Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SCOTUS Upholds Basic v. Levinson, But Gives Halliburton A Partial Victory

In the latest Supreme Court round of Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., the Court declined Halliburton's invitation to overrule Basic v. Levinson,  but remanded to allow Halliburton, at the class certification stage, to attempt to rebut the presumption that the alleged misrepresentations actually affected the price of the stock.  The Court's final two paragraphs:

More than 25 years ago [in Basic], we held that plaintiffs could satisfy the reliance element of the Rule 10b–5 cause of action by invoking a presumption that a public, material misrepresentation will distort the price of stock traded in an efficient market, and that anyone who purchases the stock at the market price may be considered to have done so in reliance on the misrepresentation. We adhere to that decision and decline to modify the prerequisites for invoking the presumption of reliance. But to maintain the consistency of the presumption with the class certificationrequirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, defendants must be afforded an opportunity before class certification to defeat the presumption through evidencethat an alleged misrepresentation did not actually affect the market price of the stock.


Because the courts below denied Halliburton that opportunity, we vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Some coverage of the case:

New York Times

Wall Street Journal

June 24, 2014 in Class Actions, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Schaefer on Professionalism for Doctrinal Professors

Paula Schaefer of the University of Tennessee College of Law has posted on SSRN her article, A Primer on Professionalism for Doctrinal Professors, forthcoming in Tennessee Law Review.

Abstract:

Legal education reform advocates agree that law schools should integrate “professionalism” throughout the curriculum. Ultimately, it falls to individual professors to decide how to incorporate professionalism into each course. This can be an especially difficult task for doctrinal professors. The law — and not the practice of law — is the focus of most doctrinal casebooks. Law students typically do not act in role as lawyers in these classes, so they are not compelled to resolve professional dilemmas in class, as students would be in a clinic or simulation-based course. As a result, it takes some additional preparation and thought to introduce professionalism issues into these courses. Some professors may resist making this change — not knowing which aspect or aspects of professionalism should be the focus, fearing that time spent on professionalism will detract from the real subject matter of the class, or believing professionalism is adequately covered elsewhere in the curriculum.

This Article considers how and why doctrinal professors should address the challenge of integrating professionalism into the classroom. Part I briefly discusses the multitude of meanings ascribed to attorney professionalism and argues that the lack of a clear, concise, and shared definition is a substantial barrier to effectively incorporating professionalism into the law school curriculum. Next, Part II provides a more coherent, streamlined definition of attorney professionalism. This Part also identifies and describes three primary aspects of lawyer professionalism: fulfilling duties to clients, satisfying duties to the bar, and possessing core personal values essential to being a good lawyer. This simplified conception of professionalism should begin to address the concerns of professors who do not know where to begin to incorporate professionalism into their classes. It is also intended to persuade skeptics that professionalism is something they can and should teach as part of their doctrinal classes.

Thereafter, Part III provides guidance for developing course outcomes that connect course subject matter and professionalism. Questions prompt doctrinal professors to look for the natural connections between their course subject matter and issues of professionalism. Then, Part IV considers various methods doctrinal professors can use to introduce professionalism topics into their courses. Integrating professionalism into the classroom does not require professors to abandon their casebooks; using case law can be an effective method. This Part also considers other teaching methods and materials for combining doctrine, skills, and professionalism. Finally, Part V concludes with thoughts on how students benefit when professors make the effort to incorporate professionalism into every law school classroom.

June 23, 2014 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 20, 2014

SCOTUS: IRS Summons Challenger Must Show Facts Giving Rise to Plausible Inference of Improper IRS Motive

The IRS examined the tax returns of Dynamo Holdings Limited Partnership, and issued summonses to the respondents, "four individuals associated with Dynamo whom the Service believed had information and records relevant to Dynamo’s tax obligations.  None of the respondents complied with those summonses."  

The IRS instituted proceedings in District Court to compel the respondents to comply with the summonses.  The IRS submitted an investigating agent’s declaration that the testimony and records sought were necessary to “properly investigate the correctness of [Dynamo’s] federal tax reporting” and that the summonses were “not issued to harass or for any other improper purpose.”  In reply, the respondents pointed to circumstantial evidence suggesting that the IRS had “ulterior motives” for issuing the summonses: to “punish[] [Dynamo] for refusing to agree to a further extension of the applicable statute of limitations,” and to “evad[e] the Tax Court[’s] limitations on discovery.”  Accordingly, the respondents asked for an opportunity to question the agents about their motives.

The District Court ordered the respondents to comply with the summonses.  The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that a simple “allegation of improper purpose,” even if lacking any “factual support,” entitles a taxpayer to “question IRS officials concerning the Service’s reasons for issuing the summons.”

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Kagan, vacated the Eleventh Circuit's opinion and remanded, holding that the Eleventh Circuit had applied an incorrect legal standard:

A person receiving an IRS summons is . . . entitled to contest it in an enforcement proceeding. . .  .  As part of the adversarial process concerning a summons’s validity, the taxpayer is entitled to examine an IRS agent when he can point to specific facts or circumstances plausibly raising an inference of bad faith.  Naked allegations of improper purpose are not enough: The taxpayer must offer some credible evidence supporting his charge.  But circumstantial evidence can suffice to meet that burden; after all, direct evidence of another person’s bad faith, at this threshold stage, will rarely if ever be available.  And although bare assertion or conjecture is not enough, neither is a fleshed out case demanded: The taxpayer need only make a showing of facts that give rise to a plausible inference of improper motive.  That standard will ensure inquiry where the facts and circumstances make inquiry appropriate, without turning every summons dispute into a fishing expedition for official wrongdoing. . . .  But that is not the standard the Eleventh Circuit applied. . . .  [T]he Court of Appeals viewed even bare allegations of improper purpose as entitling a summons objector to question IRS agents.

United States v. Clarke, No. 13-301 (U.S. June 19, 2014).

June 20, 2014 in Discovery, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases, Twombly/Iqbal | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

ABA Pretrial Practice and Discovery Committee Spring Newsletter

The Pretrial Practice and Discovery Committee of the Section of Litigation of the American Bar Association has issued its
 
Spring 2014, Vol. 22 No. 2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
______________________________________________________________________
___________________________________
Articles »
The Changing Landscape of General Jurisdiction Post-Bauman
By Adam W. Braveman
This decision will have an immense impact on a foreign corporation's amenability to bring suit in U.S
courts.
 
"Self-Serving Testimony" and Summary Judgment Standards
By Jeffrey G. Close
Is there a split between the Fifth and Seventh Circuits?
 
The Problem of the Old Deposition and a New Party at Trial
By Michael Lowry
A deposition needs to be admissible, and that may depend on who is a party at the time of trial.
 
Supreme Court's CAFA Decision Changes Law in Fifth Circuit
By Paul Thibodeaux and Danny Dysart
The Court's decision on CAFA removal of parens patriae mass-action suits and how it impacts future
mass-tort litigation.
 
News & Developments
»
NV Court Expands Mandate of Production of Memory-Refreshing Documents
The mandate now applies to depositions as well as in-court hearings.
 
Considering a 30(b)(6) Deposition to Explore E-Discovery Methods?
A couple of recent decisions address a party's ability to use a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition to inquire about an
opponent's e-discovery methodology.
 

June 18, 2014 in Discovery, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Supreme Court Allows Subpoenas on Banks With Argentina's Accounts

In the continuing worldwide drama over Argentina's 2001 debt default, Argentina loses another round.  Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd., No. 12-842 (U.S. June 16, 2014).  Its creditor, NML Capital, which Argentina owes about $2.5 billion, has pursued postjudgment execution on Argentina's property since 2003.  In 2010, NML subpoenaed two nonparty banks, Bank of America and an Argentinian bank with a branch in New York City.  The subpoenas sought documents relating to accounts maintained by Argentina. 

Argentina and BoA moved to quash the BoA subpoena (the Argentinian bank just didn't comply), and NML moved to compel.  The district court granted the motion to compel, and the Second Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court also affirmed, rejecting Argentina's argument that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act prohibited discovery of Argentina's extraterritorial assets.  Before its discussion of the FSIA, the Court discussed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure -- Rule 69 -- that is rarely, if ever, mentioned in first-year civil procedure casebooks.  (Hint, hint, casebook authors!)  The Court noted that "[t]he rules governing discovery in postjudgment execution proceedings are quite permissive," citing Rule 69(a)(2), which allows a judgment creditor to take discovery "from any person -- including the judgment debtor -- as provided in the rules or by the procedure of the state where the court is located."  The Court assumed without deciding that "in a run-of-the-mill execution proceeding [one where the judgment debtor is not a foreign state] . . . the district court would have been within its discretion to order the discovery from third-party banks about the judgment debtor's assets located outside the United States."

The question was thus whether the FSIA required a different result when the judgment debtor was, in fact, a foreign state.  The FSIA, passed in 1976, confers two kinds of immunity on foreign states, jurisdictional (which Argentina waived) and execution immunity, which immunizes property in the United States of a foreign state from attachment and execution, with some exceptions.  

"There is no third provision forbidding or limiting disocvery in aid of execution of a foreign-sovereign judgment debtor's assets," notes Justice Scalia for the majority.  "[T]he reason for these subpoenas is that NML does not yet know what property Argentina has and where it is, let alone whether it is executable under the relevant jurisiction's law."   The Court also dismissed concerns about international relations, suggesting that such an argument was better addressed to Congress.

Justice Ginsburg dissented.  Justice Sotomayor took no part.      

   

June 17, 2014 in Discovery, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, International/Comparative Law, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Reminder: Call for Papers for Fed Cts Jr Faculty Workshop at Georgia

The University of Georgia School of Law will host the Seventh Annual Junior Faculty Federal Courts Workshop on October 10-11, 2014.  The workshop pairs a senior scholar with a panel of junior scholars presenting works-in-progress.  Confirmed senior scholars include, at this time, Janet Alexander (Stanford), A.J. Bellia (Notre Dame), Heather Elliott (Alabama), Evan Lee (UC-Hastings), Gillian Metzger (Columbia), Jim Pfander (Northwestern), Amanda Tyler (UC-Berkeley), and Steve Vladeck (American).

