Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Judge Philip M. Pro (United States District Court for the District of Nevada) has posted on SSRN his article United States Magistrate Judges: Present but Unaccounted For, forthcoming in the Nevada Law Journal.
The relationship between United States district judges and United States magistrate judges is unique within the American judiciary. United States magistrate judges are the first judges encountered in most federal civil or criminal cases and play an increasingly important role in the adjudication of virtually every case in United States district court. Yet, while the behavior of Article III judges has been the subject of active academic scrutiny, the behavior of magistrate judges, who are appointed to renewable eight-year terms by their Article III district judge colleagues, has largely been ignored. This paper reports the results of interviews of thirty-four magistrate judges and district judges, and through their experiences, explores whether their judicial decision-making relationship, a motivation for re-appointment, or elevation to Article III status influences their judicial behavior and that of their district judge colleagues. The answers to these questions are nuanced and dependent on variables not previously considered, and are best understood in the context of the remarkable evolution of the Magistrate Judges System, which has existed for less than fifty years.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Cody Jacobs (Freedman Fellow, Temple University Beasley School of Law) has published in New Mexico Law Review his article, If Corporations Are People, Why Can't They Play Tag?
The Supreme Court’s decision in Burnham v. Superior Court — despite producing a splintered vote with no opinion garnering a majority of the Court — made one thing clear: an individual defendant can be subject to personal jurisdiction simply by being served with process while he or she happens to be in a forum regardless of whether the defendant has any contacts with that forum. This method of acquiring personal jurisdiction is called transient or “tag” jurisdiction. Tag jurisdiction is older than minimum contacts jurisdiction, and used to be the primary method for determining whether an out of state defendant could be haled into a court. While Burnham held that tag jurisdiction remained constitutionally valid, the court split on the justification for allowing this form of jurisdiction, with four Justices approving the practice under an originalist methodology, and four others approving it based on contemporary notions offairness.
This article argues that both the originalist and fairness-based tests proposed by the principal opinions in Burnham support allowing the assertion of tag jurisdiction over corporations and other entity defendants through in-state service on their officers. This article shows that at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification, corporations were often subject to personal jurisdiction based only on their officers’ physical presence in a forum when served with process. The article also demonstrates that the fairness considerations that led four Members of the Court to endorse tag jurisdiction in Burnham apply with even greater force to modern corporations because of their greater ability to take advantage of the protections and services offered by states outside of their own. Finally, the article examines how the application of tag jurisdiction to corporate entities would be in accord with general trends in constitutional law affording corporations rights equivalent to those of natural persons.
Professor Kevin M. Clermont (Cornell) has posted to SSRN his article, Limiting the Last-in-Time Judgment Rule.
A troublesome problem arises when there are two binding but inconsistent judgments: Say the plaintiff loses on a claim (or issue) in the defendant’s state and then, in a second action back home, wins on the same claim (or issue). American law generally holds that the later judgment is the one entitled to preclusive effects. In the leading article on the problem, then-Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that our last-in-time rule should not apply if the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the second court’s decision against giving full faith and credit. Although that suggestion is unsound, the last-in-time rule indeed should not apply if the first judgment is American and the second judgment comes from a foreign-nation court. To establish those contentions, this Article must go to the depths of res judicata and conflicts law, here and also abroad, where the first-in-time rule reigns. The Article resurfaces to rearrange the puzzle pieces into a simple reformulation—an elaboration but not an amendment—of the American law on inconsistent judgments.
Monday, June 20, 2016
Brooke Coleman has posted on SSRN a draft of her article One Percent Procedure, which is forthcoming in the Washington Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
In this election year, political rhetoric about the one percent is already pervasive, as those with the greatest concentrated wealth prosper and the remaining population stagnates. Because of their affluence, the one percent exercise disproportionate control over political and economic systems. This Article argues that federal civil procedure is similarly a one percent regime. The crème de la crème of the bench and bar, along with equally exclusive litigants, often engage in high-stakes, complex civil litigation. It is this type of litigation that dominates both the elite experience and the public perception of what civil litigation is. This litigation is not particularly common, however; while expensive and well known, it is in the minority. Yet this litigation and the individuals engaged in it have an incongruent influence on how the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and procedural doctrine develop. They create one percent procedure.
