Thursday, July 12, 2018
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Howard Wasserman’s essay, A Step Toward a Proper Understanding of Constitutional Litigation. Howard reviews Jonathan Mitchell’s recent article, The Writ-of-Erasure Fallacy, 104 Va. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2018).
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sarah Swan has published Plaintiff Cities, 71 Vand. L. Rev. 1227 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
When cities are involved in litigation, it is most often as defendants. However, in the last few decades, cities have emerged as aggressive plaintiffs, bringing forward hundreds of mass-tort style claims. From suing gun manufacturers for the scourge of gun violence, to bringing actions against banks for the consequences of the subprime mortgage crisis, to initiating claims against pharmaceutical companies for opioid-related deaths and injuries, plaintiff cities are using litigation to pursue the perpetrators of the social harms that have devastated their constituents and their communities.
Many courts and commentators have criticized these plaintiff city claims on numerous grounds. They argue that, as a doctrinal matter, cities lack standing, fail to meet causation standards, and stretch causes of action like public nuisance beyond all reasonable limits. Further, they argue that, as a theoretical matter, plaintiff cities are impermissibly using litigation as regulation, overstepping their limited authority as “creatures of the state,” and usurping the political and legislative process. This Article demonstrates that each of these critiques is mistaken. Plaintiff city claims are legally, morally, and sociologically legitimate. And, as a practical matter, they are financially feasible even for cash-strapped or bankrupt cities. Moving beyond mere economic accounting, though, plaintiff city claims have value of a different sort: for plaintiff cities, litigation is a form of state building. By serving as plaintiffs and seeking redress for the harms that impact a city’s most vulnerable residents, plaintiff cities are demanding recognition not just for those impacted constituents, but also for themselves, as distinct and meaningful polities. In so doing, plaintiff cities are renegotiating the practical and theoretical meaning of cities within the existing political order, and opening up new potential paths for urban social justice.
Sunday, June 17, 2018
Thursday, June 14, 2018
SCOTUS decision in Animal Science: Deference to a foreign government’s statement about its own domestic law
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. (covered earlier here). Justice Ginsburg’s opinion for the Court begins:
When foreign law is relevant to a case instituted in a federal court, and the foreign government whose law is in contention submits an official statement on the meaning and interpretation of its domestic law, may the federal court look beyond that official statement? The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit answered generally “no,” ruling that federal courts are “bound to defer” to a foreign government’s construction of its own law, whenever that construction is “reasonable.” In re Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation, 837 F. 3d 175, 189 (2016).
We hold otherwise. A federal court should accord respectful consideration to a foreign government’s submission, but is not bound to accord conclusive effect to the foreign government’s statements. Instead, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 instructs that, in determining foreign law, “the court may consider any relevant material or source . . . whether or not submitted by a party.” As “[t]he court’s determination must be treated as a ruling on a question of law,” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 44.1, the court “may engage in its own research and consider any relevant material thus found,” Advisory Committee’s 1966 Note on Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 44.1, 28 U. S. C. App., p. 892 (hereinafter Advisory Committee’s Note). Because the Second Circuit ordered dismissal of this case on the ground that the foreign government’s statements could not be gainsaid, we vacate that court’s judgment and remand the case for further consideration.
[In the interest of full disclosure, I joined an amicus brief in this case on behalf of law professors in support of neither party. The brief urged the Supreme Court not to endorse the Second Circuit’s doctrine of abstention based on international comity. It didn’t.]
Friday, June 8, 2018
Dave Marcus has published The History of the Modern Class Action, Part II: Litigation and Legitimacy, 1981-1994, 86 Fordham L. Rev. 1785 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
The first era of the modern class action began in 1966, with revisions to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It ended in 1980. Significant turmoil roiled these years. Policymakers grappled with the powerful device as advocates argued over its purpose, and judges struggled to create rules for the novel litigation the remade Rule 23 generated.
This Article tells the story of the class action’s second era, which stretched from 1981 to 1994. At first blush, these were quiet years. Doctrine barely changed, and until the early 1990s, policymakers all but ignored the device.