The workshop is open to untenured and recently tenured academics who teach and write in federal courts, civil rights litigation, civil procedure, and other associated topics. Those who do not currently hold a faculty appointment but expect to do so beginning in fall 2014 are welcome. The program is also open to scholars wanting to attend, read, and comment on papers but not present.  There is no registration fee.

The conference will begin with a dinner on Thursday, October 9, then panels on Friday, October 10 and Saturday, October 11. Each panel will consist of approximately 4 junior scholars, with a senior scholar serving as moderator and commenter and leading a group discussion on the papers.  Georgia Law will provide all lunches and dinners for those attending the workshop, but attendees must cover their own travel and lodging costs.

Those wishing to present a paper must submit an abstract by June 20, 2014. Papers will be selected by a committee of past participants, and presenters will be notified by early July. Those planning to attend must register by August 29, 2014. 

Please send abstracts to federalcourtsworkshop@gmail.com. Please contact Matt Hall or Kent Barnett with questions.

June 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Appeals Court Reverses Denial of Sanctions Motion Against Merrill Lynch's Law Firm

The opinion of the Massachusetts Appeals Court begins:

The plaintiffs appeal from the denial of their motion for sanctions against Bingham McCutchen LLP (Bingham), intervener, the law firm that defended Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (Merrill), in the 2002 jury trial of this action. The plaintiffs claim that in that litigation Bingham wrongfully withheld documents relevant to the issue whether Merrill, in handling the accounts of Benistar Property Exchange Trust Company, Inc. (Benistar), knew that Benistar was trading with money belonging to third parties. We hold that Bingham lacked an adequate legal basis, under the guise of the work product doctrine, for its decisions to withhold information that Merrill employees had viewed certain Benistar Web pages describing its business as an intermediary for third-party funds and then to present a defense claiming that no Merrill employees had viewed the very same Web pages.  As a result, we vacate that portion of the final judgment entering judgment in favor of Bingham on the plaintiffs' motion for sanctions.  As explained below, there remain certain issues that require resolution by a fact finder, and thus, we remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Cahaly v. Benistar Property Exchange Trust Co., Inc. No. 12-P-956 (Mass. Ct. App. June 6, 2014).

Hat tip: The American Lawyer

June 9, 2014 in Discovery, Recent Decisions, State Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

AALS Section on Federal Courts: Annual Award for Best Untenured Article on the Law of Federal Jurisdiction

Announcement below...

The AALS Section on Federal Courts is pleased to announce the third annual award for the best article on the law of federal jurisdiction by a full-time, untenured faculty member at an AALS member or affiliate school ­and to solicit nominations (including self-nominations) for the prize to be awarded at the 2015 AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
 
The purpose of the award program is to recognize outstanding scholarship in the field of federal courts by untenured faculty members. To that end, eligible articles are those specifically in the field of Federal Courts that were published by a recognized journal during the twelve-month period ending on September 1, 2014 (date of actual publication determines eligibility). Eligible authors are those who, at the close of nominations (i.e., as of September 15, 2014), are untenured, full-time faculty members at AALS member or affiliate schools, and have not previously won the award.
 
Nominations (or questions about the award) should be directed to Tara Leigh Grove at William and Mary Law School (tlgrove@wm.edu), Chair of the AALS Section on Federal Courts. Without exception, all nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on September 15, 2014. Nominations will be reviewed by a prize committee comprised of Professors Janet Cooper Alexander (Stanford), Allan Erbsen (Minnesota), Tara Leigh Grove (William & Mary), James Pfander (Northwestern), and Judith Resnik (Yale), with the result announced at the Federal Courts section program at the 2015 AALS Annual Meeting. 

 

 

June 9, 2014 in Conferences/Symposia, Federal Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Standing Committee Approves Proposed FRCP Amendments

We've been covering (see here and here, among others) the path of the controversial proposed amendments to the FRCP as they (inexorably, in my view) wend their way toward final approval.

The Standing Committee met on May 29-30, 2014 in D.C. and unanimously approved the amendments as they were modified by the Advisory Committee at its meeting in April. 

Hat tip: Center for Constitutional Litigation

June 7, 2014 in Discovery, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Rhodes and Robertson on the New PJ Decisions

Charles "Rocky" Rhodes (South Texas College of Law) and Cassandra Burke Robertson (Case Western) have posted Toward a New Equilibrium in Personal Jurisdiction to SSRN.

