Thursday, February 12, 2015

Today's Federal Court Hearing in the Alabama Marriage Litigation (and More)

Reports are that today's hearing in Strawser has concluded with no ruling from Judge Granade.

One interesting update to the Strawser docket is a filing by Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis entitled, Notice to this Court of Presently Conflicting and Potentially Conflicting Authority Based on Recent Filings. Included as attachments to this notice are two documents that I hadn't seen before.

One is the “In Rem Action” that Davis filed with the Alabama Supreme Court seeking clarification regarding Chief Justice Roy Moore's Sunday order that probate judges should not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It starts on p.14 of the pdf file. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed this petition yesterday, concluding that it was “in substance a request for an advisory opinion” that the Court “is not authorized to address.”

The second is an “Emergency Petition for a Writ of Mandamus” that was apparently filed yesterday in the Alabama Supreme Court. It starts on p.44 of the pdf file. The petition was filed by the Alabama Policy Institute and Alabama Citizens Action Program, ostensibly as relators for the State of Alabama, and it seeks a writ of mandamus directing each probate judge in Alabama “not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and not to recognize any marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples.”

 

 

February 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions, State Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Developments in the Alabama Same-Sex Marriage Litigation Ahead of Tomorrow's Federal Court Hearing

As we covered earlier, federal judge Callie Granade will hold a hearing Thursday afternoon in the Strawser case to determine whether to issue a preliminary injunction ordering Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Even if Judge Granade issues such an injunction, it’s not clear what effect that would have on probate judges in other counties who are still refusing to do so.

This could make it especially significant that there is another case pending before Judge Granade—the Hedgepeth case—that names as a defendant not only the Mobile probate judge, but also Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and Governor Bentley. Hedgepeth was filed on Monday, and on Tuesday Judge Granade issued an order denying the Hedgepeth plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order. She also wrote:

There are numerous defendants named in this action, but at this time, only counsel on behalf of Attorney General Luther Strange have appeared in this matter. There is no proof of service on any other party. The court will not consider a preliminary injunction in this matter [Hedgepeth] until all of the defendants have been notified. However, because Plaintiffs’ claims in this case are almost identical to another case [Strawser] currently set for a preliminary injunction hearing in this court and the result of that hearing may impact Plaintiffs in this case, the court will allow counsel for Plaintiffs to participate in that hearing.

According to the Hedgepeth docket, Affidavits of Service on both Roy Moore and Governor Bentley have now been filed. We’ll find out tomorrow whether Judge Granade will issue any orders as to defendants other than the Mobile probate judge.

And speaking of Chief Justice Moore, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled Wednesday afternoon on the Mobile probate judge’s petition seeking clarification regarding Moore’s order that Alabama probate judges must continue to enforce Alabama’s prohibition on same-sex marriage. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the petition without ruling on the merits, finding that it was “in substance a request for an advisory opinion” that the Court “is not authorized to address.” Moore recused himself, but there are several concurring opinions (also available here).

As always, stay tuned. You can find copies of important rulings and documents here

 

 

 

February 11, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions, State Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Where Things Stand in the Alabama Same-Sex Marriage Litigation

Events continue to unfold in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s order yesterday refusing to stay federal judge Callie V.S. Granade’s January ruling that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. As of Tuesday, the number of Alabama counties where marriage licenses are being issued to same-sex couples has increased, but many are still refusing. See here and here for county-by-county information.

On Thursday, Judge Granade will hold a hearing in the Strawser v. Strange case to decide whether to issue an injunction against Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis requiring him to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Today Judge Granade granted a motion to add Davis as a defendant (and several other couples as additional plaintiffs) in the Strawser case.

On another track, Davis has filed with the Alabama Supreme Court a request for clarification regarding Chief Justice Roy Moore’s order that Alabama probate judges must continue to enforce Alabama’s prohibition on same-sex marriage. No reports yet on when or how Moore will respond to this request (but he had lots to say in this interview on Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect).

You can find copies relevant rulings and documents here.

 

February 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions, State Courts, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alabama Same-Sex Marriage Litigation: Important Rulings & Documents

As we’ve been covering, there has been significant activity here in Alabama in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to stay a federal judge’s January ruling that Alabama’s prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. This post is simply to provide a repository for some of the important filings, decisions, and other documents. The links below will open the actual documents themselves, not simply links to other websites (which can sometimes succumb to “link rot”). I plan to update this page with new documents as the litigation proceeds.

