Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Under this Act, to obtain class certification, class action plaintiffs "seeking monetary relief for personal injury or economic loss" will have to "affirmatively demonstrate that each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative."
Amendments offered by Democrats all failed. These failed amendments were to: except Title VII claims; except antitrust claims; strike the words "and scope"; strike the words "or economic loss"; require Judicial Conference approval of the changes; and require the Administrative Office of the US Courts to assess the effect of the bill on litigants and courts.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Forthcoming in the University of Cincinnati Law Review is my article, The Anti-Plaintiff Pending Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Pro-Defendant Composition of the Federal Rulemaking Committees.
In the classical David-and-Goliath lawsuit brought by an individual person against an institutional defendant, the pending amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure hurt David and help Goliath more than any previous round of amendments. The amendments represent corporate defendants' victory in the thirty-year war to limit the scope of discovery by enshrining "proportionality" as part of the definition of, rather than a limitation on, the scope of discovery. The amendments will also make it more difficult for plaintiffs to obtain an adverse inference jury instruction or other sanctions for a defendant’s intentional loss of electronic evidence. For no good reason, the amendments will reduce the length of time within which plaintiffs must effectuate service of process, thereby gifting defendants with a corresponding reduction in the statute of limitations. In addition, the amendments wipe out thirty-six official forms, on the thin excuse that the Advisory Committee wants to "get out of the forms business"; in fact, many interpret the move as a tacit agreement with the heightened pleading standard imposed on plaintiffs by the Supreme Court in Twombly and Iqbal.
The amendments' mostly anti-plaintiff effect is evidenced by a stark split in the public reaction, with plaintiffs’ lawyers almost unanimously against most of the amendments and defendants’ lawyers almost unanimously in favor. But the Advisory Committee was astoundingly indifferent to the polarized public reaction to the proposed amendments. One Advisory Committee member dismissed the stories told at the public hearings by plaintiffs' lawyers about their need for discovery as "Queen-For-A-Day issues," a reference to a 50-year-old daytime television show in which women tearfully told their real-life sob stories to vie for prizes.
Remarkably, in evaluating the need for these amendments, the Committee did not rely on very much case law, any government caseload statistics, or any of the ninety-four district court reports on “cost and delay” mandated by the Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990. Instead, the Committee commissioned a mound of so-called “empirical studies” which consisted mostly of flawed opinion surveys of self-selected attorneys. The one methodologically sound study, conducted by the Federal Judicial Center, found that discovery worked well and at modest cost in most federal cases. The Committee either ignored or mischaracterized the FJC’s study.
Given the makeup of the Advisory Committee and the Standing Committee, none of this is surprising. The members of both committees are all appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts, and except for a few tokens, they are ideologically predisposed to think like Federalist Society members, demographically predisposed to think like elite white males, and/or experientially predisposed to think like corporate defense lawyers. There is no explicit constitutional, statutory, or rules authority for the Chief Justice’s unbridled appointment power. The Article concludes by forecasting the passage of a default “requester pays discovery costs” rule that is sought by defense interests, unless the mechanism for appointment of federal rules committee members is changed.
Forthcoming in the Journal of Legal History is an article by Princeton Ph.D. candidate Kellen Funk entitled Equity Without Chancery: The Fusion of Law and Equity in the Field Code of Civil Procedure, New York 1846-76.
The Field Code of Civil Procedure — enacted in New York in 1848 and adopted by a majority of American jurisdictions thereafter — helped develop the modern American trial and influenced law reform in England. Leading accounts of the Code, however, ignore nineteenth-century New York practice which spurred its development, particularly the problems of fusing the separate systems of common law and equity. This Article recovers that context and shows that despite scholarly claims to the contrary, the Code’s drafters mainly sought to extend New York’s equitable procedures to all civil cases. They expected, however, that equitable remedies and procedures could be divorced from the structures of chancery. In the Code, a paradigm of substantive rights and procedural remedies replaced the old division between law and equity. David Dudley Field’s influential theory of fusion thus sought to expand the practice of equity, but without the courts of equity.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Now available on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is an essay by Beth Thornburg entitled Discovery and Self-Improvement. Beth reviews Joanna Schwartz’s recent article, Introspection Through Litigation, 90 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1055 (2015).