In early 2014, the Supreme Court decided two new personal jurisdiction cases that will have a deep and wide-ranging impact on civil litigation in the coming decades: Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014), and Walden v. Fiore, 134 S. Ct. 1115 (2014). Bauman eliminates the traditional “continuous and systematic” contacts test for general jurisdiction, and Walden significantly retracts the ability of courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants whose actions have in-state effects. Taken together, both cases will make it significantly more difficult for plaintiffs to exercise control over where lawsuits are filed. In some cases — such as large-scale class actions — the new decisions may make it impossible to identify a single forum where multiple defendants can be sued together, and will therefore shift the balance of litigation power from plaintiffs to defendants.

This Article examines the effect that these decisions will have on future litigation and suggests solutions to the problems that will arise in the wake of these decisions. It analyzes how the Court’s new jurisprudence has shifted the balance of power in the jurisdictional framework, and it explores areas of future litigation. We predict four areas in which disputes are likely to become more salient: first, the “connectedness” requirement of specific jurisdiction; second, the availability of personal jurisdiction over pendent claims that form part of a single case or controversy; third, the future availability of personal jurisdiction over a defendant whose out-of-state conduct has caused effects within the forum state; and fourth, the availability of “consent jurisdiction” based on the appointment of a registered agent for service of process. Even before the Court’s 2014 cases, circuit splits had arisen over the propriety of jurisdiction in each of these four areas. Now that the Court has limited other grounds for personal jurisdiction, we predict those pre-existing splits will become more critical to resolve and will take on a central role in future litigation. 

Our Article suggests solutions to the problems that will inevitably arise in the wake of these decisions, and it proposes a method of recalibrating specific jurisdiction to account for the demise of general contacts jurisdiction and the limitation on effects-test jurisdiction. It recognizes that International Shoe described two categories of specific jurisdiction — not just one — and it builds on this two-tier framework to reach a new equilibrium. When the defendant’s forum activities fall within Shoe’s “continuous and systematic” category, the balance of individual and state interests should tilt toward authorizing jurisdiction as long as some loose connection exists between the forum and the actions that give rise to the litigation. Thus, in cases that would have been eligible for general jurisdiction in the past, the forum relatedness requirement should be relaxed. In contrast, for adjudicatory jurisdiction in the “single or occasional” acts scenario, the state must have a tighter link to its sovereign regulatory interests. This rebalanced jurisdictional framework would therefore take into account the defendants’ liberty interests as protected by Bauman and Walden without sacrificing the states’ sovereign interest in protecting their citizens.

RJE

June 6, 2014 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Appeals Court Lacks Jurisdiction Over District Court's Third Order Remanding to State Court

            Some people really, really want to be in federal court instead of state court.  In Arnold Crossroads v. Gander Mountain, No. 13-2020 (8th Cir. Jun. 2, 2014), defendant Gander tried and failed to remove the case three times.  Plaintiff filed this breach-of-lease case on February 24, 2009 in Missouri state court, seeking one month's damages of $40,000.  Defendant's first attempt at removal on the basis of diversity failed for lack of the amount-in-controversy requirement.  Defendant then filed a declaratory judgment action in federal court, which was dismissed on abstention grounds in light of the pending state case.

 

            Plaintiff eventually amended its complaint to seek millions of dollars in damages for breach of the lease's entire 15-year period, and defendant attempted to remove again, but this time failed because the effort to remove was untimely under 28 U.S.C. §1446 (one year for diversity actions). 

 

A year later, the City where the lease was to have operated intervened as a plaintiff, seeking $750,000 from defendant.  Defendant attempted a third time to remove, purporting to remove only the City.  The federal district court once again remanded, and defendant appealed. 

 

The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1447(d) (an order remanding a case to the state court from which it has been removed "is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise"), because the district court's remand order was based on the "§1447(c) procedural flaw of untimely removal."  Judge Smith dissented: "I would reach the primary issue in this case and hold that Gander can remove the City's claim because that civil action involved a new party who asserted a new and original claim."

June 3, 2014 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bray on the Supreme Court and the New Equity

Samuel Bray (UCLA) has posted The Supreme Court and the New Equity to SSRN.

The line between law and equity has largely faded away. The distinction between legal and equitable remedies has been a holdout, yet even there the conventional scholarly wisdom favors erasing the distinction. But something surprising has happened. In a series of cases over the last decade and a half, the U.S. Supreme Court has directly repudiated this conventional wisdom. These cases range across many areas of substantive law — from commercial contracts and ERISA to habeas and immigration, from patents and copyright to environmental law and national security. Throughout these disparate areas, the Court has consistently reinforced the line between legal and equitable remedies, and it has treated equitable remedies as having distinctive powers and limitations.

This Article describes and evaluates the Court’s new equity cases. Faced with many federal statutes authorizing equitable relief, the Court has looked to history and tradition to determine what counts as an equitable remedy and also to determine the circumstances in which equitable relief should be given. There have been some blunders, and the Court has glossed over the complexity of equity’s history. On the whole, however, the Court’s new equity cases represent a reasonable response to an enduring challenge — how to make sense of equitable doctrines in a world without equitable courts. This conclusion will prove controversial for scholars in remedies and in various substantive fields, but even those who disagree will need to grapple with the new equity cases, for they may shape the law of remedies for decades to come.

May 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Symposium & Call for Abstracts: Forum Selection After Atlantic Marine

The Hastings Law Journal seeks submissions for a symposium on forum selection after Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. U.S. District Court. The symposium, co-sponsored by the Journal and by UC Hastings College of the Law, will be held at UC Hastings in San Francisco on Friday, September 19, 2014.

Topics may include -- but need not be limited to -- analyses and implications of the Supreme Court’s decision, the sources of law governing forum selection, and issues of private control of litigation more generally. Accepted essays will be published in the Journal in 2015, and invited participants will receive assistance with travel and lodging expenses. Practitioners and others working in the field are welcome to attend.

Abstracts of 2-4 pages should be sent to hlj@hastingslawjournal.org no later than Monday, June 23. Authors of accepted essays will be notified in the first week of July, and completed drafts must be submitted for circulation to symposium participants by Friday, September 5.

Questions regarding the symposium should be directed to the organizers, Stephen Sachs (sachs@law.duke.edu), Brad Shannon (bshannon@fcsl.edu), and Scott Dodson (dodsons@uchastings.edu).

 

 

May 30, 2014 in Conferences/Symposia, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

So-Called "Porno Troll's" Attempt at Joinder, Discovery Shot Down

Tired of using Mosley v. General Motors for an illustration of joinder under Rule 20? The D.C. Circuit has provided a great new case. The court quaintly began its opinion:

Generally speaking, our federal judicial system and the procedural rules that govern it work well, allowing parties to resolve their disputes with one another fairly and efficiently. But sometimes individuals seek to manipulate judicial procedures to serve their own improper ends. This case calls upon us to evaluate—and put a stop to— one litigant’s attempt to do just that.

AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1058, No. 12-7135 (D.C. Cir. May 27, 2014).

Plaintiff AF Holdings, represented by a law firm related to one that was called a "porno-trolling collective" in another case, allegedly (there was some question of forgery) acquired the copyright to a pornographic film called "Popular Demand." It sued 1,058 "John Doe" defendants in federal court in D.C. for copyright infringement for downloading the film on a file-sharing service known as BitTorrent.

Moving for leave to take immediate discovery, AF Holdings then sought to serve subpoenas on the five Internet service providers linked to the 1,058 IP addresses it had identified: Cox Communications, Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and Bright House Networks. The district court granted the motion . . . . The providers refused to comply. Invoking Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(d)(3)(A), . . . they asserted that the administrative expense involved was necessarily an “undue burden” because AF Holdings had failed to establish that the court would have personal jurisdiction over the defendants or that venue would lie in this district. . . . The providers also argued that any burden was necessarily undue because AF Holdings had failed to provide any reason to think that joinder of these 1,058 defendants in one action was proper. The district court rejected these arguments, . . . [but] certified its order for immediate appeal.

The D.C. Circuit vacated, holding that AF Holdings had failed to make a threshold showing of a good faith belief that the discovery would enable it to show that the court had personal jurisdiction over the unknown defendants; thus, the information sought from the service providers was not relevant.

The court then turned "to the question of joinder, which provides a separate and independent ground for reversal":

. . . Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2) sets forth that multiple defendants may be joined in one action if the plaintiff seeks relief “with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences” and “any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.” In a multi-Doe copyright infringement lawsuit such as this, at least one issue of law or fact will generally be common to all defendants—here, that issue might be whether AF Holdings has a valid copyright in Popular Demand. But whether all of these Doe defendants could possibly have been a part of the same “transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences” so as to support joinder is a more difficult question. . . . For purposes of this case, we may assume that two individuals who participate in the same swarm [a type of peer-to-peer file sharing] at the same time are part of the same series of transactions within the meaning of Rule 20(a)(2). In that circumstance, the individuals might well be actively sharing a file with one another, uploading and downloading pieces of the copyrighted work from the other members of the swarm. But AF Holdings has provided no reason to think that the Doe defendants it named in this lawsuit were ever participating in the same swarm at the same time.

The D.C. Circuit left the question of sanctions to the district court on remand.

May 28, 2014 in Discovery, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

SCOTUS Decision in Wood v. Moss: Guidance on Pleading Standards?

Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Wood v. Moss, with Justice Ginsburg authoring the opinion for the Court. As covered earlier here, Wood v. Moss is a Bivens case brought by plaintiffs who had been protesting against President George W. Bush during his 2004 visit to a restaurant in Oregon. The plaintiffs claim that the defendants, who were secret service agents, violated their First Amendment rights by moving them farther away from the President than a similar group that was expressing support for the President.

In today’s decision, the Court unanimously rules that the defendants are protected by qualified immunity. To most, this conclusion did not come as a surprise. For many proceduralists, however, the case was of particular interest because of its potential effect on pleading standards in the wake of Twombly and Iqbal. Here’s how Justice Ginsburg puts things in footnote 5: “In ruling on a motion to dismiss, we have instructed, courts ‘must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true,’ but ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.’ Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).” And on page 12: “[U]nder the governing pleading standard, the ‘complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ Iqbal, 556 U.S., at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted).”