This Article interrogates and connects disparate phenomena related to civil litigation, including the recent discovery amendments and the rise of multidistrict litigation. It demonstrates that the elite — those who are deeply steeped in complex, high-stakes litigation — are setting the agenda and determining the rules for how the entire civil litigation game is played. It further argues that the benefits of a one percent procedure system — notably expertise of the participants — are not worth the costs; indeed, that expertise can be detrimental to the design of a civil litigation system.
As in politics and economics, a system that gives too much control to the one percent risks undervaluing and underserving the remaining ninety-nine. Using social and political science, the Article argues that the homogenous policymaking of one percent procedure creates suboptimal results. The Article concludes that the structures giving rise to one percent procedure must be modified and proposes a set of reforms intended to allow the ninety-nine percent representation in, and access to, the process of constructing our shared civil litigation system.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Here are seven papers posted on SSRN in the last month relating to civil procedure issues:
James C. Spindler (University of Texas School of Law; McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin)
Recent scholarship overwhelmingly contends that the fraud on the market securities class action has neither deterrent nor compensatory effect and should be cut back or even abandoned entirely. This scholarship largely focuses on two critiques: circularity, which holds that shareholder class action claimants are suing themselves, making compensation impossible; and diversification, which holds that fraud constitutes a diversifiable risk, such that diversified shareholders both gain and lose from fraud in equal measure and hence are not negatively impacted. These critiques are arguably the most important and widely-used theoretical development of the last two decades in securities law, and enjoy a broad consensus.
Unfortunately, these critiques are wrong. After tracing the evolution of these critiques, this paper demonstrates economically that, despite widespread acceptance, none of the principal claims of these critiques are correct. In particular: fraud on the market does indeed compensate defrauded purchasers despite circularity (under certain conditions, perfectly); and diversified investors do have expected losses from fraud and have incentives to undertake deadweight precaution costs. Further, the fraud on the market remedy deters both precaution costs and, under certain conditions, fraud itself. The critiques are fundamentally flawed, the academic consensus on fraud on the market is incorrect, and the panoply of reform proposals based on these critiques is without foundation. These critiques have fueled a trend of cutbacks and ongoing existential challenges to fraud on the market (as in Halliburton) that, in light of these results, should be rethought.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Suja Thomas’ essay, Redefining Efficiency In Civil Procedure. Suja reviews Brooke Coleman’s recent article, The Efficiency Norm, 56 B.C. L. Rev. 1777 (2015).
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
My latest article, The Rise and Fall of Plausibility Pleading?, has just been published in the Vanderbilt Law Review. It builds on some of my earlier work on pleading (here and here), focusing on the Supreme Court’s post-Iqbal decisions on pleading standards (e.g., Johnson v. City of Shelby; Wood v. Moss; Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. Siracusano). Here’s the abstract:
The Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and its 2009 decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal unleashed a torrent of scholarly reaction. Commentators charged these decisions with adopting a new pleading regime, "plausibility pleading," that upended the notice-pleading approach that had long prevailed in federal court. Whether a complaint could survive a motion to dismiss — it was argued — now depends on whether the court found the complaint plausible, allowing courts to second-guess a complaint’s allegations without any opportunity for discovery or consideration of actual evidence. Lower courts began to cite Twombly and Iqbal at a remarkably high rate, and empirical work revealed their effect on both dismissal rates and litigant behavior.
Although Twombly and Iqbal were troubling on many levels, the rise of a newly restrictive form of plausibility pleading was not inevitable. There was — and still is — a path forward that would retain the notice-pleading approach set forth in the text of the Federal Rules themselves and confirmed by pre-Twombly case law. This Article describes this reading of Twombly and Iqbal, and explains how more recent Supreme Court pleading decisions are consistent with this understanding. It is crucial, however, that these post-Iqbal decisions and the approach to pleading they reflect receive the same attention that accompanied Twombly, Iqbal, and the rise of plausibility pleading. Otherwise the narrative that Twombly and Iqbal compel a more restrictive pleading standard may become further entrenched, compounding the adverse effects of those problematic decisions.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Bryan Lammon (Toledo) has posted Dizzying Gillespie: The Exaggerated Death of the Balancing Approach and the Inescapable Allure of Discretion in Appellate Jurisdiction to SSRN.
In Gillespie v. U.S. Steel Corp., the Supreme Court appeared to endorse a balancing approach to federal appellate jurisdiction, whereby courts could weigh the costs and benefits of an interlocutory appeal in any case. But the Court soon disavowed the balancing approach and today eschews case-by-case determinations of appellate jurisdiction. The common perception, then, is that Gillespie and the balancing approach are dead. But the balancing approach persists in the Courts of Appeals. In a variety of contexts, these courts have relied on the balancing approach to hear appeals. They’ve constructed doctrines based on the balancing approach. And they engage in case-by-case balancing in determining their jurisdiction. Contrary to popular belief, the balancing approach is alive and well in the Courts of Appeals.
The balancing approach’s persistence — seemingly in direct defiance of the Supreme Court’s mandate — suggests that appellate judges cannot resist wielding some discretion when defining their jurisdiction. This allure of discretion poses a challenge to the primary goal of the literature on interlocutory appeals: reform. If reform is to happen, it will likely take the form of categorical rules. But if what the balancing approach’s persistence suggests is true — if appellate judges cannot completely forego using discretion in defining their jurisdiction — that threatens to undermine the certainty, predictability, and ease of application of any rules that reform might develop. I thus propose a largely novel approach to interlocutory appeal reform: a combination of categorical rules and a discretionary catchall.
Joe Seiner has posted on SSRN a draft of his essay, Tailoring Class Actions to the On-Demand Economy, which will be published in the Ohio State Law Journal. Here’s the abstract:
In O’Connor v. Uber, 2015 WL 5138097 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 1, 2015), a federal district court permitted a class-action case to proceed on the question of whether 160,000 drivers were misclassified by their employer as independent contractors rather than employees. The case has garnered widespread interest, making headlines across the country. Yet it represents only one of many class-action cases currently pending against technology companies in the modern economy. Indeed, similar systemic claims have already been brought against Yelp, GrubHub, Handy, Crowdflower, Amazon, and many others.
The courts have largely floundered in their efforts to address the proper scope of class cases brought against corporations in the on-demand economy. This is likely the result of a lack of clarity in this area as well as the unique fact patterns that often arise with technology-sector claims. Nothing has been written on this issue in the academic literature to date, and this paper seeks to fill that void in the scholarship.
Navigating the statutes, case law, and procedural rules, this Essay proposes a workable five-part framework for analyzing systemic claims brought in the technology sector. This paper sets forth a model for the courts and litigants to follow when evaluating the proper scope of these cases. The Essay seeks to spark a dialogue on this important — yet unexplored — area of the law.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Scott Dodson (Hastings) has posted An Opt-In Option for Class Actions
Monday, February 15, 2016
Katherine Macfarlane (University of Idaho College of Law) has posted on SSRN a draft of her article "Shadow Judges: Staff Attorney Adjudication of Prisoner Claims."
Prisoners bring over twenty percent of the civil cases filed in federal district courts, predominantly seeking redress for violations of their civil rights, or release from prison under habeas corpus. Because most prisoners (around 93%) proceed pro se in their federal civil litigation, they are already at a disadvantage. The deck is stacked against prisoner plaintiffs in other systemic ways. Local rules, general orders, and even district courts’ job postings suggest that when a plaintiff is a pro se prisoner, the plaintiff is denied an Article III judge. Judicial tasks that must be performed in prisoners’ cases, from administration to adjudication, are delegated to non-judicial staff. As a result, in the very same court, prisoners’ cases are decided by a court employee who works as part of the court’s “pro se staff,” while all other plaintiffs get an Article III judge (or at least a magistrate judge, if they consent). The Supreme Court’s 2015 Wellness International Network v. Sharif decision drew attention to delegation of Article III claims to non-Article III judges in the bankruptcy realm. There, the Court rigorously considered the impact of the structural error caused by delegation to judges who do not enjoy fixed salaries or life tenure. But delegation of the judicial power in the prisoner litigation context is still hiding in plain sight.
This article is the first to investigate the scope of the delegation to pro se staff and to consider the separation of powers concerns caused by delegation of the judicial power to pro se staff. It argues that local procedure has enabled the delegation, and that it has gone too far. Local procedure crafts rules for prisoner litigation that conflict with federal law, effectively denying access to an Article III judge. When federal courts overreach in this manner, their rulemaking exceeds the limited rulemaking authority Congress has delegated to the judiciary. This local procedure also violates federal policy, which generally disfavors allowing non-judicial actors to perform judicial tasks.
This article concludes with recommendations about how to solve the delegation problem. The strongest solution would be to eliminate the local procedure in question, and the pro se staff it creates. Congress would be required to address the issue directly and nationwide by creating, or not, additional procedure for prisoner litigation. A more moderate approach would publicize the identity of pro se staff as well as the nature of the work the staff undertakes. Pro se staff would come out of the shadows and into public view.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Michael Morley has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, De Facto Class Actions? Injunctive Relief in Election Law, Voting Rights, and Other Constitutional Cases. Here’s the abstract:
When a court holds that a legal provision is unconstitutional; inconsistent with, or preempted by, federal law; or invalid under an agency's organic statute or a framework statute such as the Administrative Procedures Act, the court must decide whether to grant injunctive relief and, if so, how broad that relief should be. In particular, the court must decide whether to issue a Plaintiff-Oriented Injunction or a Defendant-Oriented Injunction. A Plaintiff-Oriented Injunction bars the government defendants from enforcing the challenged provision only against the plaintiffs in the case or affected members of plaintiff organizations. A Defendant-Oriented Injunction, in contrast, completely bars the government defendant from enforcing the challenged provision against anyone in the state or nation.
Many courts tend to award Defendant-Oriented Injunctions in election law and voting rights cases, even when they are not brought as class actions, without recognizing or addressing most of the pertinent issues that choice implicates. Individual plaintiffs typically lack Article III standing to seek relief protecting the rights of third parties not before the court. And such third parties may neither fall within the court’s personal jurisdiction nor wish to challenge the provision at issue. Defendant-Oriented Injunctions in non-class cases also raise asymmetric preclusion concerns, undermine the policy considerations underlying Rule 23, and allow trial courts to enforce their rulings beyond the geographic limits of their jurisdiction.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
A new article by Professors Stephen J. Choi and A.C. Pritchard, SEC Investigations and Securities Class Actions: An Empirical Comparison, has been published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.
Using actions with both an SEC investigation and a class action as our baseline, we compare the targeting of SEC-only investigations with class-action-only lawsuits. Looking at measures of information asymmetry, we find that investors in the market perceive greater information asymmetry following the public announcement of the underlying violation for class-action-only lawsuits compared with SEC-only investigations. Turning to sanctions, we find that the incidence of top officer resignation is greater for class-action-only lawsuits relative to SEC-only investigations. Our findings are consistent with the private enforcement targeting disclosure violations at least as precisely as (if not more so than) SEC enforcement.
A new article, Does the Chief Justice Make Partisan Appointments to Special Courts and Panels?, by political science professor Maxwell Palmer (Boston University), has been published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has the exclusive and independent power to appoint federal judges to various special courts and panels, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the court that oversees all domestic surveillance for national security, including domestic data collection by the National Security Agency (NSA). This article examines the propensity of Chief Justices to appoint co-partisan judges to these panels. Such appointments may serve to produce decisions and policies that align with the Chief Justice's preferences. I use computational simulations to model the appointment decisions made by Chief Justices. I find that there is less than a 1 percent chance that a neutral Chief Justice would appoint as many Republicans to the FISC as have been appointed in the last 36 years. I further show that the Chief Justice is not selecting appointees on other observable judicial characteristics, such as age, experience, gender, senior status, or caseload. These results have important implications for the creation of judicial institutions, the internal politics of the judiciary, legislative delegation, and the powers and oversight of the national security state.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Professor Gary Neustadter of Santa Clara University School of Law has posted on SSRN his article, Randomly Distributed Trial Court Justice: A Case Study and Siren from the Consumer Bankruptcy World.
Between February 24, 2010 and April 23, 2012, Heritage Pacific Financial, L.L.C. (“Heritage”), a debt buyer, mass produced and filed 218 essentially identical adversary proceedings in California bankruptcy courts against makers of promissory notes who had filed Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions. Each complaint alleged Heritage’s acquisition of the notes in the secondary market and alleged the outstanding obligations on the notes to be nondischargeable under the Bankruptcy Code’s fraud exception to the bankruptcy discharge. The notes evidenced loans to California residents, made in 2005 and 2006, which helped finance the purchase, refinancing, or improvement of California residential real property. When issued, the notes were secured by junior consensual liens on the real property, but subsequent foreclosure of senior consensual liens, precipitated by the mid-decade burst of the housing bubble, left the notes unsecured.