Monday, June 8, 2015
(I) Whether differences among individual class members may be ignored and a class action certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3), or a collective action certified under the Fair Labor Standards Act, where liability and damages will be determined with statistical techniques that presume all class members are identical to the average observed in a sample.
(II) Whether a class action may be certified or maintained under Rule 23(b)(3), or a collective action certified or maintained under the Fair Labor Standards Act, when the class contains hundreds of members who were not injured and have no legal right to any damages.
You can find all of the cert-stage briefing, and keep track of the merits briefs as they come in, at SCOTUSblog.
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Over a year ago, I reported the posting of a draft of my article, The Civil Caseload of the Federal District Courts. It has now been revised and published in The University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 2015, No. 3. The paper is also posted on SSRN.
This Article responds to changes proposed by Congress and the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules to restrict civil lawsuits by reforming procedure. It argues that while these changes are purported to be based on empirical studies, there is no reference to actual government statistics about whether the civil caseload has grown, whether the median disposition time has increased, or whether the most prevalent types of civil cases have changed. Based on statistics published by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, this Article shows that the civil docket has actually stagnated, not exploded. It first looks at trends in the overall volume and duration of federal civil litigation since 1986, suggests a proper methodology for measurement, and shows that the rate of increase of civil filings is less than the growth in the country’s population and the increase in judicial resources in civil cases, noting that any increase must be attributable to the criminal docket. Next, this Article studies the rates at which cases are terminated by various methods, noting today’s primary method is before pretrial with court action due to dispositive motions and judicial management. Third, this Article tracks and explains changes in the “Big Six” categories of civil litigation. Finally, this Article emphasizes the need to look at the government’s caseload statistics to note that the federal civil caseload has been relatively stable for twenty-five years.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
I reported earlier that the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on February 27, 2015 on “The State of Class Actions Ten Years After the Enactment of the Class Action Fairness Act,” at which I testified as the only minority witness. The transcript is now online.
Questions for the record were submitted to me after the hearing. I submitted my response to the questions for the record on May 11, 2015. My response does not appear to have been posted on the website for the hearing, but I posted it on SSRN.
This is Professor Moore’s response to questions for the record submitted to her after the hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, U.S. House of Representatives, on "The State of Class Actions Ten Years After the Enactment of the Class Action Fairness Act" on February 27, 2015. The questions submitted to her asked whether, when determining the requirements of class certification, Congress should limit a class to those individuals "with the same or similar injuries" or those individuals whose damages or injuries have been sustained due to "the same or similar proximate cause" or "the same product or activity."
The response begins by noting that the wording of the questions appeared designed to eliminate what the majority witnesses at the hearing termed "no-injury class actions." The response argues that the term "no-injury class action" is a recently-invented term without roots in the law of class actions, and that the term is misleading when applied indiscriminately to all class actions. The substantive law, whether federal or state, determines when a person is "injured," and the majority witnesses’ assertion that certain class members have suffered "no injury" contravenes the governing substantive law.
The response then more specifically addresses the suggested language in the questions submitted. The suggested limitations, if passed by Congress, would restrict class actions. First, it is unclear how the broad-brush language would be applied to class actions for injunctive relief, such as civil rights cases. Second, the language sounds like existing law, but those seeking to eliminate so-called "no-injury class actions" intend that the language should be interpreted in a new and more radical way so to make it much more difficult to obtain class certification than under existing law. Third, the language would in essence require a class, at certification, to include only class members who could prove their case on the merits. That would constitute an impermissible "fail-safe" class allowing any class member who did not prove her case on the merits to escape being bound by the class judgment. Fourth, the existing certification requirements of commonality, typicality, and predominance provide sufficient tools for federal judges to rigorously apply the standards to unique factual situations.