Part II.B of the opinion contains the most detailed discussion of qualified immunity and its requirement that a plaintiff’s claim be based on a right that was “clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct.” [p.12]. Among other things, Justice Ginsburg writes:

“No decision of which we are aware ... would alert Secret Service agents engaged in crowd control that they bear a First Amendment obligation to ensure that groups with different viewpoints are at comparable locations at all times. ... No clearly established law, we agree, required the Secret Service to interfere with even more speech than security concerns would require in an attempt to keep opposing groups at roughly equal distances from the Pres­ident. And surely no such law required the agents to attempt to maintain equal distances by prevailing upon the President not to dine at the Inn. [pp.14-15 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)]”

Part III of the opinion addresses a potentially distinct theory of liability, and that part of the opinion may prove more instructive on pleading standards generally. Part III begins: “The protesters allege that, when the agents directed their displacement, the agents acted not to ensure the President’s safety from handguns or explosive devices. Instead, the protesters urge, the agents had them moved solely to insulate the President from their message, thereby giving the President’s supporters greater visibility and audibility.” [pp.15-16] Justice Ginsburg does recognize the possibility that “clearly estab­lished law proscribed the Secret Service from disadvantag­ing one group of speakers in comparison to another if the agents had no objectively reasonable security rationale for their conduct, but acted solely to inhibit the expression of disfavored views.” [p.16 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)] She rejects this theory, however, noting that a map of the relevant area that the plaintiffs had included in their complaint “under­mines the protesters’ allegations of viewpoint discrimination as the sole reason for the agents’ directions”; the map “corroborates that, because of their location, the protesters posed a potential security risk to the President, while the supporters, because of their location, did not.” [p.16]

Although the plaintiffs “make three arguments to shore up their charge that the agents’ asserted security concerns are disingenuous,” [p.16] Justice Ginsburg is not persuaded. In particular, she writes:

“[A]s the map attached to the complaint shows, see supra, at 4, when the President reached the patio to dine, the protesters, but not the sup­porters, were within weapons range of his location. See supra, at 14. Given that situation, the protesters cannot plausibly urge that the agents had no valid security reason to request or order their eviction.” [p.18 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)]

One of the many questions that has vexed courts, commentators, and practitioners after Twombly and Iqbal is how to evaluate allegations about a defendant’s intent. Although the 2002 decision in Swierkiewicz v. Sorema suggested a very lenient approach to such allegations, many have read Iqbal – which also involved allegations of discriminatory animus – to require a stricter approach. At first glance, Wood does not seem to provide a conclusive resolution. Although the Court rejects the plaintiffs’ viewpoint-discrimination theory, Justice Ginsburg relies heavily on the fact that material in the complaint itself – the map of the relevant area – “undermines the protesters’ allegations of viewpoint discrimination as the sole reason for the agents’ directions.” [p.16] This is not likely be a regular occurrence in cases involving discriminatory intent. Another feature of Wood may be even more important. Given Justice Ginsburg’s reasoning regarding qualified immunity, the plaintiffs would have had to show that “the agents had no objectively reasonable security rationale.” [p.16] Part III of the opinion, therefore, did not hinge on the premise that viewpoint discrimination played no role at all in the defendants’ decision; rather – as a matter of the substantive law governing the defendants’ qualified immunity defense – the presence of an objectively reasonable security rationale doomed the plaintiffs’ claims even if viewpoint discrimination also played a role.

PS: Readers may have noticed Adam Liptak’s recent New York Times article describing how Supreme Court opinions can be revised by the Justices after they are initially issued – sometimes years later. For what it’s worth, then, I’m including in this post not only the relevant link to the opinion on the Supreme Court’s website, but also a downloaded version of the opinion as it originally appeared there this morning:

Download Wood v Moss (May 27 2014)

 

 

 

May 27, 2014 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases, Twombly/Iqbal | Permalink | Comments (0)

IAALS Releases Summary of Empirical Research on Civil Justice

Corina D. Gerety and Brittany K.T. Kauffman, of The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, have published a Summary of Empirical Research on the Civil Justice Process: 2008-2013.

 

An explanation of its Scope provides, "This report provides a synthesis of the relevant empirical research on the civil justice process released from 2008 to 2013. In addition to IAALS research, it contains studies conducted by a variety of organizations and individuals, including the Federal Judicial Center, the National Center for State Courts, the RAND Corporation, and others. We, the authors, refer to 39 studies in total, representing a relatively even mix of case file/docket studies and surveys/interviews."

May 27, 2014 in Discovery, Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship, Twombly/Iqbal | 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)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SEALS Conference Offers Several Civil Procedure Programs

The Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) annual conference will be held August 1-7, 2014 at The Omni, Amelia Island, Florida.  The program is available here.