This article reports an empirical study of these bankruptcy adversary proceedings. Because the proceedings were essentially identical, they offer a rare laboratory for testing the extent to which our entry-level justice system measures up to our aspirations for “Equal Justice Under Law.” We are unlikely to find many conditions better suited to empirical exploration of that question: (1) civil litigation filed during a relatively brief time span by one plaintiff against 266 defendants (including co-defendant spouses); (2) some defendants defaulting, some defendants appearing pro se, and some represented by an attorney; (3) dispersal of the litigation among forty-seven different bankruptcy court judges, all sitting in one state (and thus, where applicable, required to apply the relevant substantive law of a single state); and (4) legal claims and factual allegations by the plaintiff so nearly identical that each dispute is resolvable on the basis of one obvious and straightforward factual question (reliance by an originating lender on a borrower’s misrepresentations) or on the basis of three less obvious and more complex legal rules (a California statutory limitation on fraud claims and two alternative varieties of a standing defense).
The results in the Heritage adversary proceedings evidence a stunning and unacceptable level of randomly distributed justice at the trial court level, generated as much by the idiosyncratic behaviors of judges, lawyers, and parties as by even handed application of law. We anticipate some randomly distributed justice as the inevitable byproduct of disparities in economic and other resources of the parties and disparities in the knowledge, capabilities, and attitudes of even well-meaning attorneys and judges acting reasonably in an imperfect system. We aspire, nonetheless, to equal justice under law. The findings of this study reflect a departure from that ideal on a scale both larger than we may have expected and larger than we should tolerate.
Hat tip: Jason Kilborn, who had high praise for this article: “The paths and outcomes of these materially identical cases are so different in so many surprising (and often disturbing) ways, the paper offers a really stunning look behind the curtain of our often arbitrary trial-level justice system. . . . The revelations in this paper are a gold mine for civil proceduralists, and it offers a cautionary tale and useful playbook for lawyers (and perhaps judges) in how to make many aspects of our system more effective.”
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
The Nevada Law Journal's current issue publishes a symposium entitled "Through a Glass Starkly: Civil Procedure Re-Assessed." It contains numerous notable articles and essays:
Symposium Introduction: Through A Glass Starkly: Civil Procedure Re-Assessed
Thomas O. Main and Jeffrey W. Stempel
How Atypical Cases Make Bad Rules: A Commentary on the Rulemaking Process
Suja A. Thomas and Dawson Price
Some Specific Concerns with the New General Jurisdiction
Richard D. Freer
Scott v. Harris and the Future of Summary Judgment
Tobias Barrington Wolff
Revisiting the Integration of Law and Fact in Contemporary Federal Civil Litigation
Elizabeth M. Schneider
Reflections of a Recovering Aggregationist
Linda S. Mullenix
The Death with Dignity Ballot Initiative: Narrative Tensions and Jewish Legalities
Bernard H. Mehlman and Jeremy S. Morrison
Judicial Rejection of Transsubstantivity: The FOIA Example
Margaret B. Kwoka
Federal Court Rulemaking and Litigation Reform: An Institutional Approach
Stephen B. Burbank and Sean Farhang
Procedural Constants: How Delay Aversion Shapes Reform
Thomas O. Main
The Grand Poobah and Gorillas in our Midst: Enhancing Civil Justice in the Federal Courts—Swapping Discovery Procedures in the Federal Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure and Other Reforms Like Trial by Agreement
Mark W. Bennett
Friday, January 22, 2016
I'm overcoming my reticence to post twice about one of my articles, because I want to promote the law students at St. Thomas University School of Law who have labored to establish the new St. Thomas Journal of Complex Litigation (JCL). The final version of my article, "Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins: The Illusory 'No-Injury' Class Reaches the Supreme Court," has just been posted on the JCL website. The abstract is available on SSRN here.
The St. Thomas JCL is pleased to accept submissions through ExpressO or Scholastica from judges, attorneys, law faculty, and law students. Information on submissions is here.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
Up on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL this week is Robin Effron’s essay, Anti-Plaintiff Bias in the New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Robin reviews Patricia Hatamyar Moore’s recent article, The Anti-Plaintiff Pending Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Pro-Defendant Composition of the Federal Rulemaking Committees, 83 U. Cin. L. Rev. 1083 (2015).
Monday, December 14, 2015
Three new articles recently posted on SSRN:
1. Christopher Beauchamp (Brooklyn Law School) has posted The First Patent Litigation Explosion, forthcoming in Yale Law Journal.