The response also notes that the Civil Rules Advisory Committee is currently considering numerous changes to Rule 23, so that legislation is premature. Finally, the response calls for Congress to require the public release of data on federal class actions.
Know anyone studying for the bar exam who needs help in Civil Procedure? My esteemed colleague, Professor Ira Nathenson (a member of the Executive Committee of the AALS Section of Civil Procedure, as well as its webmaster and co-manager of the CivProMentor listserv), has recently posted some fine resources on his website.
Professor Nathenson’s site includes a Resources page for Civil Procedure on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). The resources include numerous Civil Procedure YouTube videos as well as problem sets, explanations, flowcharts, and handouts. (If you thought that the Erie doctrine could not be reduced to a flow chart, check out his Coggle flowchart here.)
The substantive materials are grouped by topic (such as subject-matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, joinder, and much more), allowing you to zero in on Civ Pro issues of interest. Many of the YouTube videos are annotated, pointing you to related resources. The site also includes an overview of which Civ Pro topics topics are more likely to be tested.
As most people in the US legal world know by now, federal Civil Procedure was added to the Multistate Bar Examination only recently. It was first tested on the MBE during the February 2015 administration. Professor Nathenson's excellent materials should help to ease the panic for some new graduates preparing for the bar.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Two weeks ago, federal district judge Callie Granade certified a class action in the Strawser case and issued a class-wide injunction forbidding enforcement of Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. She stayed the injunction, however, until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which is expected later this month.
In the meantime, two groups opposed to same-sex marriage have returned to the Alabama Supreme Court, seeking “clarification and reaffirmation” of that court’s earlier mandamus ruling ordering Alabama probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Yesterday’s motion asks the Alabama Supreme Court “to enter an order clarifying and reaffirming the continued effectiveness of the Mandamus Order despite entry of the conflicting Strawser Class Injunction.”
The bill would return to the pre-1993 era by:
- Making sanctions for a Rule 11 violation mandatory instead of discretionary.
- Eliminating the 21-day “safe harbor” provision.
- Replacing deterrence with compensation as the primary purpose of sanctions.
The bill also claims that it is not intended to impede the assertion or development of new claims.
A committee hearing was held on the bill on March 17, 2015. A similar Senate bill, S. 401, is still in committee.
Republicans have been attempting to pass this bill since at least 2011. See Professor Lonny Hoffman's article, The Case Against the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2011.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Alabama Same-Sex Marriage Litigation Update: Federal Judge Grants Class Certification and Issues (but Stays) Class-Wide Injunction
Things had been fairly quiet in the litigation over Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban (here’s where things stood back in March). Today, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade made two important rulings in the Strawser case. In one order, she certified both a plaintiff class and a defendant class under Rule 23(b)(2). She wrote:
Plaintiffs’ motion to certify a Plaintiff Class consisting of all persons in Alabama who wish to obtain a marriage license in order to marry a person of the same sex and to have that marriage recognized under Alabama law, and who are unable to do so because of the enforcement of Alabama’s laws prohibiting the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and barring recognition of their marriages is GRANTED.
Plaintiffs’ motion to certify a Defendant Class consisting of all Alabama county probate judges who are enforcing or in the future may enforce Alabama’s laws barring the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and refusing to recognize their marriages is GRANTED.
In another order, Judge Granade concluded—yet again—that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Accordingly, she granted the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction; but she also ordered that “because the issues raised by this case are subject to an imminent decision by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges and related cases, the above preliminary injunction is STAYED until the Supreme Court issues its ruling.”
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Monday, May 18, 2015
1. Whether a case becomes moot, and thus beyond the judicial power of Article III, when the plaintiff receives an offer of complete relief on his claim.
2. Whether the answer to the first question is any different when the plaintiff has asserted a class claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, but receives an offer of complete relief before any class is certified.
3. Whether the doctrine of derivative sovereign immunity recognized in Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Construction Co., 309 U.S. 18 (1940), for government contractors is restricted to claims arising out of property damage caused by public works projects.
You can see all of the cert-stage briefing, and keep track of the merits briefs as they come in, at SCOTUSblog.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Brooke Coleman has a post today over on PrawfsBlawg called "Civil Rule 23 -- To Amend or Not to Amend?"
She summarizes three of the “conceptual sketches” that the Rule 23 Subcommittee of the Civil Rules Advisory Committee is currently considering.
Medical malpractice case filings across Pennsylvania are at their lowest since statewide tracking began in 2000, according to statistics from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
In 2014, according to the AOPC, 1,463 new medical malpractice cases were filed, representing a 46.5 percent decrease from the number of cases filed during the “base years” of 2000 to 2002, when statewide medical malpractice case recording began.
The numbers showed a significant downward trend after the implementation of the certificate of merit rule in 2003 and a subsequent rule in 2004 designed to curb “venue shopping,” according to the AOPC. . . .
There were 129 jury verdicts in 2014, of which 81% were in favor of defendants.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Bullard v. Blue Hills Bank. The opinion, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, begins:
Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code affords individuals receiving regular income an opportunity to obtain some relief from their debts while retaining their property. To proceed under Chapter 13, a debtor must propose a plan to use future income to repay a portion (or in the rare case all) of his debts over the next three to five years. If the bankruptcy court confirms the plan and the debtor successfully carries it out, he receives a discharge of his debts according to the plan.
The bankruptcy court may, however, decline to confirm a proposed repayment plan because it is inconsistent with the Code. Although the debtor is usually given an opportunity to submit a revised plan, he may be convinced that the original plan complied with the Code and that the bankruptcy court was wrong to deny confirmation. The question presented is whether such an order denying confirmation is a “final” order that the debtor can immediately appeal. We hold that it is not.
In the opinion, Roberts notes some of the differences between appealability in bankruptcy proceedings and in other kinds of federal litigation:
In ordinary civil litigation, a case in federal district court culminates in a “final decisio[n],” 28 U. S. C. §1291, a ruling “by which a district court disassociates itself from a case,” Swint v. Chambers County Comm’n, 514 U. S. 35, 42 (1995). A party can typically appeal as of right only from that final decision. This rule reflects the conclusion that “[p]ermitting piecemeal, prejudgment appeals . . . undermines ‘efficient judicial administration’ and encroaches upon the prerogatives of district court judges, who play a ‘special role’ in managing ongoing litigation.” Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Carpenter, 558 U. S. 100, 106 (2009) (quoting Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Risjord, 449 U. S. 368, 374 (1981)).
The rules are different in bankruptcy. A bankruptcy case involves “an aggregation of individual controversies,” many of which would exist as stand-alone lawsuits but for the bankrupt status of the debtor. 1 Collier on Bankruptcy ¶5.08[b], p. 5–42 (16th ed. 2014). Accordingly, “Congress has long provided that orders in bankruptcy cases may be immediately appealed if they finally dispose of discrete disputes within the larger case.” Howard Delivery Service, Inc. v. Zurich American Ins. Co., 547 U. S. 651, 657, n. 3 (2006) (internal quotation marks and emphasis omitted). The current bankruptcy appeals statute reflects this approach: It authorizes appeals as of right not only from final judgments in cases but from “final judgments, orders, and decrees . . . in cases and proceedings.” §158(a).
Nonetheless, a court’s decision to reject a repayment plan but to give the debtor a chance to submit a revised plan does not qualify for an immediate appeal. Roberts explains:
Denial of confirmation with leave to amend, by contrast, changes little. The automatic stay persists. The parties’ rights and obligations remain unsettled. The trustee continues to collect funds from the debtor in anticipation of a different plan’s eventual confirmation. The possibility of discharge lives on. “Final” does not describe this state of affairs. An order denying confirmation does rule out the specific arrangement of relief embodied in a particular plan. But that alone does not make the denial final any more than, say, a car buyer’s declining to pay the sticker price is viewed as a “final” purchasing decision by either the buyer or seller. “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Thursday, April 30, 2015
We covered yesterday the Supreme Court’s order adopting the latest round of amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The full packet of material that the Supreme Court transmitted to Congress pursuant to the Rules Enabling Act was posted this afternoon on the U.S. Courts website. Here’s the portion dealing with the Civil Rules amendments:
If you’ve been following this batch of amendments as it has worked its way through the various committees, you may notice that the adopted rules include a couple of changes to the proposed committee notes (hat tip: Valerie Nannery).
