Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Interesting 6th Circuit Decision (and Petition for Rehearing En Banc)

Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit issued its decision in George v. Hargett. The case involves whether state officials who are sued for constitutional violations in federal court can file a new lawsuit in state court—naming the federal-court plaintiffs as state-court defendants—and then invoke issue preclusion in the federal court action. That’s what the Tennessee officials did in George, and the Sixth Circuit panel found that the state court’s ruling must be given issue-preclusive effect in federal court. The panel even called the officials’ move “an efficient and fruitful substitute” for abstention or certification—both of which the federal district court had explicitly rejected. A petition for rehearing en banc has been filed, and the Sixth Circuit has ordered the officials to respond by Thursday, February 9. 

In the initial round of Sixth Circuit briefing, Suzanna Sherry authored a law-professor amicus brief arguing against giving the state-court judgment preclusive effect. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the signatories to that amicus brief.) Here’s Suzanna’s summary of the George case and the panel’s recent ruling:

Eight private plaintiffs filed a federal-court lawsuit against state officials alleging various constitutional violations, some of which were intertwined with questions about the meaning of a state constitutional provision. 

When the district court denied motions to dismiss, abstain under Pullman, or certify, the state officials didn’t seek interlocutory review. Instead they filed suit against the eight private plaintiffs in state court seeking a declaratory judgment that their actions were lawful under the state constitution. After denying any discovery, the state court quickly issued summary judgment for the state officials, one day before the federal court issued its judgment for the plaintiffs.

The state-court judgment wasn’t appealed, and became final before the Sixth Circuit ruled on appeal. The Sixth Circuit gave the state-court judgment issue-preclusive effect, and thus held that the state constitutional provision had to be interpreted the way the state court had interpreted it rather than the way the federal court had. (Remember, this is a just a state trial court: Its opinion wouldn’t be binding under the Erie doctrine.)

What this decision seems to do is to invite any government official sued in federal court to answer the federal complaint with a state lawsuit, in hopes of stymying the pending federal suit and intimidating civil-rights plaintiffs. It rewrites § 1983 law to allow state officials to essentially require exhaustion of state remedies. It undermines the role of the federal courts as guarantors of constitutional rights.

Here’s the opinion of the Sixth Circuit panel:

Download George v Hargett (6th Cir)

And here’s the plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing en banc:

Download George En Banc Petition

Stay tuned. 

 

 

 

January 31, 2018 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, State Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 22, 2018

SCOTUS Decision in Artis v. D.C.: Tolling State Statutes of Limitations under 28 USC § 1367(d)

Today the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Artis v. District of Columbia (covered earlier here), which addresses the tolling provision of the supplemental jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d). Section 1367(d) often comes into play where a federal court dismisses all claims for which there is an independent basis for federal subject-matter jurisdiction, and then declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction (pursuant to § 1367(c)) over the remaining claims. Anticipating that the parties would then pursue any such claims in state court, § 1367(d) provides that the limitations period for such a claim “shall be tolled while the claim is pending and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed unless State law provides for a longer tolling period.”

Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion (joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) frames the question this way:

Does the word “tolled,” as used in §1367(d), mean the state limitations period is suspended during the pendency of the federal suit; or does “tolled” mean that, although the state limitations period continues to run, a plaintiff is accorded a grace period of 30 days to refile in state court post dismissal of the federal case? Petitioner urges the first, or stop-the-clock, reading. Respondent urges, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals adopted, the second, or grace-period, reading.

The choice between these interpretations is crucial for Artis, because she refiled her state-law claims 59 days after the federal-court dismissal. Since she filed her federal-court suit with 2 years remaining on the state statute of limitations, this would be timely under the stop-the-clock approach but not under the grace-period approach.

The majority adopts the “stop-the-clock” reading: “We hold that § 1367(d)’s instruction to ‘toll’ a state limitations period means to hold it in abeyance, i.e., to stop the clock.” Part II of the opinion justifies this conclusion as a matter of the statutory text. Part III of the opinion then considers whether the statute “exceed[s] Congress’ authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause because its connection to Congress’ enumerated powers is too attenuated or because it is too great an incursion on the States’ domain” and whether the Court should adopt the grace-period reading to “avoid constitutional doubt.” The majority rejects this line of argument, relying on its unanimous decision in Jinks v. Richland County upholding the constitutionality of § 1367(d). It also notes that both stop-the-clock and grace-period provisions “are standard, off-the-shelf means of accounting for the fact that a claim was timely pressed in another forum. Requiring Congress to choose one over the other would impose a tighter constraint on Congress’ discretion than we have ever countenanced.”

Justice Gorsuch authored the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito.

Download Artis v DC (16-460)

 

 

 

January 22, 2018 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, State Courts, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 12, 2018

SCOTUS cert grant on deference to a foreign sovereign’s interpretation of its own law

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. (No. 16-1220), limited to the following question:

Whether a court may exercise independent review of an appearing foreign sovereign’s interpretation of its domestic law (as held by the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits), or whether a court is “bound to defer” to a foreign government’s legal statement, as a matter of international comity, whenever the foreign government appears before the court (as held by the opinion below in accord with the Ninth Circuit).

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog and at the newly e-friendly Supreme Court website.

 

 

 

January 12, 2018 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 8, 2018

SCOTUS decision in Tharpe v. Sellers: FRCP 60(b)(6) motion to reopen federal habeas proceedings

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Tharpe v. Sellers. In a per curiam opinion, it grants certiorari and vacates the Eleventh Circuit’s refusal to grant a certificate of appealability (COA) to a habeas petitioner challenging the district court’s denial of his Rule 60(b)(6) motion to reopen his federal habeas proceedings. It remands the case for further consideration of whether Tharpe is entitled to a COA.

Justice Thomas authors a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Alito and Gorsuch.

Download Tharpe v Sellers (SCT 2018)

 

 

January 8, 2018 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Big week in the federal courts

Three interesting decisions during the last few days:

  • On Thursday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted President Trump’s motion to dismiss in CREW v. Trump, a case alleging that Trump’s business interests violate the Domestic and Foreign Emoluments Clauses of the United States Constitution. Judge George B. Daniels grants Trump’s Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, finding that the plaintiffs lack Article III standing. The court also finds that the case presents a non-justiciable political question and that the plaintiffs’ Foreign Emoluments Clause claims are not ripe for adjudication. The courts states, however, that it “does not reach the issue of whether Plaintiffs’ allegations state a cause of action under either the Domestic or Foreign Emoluments Clauses, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)” or “whether the payments at issue would constitute an emolument prohibited by either Clause.”

Download CREW v Trump (SDNY Dec 21 2017)

  • On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Hawaii v. Trump, affirming the district court’s order enjoining portions of President Trump’s Proclamation 9645 (also known as Travel Ban 3.0). The per curiam opinion—by Judges Michael Daly Hawkins, Ronald M. Gould, and Richard A. Paez—concludes that the Proclamation exceeds the President’s statutory authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act.The court does not address whether the Proclamation also violates the Establishment Clause. The court does, however, limit the scope of the district court’s preliminary injunction to “foreign nationals who have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” 

Download Hawaii v Trump (9th Cir Dec 22 2017)

  • And on Saturday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order in ACLUF v. Mattis, denying the Defense Department’s motion to dismiss a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed on behalf of an American citizen being detained by U.S. forces in Iraq. Judge Tanya S. Chutkan concludes that the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLUF) has standing under Article III as the detainee’s “next friend.” The court also orders the Defense Department to allow ACLUF “immediate and unmonitored access to the detainee for the sole purpose of determining whether the detainee wishes for the ACLUF to continue this action on his behalf,” and “to refrain from transferring the detainee until the ACLUF informs the court of the detainee’s wishes.”

Download ACLU v Mattis (DDC Dec 23 2017)

 

 

 

 

December 24, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Ninth Circuit Oral Argument in the Juliana Case: Climate Change, Standing, Mandamus & More

Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in United States v. United States District Court for the District of Oregon. The Ninth Circuit is considering the federal government’s petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the district court’s order in Juliana v. United States, 217 F. Supp. 3d 1224 (D. Or. 2016). The district court had denied the government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that the court summarized as follows:

Plaintiffs allege defendants have known for more than fifty years that the carbon dioxide (“CO2”) produced by burning fossil fuels was destabilizing the climate system in a way that would “significantly endanger plaintiffs, with the damage persisting for millenia.” First. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Despite that knowledge, plaintiffs assert defendants, “[b]y their exercise of sovereign authority over our country’s atmosphere and fossil fuel resources, ... permitted, encouraged, and otherwise enabled continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels, ... deliberately allow[ing] atmospheric CO2 concentrations to escalate to levels unprecedented in human history[.]” Id. ¶ 5. Although many different entities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, plaintiffs aver defendants bear “a higher degree of responsibility than any other individual, entity, or country” for exposing plaintiffs to the dangers of climate change. Id. ¶ 7. Plaintiffs argue defendants’ actions violate their substantive due process rights to life, liberty, and property, and that defendants have violated their obligation to hold certain natural resources in trust for the people and for future generations.

217 F. Supp. 3d at 1233.

Here is a link to the audio and video of yesterday’s argument.

Here’s coverage from NBC Bay Area and The Mercury News.

 

 

 

December 12, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Two Interesting SCOTUS Cert Grants

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in several cases, including these two:

United States v. Sanchez-Gomez presents the question: “Whether the court of appeals erred in asserting authority to review respondents’ interlocutory challenge to pretrial physical restraints and in ruling on that challenge notwithstanding its recognition that respondents’ individual claims were moot.”

China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh presents the question: “Whether the American Pipe rule tolls statutes of limitations to permit a previously absent class member to bring a subsequent class action outside the applicable limitations period.”

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at the SCOTUSblog case pages for Sanchez-Gomez and China Agritech.

 

 

 

December 8, 2017 in Class Actions, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 1, 2017

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Appellate Jurisdiction: Salt River Project v. SolarCity

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement & Power District v. SolarCity Corp. It presents the question: “Whether orders denying state-action immunity to public entities are immediately appealable under the collateral-order doctrine.”

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog.

 

 

 

December 1, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

SCOTUS Decision in Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services: A Question of Time

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services, the first merits decision of the new Term. The Court unanimously holds that FRAP 4(a)(5)(C)’s limit on extensions of time to file a notice of appeal is not jurisdictional. (Rule 4(a)(5)(C) provides: “No extension under this Rule 4(a)(5) may exceed 30 days after the prescribed time or 14 days after the date when the order granting the motion is entered, whichever is later.”)

Justice Ginsburg’s opinion begins:

This case presents a question of time, specifically, time to file a notice of appeal from a district court’s judgment. In Bowles v. Russell, 551 U. S. 205, 210–213 (2007), this Court clarified that an appeal filing deadline prescribed by statute will be regarded as “jurisdictional,” meaning that late filing of the appeal notice necessitates dismissal of the appeal. But a time limit prescribed only in a court-made rule, Bowles acknowledged, is not jurisdictional; it is, instead, a mandatory claim-processing rule subject to forfeiture if not properly raised by the appellee. Ibid.; Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U. S. 443, 456 (2004). Because the Court of Appeals held jurisdictional a time limit specified in a rule, not in a statute, 835 F. 3d 761, 763 (CA7 2016), we vacate that court’s judgment dismissing the appeal.

The Court left open, however, several issues for the lower court to address on remand, including:

(1) whether respondents’ failure to raise any objection in the District Court to the overlong time extension, by itself, effected a forfeiture, see Brief for Petitioner 21–22; (2) whether respondents could gain review of the District Court’s time extension only by filing their own appeal notice, see id., at 23–27; and (3) whether equitable considerations may occasion an exception to Rule 4(a)(5)(C)’s time constraint, see id., at 29–43.

 

 

 

 

November 8, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

SCOTUS Ruling in Travel Ban Challenge

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court disposed of Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project without addressing the merits. Ruling that “the appeal no longer presents a live case or controversy,” it vacated the Fourth Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case “with instructions to dismiss as moot the challenge to Executive Order No. 13,780” under United States v. Munsingwear.

Here’s the entirety of the Court’s Summary Disposition:

We granted certiorari in this case to resolve a challenge to “the temporary suspension of entry of aliens abroad under Section 2(c) of Executive Order No. 13,780.” Because that provision of the Order “expired by its own terms” on September 24, 2017, the appeal no longer presents a “live case or controversy.” Burke v. Barnes, 479 U. S. 361, 363 (1987). Following our established practice in such cases, the judgment is therefore vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit with instructions to dismiss as moot the challenge to Executive Order No. 13,780. United States v. Munsingwear, Inc., 340 U. S. 36, 39 (1950). We express no view on the merits.

Justice Sotomayor dissents from the order vacating the judgment below and would dismiss the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted.

 

 

 

October 11, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Appeals in Consolidated Cases: Hall v. Hall

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Hall v. Hall. Here’s the question presented (with the usual wind-up):

The deadline for filing an appeal has “jurisdictional consequences” and “should above all be clear.” Budinich v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 486 U.S. 196, 202 (1988). The deadline is measured from the entry of final judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 1291; Fed. R. App. P. 4. Despite the need for clarity, for at least forty-five years the courts of appeals have disagreed as to when their jurisdiction attaches if cases are consolidated and a final judgment is entered in only one of the cases.

The split and lack of clarity have widened with the passage of time—there are four different circuit rules for determining appellate jurisdiction in consolidated cases. This Court has twice set out to resolve the four-way split. The Court granted certiorari in Erickson v. Maine Central Railroad Co., 498 U.S. 807 (1990); but subsequently dismissed the petition. 498 U.S. 1018 (1990) (mem.). The Court again granted certiorari— and partially addressed the split—in Gelboim v. Bank of Am. Corp.,135 S.Ct. 897 (2015).

Gelboim held that for cases consolidated in multidistrict litigation, a final judgment in a single case triggers the “appeal-clock” for that case. But, by limiting its holding to multidistrict litigation, Gelboim left the split unresolved for cases consolidated in a single district under Fed. R. Civ. P. 42.

The question presented is: Should the clarity Gelboim gave to multidistrict cases be extended to single district consolidated cases, so that the entry of a final judgment in only one case triggers the appeal-clock for that case?

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog.

 

 

September 28, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Eleventh Circuit reverses grant of summary judgment against plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s lethal injection protocol

Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a unanimous decision in Grayson v. Warden. The plaintiffs-appellants are challenging Alabama’s three-drug lethal injection protocol, and the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment against them. The opinion considered a number of procedural issues, including the summary judgment standard, law-of-the-case doctrine, and statute of limitations.

With respect to summary judgment, the Eleventh Circuit found that it was error for the district court to reject at the summary judgment phase the appellants’ contention that a single-drug protocol was an available alternative method of execution that sufficiently reduced the risk of pain:

The District Court reached this conclusion with respect to Appellants’ proposed single-drug protocol based on the testimony of the ADOC’s General Counsel, Anne Adams Hill. In deciding to credit Hill’s testimony and then weigh it against Appellants’ proof, the District Court functioned as a finder of fact and ultimate decision maker and therefore erred. See Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. of Educ., 93 F.3d 739, 742 (11th Cir. 1996) (“It is not the court’s role to weigh conflicting evidence or to make credibility determinations; the non-movant’s evidence is to be accepted for purposes of summary judgment.”). The Court performed the same role when it determined the credibility of testimony and weighed the evidence in summarily disposing of Appellant’s midazolam proposal.

Also notable are the concluding pages of the opinion, which criticized the pleadings on both sides:

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September 6, 2017 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Erie, Federal Courts & the Media

This week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its decision in Block v. Tanenhaus, reinstating a Loyola University professor’s claims for defamation and false light against the New York Times and two of its authors. The per curiam opinion acknowledges, but does not resolve, the interesting question of whether state “anti-SLAPP” statutes—such as Louisiana’s Article 971—apply in federal court under Erie:

Block argues that Article 971 is not applicable in federal court because it is procedural and because, even if it is substantive, it is in direct collision with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The applicability of state anti-SLAPP statutes in federal court is an important and unresolved issue in this circuit.2 Unfortunately for Block, his arguments against application of Article 971 have been forfeited.