 

 

 

 

 

February 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, In the News, Recent Decisions, State Courts, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Latest in the Alabama Same-Sex Marriage Litigation

Last month, Judge Callie V.S. Granade of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama issued an injunction forbidding Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange from enforcing Alabama’s prohibition on same-sex marriage. She stayed the ruling until today in order to give the state time to appeal it. And this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Strange’s application for a stay. Here is the Supreme Court’s order, including a dissent by Justice Thomas joined by Justice Scalia.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, however, has been in the news arguing that Alabama probate judges are not bound by Judge Granade’s order. On Tuesday, February 3, he issued a memorandum to Alabama’s probate judges. And on Sunday, February 8, he issued an administrative order that concludes:

“Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with Article 1, Section 36.03, of the Alabama Constitution or § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975.”

Alabama Attorney General Strange issued a statement today responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s order refusing his stay application. Among other things, he states:

“To clarify my authority in this matter, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office does not issue marriage licenses, perform marriage ceremonies, or issue adoption certificates. The Chief Justice has explained in a public memorandum that probate judges do not report to me.”

And Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a statement today that he “will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue” and will “allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels.”

As of this morning, same-sex marriages have begun in some counties in Alabama, but not in others. More litigation is almost certain, but here are some of the important rulings and documents so far:

 [Updated to include the statement by Governor Bentley.]

 

 

 

February 9, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions, State Courts, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Public Record Sheds Little Light on the "One Millionth Discovery Dispute"

Law.com and the ABA Journal both reported last week on an order entitled "Order on One Millionth Discovery Dispute" issued by Judge Rosemary Collyer in the case of Carolyn Herron v. Fannie Mae et al., No. 10-943 (D.D.C. February 2, 2015).  (The Blog of Legal Times earlier reported strained relations between the parties' counsel dating all the way back to 2011.) 

 

"The parties bring yet another discovery dispute before the Court," began the judge, proclaiming herself "exhausted with these disputes."  The order and the stories that reported it implied that the parties were equally to blame for the contentiousness of discovery and the repeated extensions of the discovery cutoff.    

 

So I wondered: what actually happened in this case?  Was discovery to blame for the case's five-years-and-counting duration?  If so, was there any way to attach responsibility, beyond the standard allegations of "overbroad fishing" by the plaintiff and "stonewalling" by the defendants?  

 

Through PACER I accessed the docket record and many of the documents filed in the case.  In my view, the most striking thing that I found is that it is virtually impossible for a member of the public using only PACER to get to the bottom of discovery in this case. 

 

This is not just because Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure  prohibits the filing of discovery documents "until they are used in the proceeding or the court orders filing."  The public unavailability of most of the discovery disputes in this case on PACER results from two additional things.  First, Judge Collyer required the parties to bring discovery disputes to her attention by letter to her chambers, followed by a telephone conference, usually followed by a brief minute order.  Thus, unlike a formal motion to compel that would attach the discovery documents at issue as exhibits, rendering them available on PACER, the details of these disputes are not publicly available.  Second, protective orders were entered that required the filing under seal of the lion's share of the formal motions and responses that did get filed.       

Continue reading

February 9, 2015 in Discovery, In the News, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Investigation Finds Specialists Turning Supreme Court Into "Echo Chamber"

A three-part Reuters investigation entitled "The Echo Chamber" (here, here, and here), which is discussed in this week's The New Yorker magazine, begins: "A cadre of well-connected attorneys has honed the art of getting the Supreme Court to take up cases - and business is capitalizing on their expertise." 

Hat tip: Tom Goldstein, SCOTUSBlog

January 7, 2015 in In the News, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

From Pneumatics to Tortoises: The Chief Justice's 2014 Year-End Report

Chief Justice John Roberts once suggested that legal scholarship was not helpful to the bar, inventing a humorous parody of a law review article about "the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria."  I find his 2014 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary only slightly more practical than the fictional article. 

In a report almost entirely devoted to the federal courts' plodding adoption of technological advances, the Chief Justice began with a lengthy description of the Court's 1935 installation of a pneumatic tube system.  He then praised the courts' use of "computer-assisted legal research" and the CM/ECF electronic filing system as though these were new developments. 

Finally, he announced the Supreme Court's anticipated 2016 rollout of "its own electronic filing system," which will make "all filings at the Court . . . available to the legal community and the public without cost on the Court's website."  However, as several commentators noted, this newfangled phenomenon has already been a reality for years through SCOTUSBlog and The American Bar Association.