The first involves the abrogation of Rule 84 and the deletion of the Forms that had long appeared in the FRCP Appendix. Many had expressed concern about this change because of its possible effect on pleading standards due to the elimination of Form 11, Form 18, and others. The committee note for Rule 84 now contains this sentence: “The abrogation of Rule 84 does not alter existing pleading standards or otherwise change the requirements of Civil Rule 8.”
The second change relates to the amendment to Rule 4(m), which reduces the default deadline for serving process from 120 days after filing the complaint to 90 days after filing the complaint. The committee note had stated: “Shortening the presumptive time for service will increase the frequency of occasions to extend the time for good cause.” The new version deletes the last three word of this sentence, which now reads: “Shortening the presumptive time for service will increase the frequency of occasions to extend the time.” This seems to recognize that the text of Rule 4(m) does not require a showing of good cause in order to extend the default deadline for service—although there remains some disagreement in the lower courts on this issue. (Readers may recall this Term’s Chen case, where the Court had granted a pro se cert. petition challenging the Fourth Circuit’s approach to Rule 4(m) extensions, only to dismiss it after Mr. Chen failed to file a brief and the Court’s “[a]dditional efforts to contact petitioner” were “unsuccessful.” Mr. Chen then resurfaced, represented by former Solicitor General Paul Clement, filing a petition for rehearing asking the case to be reinstated; but this too was unsuccessful.)
Emery G. Lee III, Catherine R. Borden, Margaret S. Williams, and Kevin M. Scott have published in Volume 12, Issue 2 of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies their article, Multidistrict Centralization: An Empirical Examination.
Following the judiciary's experience with aggregate litigation in the 1960s, Congress established a procedure for the transfer of related cases to a single district court for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Originally designed to achieve efficiencies associated with coordinated discovery, the multidistrict litigation (MDL) process evolved from a rather modest starting point to become a central part of aggregate litigation in the federal courts today. Despite its importance, however, there is little empirical research on the MDL process. This article seeks to fill this gap in the empirical literature by addressing a few central questions about the work of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (Panel). Using a unique database, we examine how that body decided motions to centralize multidistrict litigation. We find, most importantly, that the Panel became more likely to order centralization of proceedings over time, after controlling for other factors. That trend is not, however, apparent in the most recent years' data. We also find, all else equal, that the Panel is more likely to centralize a proceeding including class allegations, and more likely to centralize proceedings raising certain kinds of claims.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Today the Supreme Court adopted the recent batch of proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Here is the order setting forth the amendments and submitting them to the House and Senate.
Absent congressional action, these amendments will become effective Dec. 1, 2015.
Note that today's order from the Court does not include a "redline" of the new changes or the committee notes that accompany them. Here are the redline and notes that were included in the Standing Committee report:
UPDATE: Valerie N (see comments below) reports that the Court has asked for two changes to the advisory committee notes. The entire package of materials--including the final version of the committee notes--is now available here.
Today the Supreme Court wrapped up its oral arguments for the Term. There are lots of cases still to be decided, of course. And the Court should be taking action this week (Friday is the deadline) on the latest batch of proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Also in the coming weeks, the Court will be considering an interesting petition for certiorari out of the Seventh Circuit on summary judgment. Estate of Brown v. Thomas (No. 14-1139) presents an important question that federal courts have been struggling with ever since Celotex and the 1986 summary judgment trilogy:
What initial burden does Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 impose on a moving party that seeks summary judgment on the ground that the non-moving party cannot prove its case?