Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles (No. 11-1450), covered earlier here. The Court concludes that removal under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) is proper even if the named plaintiff in a state court class action stipulates that the class will not seek aggregate damages in excess of CAFA’s $5 million threshold.
Justice Breyer’s opinion (a quick read at 7 pages) emphasizes that—prior to class certification—the named plaintiff’s stipulation is not binding on the other class members:
[A] plaintiff who files a proposed class action cannot legally bind members of the proposed class before the class is certified. See Smith v. Bayer Corp., 564 U. S. ___, ___ (2011)…. Because his precertification stipulation does not bind anyone but himself, Knowles has not reduced the value of the putative class members’ claims. For jurisdictional purposes, our inquiry is limited to examining the case “as of the time it was filed in state court,” Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections v. Schacht, 524 U. S. 381, 390 (1998). At that point, Knowles lacked the authority to concede the amount-in-controversy issue for the absent class members. [Slip Op. 4]
Justice Breyer is more sympathetic to a different argument against CAFA jurisdiction. He writes:
The strongest counterargument, we believe, takes a syllogistic form: First, this complaint contains a presently nonbinding stipulation that the class will seek damages that amount to less than $5 million. Second, if the state court eventually certifies that class, the stipulation will bind those who choose to remain as class members. Third, if the state court eventually insists upon modification of the stipulation (thereby permitting class members to obtain more than $5 million), it will have in effect created a new, different case. Fourth, CAFA, however, permits the federal court to consider only the complaint that the plaintiff has filed, i.e., this complaint, not a new, modified (or amended) complaint that might eventually emerge. [Slip Op. 5-6]
But he is ultimately unpersuaded:
Our problem with this argument lies in its conclusion. We do not agree that CAFA forbids the federal court to consider, for purposes of determining the amount in controversy, the very real possibility that a nonbinding, amount-limiting, stipulation may not survive the class certification process. This potential outcome does not result in the creation of a new case not now before the federal court. To hold otherwise would, for CAFA jurisdictional purposes, treat a nonbinding stipulation as if it were binding, exalt form over substance, and run directly counter to CAFA’s primary objective: ensuring “Federal court consideration of interstate cases of national importance.” §2(b)(2), 119 Stat. 5. It would also have the effect of allowing the subdivision of a $100 million action into 21 just-below-$5-million state-court actions simply by including nonbinding stipulations; such an outcome would squarely conflict with the statute’s objective. [Slip Op. 6]
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Professor Simona Grossi (Loyola Los Angeles) has posted on SSRN a draft of her article, Federal Question Jurisdiction: The Compass, the Maze and the Trap. Here’s the abstract:
On February 20, 2013, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Gunn v. Minton. There the Court revisited the scope of statutory “arising under” jurisdiction in the context of a legal malpractice suit premised on alleged attorney errors committed in a prior patent litigation. The significance of the decision transcends the specific context in which it arose. Although Gunn involved patent law arising under jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §1338, that jurisdictional standard is interpreted in precisely the same manner as the identically worded §1331 standard. Hence, the decision in Gunn applies to a full range of federal question cases in which a federal issue is embedded in a state-law claim. In addition, Gunn provides insight into the ongoing clash between principle and docket-management concerns that has become so characteristic of Supreme Court decisions in the realm of procedure.
The Gunn opinion was much anticipated by the legal community since prior decisions by the Court had generated considerable confusion as to the scope of arising under jurisdiction in so-called “federal-ingredient” cases. Some commentators hoped that the Court would adopt the creation test as the exclusive measure of jurisdiction. Others hoped for a clarification of the federal-ingredient test. Still others, like this author, hoped that the Court would redirect the jurisdictional analysis to the traditional fundamental principles that once animated federal question jurisdiction. As I explain in my article, everyone will be disappointed by the result.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Here’s some more coverage of last week’s Supreme Court decision in Gunn v. Minton, which addresses Grable and federal question jurisdiction:
- Prof. Josh Blackman (South Texas)
- Prof. Rodger Citron (Touro), Justia
- Prof. Ronald Mann (Columbia), SCOTUSblog
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Gunn v. Minton, covered earlier here and here. The case revisits the recurring problem of when a federal law ingredient in a state law cause of action is sufficient for federal question jurisdiction (cases "arising under" federal law). It's a pretty quick turnaround--oral argument was on January 16.
Chief Justice Roberts authors the opinion, which endorses and applies the test developed eight years ago in Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Mfg., 545 U. S. 308 (2005). Here’s one colorful passage on Grable [Slip Op. 6], which the Chief distills into a four-part test:
[E]ven where a claim finds its origins in state rather than federal law—as Minton’s legal malpractice claim indisputably does—we have identified a “special and small category” of cases in which arising under jurisdiction still lies. Empire HealthChoice Assurance, Inc. v. McVeigh, 547 U. S. 677, 699 (2006). In outlining the contours of this slim category, we do not paint on a blank canvas. Unfortunately, the canvas looks like one that Jackson Pollock got to first. See 13D C. Wright, A. Miller, E. Cooper, & R. Freer, Federal Practice and Procedure §3562, pp. 175–176 (3d ed. 2008) (reviewing general confusion on question).
In an effort to bring some order to this unruly doctrine several Terms ago, we condensed our prior cases into the following inquiry: Does the “state-law claim necessarily raise a stated federal issue, actually disputed and substantial, which a federal forum may entertain without disturbing any congressionally approved balance of federal and state judicial responsibilities”? Grable, 545 U. S., at 314. That is, federal jurisdiction over a state law claim will lie if a federal issue is: (1) necessarily raised, (2) actually disputed, (3) substantial, and (4) capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress. Where all four of these requirements are met, we held, jurisdiction is proper because there is a “serious federal interest in claiming the advantages thought to be inherent in a federal forum,” which can be vindicated without disrupting Congress’s intended division of labor between state and federal courts. Id., at 313–314.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in Gunn v. Minton—the latest in the Court’s long-running struggle to define when a federal law ingredient in a state law cause of action is sufficient for federal question jurisdiction (cases "arising under" federal law).
Here’s the oral argument transcript, which includes this comment from Justice Scalia [p.16 of the transcript]:
"Well, I like -- I like bright-line rules. In fact -- you know, I thought Holmes had it right. It doesn't arise under unless the cause of action is a Federal cause of action."
Justice Thomas is on record as being receptive to the so-called Holmes approach (in his Grable concurrence, 545 U.S. at 320-21). He is not alone, apparently.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in The Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles (No. 11-1450), which considers whether plaintiffs can block CAFA removal by stipulating that the class is seeking damages below the $5 million threshold for CAFA diversity jurisdiction. Check out the oral argument transcript.
For additional coverage:
- Associated Press (Mark Sherman)
- Bloomberg (Greg Stohr)
- How Appealing (Howard Bashman)
- National Law Journal (Tony Mauro)
- N.Y. Times (Adam Liptak)
- Reuters (Jonathan Stempel)
- SCOTUSblog (Prof. Debra Lyn Bassett, Southwestern Law School)
- @SCOTUSHUMOR (Prof. Jay Wexler, Boston University)
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Today the Supreme Court issued an order in United States v. Windsor (docket no. 12-307) appointing Prof. Vicki Jackson (Harvard) “to brief and argue this case, as amicus curiae, in support of the positions that the Executive Branch’s agreement with the court below that DOMA is unconstitutional deprives this Court of jurisdiction to decide this case, and that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives lacks Article III standing in this case.”
For more coverage, check out Lyle Denniston (SCOTUSblog).
Monday, October 8, 2012
Did the Federal Circuit depart from the standard this Court articulated in Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308 (2005), for "arising under" jurisdiction of the federal courts under 28 U.S.C. § 1338, when it held that state law legal malpractice claims against trial lawyers for their handling of underlying patent matters come within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts? Because the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals involving patents, are state courts and federal courts strictly following the Federal Circuit's mistaken standard, thereby magnifying its jurisdictional error and sweeping broad swaths of state law claims - which involve no actual patents and have no impact on actual patent rights - into the federal courts?
You can find a link to the Texas Supreme Court’s opinion below and other information about the case at SCOTUSblog’s case file.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in The Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles (11-1450). Here’s the question presented in the petition for certiorari:
Last Term, this Court held that in a putative class action “the mere proposal of a class . . . could not bind persons who were not parties.” Smith v. Bayer Corp., 131 S. Ct. 2368, 2382 (2011). In light of that holding, the question presented is:
When a named plaintiff attempts to defeat a defendant’s right of removal under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 by filing with a class action complaint a “stipulation” that attempts to limit the damages he “seeks” for the absent putative class members to less than the $5 million threshold for federal jurisdiction, and the defendant establishes that the actual amount in controversy, absent the “stipulation,” exceeds $5 million, is the “stipulation” binding on absent class members so as to destroy federal jurisdiction?
You can find links to the lower court opinion and the cert-stage briefing at SCOTUSblog's casefile.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a number of cases. Some of these may be of particular interest:
Comcast Corp. v. Behrend (No. 11-864), with certiorari limited to the following question: Whether a district court may certify a class action without resolving whether the plaintiff class has introduced admissible evidence, including expert testimony, to show that the case is susceptible to awarding damages on a class-wide basis.
Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk (No. 11-1059), which presents the question: Whether a case becomes moot, and thus beyond the judicial power of Article III, when the lone plaintiff receives an offer from the defendants to satisfy all of the plaintiff ’s claims.
Another case looks on the surface like it’s about trademark law, but the question presented has a federal courts angle. Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc. (11-982) presents the question: Whether a federal district court is divested of Article III jurisdiction over a party’s challenge to the validity of a federally registered trademark if the registrant promises not to assert its mark against the party’s then-existing commercial activities.
Friday, March 9, 2012
In State of Nevada v. Bank of America, No. 12-15005 (Mar. 2, 2012), the Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction under either the Class Action Fairness Act or Section 1331 (under Grable & Sons):
The State of Nevada . . .filed this parens patriae lawsuit against Bank of America . . . in Clark County [Nevada] District Court. Nevada alleges that Bank of America misled Nevada consumers about the terms and operation of its home mortgage modification and foreclosure processes, in violation of the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 598.0903-.0999. Nevada also alleges that Bank of America violated an existing consent judgment (“Consent Judgment”) in a prior case between Nevada and several of Bank of America’s subsidiaries, entered in Clark County District Court.
Bank of America removed this action to federal district court, asserting federal subject matter jurisdiction as either a “class action” or “mass action” under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), and as arising under federal law, 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Denying Nevada’s motion to remand, the federal district court concluded that it has jurisdiction over this action as a CAFA “class action,” but not as a “mass action,” and that it also has federal question jurisdiction because resolving the state claims will require an interpretation of federal law.
We granted Nevada’s request for leave to appeal the district court’s denial of its motion to remand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1453(c)(1). We conclude that because parens patriae actions are not removable under CAFA, and the action does not otherwise satisfy CAFA’s “mass action” requirements, the district court lacks jurisdiction under CAFA. We also exercise our interlocutory appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1453(c) to review the district court’s determination that it has federal question jurisdiction because the complaint references the federal Home Affordable Mortgage Program and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. We conclude that the district court lacks federal question jurisdiction [citing Grable & Sons]. Because there is no basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction, this case must be remanded to Nevada state court.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Lots of coverage on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which is being argued today:
- Kenneth Anderson (Volokh Conspiracy)
- Lyle Denniston (SCOTUSblog)
- Jonathan Hafetz (ABA Preview)
- Julian Ku (Point of Law)
- Juan Mendez (Opinio Juris)
- David Savage (Los Angeles Times)
- Nina Totenberg (NPR)
- Peter Weiss (New York Times)
- David Weissbrodt (Point of Law)
- Stephen Wermiel (SCOTUSblog)
One issue that isn’t squarely raised by the questions presented is whether the Alien Tort Statute applies to claims brought by one alien against another (as in Kiobel). Amanda Frost’s Academic Round-up for SCOTUSblog covers an essay by Anthony Bellia and Bradford Clark, which argues that the Alien Tort Statute applies only to claims brought by an alien against a U.S. citizen. Marco Simons has a response on Concurring Opinions.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Mims v. Arrow Financial Services LLC (covered earlier here), which considers whether federal-question jurisdiction exists under 28 U. S. C. §1331 for claims brought against telemarketers under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA). The provision of the TCPA that created a private cause of action refers to actions that would be brought in state court. See 47 U. S. C. §227(b)(3) (“A person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State . . . an action based on a violation of this subsection . . . .”).
In an opinion by Justice Ginsburg, the Supreme Court holds that federal-question jurisdiction is proper under §1331. From the opinion [Slip Op. at 2]:
The question presented is whether Congress’ provision for private actions to enforce the TCPA renders state courts the exclusive arbiters of such actions. We have long recognized that “[a] suit arises under the law that creates the cause of action.” American Well Works Co. v. Layne & Bowler Co., 241 U. S. 257, 260 (1916). Beyond doubt, the TCPA is a federal law that both creates the claim Mims has brought and supplies the substantive rules that will govern the case. We find no convincing reason to read into the TCPA’s permissive grant of jurisdiction to state courts any barrier to the U. S. district courts’ exercise of the general federal-question jurisdiction they have possessed since 1875.
In particular, Justice Ginsburg notes [Slip Op. at 11]: “Title 47 U. S. C. §227(b)(3) does not state that a private plaintiff may bring an action under the TCPA ‘only’ in state court, or ‘exclusively’ in state court.”
Friday, December 9, 2011
With apologies to Schoolhouse Rock for the title of this post, President Obama has signed the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011, covered earlier here. The law contains many significant provisions regarding federal diversity jurisdiction, removal and remand, and venue. If you’re keeping score, it amends 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1391, 1404, 1441, 1446, and 1453; repeals 28 U.S.C. § 1392; and enacts new code sections 28 U.S.C. §§ 1390 and 1455.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
This week Congress passed the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011 (H.R. 394), although it is still awaiting the President's signature. It’s a very important piece of legislation that will be significant for academics and practitioners alike.
Prawfsblawg’s Howard Wasserman (Florida International) has posted a summary of the final bill that was circulated by Arthur Hellman (Pittsburgh). If you want to keep tabs on the bill, check out the Bill Summary & Status here.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Yesterday a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a 2-1 decision that appears to create (or at least deepen) a circuit split over the citizenship of national banks for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. The case is Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. WMR e-PIN LLC, No. 09-3800, 2011 WL 3862589 (Sept. 2, 2011).
Here’s some background: Under 28 U.S.C. § 1348, “[a]ll national banking associations shall . . . be deemed citizens of the States in which they are respectively located.” In Wachovia Bank v. Schmidt, 546 U.S. 303 (2006), the Supreme Court rejected the notion that such a national bank is “located” in every state where it has a branch office, holding instead that a “a national bank, for § 1348 purposes, is a citizen of the State in which its main office, as set forth in its articles of association, is located.” Id. at 307.
The Wachovia decision acknowledged but did not directly confront the question of whether, for purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a national bank is also a citizen of the state where it has its principal place of business (PPB). See id.at 317 n.9. That question could be significant if the bank’s PPB is in a different state than the “main office” listed in its article of association. That’s precisely the issue in Wells Fargo. The party opposite Wells Fargo was a California citizen, and it argued that diversity jurisdiction was lacking because Wells Fargo’s PPB is in California, even though the “main office” set forth in its articles of association is in South Dakota.
The majority opinion in Wells Fargo, authored by Judge Wollman, concludes that a national bank is not a citizen of the state where it’s PPB is located for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. Judge Wollman acknowledges that this holding is contrary to decisions from other circuits such as Horton v. Bank One, 387 F.3d 426 (5th Cir. 2004), and Firstar Bank v. Faul, 253 F.3d 982 (7th Cir.2001), although he asserts that the Seventh Circuit changed course on this issue in Hicklin Engineering v Bartell, 439 F.3d 346 (7th Cir. 2006).
Judge Murphy dissents, arguing that a national bank like Wells Fargo can be a citizen of two states: the state of its PPB and the state where its main office, as listed in its articles of association, is located.
(Hat Tip: How Appealing)
Monday, July 11, 2011
The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Westwood Apex v. Contreras (No. 11-55362), 2011 WL 1744960, considers which kinds of defendants may remove a class action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act’s removal provision (28 U.S.C. § 1453(b)). The opinion by Judge Milan Smith begins:
The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), Pub. L. No. 109-2, 119 Stat. 4, confers federal jurisdiction over class action lawsuits where the amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000 and the adversaries are minimally diverse. When a class action satisfying these conditions is filed in state court, Section 5 of CAFA provides that “such action may be removed by any defendant without the consent of all defendants.” 28 U.S.C. § 1453(b). In this appeal, we address whether CAFA Section 5, 28 U.S.C. § 1453(b), allows a party joined to an action as a defendant to a counterclaim (an additional counterclaim defendant) to remove the case to federal court. We hold that § 1453(b) does not permit additional counterclaim defendants to remove an action to federal court, and we affirm the district court’s decision to remand this case to state court.
The court explains:
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Last week the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Mims v. Arrow Financial Services LLC (No. 10-1195), which presents the question: Did Congress divest the federal district courts of their federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 over private actions brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act?
SCOTUSblog’s case file is available here, which contains links to the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion below and the cert-stage briefs.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Professor Jennifer Johnson (Lewis & Clark) has posted on SSRN a draft of her article, Securities Class Actions in State Court, which is forthcoming in the University of Cincinnati Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
Over the past two decades, Congress has gradually usurped the power of state regulators to enforce state securities laws and the power of state courts to adjudicate securities disputes. This Paper evaluates the impact of Congressional preemption and preclusion upon state court securities class actions. Utilizing a proprietary database, the Paper presents and analyzes a comprehensive dataset of 1500 class actions filed in state courts from 1996-2010. The Paper first examines the permissible space for state securities class actions in light of Congressional preclusion and preemption embodied in the 1998 Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act (SLUSA) and Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). The Paper then presents the state class action filing data detailing the numbers, classifications, and jurisdictions of state class action cases that now occupy the state forums. First, as expected, the data indicates that there are few traditional stock-drop securities class actions litigated in state court today. Second, in spite of the debate over the impact of SLUSA and CAFA on 1933 Act claims, very few plaintiffs attempt to litigate these matters in state court. Finally, the number of state court class actions involving merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions is skyrocketing and now surpasses such claims filed in federal court. