Monday, May 22, 2017

Big Civil Procedure Day at SCOTUS

Today the Supreme Court issued unanimous decisions in two cases we’ve been covering:

 

 

 

May 22, 2017 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Another SCOTUS Arbitration Decision: Kindred Nursing Centers v. Clark

This week the Supreme Court issued its decision in Kindred Nursing Centers Limited Partnership v. Clark, a case we covered earlier here. The vote was 7-1, with Justice Kagan writing the majority opinion, Justice Thomas dissenting based on his view that the Federal Arbitration Act does not apply to proceedings in state court, and Justice Gorsuch (who joined the Court after oral argument occurred) taking no part.

Justice Kagan’s opinion begins:

The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA or Act) requires courts to place arbitration agreements “on equal footing with all other contracts.” DIRECTV, Inc. v. Imburgia, 577 U. S. __, __ (2015) (slip op., at 6) (quoting Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc. v. Cardegna, 546 U. S. 440, 443 (2006)); see 9 U. S. C. §2. In the decision below, the Kentucky Supreme Court declined to give effect to two arbitration agreements executed by individuals holding “powers of attorney”—that is, authorizations to act on behalf of others. According to the court, a general grant of power (even if seemingly comprehensive) does not permit a legal representative to enter into an arbitration agreement for someone else; to form such a contract, the representative must possess specific authority to “waive his principal’s fundamental constitutional rights to access the courts [and] to trial by jury.” Extendicare Homes, Inc. v. Whisman, 478 S. W. 3d 306, 327 (2015). Because that rule singles out arbitration agreements for disfavored treatment, we hold that it violates the FAA.

 

 

 

 

 

May 18, 2017 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

SCOTUS Decision on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne Int’l Drilling Co., covered earlier here. The case involves the expropriation exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which provides that foreign states are not immune from jurisdiction in U.S. courts when, among other things, “rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue.”

Justice Breyer’s opinion concludes that it is not sufficient to “make a ‘nonfrivolous’ argument that the case falls within the scope of the exception.”

Rather, state and federal courts can maintain jurisdiction to hear the merits of a case only if they find that the property in which the party claims to hold rights was indeed “property taken in violation of international law.” Put differently, the relevant factual allegations must make out a legally valid claim that a certain kind of right is at issue (property rights) and that the relevant property was taken in a certain way (in violation of international law). A good argument to that effect is not sufficient. But a court normally need not resolve, as a jurisdictional matter, disputes about whether a party actually held rights in that property; those questions remain for the merits phase of the litigation.

Moreover, where jurisdictional questions turn upon further factual development, the trial judge may take evidence and resolve relevant factual disputes. But, consistent with foreign sovereign immunity’s basic objective, namely, to free a foreign sovereign from suit, the court should normally resolve those factual disputes and reach a decision about immunity as near to the outset of the case as is reasonably possible. See Verlinden B. V. v. Central Bank of Nigeria, 461 U. S. 480, 493–494 (1983).

Part III of the opinion contrasts the FSIA with 28 U.S.C. § 1331, finding that Bell v. Hood’s approach to the existence of a federal question does not apply to the FSIA’s expropriation exception.

Justice Gorsuch took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Download Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne

 

 

 

 

May 2, 2017 in Federal Courts, International/Comparative Law, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 1, 2017

SCOTUS Cert Grant in Patchak v. Zinke

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Patchak v. Zinke, which will address the separation-of-powers principles stemming from United States v. Klein. The grant is limited to the first question presented:

Does a statute directing the federal courts to “promptly dismiss” a pending lawsuit following substantive determinations by the courts (including this Court’s determination that the “suit may proceed”)—without amending underlying substantive or procedural laws—violate the Constitution’s separation of powers principles?