 

Panels and discussion groups related to civil litigation include:

 

SUPREME COURT AND LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: BUSINESS AND REGULATORY ISSUES

This part of the Supreme Court and Legislative Update panels focuses on decisions relating to corporate issues, civil litigation, and administrative and business issues, as well as important legislation enacted by Congress or the states.

 

Moderator: Professor Charles "Rocky" Rhodes, South Texas College of Law

 

Speakers: Professor Christopher Green, The University of Mississippi School of Law; Professor Erin Hawley, University of Missouri School of Law; Professor Joan Heminway, The University of Tennessee College of Law; Professor David Hricik, Mercer University Law School; Professor Andrew Siegel, Seattle University School of Law; Professor Douglas Williams, Saint Louis University School of Law

 

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Discussion Group: MANDATORY ARBITRATION AND JUSTICE

Mandatory binding arbitration has come under increasing scrutiny in Congress, the Supreme Court, and public discourse. Critics argue that the process is unfair because it is not truly consensual or because it lacks important procedural safeguards. By contrast, defenders claim that baseline norms of fairness are presupposed in the idea of arbitration and that outcomes for consumers and employees are at least as good as those in litigation.

 

Is justice possible in mandatory arbitration? How important is it in relation to other values such as autonomy and efficiency? How should we measure “justice”? We will discuss both historical and contemporary focuses, as well as individual and group perspectives.

 

Moderators: Professor Hiro Aragaki, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles; Professor Andrea Doneff, Atlanta's John Marshall Law School

 

Discussants: Professor Sarah Cole, The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law; Professor Jaime Dodge, University of Georgia School of Law; Professor Richard Frankel, Drexel University School of Law; Professor Michael Green, Texas A&M University School of Law; Professor Jill Gross, Pace University School of Law; Professor Stephen Ware, University of Kansas School of Law; Professor Nancy Welsh, Penn State University, Dickinson School of Law; Professor Maureen Weston, Pepperdine University School of Law

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Discussion Group: CIVIL PROCEDURE DISCUSSION GROUP: PROCEDURAL HURDLES AND THE DAY IN COURT

The judicial process has transformed over the last decades, which has impacted the ability of plaintiffs to obtain a day in court. Federal statutory and rule revisions, as well as recent Supreme Court decisions, have made marked changes in the enforcement of arbitration clauses, federal subject matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, venue, pleading standards, class certification standards, and the discovery process. These changes have combined to place greater emphasis on the pretrial process at the expense of the availability of a trial. This discussion group will explore these changes, at both an individual and collective level, and the resulting changes to the American system of procedure. Discussants will exchange papers before the conference examining these issues from a variety of perspectives.

 

Moderators: Professor Michael Allen, Stetson University College of Law; Professor Thomas Metzloff, Duke University School of Law

 

Discussants: Professor Donald Childress III, Pepperdine University School of Law; Professor Scott Dodson, University of California, Hastings, College of the Law; Professor Richard Freer, Emory University School of Law; Professor Paul Gugliuzza, Boston University School of Law; Professor Megan La Belle, The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law; Professor Benjamin Madison, Regent University School of Law; Professor Philip Pucillo, Michigan State University College of Law; Professor Charles Rocky Rhodes, South Texas College of Law; Professor Cassandra Robertson, Case Western Reserve University School of Law; Professor Howard Wasserman, Florida International University College of Law

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NEW SCHOLARS COLLOQUIA (PANEL #6)

Civil procedure and Courts

 

Moderator: Professor Scott Dodson, University of California, Hastings, College of the Law

 

Speakers: Professor Ramona Lampley, St. Mary's University School of Law, Arbitration, Transparency, and Access to Courts (Mentor: Professor Thomas Metzloff, Duke University School of Law); Professor Jason Parkin, Pace University School of Law, Due Process Disaggregation (Mentor: Professor Benjamin Barton, The University of Tennessee College of Law); Professor Victoria Shannon, Washington and Lee University School of Law, Regulating the Procedural Facet of Third-Party Funding (Mentor: Professor Danielle Holley-Walker, University of South Carolina School of Law); Professor Jessica Steinberg, The George Washington University Law School, Demand Side Reform in the Poor People's Court (Mentor: Professor Cassandra Burke Robertson, Case Western Reserve University School of Law)

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If I missed any, please let me know.  Thanks.

May 21, 2014 in Conferences/Symposia | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Guest Post: Brunet and Parry on Tolan v. Cotton

Ed Brunet and John Parry (Lewis & Clark) present the following guest post:

The growing list of summary judgment skeptics should find much to  like in Monday’s Tolan v. Cotton decision.  In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court reversed a Fifth Circuit decision that had affirmed a grant of summary judgment on grounds of qualified immunity in a section 1983 case.  Although the decision of the Supreme Court turns largely on substantive civil rights law, Tolan is surprisingly instructive regarding summary judgment mechanics.  The Supreme Court emphasized that the lower courts had not weighed inferences in favor of the nonmovant regarding the substantive element of whether the alleged excessive force used by the defendant police officer violated  “clearly established rights,” and it asserted that the “judge’s function at summary judgment  is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”

Some of the basic facts are undisputed.  This case involved a police officer’s 2 a.m. stop of a car that had “turned quickly” onto a residential street.  The decision to stop followed the officer’s keying in the wrong license number into his computer and incorrectly thinking that the car was stolen.  The arresting officer drew his pistol and ordered the two men in the car to the ground. When the parents of plaintiff Tolan emerged from the front door of the house where the car had parked, the officer stated that he believed that the two men had stolen the car and the excited parents pointed out that they owned the vehicle and the house.  The mother’s continued protestations caused officer Cotton, a new arrival on the scene who also had his gun drawn, to order her to stand against the garage door.

The  evidence was clearly conflicting regarding what happened to Tolan’s mother.  Tolan presented evidence that his mother was grabbed by the arm by officer Cotton and slammed to the ground with such force that bruising, confirmed by photos, occurred. Cotton denied slamming her into the garage and contended that he was escorting her, she “flipped her arm up and told him to get his hands off her.”  This scene ended when Tolan stated, “Get your fucking hands off my mom,” to which Cotton responded by firing three shots at Tolan, causing liver and lung damage.  A dispute of facts exists as to whether Cotton had pushed Tolan’s mother against the garage door, and whether Tolan was standing or had risen to his knees when shot. There was also a dispute about the quality of lighting at the front of the house.

The lower court opinion resolved the factual issues against Tolan, stating “his shouting and abruptly attempting to approach Sergeant Cotton inflamed an already tense situation; in the light of his actions at the scene, a genuine dispute of material fact does not exist regarding whether Sergeant Cotton acted objectively unreasonably.” The Supreme Court, in turn, chastised the Fifth Circuit for “failing to credit evidence that contradicted some of its key factual conclusions” and for “a clear misapprehension of summary judgment standards in light of our precedents.”

It is tempting to assess this case as a major summary judgment decision.  After all, this is the first summary judgment victory in the Supreme Court for a civil rights plaintiff in some time.  The rhetoric used by the Court is a time-worn cliché, namely that “at the summary judgment stage, reasonable inferences should be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party.”  This is hardly new law. Its use in a per curiam opinion summary reversal arguably signals a major change in attitude. But, it may be that all the Supreme Court is doing here is correcting a grievous error.  It seems almost impossible not to find disputed issues of fact on this record, as Judge Dennis observed in his dissent from rehearing en banc.  If the Court had let the lower court decision stand, the error would win the day.  Yet, if that had been all the Court wanted to accomplish, it could have simply vacated and remanded to the lower courts with instructions to weigh inferences in favor of the nonmovant, without detailing the facts and the Fifth Circuit’s errors.

At the very least, the per curiam decision should embolden courts to identify disputed facts.  Further, citing the landmark 1987 Anderson v. Creighton opinion – a case which typically is invoked against plaintiffs, not against defendants –  Tolan reminds lower courts that the clearly established right at issue needs to be examined in “the ‘specific context of the case’” in order to avoid “import[ing] genuinely disputed factual propositions.”

Justice Alito concurred joined by Justice Scalia.  He noted the unusual posture of  the case in which the Court both granted a petition for certiorari and vacated the Fifth Circuit’s judgment.  (Will Baude also comments on this aspect of the concurrence here.)  He stresses that this was a typical summary judgment dispute over “whether the evidence in the summary judgment record is just enough or not quite enough to support a grant of summary judgment.”  Alito goes on to conclude that the Court of Appeals “invoked the correct standard here.” The use of the word “standard” appears questionable.  The directed verdict standard is the only standard used in summary judgment, replacing the old “doubt” standard of many circuits. More later!

May 8, 2014 in Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

California Bar Publishes Ethical Opinion on ESI for Public Comment

The State Bar of California has published a proposed formal opinion for public comment on the question, "What are an attorney’s ethical duties in the handling of discovery of electronically stored information?"

The digest of the opinion states:

An attorney’s obligations under the ethical duty of competence evolve as new technologies develop and then become integrated with the practice of law. Attorney competence related to litigation generally requires, at a minimum, a basic understanding of, and facility with, issues relating to e-discovery, i.e., the discovery of electronically stored information (“ESI”). On a case-by-case basis, the duty of competence may require a higher level of technical knowledge and ability, depending on the e-discovery issues involved in a given matter and the nature of the ESI involved. Such competency requirements may render an otherwise highly experienced attorney not competent to handle certain litigation matters involving ESI. An attorney lacking the required competence for the e-discovery issues in the case at issue has three options: (1) acquire sufficient learning and skill before performance is required; (2) associate with or consult technical consultants or competent counsel; or (3) decline the client representation. Lack of competence in e-discovery issues can also result, in certain circumstances, in ethical violations of an attorney’s duty of confidentiality, the duty of candor, and/or the ethical duty not to suppress evidence.

The deadline for public comments is 5 p.m., June 24, 2014.      

May 7, 2014 in Discovery, State Courts, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)