Thursday, October 1, 2015

Happy October! SCOTUS Cert Grants of Interest (Bank Markazi; Americold; MHN)

Today the Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated order list from the end-of-summer “long conference.” It granted certiorari in a few cases that folks interested in civil procedure and federal courts will want to keep an eye on:

Bank Markazi v. Peterson (No. 14-770), from the Second Circuit, is a separation-of-powers challenge to a congressional statute involving the execution of a judgment against bonds held by the Central Bank of Iran. Here is the question presented by the petitioner:

This case concerns nearly $2 billion of bonds in which Bank Markazi, the Central Bank of Iran, held an interest in Europe as part of its foreign currency reserves. Plaintiffs, who hold default judgments against Iran, tried to seize the assets. While the case was pending, Congress enacted § 502 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, 22 U.S.C. § 8772. By its terms, that statute applies only to this one case: to “the financial assets that are identified in and the subject of proceedings in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Peterson et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran et al., Case No. 10 Civ. 4518 (BSJ) (GWG).” Id. § 8772(b). “In order to ensure that Iran is held accountable for paying the judgments,” it provides that, notwithstanding any other state or federal law, the assets “shall be subject to execution” upon only two findings—essentially, that Bank Markazi has a beneficial interest in them and that no one else does. Id. § 8772(a)(1), (2). The question presented is:

Whether § 8772—a statute that effectively directs a particular result in a single pending case—violates the separation of powers.

Americold Logistics, LLC v. ConAgra Foods, Inc. (No. 14-1382), from the Tenth Circuit, involves how to determine the citizenship of a trust for purposes of diversity jurisdiction:

Petitioners Americold Logistics, LLC and Americold Realty Trust – a corporation and real estate investment trust, respectively – removed a case from Kansas state court to the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, asserting the parties were diverse. No party challenged the removal, and the District Court ruled on the merits of that litigation without addressing any issue relating to diversity jurisdiction. Likewise, neither party raised any jurisdictional challenge on appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Tenth Circuit, however, sua sponte queried whether there was full diversity of citizenship among the parties. In particular, the judges challenged whether the citizenship of Americold Realty Trust, a business trust, should be determined by reference to its trustees’ citizenship, or instead by reference to some broader set of factors. This issue has deeply split courts across the country. Joining the minority of courts, the Tenth Circuit held the jurisdictional inquiry extends, at a minimum, to the citizenship of a trust’s beneficiaries in addition to its trustees’ citizenship. In this case, doing so destroyed diversity of citizenship among the parties.

The question presented by this petition is: Whether the Tenth Circuit wrongly deepened a pervasive circuit split among the federal circuits regarding whether the citizenship of a trust for purposes of diversity jurisdiction is based on the citizenship of the controlling trustees, the trust beneficiaries, or some combination of both.

MHN Government Services, Inc. v. Zaborowski (No. 14-1458), from the Ninth Circuit, is another case involving the relationship between the Federal Arbitration Act and state contract law. Here is the question presented by the petitioners:

The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) provides that an arbitration agreement shall be enforced “save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract,” 9 U.S.C. § 2. California law applies one rule of contract severability to contracts in general, and a separate rule of contract severability to agreements to arbitrate. The arbitration-only rule disfavors arbitration and applies even when the agreement contains an express severability clause. Its application in this case conflicts with binding precedent of this Court and with opinions of four other courts of appeals.

The question presented is whether California’s arbitration-only severability rule is preempted by the FAA.  

You can find coverage of today’s cert. grants from SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston here.


October 1, 2015 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Court Cites (but Does Not Rely on) FRCP Form 7, Holds Diversity Allegations Sufficient

            The Third Circuit has held that a plaintiff may survive a facial attack on diversity jurisdiction in a suit against an LLC without specifically alleging the state of citizenship of each member of the LLC.  Lincoln Benefit Life Co. v. AEI Life, LLC, No. 14-2660 (3d Cir. Sept. 2, 2015).  The plaintiff life insurance company (incorporated and with its principal place of business in Nebraska) sought a declaratory judgment voiding two policies that it alleged were procured by fraud.  Among the defendants were two LLCs.   


            An LLC’s citizenship for purposes of diversity jurisdiction is determined by the citizenship of its members.  Not able to ascertain the citizenship of these two LLCs’ members through publicly-available sources, the plaintiff alleged “upon information and belief” that the two defendants were citizens of New York and New Jersey, respectively, based on their mailing addresses.


            The defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that plaintiff was required to allege the citizenship of each member of the LLC defendants.  The district court granted the motion to dismiss and denied plaintiff’s request for jurisdictional discovery.


            The Third Circuit reversed.  It distinguished between a facial attack and a factual attack when made in a 12(b)(1) motion: “A facial attack ‘concerns an alleged pleading deficiency’ whereas a factual attack concerns ‘the actual failure of [a plaintiff’s] claims to comport [factually] with the jurisdictional prerequisites.’”  (some internal quotation marks omitted) 


            The defendants here had mounted a “facial challenge to the adequacy of the jurisdictional allegations in [the] complaint.”  None of the defendants had actually alleged that it was a citizen of Nebraska (which would have destroyed diversity). 


            Turning to Rule 8(a)(1), which requires a complaint to make a “short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction,” the court “found it useful to consider” FRCP Form 7, which illustrates the “simplicity and brevity” of pleading jurisdiction.  (Rule 84.)  The court recognized that Rule 84 and all the forms would be abrogated as of December 1 absent congressional action, however, and stated that it was not relying on them “in reaching our ultimate conclusion.”

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September 4, 2015 in Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ninth Circuit Again Resurrects RESPA Class in Edwards v. First American

           Remember Edwards v. First American Corp., the putative class action under RESPA filed in 2007?  The Supreme Court granted cert in 2011 on the issue (as slightly expanded on this blog at the time): “Does [a private purchaser of real estate settlement services] have standing to sue under Article III, § 2 of the United States Constitution, which provides that the federal judicial power is limited to "Cases" and "Controversies" and which this Court has interpreted to require the plaintiff to "have suffered an 'injury in fact,'" Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992), [in the absence of any claim that the alleged violation affected the price, quality, or other characteristics of the settlement services provided]?” 

            After full briefing and oral argument, the Supreme Court issued a one-sentence order in 2012 dismissing the writ as improvidently granted.  (Another case, Spokeo v. Robins, is currently pending before the Court for the October 2015 term and supposedly involves somewhat the same issue.)

             Anyway, after the Supreme Court dismissed the writ in Edwards, the case trundled along in the district court.  Plaintiffs moved for class certification of a “nationwide class consisting of all home buyers who entered into a federally-related mortgage transaction using one of thirty-eight title agencies that sold a minority ownership interest to First American and, in the same transaction, agreed to refer future title insurance business to First American.”  The district court denied class certification (again).

             The Ninth Circuit just reversed in part (again).  First, the court disagreed with the district court’s holding that “individual inquiries were required to determine whether First American overpaid for its ownership interests in each title agency.”   

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August 31, 2015 in Class Actions, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Glock Handgun Entities' Documents Obtained for Use in Austria May Be Used in U.S.

A recent Eleventh Circuit opinion is interesting on a number of levels. Glock v. Glock, Inc., No. 14-15701 (11th Cir. Aug. 17, 2015).  Helga Glock, the wife of the inventor of the Glock handgun, initiated a proceeding in the United States (under 28 U.S.C. §1782) against the Glock entities to discover documents relating to her divorce proceedings back in Austria. She obtained the documents, subject to a protective order that restricted their use in other proceedings unless she obtained court leave.

About a year and a half later, Helga filed a RICO action against Mr. Glock and the Glock entities in the U.S.  She sought and obtained, in the Section 1782 proceeding, the magistrate's permission to use the documents she had obtained in that proceeding in the subsequent RICO action.   

The district court reversed, but the Eleventh Circuit upheld the magistrate.

First, the court held that Section 1782 did not prohibit the later use of evidence that had been lawfully obtained in a Section 1782 proceeding, including in subsequent U.S. litigation.  Second, the court held that the protective order in Helga’s Section 1782 proceeding had required her to obtain court permission before using the documents in another proceeding, but that she had done that.    

August 19, 2015 in Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Seventh Circuit Vacates Remittitur, Reinstates $3.4 Million Jury Verdict in Police Brutality Case

Two brothers, Seneca and Tari Adams, “endured vicious beatings by Chicago police officers and prolonged detentions in the Cook County Jail” in 2004.  The City of Chicago admitted liability for false arrest, excessive force, race discrimination, and malicious prosecution. 

The case was tried to a jury on the question of damages.  The jury verdict awarded $2.4 million to Seneca (who was savagely beaten and detained in Cook County Jail for 204 days) and $1 million to Tari (who was also beaten and detained in Cook County Jail for 45 days).  The district court “remitted” those amounts to $1.17 million for Seneca and $350,000 for Tari.  The district court failed, however, to give them the option of a new trial instead of accepting the remittitur.

The Seventh Circuit (in an opinion by Judge Diane Wood, with Judges Ilana Rovner and Theresa Springmann on the panel) held that simply remitting the damages award without offering plaintiffs the option of a new trial was error.  Rather than remand back to the district court to allow plaintiffs that choice, however, the Court proceeded to consider whether the district court had abused its discretion in ordering the remittitur in the first place, and held that it had. 

Reviewing the outrageous facts, and comparing similar excessive force cases, the Court held that the jury’s verdict was “well within the universe of excessive force and malicious prosecution verdicts.”  The case was remanded so that the jury’s verdict could be reinstated.

(In passing, the Court mentioned Professor Suja Thomas’ article, Re-Examining the Constitutionality of Remittitur Under the Seventh Amendment, 64 Ohio St. L.J. 731 (2003).  The Court did not reach the argument that remittitur was unconstitutional, but ventured “that it would be bold indeed for a court of appeals to come to such a conclusion, given what the Supreme Court has said on the topic.”)   

The case is Adams v. City of Chicago.

August 15, 2015 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Post-Obergefell Update from Alabama: Federal Injunction Now in Effect

In the wake of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell, federal judge Callie Granade issued an order today confirming that her earlier classwide preliminary injunction in the Strawser case is “now in effect and binding on all members of the Defendant Class.”

According to one report, attorneys for the Strawser plaintiffs will be seeking contempt rulings against probate judges who issue marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples but not same-sex couples.


July 1, 2015 in Class Actions, Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 29, 2015

SCOTUS Cert. Grant in Musacchio v. United States

There are some interesting procedural issues in Musacchio v. United States, a case for which the Supreme Court granted certiorari today. It presents two questions:

(1) Whether the law-of-the-case doctrine requires the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case to be measured against the elements described in the jury instructions where those instructions, without objection, require the government to prove additional or more stringent elements than do the statute and indictment; and

(2) Whether a statute-of-limitations defense not raised at or before trial is reviewable on appeal.

You can find all of the cert-stage briefing, and keep track of the merits briefs as they come in, at SCOTUSblog.




June 29, 2015 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Obergefell Aftermath in Alabama

By now readers are surely aware of yesterday’s landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held by a 5-4 vote that the U.S. Constitution does not permit states to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as are accorded to opposite-sex couples. Despite this ruling, it is not yet clear how things will unfold in Alabama—or in other states that have not recognized same-sex marriage but are not directly involved in the Obergefell case (which involves the four states in the Sixth Circuit—Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee).

According to early reports, many Alabama counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples shortly after Justice Kennedy announced the Obergefell decision (some of these counties had already done so earlier but stopped after the March 3 ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court). Other Alabama counties are still not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples or have stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether.

So where do things stand on the Alabama judicial front? Federal judge Callie Granade has already issued a class-wide preliminary injunction against all Alabama probate judges, ordering that they may not enforce Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. She stayed that injunction “until the Supreme Court issues its ruling” in Obergefell, but as of this post she has taken no further action.

Meanwhile the Alabama Supreme Court’s mandamus ruling, which orders Alabama probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, remains. The Alabama Supreme Court has yet to rule on a motion filed earlier this month by groups opposing same-sex marriage, which had sought “clarification and reaffirmation” of the mandamus ruling in the wake of Judge Granade’s class-wide injunction. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was in the news once again shortly after Obergefell came down, asserting the decision was “even worse” than Plessy v. Ferguson. 

The upshot is, we’re likely to see more action in both state and federal court before things get resolved. Stay tuned.




June 27, 2015 in Class Actions, Current Affairs, Federal Courts, In the News, Recent Decisions, State Courts, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 8, 2015

SCOTUS Cert. Grant on Class Actions: Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo (No. 14-1146. The questions presented are:

(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.




June 8, 2015 in Class Actions, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Alabama Same-Sex Marriage Litigation: Back to the Alabama Supreme Court?

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.”

Stay tuned.



June 3, 2015 in Class Actions, Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, State Courts, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.”

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May 21, 2015 in Class Actions, Current Affairs, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 18, 2015

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Article III, Mootness, Class Actions & Sovereign Immunity

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Campbell-Ewald Company v. Gomez, which presents the following questions:

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.



May 18, 2015 in Class Actions, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

SCOTUS Decision in Bullard: Finality & Appealability in Bankruptcy Proceedings

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[1][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.”




May 5, 2015 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

More on the FRCP Amendments Adopted Yesterday by SCOTUS

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.)




April 30, 2015 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Twombly/Iqbal | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Interesting SCOTUS Cert. Petition on Summary Judgment

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?

Here are the cert. stage briefs, and here is the docket. The case does not appear to be calendared for conference yet, but that will likely happen in May.



April 29, 2015 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Today’s SCOTUS Cert Grant on Article III Standing: Spokeo v. Robins

The Supreme Court granted certiorari today in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, which presents the question:

Whether Congress may confer Article III standing upon a plaintiff who suffers no concrete harm, and who therefore could not otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court, by authorizing a private right of action based on a bare violation of a federal statute.

The Court granted cert. notwithstanding an invited brief from the Solicitor General arguing against review. That brief explained:

The court of appeals held that respondent had established Article III standing to sue petitioner “for publishing inaccurate personal information about [respondent]” because petitioner allegedly had violated respondent’s “statutory rights” protecting his “personal interests in the handling of his credit information.” Pet. App. 1a, 8a. The court below correctly concluded that the publication of such false information is a cognizable Article III injury.

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



April 27, 2015 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

SCOTUS Decision in Wong (& June): Equitable Tolling & the Federal Tort Claims Act

Today the Supreme Court issued its decisions in United States v. Wong and United States v. June. As covered earlier, the cases address whether two time limits contained in the Federal Tort Claims Act are subject to equitable tolling. (Although Wong and June were not formally consolidated, the Court explains in footnote 1 that “we address them together because everyone agrees that the core arguments for and against equitable tolling apply equally to both of §2401(b)’s deadlines.”)

It’s a 5-4 split. Once again, the Justices examine—and disagree about—whether a statutory time limitation is “jurisdictional.” Justice Kagan writes the majority opinion, joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor. Here’s the opening paragraph (emphasis added):

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA or Act) provides that a tort claim against the United States “shall be forever barred” unless it is presented to the “appropriate Federal agency within two years after such claim accrues” and then brought to federal court “within six months” after the agency acts on the claim. 28 U. S. C. §2401(b). In each of the two cases we resolve here, the claimant missed one of those deadlines, but requested equitable tolling on the ground that she had a good reason for filing late. The Government responded that §2401(b)’s time limits are not subject to tolling because they are jurisdictional restrictions. Today, we reject the Government’s argument and conclude that courts may toll both of the FTCA’s limitations periods.

Justice Alito writes a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas. He argues that these limitations are jurisdictional and create an “absolute bar” that “is not subject to equitable tolling.”



April 22, 2015 in Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Shaq, Zippo & Shirley Jones

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn of the Eastern District of Michigan granted a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss in Binion v. O’Neal. The opinion is here.

The movant was defendant Shaquille O’Neal. The plaintiff Jahmel Binion—a Michigan resident—alleged claims for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and general negligence based on posts Shaq had made on Instagram and Twitter that included pictures of Binion. Although the court stated that Shaq’s posts were “highly offensive,” it found after a discussion of Zippo and the “effects test” from Calder v. Jones that jurisdiction in Michigan would not comport with due process.

Here’s the New York Daily News with some background on the incident that gave rise to the lawsuit.




April 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, In the News, Recent Decisions, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Third Circuit Holds Daubert Applies to Expert Testimony on Class Certification Motion

In In re Blood Reagents Antitrust Litigation, No. 12-4067 (3d Cir. April 8, 2015), the court vacated the trial court's certification of a class of purchasers of blood reagents, which alleged price-fixing by the two defendants.

In part, the court vacated because the class certification had occurred before the Supreme Court's decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013).  In addition, the court held that if, on a motion for class certification, plaintiffs relied on expert testimony to establish "predominance" under Rule 23(b)(3), then the expert's testimony must satisfy the Daubert standard for admissibility.

On the earlier motion for class certification, the plaintiffs had relied in part on expert testimony to produce their antitrust impact analyses and damages models.  The district court held that the expert's testimony "could evolve to become admissible evidence" at trial.  The Third Circuit held that "the trial court should have scrutinized the plaintiffs' expert's testimony under Daubert."

The court stated that it was joining the Seventh and Eighth Circuits in holding Daubert applicable on class certification motions.

April 9, 2015 in Class Actions, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

SCOTUS Decision in Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center

Yesterday the Supreme Court decided Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, ruling by a 5-4 vote that Medicaid providers could not sue state officials for failing to comply with § 30(A) of the Medicaid Act (also known as the “equal access” provision). Justice Scalia writes the majority opinion, joined in full by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito. Justice Breyer joins part of Scalia’s opinion to provide the fifth vote, but also authors a separate concurring opinion. Justice Sotomayor writes the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Kagan.

For excellent recaps of the decision, check out Steve Vladeck’s post at PrawfsBlawg and Will Baude’s post at SCOTUSblog.



April 1, 2015 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)