Footnote 2 describes the state of play in the Fifth Circuit:

We have noted on several occasions that this is an open question. See, e.g., Block, 815 F.3d at 221; Cuba v. Pylant, 814 F.3d 701, 706 & n.6 (5th Cir. 2016); Lozovyy, 813 F.3d at 582–83; Culbertson v. Lykos, 790 F.3d 608, 631 (5th Cir. 2015); Mitchell v. Hood, 614 F. App’x 137, 139 n.1 (5th Cir. 2015); NCDR, L.L.C. v. Mauze & Bagby, P.L.L.C., 745 F.3d 742, 752–53 (5th Cir. 2014). These opinions post-date our decision in Henry v. Lake Charles American Press, L.L.C., 566 F.3d 164 (5th Cir. 2009), which stated without explanation that “Louisiana law, including the nominally-procedural Article 971, governs this diversity case.” Id. 168–69. In Lozovyy, we noted the possibility that, particularly in light of our subsequent decisions, Henry could be interpreted as assuming the applicability of Article 971 for purposes of that case without deciding its applicability in federal courts more generally. Lozovyy, 813 F.3d at 582–83. Similarly, we noted in Pylant that Henry did not address “whether, under the Erie doctrine, the array of state procedural rules surrounding anti-SLAPP motions to dismiss (viz. discovery stays, accelerated timetables for decision, and the like) follow the core anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss into federal court.” Pylant, 814 F.3d at 706 n.6; cf. id. at 719 (Graves, J., dissenting) (addressing Erie question not reached by majority opinion and stating that similar anti-SLAPP statute in Texas is inapplicable in federal court because it is procedural (citing Abbas v. Foreign Policy Grp., LLC, 783 F.3d 1328, 1333 (D.C. Cir. 2015)).

Download Block v Tanenhaus (5th Cir)

 

 

 

August 17, 2017 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Second Circuit Decision on Class Actions

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its decision in In re Petrobras Securities. Among other things, the panel’s opinion addresses the role of “ascertainability” for class certification under FRCP 23:

“We take this opportunity to clarify the ascertainability doctrine’s substance and purpose. We conclude that a freestanding administrative feasibility requirement is neither compelled by precedent nor consistent with Rule 23, joining four of our sister circuits in declining to adopt such a requirement. The ascertainability doctrine that governs in this Circuit requires only that a class be defined using objective criteria that establish a membership with definite boundaries.”

Specifically, the Second Circuit rejected what it called “[t]he heightened ascertainability test, as articulated by the Third Circuit,” which “treats administrative feasibility as an absolute standard: plaintiffs must provide adequate ‘assurance that there can be a reliable and administratively feasible mechanism for determining whether putative class members fall within the class definition.’”

“We conclude that an implied administrative feasibility requirement would be inconsistent with the careful balance struck in Rule 23, which directs courts to weigh the competing interests inherent in any class certification decision.”

Download Petrobras (2d Cir)

 

 

 

July 7, 2017 in Class Actions, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Final Day of Opinions at SCOTUS: Lots of Civil Procedure & Federal Courts Issues

On the last day of opinions for the October 2016 Term, the Court handed down decisions involving a range of civil procedure and federal courts issues:

  • In California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc., the Court held that the American Pipe tolling rule for class actions does not apply to the 3-year statute of repose in § 13 of the 1933 Securities Act.
  • In Davila v. Davis, the Court held that, for purposes of a federal habeas petition, ineffective assistance by the prisoner’s state postconviction counsel cannot excuse a defaulted claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.
  • In Hernandez v. Mesa, which “involves a tragic cross-border incident in which a United States Border Patrol agent standing on United States soil shot and killed a Mexican national standing on Mexican soil,” the Court remanded the case for the Fifth Circuit to reconsider its rulings on Bivens and qualified immunity.
  • In Trump. v. International Refugee Assistance Project, the Court granted certiorari to review two rulings that enjoined Trump’s executive orders on immigration. Pending review, the Court stayed those injunctions “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

 

 

 

June 27, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

SCOTUS Decision in Ziglar v. Abbasi

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued its decision in Ziglar v. Abbasi, covered earlier here and here. By a 4-2 vote, the Court reversed the Second Circuit and ordered the dismissal of most of the plaintiffs’ claims that they were subjected to discriminatory and punitive treatment during their confinement following the 9/11 attacks. Justice Kennedy wrote the Opinion of the Court, joined (though not in its entirety) by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito. Justice Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg. Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch took no part (Justices Sotomayor and Kagan recused themselves, and Justice Gorsuch was not on the Court at the time of oral argument). Although the cert. petitions presented three issues—Bivens, qualified immunity, and pleading standards—the bulk of the majority’s reasoning and analysis focused on Bivens. 