Observers from The Washington Post to CBS News criticized the Chief Justice's failure, in his discussion of technology, to mention the clamor to allow video cameras (or even still photos) in the Supreme Court.  The Wall Street Journal reports that even the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, said "the courts have yet to embrace the one technology that the founders would likely have advocated for--cameras in the courtroom.”

What else is going on in the federal courts?  Not much, according to the report.  Filings decreased in the Supreme Court, the federal courts of appeal, and the bankruptcy courts.  Filings for criminal defendants in the districts courts decreased also. 

In fact, only civil case filings in the district courts nominally increased by 4% to 295,310.  Diversity filings increased 13%, "mainly because of growth in personal injury and product liability filings."  The Chief Justice doesn't say it, but those are typically cases that are subjected to Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). 

According to the MDL Panel's statistical analysis for fiscal 2014, 53,103 civil cases in 2014 were subjected to MDL proceedings.  In fact, there has been a steady rise in the number of cases subjected to MDL proceedings for over 25 years.

In contrast to the almost-meaningless number of "filings" that end up in MDL, there are only 314 pending MDL "litigations," and 46 of them were centralized in fiscal year 2014.  That means that what counts for official purposes as around 50,000 cases boiled down to 46 "litigations."  So it's not really clear that civil filings have increased, either.

Of course, it is unrealistic to expect the Year-End Report of the Chief Justice to explain this.  The 2012 Year-End Report spoke raptly of the U.S.S. Constitution and the War of 1812.  The 2013 Year-End report wistfully referenced A Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life in connection with Congress' "sequester" of funds that year.

This year, the Chief Justice closed with a reference to the "sturdy bronze tortoises" at the bases of "the Court's exterior lampposts," "symbolizing the judiciary's commitment to constant but deliberate progress in the cause of justice."  Hmm.  I wonder if he's read The Case Against the Supreme Court by Erwin Chemerinsky.

 

January 3, 2015 in Federal Courts, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

National Law Journal Digitizes Federal Appellate Judges' Financial Reports

The National Law Journal has made available in digital form 257 financial disclosure reports for federal appellate judges for the year 2012 (the last year available), which the Journal had to retrieve manually. 

I clicked on the first name, Judge D. Brooks Smith, appointed to the Third Circuit in 2001.  Judge Smith received over $23,000 from Penn State University Dickinson School of Law as an adjunct professor in the fall semester of 2012.  He was also reimbursed for travel by two law school Federalist Society chapters in 2012 as a "speaker for education program."  

The reports should prove interesting reading.  

May 22, 2014 in Federal Courts, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Reenactment of deposition argument over definition of "photocopy machine"

As a break from writing or grading your final exams (and to walk down the memory lane of law practice for some of us), here's a great reenactment of an argument during a deposition about the definition of a photocopier.  The short video by writer and director Brett Weiner is part of the New York Times Op-Docs series and is a verbatim transcript of a deposition from an Ohio case.

May 2, 2014 in Discovery, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Report on Last Week's Civil Rules Advisory Committee Meeting

We covered earlier the agenda for the Civil Rules Advisory Committee’s April meeting, which took place in Portland, Oregon last week and was an important step for the recently proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Bloomberg BNA’s U.S. Law Week has this report on the result of the meeting.

The Advisory Committee’s recommendations go next to the Standing Committee on the Rules of Practice and Procedure, which will meet in May.

Hat Tip: Tom Rowe

 

 

April 16, 2014 in Discovery, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

TRO Entered Against Mt. Gox in Class Action

I have admittedly fallen down on my self-appointed job of reporting on bitcoin litigation.  Somewhat belatedly, I provide an update on some of the litigation surrounding the collapse of Mt. Gox, one of the earliest, largest, and best-known bitcoin exchanges. 

On Feb. 27, 2014, a putative class action, Greene v. Mt. Gox Inc., Mt. Gox KK, Tibanne KK, and Mark Karpeles, No. 1:14-cv-1437, was filed in the Northern District of Illinois.  Subject matter jurisdiction was premised on the Class Action Fairness Act.  The complaint alleged counts for consumer fraud, common law fraud, negligence, and conversion, among other causes of action.

Two classes are proposed:

(1) Payment Class: All persons in the United States who paid a fee to Mt. Gox to buy, sell, or otherwise trade bitcoins.

(2) Frozen Currency Class: All persons in the United States who had bitcoins or Fiat Currency stored with Mt. Gox on Feb. 7, 2014.

On March 9, 2014, Mt. Gox Co., Ltd., which apparently is also known as Mt. Gox KK, filed a bankruptcy petition under Chapter 15 (foreign proceeding) in the Northern District of Texas, No. 3:14-bk-31229.  Under the automatic stay, the Greene proceeding was stayed against defendant Mt. Gox KK.