The twenty-first century “patent litigation explosion” is not unprecedented. In fact, the nineteenth century saw an even bigger surge of patent cases. During that era, the most prolific patent enforcers brought hundreds or even thousands of suits, dwarfing the efforts of today’s leading “trolls.” In 1850, New York City and Philadelphia alone had ten times more patent litigation, per U.S. patent in force, than the entire United States in 2013. Even the absolute quantity of late-nineteenth-century patent cases bears comparison to the numbers filed in recent years: the Southern District of New York in 1880 would have ranked third on the list of districts with the most patent infringement suits filed in 2014 and would have headed the list as recently as 2010.
This Article reveals the forgotten history of the first patent litigation explosion. It first describes the rise of large-scale patent enforcement in the middle of the nineteenth century. It then draws on new data from the archives of two leading federal courts to trace the development of patent litigation from 1840 to 1910 and to outline the scale, composition, and leading causes of the litigation boom. Finally, the Article explores the consequences of this phenomenon for the law and politics of the patent system. The effects of the litigation explosion were profound. The rise of large-scale patent assertion provides a new explanation for patent law’s crucial shift from common law to equity decision making in the middle of the nineteenth century. And at its height, the litigation explosion produced a political backlash that threatened to sweep away the patent system as we know it. Recovering the history of patent law during this formative and turbulent era offers fresh perspectives on the patent reform debates of today.
2. Lee Epstein (Washington University in St. Louis School of Law) and Eric A. Posner (University of Chicago Law School) have posted Supreme Court Justices' Loyalty to the President.
A statistical analysis of voting by Supreme Court justices from 1937-2014 provides evidence of a “loyalty effect”—justices more frequently vote for the government when the president who appointed them is in office than when subsequent presidents lead the government. This effect exists even when subsequent presidents are of the same party as the justices in question. However, the loyalty effect is much stronger for Democratic justices than for Republican justices. This may be because Republican presidents are more ideologically committed than Democratic justices are, leaving less room for demonstrations of loyalty.
3. Bradley Wendel (Cornell University School of Law) has posted Litigation Trolls (NYU Law School Center on Civil Justice Symposium on "Litigation Funding: The Basics and Beyond").
Third-party financing of litigation has been described with a variety of unflattering metaphors. Litigation financers have been likened to gamblers in the courtroom casino, loan sharks, vultures, Wild West outlaws, and busybodies mucking about in the private affairs of others. Now Judge Richard Posner has referred to third-party financers as litigation trolls, an undeniably unflattering comparison to patent trolls. But what it is, if anything, that makes third-party financers “trolls”? Legal claims are, for the most part, freely assignable, the proceeds of claims are assignable, and various strangers to the underlying lawsuit, including liability insurers and plaintiffs’ contingency-fee counsel, are permitted to have an economic interest in the outcome of the litigation. On one view, therefore, third-party litigation investment is just another innovative financial product that enables risk to be carved up and allocated more efficiently. Life insurance, attorney contingent fees, and derivative contracts on exchange-traded commodities were all formerly regarded with extreme suspicion, but are now widely accepted. But people still hate patent trolls. So whether litigation funding is some kind of conceptual anomaly is an important question because, as it happens, Posner’s dictum coincides with a public-relations campaign by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to stigmatize third-party litigation financing and saddle the industry with new and burdensome regulations. This short paper evaluates the conceptual critique of litigation financing by comparison with two other areas in which it is claimed that some form of financing “just doesn’t sit right” in light of the nature and function of the legal system – patent trolling and contributions to judicial election campaigns.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Paula Hannaford Agor, Scott E. Graves, and Shelley Spacek Miller, all of the National Center for State Courts, have published on SSRN their study, The Landscape of Civil Litigation in State Courts.
The Landscape of Civil Litigation of State Courts examined case characteristics and outcomes for civil cases disposed during a one-year interval from all courts exercising jurisdiction over civil cases in 10 urban counties in the United States. This report is the first significant multi-jurisdiction study of civil caseloads since the 1992 Civil Justice Survey of State Courts, and is more comprehensive than the 1992 study insofar that it examined the entire civil caseload rather than just cases filed in general jurisdiction courts. The Landscape dataset consisted of 925,344 cases, which reflects approximately 5% of civil caseloads nationally.
Key findings: more than half of the Landscape cases were low-value debt collection, landlord/tenant, and small claims cases; three-quarters of the judgments entered in the Landscape cases were $5,200 or less; most cases were resolved through an administrative process rather than an adversarial proceeding; and at least one party was self-represented in more than three-quarters of the cases. These findings offer a dramatically changed picture of civil caseloads compared to two decades ago and to perceptions held by many civil trial lawyers and judges.