Below this surface tranquility lurked important developments in what the class action, newly embroiled in fundamental debates over litigation and legitimacy, was understood to implicate. Critics castigated the civil rights class action as an emblem of the “imperial judiciary’s” rise and of courts’ inability to separate law from politics. To industries targeted by plaintiffs’ lawyers, the securities fraud class action exemplified the “litigation explosion” and challenged judicial competence to screen for meritorious lawsuits. The emergence of the mass tort class action as an alternative to legislative and administrative processes made a determination of litigation’s legitimate role particularly urgent.
These second-era episodes deepened partisan divides over the class action and prompted new claims about what sort of private litigation could legitimately proceed. The three episodes drew new and influential participants into fights over the class action, and they eventually reengaged policymakers with class action regulation. Such developments made an era of significant reform all but inevitable.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Rorie Spill Solberg (Oregon State Univ., Department of Political Science, School of Public Policy) and Jennifer Segal Diascro (University of California Washington Program (UCDC)) have published an article entitled "A Retrospective on Obama's Judges: Diversity, Intersectionality, and Symbolic Representation" in the Journal of Politics, Groups, and Identities. Here's the abstract:
"Despite abundant attention to the judicial selection of U.S. Supreme Court justices, most federal legal disputes are resolved in the lower federal courts. Who the judges are and how they make their decisions matters enormously in a democracy that values the fair and equitable treatment of its citizens under the rule of law. Our focus in this study is on the demographic diversity of President Obama’s appointments to the lower federal bench. It is clear from the various methods of examining the numbers that Obama valued diversity – perhaps more so than any previous president. When we examine all lower courts in the aggregate, and then district and circuit courts separately, the total number of successful nominees, the replacement patterns for departing judges, and comparisons between active and senior status judges, we see a concerted and largely successful effort to increase symbolic representation on the federal judiciary. Under different political circumstances, the data would lead us to consider novel complexities in diversifying the federal bench in the next several years. But a Trump presidency and its expected focus on ideology over diversity is likely to lead the study of judicial selection in a different direction, at least for the time being."
S.I. Strong has published General Principles of Procedural Law and Procedural Jus Cogens, 122 Penn. St. L. Rev. 347 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
General principles of law have long been central to the practice and scholarship of both public and private international law. However, the vast majority of commentary focuses on substantive rather than procedural concerns. This Article reverses that trend through a unique and innovative analysis that provides judges, practitioners, and academics from around the world with a new perspective on international procedural law.
The Article begins by considering how general principles of procedural law (international due process) are developed under both contemporary and classic models and evaluates the propriety of relying on materials generated from international arbitration when seeking to identify the nature, scope, and content of general principles of procedural law. The analysis adopts both a forward-looking, jurisprudential perspective as well as a backward-looking, content-based one and compares sources and standards generated by international arbitration to those derived from other fields, including transnational litigation, international human rights, and the rule of law.
The Article then tackles the novel question of whether general principles of procedural law can be used to develop a procedural form of jus cogens (peremptory norms). Although commentators have hinted at the possible existence of a procedural aspect of jus cogens, no one has yet focused on that precise issue. However, recent events, including those at the International Court of Justice and in various domestic settings, have demonstrated the vital importance of this inquiry.
The Article concludes by considering future developments in international procedural law and identifying the various ways that both international and domestic courts can rely on and apply the principles discussed herein. In so doing, this analysis provides significant practical and theoretical assistance to judges, academics, and practitioners in the United States and abroad and offers groundbreaking insights into the nature of international procedural rights.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Brad Shannon has published Reconciling Subject-Matter Jurisdiction, 46 Hofstra L. Rev. 913 (2018). From the conclusion:
Current subject-matter jurisdiction practice, though well-entrenched, seems upon closer examination to be somewhat indefensible. Changes should be made. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 should be amended to eliminate the pleading of subject-matter jurisdiction. This should help obviate the need to respond to allegations of this nature. Moreover, Rules 12 and 60 should be amended to prevent the assertion of this defense beyond the pleading stage (except in the default judgment context). Such a move would significantly (and appropriately) limit the ability to raise this defense on direct or collateral review. It would, in short, help “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.” Perhaps more importantly, the practice relating to federal subject-matter jurisdiction would be reconciled with that relating to other “jurisdictional” concepts such as personal jurisdiction and venue, as well as state subject-matter jurisdiction practice, which has avoided many of these problems without incident.