However, as against the remaining defendants, Judge Feinerman in the Greene case entered a temporary restraining order on March 11, 2014.  The court ruled that plaintiff had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits with respect to claims under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, common law fraud, negligence, conversion, and for an accounting, and restrained the defendants from selling, transferring, disposing of, or concealing any of their assets or records, including preservation of their web site. 

March 20, 2014 in Class Actions, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Deposition of Justin Bieber in Alleged Bodyguard-Attacks-Photographer Case

Want a cringe-worthy example of a difficult deponent?  Try this excerpt of Justin Bieber's deposition in Binion v. Bieber, pending in state court in Miami.   The complaint alleges:

7. At the aforedescribed date, time and place, Plaintiff, who is a 56 year old professional photographer, was legally on the sidewalk outside of the Hit Factory, taking photographs of Defendant BIEBER.
8. Defendant BIEBER, who is an internationally famous recording artist, did not want the Plaintiff to take photographs of him, so he directed HESNY and three other bodyguards to confront Plaintiff, and to forcibly take the memory card from Plaintiff’s camera.
9. In compliance with BIEBER’s instructions, Defendant HESNY threw Plaintiff against a wall, began choking him, and threatened Plaintiff with a gun, while the other bodyguards (whose names are unknown to the Plaintiff, pending further discovery), assisted him in threatening Plaintiff and forcibly removing the memory card from his camera.

Thanks to Brittany Cooper for passing this along!

 

March 10, 2014 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Unprecedented Number of Public Comments on Proposed FRCP Changes

Tony Mauro at the National Law Journal has an article this morning entitled Lawyers Spar Over Discovery Rules.  He reports, "More than 2,200 lawyers and others took the time in recent weeks to file sometimes impassioned ­comments with a committee of the Judicial Con­ference over proposals to narrow pretrial discovery and ease sanctions for failure to preserve documents. The deadline for comments was Feb. 18."

 

February 24, 2014 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kagan on Ginsburg and Civil Procedure

Adam Liptak reports in the New York Times on last week’s appearance by Justices Ginsburg (Brooklyn) and Kagan (Manhattan) at the New York City Bar Association. A few of the funnier bits from Justice Kagan’s lecture involve civil procedure. From the article:

Justice Kagan also had a little fun with Justice Ginsburg’s writing and interests. “As a law professor, she was a pathmarking scholar of civil procedure,” Justice Kagan said, and then paused. “Pathmarking. Have you ever heard that word before? It appears in about 30 Justice Ginsburg opinions — although it appears actually not to exist. Oh well.”

Justice Ginsburg is also an expert in comparative civil procedure, Justice Kagan said: “She wrote what I am confident is the definitive American volume on civil procedure in Sweden. That’s why when the Supreme Court faces a tricky question of Swedish civil procedure, we always go straight to Justice Ginsburg.”

February 10, 2014 in In the News, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Federal Courts Celebrate 25 Years of PACER and CM/ECF

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."

December 9, 2013 in Federal Courts, In the News, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Court Implicitly Upholds Document Request Seeking Bitcoin Transaction Information

Okay, I've succombed to bitcoin madness.  A search today of the ALLCASES library in the Westlaw database yielded three cases with the word "Bitcoin" in them.  The only one of any recency was the following.

In Entrepreneur Media, Inc. v. Smith, No. 2:10–mc–55–JAM–EFB (E.D. Cal. Nov. 26, 2013), a judgment creditor/plaintiff moved to compel the production of documents sought in aid of enforcement of its judgment against the judgment debtor/defendant.  The document request included, "Any and all books, letters, papers, files, or documents . . . which show any wire transfer, electronic distribution and/or transmission of funds, purchase of debit cards, acquisition and use of any online digital banking services, such as Bitcoin, and/or any and all other papers which show any account in YOUR name, and moreover, any account by any entity, including any digital entity, for the TIME PERIOD."  Without addressing any issue that might have been presented by the inclusion of Bitcoin transactions in the document request, the court granted the motion to compel this particular request (although it denied the motion as to other requests).

December 6, 2013 in In the News, Recent Decisions, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Lawsuit Abuse Reduction" Bill Passes House

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. 

November 15, 2013 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Still More on the Second Circuit's Order in the Stop-and-Frisk Case

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:

More coverage here.

November 6, 2013 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

More on the Second Circuit's Order in the Stop-and-Frisk Case

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:

 

November 3, 2013 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)