Here are the concluding paragraphs from Justice Kennedy’s opinion:

If the facts alleged in the complaint are true, then what happened to respondents in the days following September 11 was tragic. Nothing in this opinion should be read to condone the treatment to which they contend they were subjected. The question before the Court, however, is not whether petitioners’ alleged conduct was proper, nor whether it gave decent respect to respondents’ dignity and well-being, nor whether it was in keeping with the idea of the rule of law that must inspire us even in times of crisis.

Instead, the question with respect to the Bivens claims is whether to allow an action for money damages in the absence of congressional authorization. For the reasons given above, the Court answers that question in the negative as to the detention policy claims. As to the prisoner abuse claim, because the briefs have not concentrated on that issue, the Court remands to allow the Court of Appeals to consider the claim in light of the Bivens analysis set forth above.

The question with respect to the §1985(3) claim is whether a reasonable officer in petitioners’ position would have known the alleged conduct was an unlawful conspiracy. For the reasons given above, the Court answers that question, too, in the negative.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed as to all of the claims except the prisoner abuse claim against Warden Hasty. The judgment of the Court of Appeals with respect to that claim is vacated, and that case is remanded for further proceedings.

For more detailed coverage, check out:

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 20, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Another SCOTUS Decision on Personal Jurisdiction: Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, covered earlier here and here. By an 8-1 vote, the Court reverses the California Supreme Court’s conclusion that asserting personal jurisdiction over Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) was constitutional. Justice Alito writes the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Gorsuch. Justice Sotomayor is the lone dissenter.

The case involves a “group of plaintiffs—consisting of 86 California residents and 592 residents from 33 other States”—who sued BMS in California state court alleging injuries arising from BMS’s drug Plavix. The issue was whether personal jurisdiction was proper over the claims by plaintiffs who were not residents of California. The California Supreme Court concluded that although BMS was not subject to general jurisdiction in California, the nonresidents’ claims were covered by specific jurisdiction.

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June 19, 2017 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 12, 2017

SCOTUS Decision in Microsoft v. Baker: Appellate Jurisdiction & Class Actions

Today the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, a case for which cert was granted nearly a year and a half ago. The plaintiffs in the case had sought certification of a class action, but the district court refused. After failing to receive permission to appeal the class-certification ruling under Rule 23(f), the plaintiffs (in the words of Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion) “stipulated to a voluntary dismissal of their claims ‘with prejudice,’ but reserved the right to revive their claims should the Court of Appeals reverse the District Court’s certification denial.”

Today’s decision finds that such a stipulated voluntary dismissal did not create appellate jurisdiction, although the Court splits 5-3 on the basis for that conclusion. Joined by Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, Justice Ginsburg writes:

We hold that the voluntary dismissal essayed by respondents does not qualify as a “final decision” within the compass of §1291. The tactic would undermine §1291’s firm finality principle, designed to guard against piecemeal appeals, and subvert the balanced solution Rule 23(f) put in place for immediate review of class-action orders.

A concurring opinion by Justice Thomas (joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito) concludes that there was a “final decision” for purposes of § 1291, because the district court’s order “dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice and left nothing for the District Court to do but execute the judgment.” Justice Thomas, however, reasons that “the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction under Article III of the Constitution,” because “[w]hen the plaintiffs asked the District Court to dismiss their claims, they consented to the judgment against them and disavowed any right to relief from Microsoft.”

Justice Gorsuch—who was not yet on the Court at the time of oral argument—took no part in the case.

 

 

 

 

 

June 12, 2017 in Class Actions, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Cert Grant of Interest: Oil States Energy v. Greene's Energy

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Oil States Energy Services LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, limited to the following question:

Whether inter partes review—an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to analyze the validity of existing patents— violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury.

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog.

 

 

 

June 12, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

SCOTUS Opinion on Standing & Intervention: Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Inc., covered earlier here and here. Justice Alito’s opinion for the Court decides the case on very narrow grounds—here’s how it begins:

Must a litigant possess Article III standing in order to intervene of right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2)? The parties do not dispute—and we hold—that such an intervenor must meet the requirements of Article III if the intervenor wishes to pursue relief not requested by a plaintiff. In the present case, it is unclear whether the intervenor seeks different relief, and the Court of Appeals did not resolve this threshold issue. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment and remand for that court to determine whether the intervenor seeks such additional relief.

 

 

 

June 6, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)