery. The Symposium is open to practicing attorneys, and CLE credit will be available.
Panelists presenting at the Symposium will include:
Sergio J. Campos (University of Miami School of Law)
E. Donald Elliot (Yale Law School)
Jessica Erickson (University of Richmond School of Law)
Brian T. Fitzpatrick (Vanderbilt University Law School)
Robert Klonoff (Lewis & Clark Law School)
Alexandra D. Lahav (University of Connecticut School of Law)
Johnathan R. Nash (Emory University School of Law)
Martin H. Redish (Northwestern University School of Law)
David Rosenberg (Harvard Law School)
Linda Sandstorm Simard (Suffolk University Law School)
Joanna M. Shepherd (Emory University School of Law)
Paul Stancil (Brigham Young University Law School)
Jay Tidmarsh (University of Notre Dame Law School)
Thursday, August 17, 2017
This week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its decision in Block v. Tanenhaus, reinstating a Loyola University professor’s claims for defamation and false light against the New York Times and two of its authors. The per curiam opinion acknowledges, but does not resolve, the interesting question of whether state “anti-SLAPP” statutes—such as Louisiana’s Article 971—apply in federal court under Erie:
Block argues that Article 971 is not applicable in federal court because it is procedural and because, even if it is substantive, it is in direct collision with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The applicability of state anti-SLAPP statutes in federal court is an important and unresolved issue in this circuit.2 Unfortunately for Block, his arguments against application of Article 971 have been forfeited.
Footnote 2 describes the state of play in the Fifth Circuit:
We have noted on several occasions that this is an open question. See, e.g., Block, 815 F.3d at 221; Cuba v. Pylant, 814 F.3d 701, 706 & n.6 (5th Cir. 2016); Lozovyy, 813 F.3d at 582–83; Culbertson v. Lykos, 790 F.3d 608, 631 (5th Cir. 2015); Mitchell v. Hood, 614 F. App’x 137, 139 n.1 (5th Cir. 2015); NCDR, L.L.C. v. Mauze & Bagby, P.L.L.C., 745 F.3d 742, 752–53 (5th Cir. 2014). These opinions post-date our decision in Henry v. Lake Charles American Press, L.L.C., 566 F.3d 164 (5th Cir. 2009), which stated without explanation that “Louisiana law, including the nominally-procedural Article 971, governs this diversity case.” Id. 168–69. In Lozovyy, we noted the possibility that, particularly in light of our subsequent decisions, Henry could be interpreted as assuming the applicability of Article 971 for purposes of that case without deciding its applicability in federal courts more generally. Lozovyy, 813 F.3d at 582–83. Similarly, we noted in Pylant that Henry did not address “whether, under the Erie doctrine, the array of state procedural rules surrounding anti-SLAPP motions to dismiss (viz. discovery stays, accelerated timetables for decision, and the like) follow the core anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss into federal court.” Pylant, 814 F.3d at 706 n.6; cf. id. at 719 (Graves, J., dissenting) (addressing Erie question not reached by majority opinion and stating that similar anti-SLAPP statute in Texas is inapplicable in federal court because it is procedural (citing Abbas v. Foreign Policy Grp., LLC, 783 F.3d 1328, 1333 (D.C. Cir. 2015)).
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Last year we covered an interesting but somewhat obscure issue that came up in connection with the 2015 and 2016 amendments to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Inconsistencies in the text of these two amendments left it unclear which kinds of service were explicitly exempted from Rule 4(m)’s presumptive 90-day deadline for serving process. The situation prompted a letter to Congress by Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who was then the chair of the Standing Committee, seeking to clarify what the “net effect” of the two amendments would be.
This spring, the Supreme Court approved a new amendment that will remove any uncertainty on this question. Under the 2017 amendment, Rule 4(m) will read as follows:
If a defendant is not served within 90 days after the complaint is filed, the court--on motion or on its own after notice to the plaintiff--must dismiss the action without prejudice against that defendant or order that service be made within a specified time. But if the plaintiff shows good cause for the failure, the court must extend the time for service for an appropriate period. This subdivision (m) does not apply to service in a foreign country under Rule 4(f), 4(h)(2), or 4(j)(1), or to service of a notice under Rule 71.1(d)(3)(A).
Unless Congress intervenes, this amendment will go into effect on December 1, 2017.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Lou reviews a recent article by Steve Subrin and Thom Main, Braking the Rules: Why State Courts Should Not Replicate Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 67 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 501 (2016).
Monday, April 24, 2017
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Beth Thornburg’s essay, A Well-Pleaded Argument. Beth reviews Lonny Hoffman’s recent piece, Plausible Theory, Implausible Conclusions, 83 U. Chicago L. Rev. Online 143 (2016).
Today the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Salazar-Limon v. City of Houston. Unlike most cert denials, this one prompted written opinions—one dissenting and one concurring. Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ginsburg, authored a dissenting opinion, which begins:
Just after midnight on October 29, 2010, a Houston police officer shot petitioner Ricardo Salazar-Limon in the back. Salazar-Limon claims the officer shot him as he tried to walk away from a confrontation with the officer on an overpass. The officer, by contrast, claims that Salazar-Limon turned toward him and reached for his waistband—as if for a gun—before the officer fired a shot. The question whether the officer used excessive force in shooting Salazar-Limon thus turns in large part on which man is telling the truth. Our legal system entrusts this decision to a jury sitting as finder of fact, not a judge reviewing a paper record.
The courts below thought otherwise. The District Court credited the officer’s version of events and granted summary judgment to respondents—the officer and the city. 97 F. Supp. 3d 898 (SD Tex. 2015). The Fifth Circuit affirmed. 826 F. 3d 272 (2016). But summary judgment is appropriate only where “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 56(a). The courts below failed to heed that mandate. Three Terms ago, we summarily reversed the Fifth Circuit in a case “reflect[ing] a clear misapprehension of summary judgment standards.” Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (per curiam) (slip op., at 10). This case reflects the same fundamental error. I respectfully dissent from the Court’s failure to grant certiorari and reverse.
Justice Alito authored an opinion concurring in the cert denial. An excerpt:
The dissent acknowledges that summary judgment would be proper if the record compelled the conclusion that Salazar-Limon reached for his waist, but the dissent believes that, if the case had gone to trial, a jury could have reasonably inferred that Salazar-Limon did not reach for his waist—even if Salazar-Limon never testified to that fact. The dissent’s conclusion is surely debatable. But in any event, this Court does not typically grant a petition for a writ of certiorari to review a factual question of this sort, see this Court’s Rule 10, and I therefore concur in the denial of review here.