Alas, sound reasoning might not be enough to get the Rules Committee to proceed on some of these matters. Tradition is a powerful thing. Moreover, the fact that the amendments proposed here would, in actuality, have little effect on post-pleading practice, though seemingly a virtue, might actually be a deterrent. Hopefully it will be enough that these amendments would promote simplicity, uniformity, predictability, and avoid unnecessary waste. Exceptions might be unavoidable regardless of which way one goes on these issues, and cases probably will continue to be decided suboptimally. The questions for now relate to baseline presumptions and how best to minimize errors and increase the efficiency of the federal courts.
Friday, June 1, 2018
Margaret Hagan (Stanford Design Lab) has posted an article entitled "A Human-Centered Design Approach to Access to Justice: Generating New Prototypes and Hypotheses for Innovation to Make Courts User-Friendly." Here's the abstract:
"How can the court system be made more navigable and comprehensible to unrepresented laypeople trying to use it to solve their family, housing, debt, employment, or other life problems? This Article chronicles human-centered design work to generate solutions to this fundamental challenge of access to justice. It presents a new methodology: human-centered design research that can identify key opportunity areas for interventions, user requirements for interventions, and a shortlist of vetted ideas for interventions. This research presents both the methodology and these “design deliverables” based on work with California state courts’ Self Help Centers. It identifies seven key areas for courts to improve their usability, and, in each area, proposes a range of new interventions that emerged from the class’s design work. This research lays the groundwork for pilots and randomized control trials, with its proposed hypotheses and prototypes for new interventions, that can be piloted, evaluated, and—ideally—have a practical effect on how comprehensible, navigable, and efficient the civil court system is."
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Jasminka Kalajdzic’s essay, Questions of Funding and Compensation on the 50th Anniversary of Modern Class Actions. Jasminka reviews articles by Beth Burch, Publicly Funded Objectors, 19 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 47 (2018), and Brian Fitzpatrick, Can and Should the New Third-Party Litigation Financing Come to Class Actions?, 19 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 109 (2018).
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Bob Klonoff has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, Application of the New “Proportionality” Discovery Rule in Class Actions: Much Ado About Nothing, which is forthcoming the Vanderbilt Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
The “proportionality” amendment to the federal discovery rules, which went into effect on December 1, 2015, was greeted with panic by the plaintiffs’ bar (and the academy) and euphoria by the defense bar. Both sides predicted that the impact would be profound and immediate. Some predicted that the impact would be especially great in class actions. To examine whether the predictions have been correct, the author has reviewed every published judicial opinion (approximately 135) between December 1, 2015, and April 30, 2018, that applies the new proportionality rule in the class action context. The analysis is necessarily anecdotal rather than empirical. Nonetheless, the results are striking. At bottom, the proportionality amendment has had little impact, at least in the class action context. Courts have generally indicated that the new rule does not fundamentally change the governing principles. In ruling on discovery disputes in class actions, courts continue to conduct nuanced, highly fact-specific analyses, with results that differ little from pre-amendment case law. The courts are especially liberal in allowing discovery that is relevant to class certification. In short, the class action discovery decisions thus far do not support the predictions that the proportionality rule would lead to a sea change.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Tara Grove has published The Origins (and Fragility) of Judicial Independence, 71 Vand. L. Rev. 465 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
The federal judiciary today takes certain things for granted. Political actors will not attempt to remove Article III judges outside the impeachment process; they will not obstruct federal court orders; and they will not tinker with the Supreme Court’s size in order to pack it with like-minded Justices. And yet a closer look reveals that these “self-evident truths” of judicial independence are neither self-evident nor necessary implications of our constitutional text, structure, and history. This Article demonstrates that many government officials once viewed these court-curbing measures as not only constitutionally permissible but also desirable (and politically viable) methods of “checking” the judiciary. The Article tells the story of how political actors came to treat each measure as “out of bounds” and thus built what the Article calls “conventions of judicial independence.” But implicit in this story is a cautionary tale about the fragility of judicial independence. Indeed, this account underscores the extent to which judicial independence is politically constructed and historically contingent. Particularly at a time when government officials seem willing to depart from other long-standing norms, federal judges should take none of their current protections for granted.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Arthur Miller has published What Are Courts For? Have We Forsaken the Procedural Gold Standard?, 78 La. L. Rev. 739 (2018). The article expands on his Alvin and Janice Rubin Lecture at LSU.