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

 

 

 

 

May 1, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 24, 2017

SCOTUS Denies Cert in Summary Judgment Case

Today the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Salazar-Limon v. City of Houston. Unlike most cert denials, this one prompted written opinions—one dissenting and one concurring. Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ginsburg, authored a dissenting opinion, which begins:

Just after midnight on October 29, 2010, a Houston police officer shot petitioner Ricardo Salazar-Limon in the back. Salazar-Limon claims the officer shot him as he tried to walk away from a confrontation with the officer on an overpass. The officer, by contrast, claims that Salazar-Limon turned toward him and reached for his waistband—as if for a gun—before the officer fired a shot. The question whether the officer used excessive force in shooting Salazar-Limon thus turns in large part on which man is telling the truth. Our legal system entrusts this decision to a jury sitting as finder of fact, not a judge reviewing a paper record.

The courts below thought otherwise. The District Court credited the officer’s version of events and granted summary judgment to respondents—the officer and the city. 97 F. Supp. 3d 898 (SD Tex. 2015). The Fifth Circuit affirmed. 826 F. 3d 272 (2016). But summary judgment is appropriate only where “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 56(a). The courts below failed to heed that mandate. Three Terms ago, we summarily reversed the Fifth Circuit in a case “reflect[ing] a clear misapprehension of summary judgment standards.” Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (per curiam) (slip op., at 10). This case reflects the same fundamental error. I respectfully dissent from the Court’s failure to grant certiorari and reverse.

Download Salazar-Limon v Houston (dissenting)

Justice Alito authored an opinion concurring in the cert denial. An excerpt:

The dissent acknowledges that summary judgment would be proper if the record compelled the conclusion that Salazar-Limon reached for his waist, but the dissent believes that, if the case had gone to trial, a jury could have reasonably inferred that Salazar-Limon did not reach for his waist—even if Salazar-Limon never testified to that fact. The dissent’s conclusion is surely debatable. But in any event, this Court does not typically grant a petition for a writ of certiorari to review a factual question of this sort, see this Court’s Rule 10, and I therefore concur in the denial of review here.

Download Salazar-Limon v Houston (concurring)

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2017 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

SCOTUS Decision on Sanctions for Bad-Faith Litigation Conduct

Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger. Justice Kagan’s opinion begins:

In this case, we consider a federal court’s inherent authority to sanction a litigant for bad-faith conduct by ordering it to pay the other side’s legal fees. We hold that such an order is limited to the fees the innocent party incurred solely because of the misconduct—or put another way, to the fees that party would not have incurred but for the bad faith. A district court has broad discretion to calculate fee awards under that standard. But because the court here granted legal fees beyond those resulting from the litigation misconduct, its award cannot stand. 

Justice Gorsuch took no part in the decision.

Download Goodyear v Haeger 15-1406

 

 

 

 

April 18, 2017 in Discovery, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 7, 2017

And then there were nine

After changing the Senate rules yesterday to eliminate the possibility of a filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, the Senate has just confirmed Tenth Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. His first weeks on the job feature oral arguments in several cases raising civil procedure and federal courts issues. 

Monday, April 17:

Tuesday, April 25:

 

 

 

 

 

April 7, 2017 in Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

SCOTUS Decision on the Appellate Standard of Review for District Court Rulings on EEOC Subpoenas

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued its decision in McLean Co. v. EEOC, which begins:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to issue a subpoena to obtain evidence from an employer that is relevant to a pending investigation. The statute authorizes a district court to issue an order enforcing such a subpoena. The question presented here is whether a court of appeals should review a district court’s decision to enforce or quash an EEOC subpoena de novo or for abuse of discretion. This decision should be reviewed for abuse of discretion.

That first paragraph pretty much says it all, but Justice Sotomayor’s decision also contains a nice summary of the Court’s general approach for identifying the proper standard of review where the relevant statutes do not provide one.

 

 

 

 

April 4, 2017 in Discovery, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 3, 2017

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Corporate Liability under the Alien Tort Statute

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC. Here’s the question presented:

This case presents the question this Court granted certiorari to resolve, but ultimately left undecided, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S. Ct. 1659 (2013): Whether the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, categorically forecloses corporate liability.

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

 

 

 

April 3, 2017 in Federal Courts, International/Comparative Law, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Federal Court Ruling on Boilerplate Discovery Objections

A very interesting ruling came down today from District Judge Mark Bennett of the Northern District of Iowa. From the opening paragraph:

This ruling involves one of the least favorite tasks of federal trial and appellate judges—determining whether counsel and/or the parties should be sanctioned for discovery abuses. This case squarely presents the issue of why excellent, thoughtful, highly professional, and exceptionally civil and courteous lawyers are addicted to “boilerplate” discovery objections.

Judge Bennett finds that the parties’ objections violated several discovery rules, including Rule 26(b)(5)’s provisions on asserting privileges and Rules 33 and 34’s requirements that objections to interrogatories and requests for production be stated “with specificity.” He concludes (footnotes omitted):

To address the serious problem of “boilerplate” discovery objections, my new Supplemental Trial Management Order advises the lawyers for the parties that “in conducting discovery, form or boilerplate objections shall not be used and, if used, may subject the party and/or its counsel to sanctions. Objections must be specific and state an adequate individualized basis.” The Order also imposes an “affirmative duty to notify the court of alleged discovery abuse” and warns of the possible sanctions for obstructionist discovery conduct.

I recall the words of a former U.S. Attorney General in a different context: “Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [they] send[ ] forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” I pledge to do my part— enough of the warning shots across the bow.

The conduct identified in the Show Cause Order does not warrant sanctions, notwithstanding that the conduct was contrary to the requirements for discovery responses in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. NO MORE WARNINGS. IN THE FUTURE, USING “BOILERPLATE” OBJECTIONS TO DISCOVERY IN ANY CASE BEFORE ME PLACES COUNSEL AND THEIR CLIENTS AT RISK FOR SUBSTANTIAL SANCTIONS.

The case is Liguria Foods v. Griffith Laboratories.

Download 14cv3041.Liguria v. Griffith.Order On Show Cause.final.031317

 

 

 

March 14, 2017 in Discovery, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 27, 2017

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Habeas Review of Unexplained State Court Decisions

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Wilson v. Sellers, which presents the following question:

Did this Court's decision in Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011), silently abrogate the presumption set forth in Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797 (1991) - that a federal court sitting in habeas proceedings should "look through" a summary state court ruling to review the last reasoned decision - as a slim majority of the en banc Eleventh Circuit held in this case, despite the agreement of both parties that the Ylst presumption should continue to apply?

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

 

 

 

 

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

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Whether FRAP 4(a)(5)(C) is Jurisdictional

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, which presents the following question:

Whether Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5)(C) can deprive a court of appeals of jurisdiction over an appeal that is statutorily timely, as the Second, Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits have concluded, or whether Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5)(C) is instead a nonjurisdictional claim-processing rule because it is not derived from a statute, as the Ninth and D.C. Circuits have concluded, and therefore subject to equitable considerations such as forfeiture, waiver, and the unique-circumstances doctrine.

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

 

 

 

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

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Supplemental Jurisdiction & 1367(d)'s Tolling Provision

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Artis v. District of Columbia, which presents the following question:

Section 1367 of Title 28 authorizes federal district courts in certain circumstances to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims arising under State law.

Section 1367 further provides that "[t]he period of limitations for any [such] 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." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d).

The question presented is whether the tolling provision in §1367(d) suspends the limitations period for the state-law claim while the claim is pending and for thirty days after the claim is dismissed, or whether the tolling provision does not suspend the limitations period but merely provides 30 days beyond the dismissal for the plaintiff to refile.

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

 

 

 

 

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ninth Circuit Refuses to Stay District Court’s TRO Against Trump’s Executive Order

Today the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Washington v. Trump, refusing to grant the federal government’s request for a stay of Judge Robart’s TRO:

Download WA v Trump (9th Cir 2-9-17)

  • Yes to appellate jurisdiction
  • Yes to Article III standing for Washington and Minnesota
  • No to the federal government’s request to narrow the TRO

Although this resolves the federal government’s request for a stay, the Ninth Circuit also issued a briefing schedule for the federal government’s appeal of the TRO itself:

Download 2-9-17 Procedural Order

 

 

February 9, 2017 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Legal Challenges to Trump Executive Orders on Immigration and Refugee Policy

Yesterday several legal challenges to Trump’s Executive Orders were filed. If you want to keep track of the various filings and orders as these cases proceed, the University of Michigan’s Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse is collecting them here.

 

 

 

January 29, 2017 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Personal Jurisdiction: Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court

The U.S. Supreme Court’s docket of civil procedure and federal courts cases continues to expand. Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, which will review a California Supreme Court decision handed down this summer. The cert petition presents the following question:

The Due Process Clause permits a state court to exercise specific jurisdiction over a defendant only when the plaintiff’s claims “arise out of or relate to” the defendant’s forum activities. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985) (citation omitted). The question presented is:

Whether a plaintiff’s claims arise out of or relate to a defendant’s forum activities when there is no causal link between the defendant’s forum contacts and the plaintiff’s claims—that is, where the plaintiff’s claims would be exactly the same even if the defendant had no forum contacts.

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

 

 

 

January 19, 2017 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Today’s SCOTUS Decision on Federal Jurisdiction & Fannie Mae

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Lightfoot v. Cendant Mortgage Corp. Justice Sotomayor’s opinion begins:

The corporate charter of the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, authorizes Fannie Mae “to sue and to be sued, and to complain and to defend, in any court of competent jurisdiction, State or Federal.” 12 U. S. C. §1723a(a). This case presents the question whether this sue-and-be-sued clause grants federal district courts jurisdiction over cases involving Fannie Mae. We hold that it does not.

Download Lightfoot v Cendant Mortgage

 

 

 

January 18, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 13, 2017

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Judicial Review of MSPB Decisions

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, which presents the following question:

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is authorized to hear challenges by certain federal employees to certain major adverse employment actions. If such a challenge involves a claim under the federal anti-discrimination laws, it is referred to as a “mixed” case. This case presents the following question:

Whether an MSPB decision disposing of a “mixed” case on jurisdictional grounds is subject to judicial review in district court or in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

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

 

 

January 13, 2017 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Cert Grant on General Jurisdiction & FELA

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell, which presents the following question:

In Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014), this Court held that the Due Process Clause forbids a state court from exercising general personal jurisdiction except where the defendant is “at home.” BNSF Railway Company is not at home in Montana under Daimler, yet the Montana Supreme Court held that BNSF is subject to general personal jurisdiction in Montana, and can be sued there by out-of-state plaintiffs for claims that have no connection at all to the state. The Montana Supreme Court explicitly “declined” to apply this Court’s decision in Daimler, for two reasons: First, because the facts of this case involve American parties and arose in the United States, not foreign parties and an overseas injury as in Daimler. Second, because the plaintiffs here sued under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), which is a different federal cause of action from the ones at issue in Daimler. Section 56 of FELA establishes venue for cases filed in federal court, and it provides for concurrent subject-matter jurisdiction in state courts. Yet the Montana Supreme Court held that this provision authorizes state courts to exercise personal jurisdiction, and that the statute overrides the limitations of the Due Process Clause.

The question presented is:

Whether a state court may decline to follow this Court’s decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, which held that the Due Process Clause forbids a state court from exercising general personal jurisdiction over a defendant that is not at home in the forum state, in a suit against an American defendant under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.

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

 

 

 

January 13, 2017 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Article III Standing & Intervention

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Inc., which presents the following question:

Whether intervenors participating in a lawsuit as of right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a) must have Article III standing (as three circuits have held), or whether Article III is satisfied so long as there is a valid case or controversy between the named parties (as seven circuits have held).

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

 

 

 

January 13, 2017 in Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)