Monday, May 21, 2018
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is my essay, Human Rights Litigation and the States. I review a recent article by Seth Davis and Chris Whytock, State Remedies for Human Rights, 98 B.U. L. Rev. 397 (2018).
Friday, May 18, 2018
Brooke Coleman has posted on SSRN a draft of her essay, #SoWhiteMale - Federal Civil Rulemaking, which is forthcoming in the Northwestern University Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
116 out of 136. That is the number of white men who have served on the 82-year old committee responsible for creating and maintaining the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The tiny number of non-white, non-male committee members is disproportionate even in the context of the white-male-dominated legal profession. Were the rules simply a technical set of instructions made by a neutral set of experts, perhaps these numbers might not be as disturbing. But that is not the case. The Civil Rules embody normative judgments about the values that have primacy in our civil justice system, and the rulemakers—while expert—are not apolitical actors. This essay argues that the homogeneous composition of the rulemaking committee, not only historically, but also today, limits the quality of the rules produced and perpetuates inequality. The remedy to this problem is straightforward: appoint different people to the rulemaking committee. To be sure, the federal civil rulemaking process is but one small part of where and how gender and racial identity matter. Even still, this essay argues that the rulemaking committee members, the Judiciary, and the Bar should demand that the civil rulemaking committee cease being #SoWhiteMale.
Monday, May 7, 2018
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Fordham Law Review Colloquium Issue: Access to Justice and the Legal Profession in an Era of Contracting Civil Liability
Monday, April 23, 2018
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Agnieszka McPeak (Toledo Law) has published an article entitled Disappearing Data at 2018 Wis. L.R. 17, which considers the discovery implications of ephemeral social media platforms like Snapchat. Here's the abstract:
“Ephemeral” applications like Snapchat facilitate social interaction in a format that mimics the impermanence of face-to-face conversations. In the age of “big data” and the growing privacy concerns it raises, platforms offering ephemeral social media tools are meeting a market demand for smaller digital footprints. Additionally, these platforms are responding to regulatory pressure to embrace “privacy by design,” the idea that new technology should be built with privacy as a goal from the ground up. Indeed, ephemeral platforms, though imperfect in their impermanence, mark a positive shift in the direction of data minimization.
But the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for broad discovery of electronically stored information. And they mandate, along with other rules, preservation of potentially relevant data in anticipation of litigation. Preservation duties for this new brand of ephemeral data, however, have not been clearly defined.
This article urges for a fair and balanced approach to defining preservation duties for disappearing data. While ephemeral content may be discoverable, onerous preservation duties are unwarranted and will negatively impact both corporate and individual litigants alike. For corporate interests, overly broad preservation duties lead to risk-averse companies stockpiling all things digital, often at great cost. For individuals, the law should recognize that mobile technology has become ubiquitous and social media is a key tool for personal expression, free speech, and social interaction. But individuals also have become the unwitting stewards of vast amounts of data, some of which is dynamic and ever-changing. Deletion or revision of personal information is a normal occurrence on social media platforms — indeed, some are a product of privacy by design. Overly broad preservation duties for individual litigants thus impose unwarranted burdens and are out of step with technological change.
Monday, April 16, 2018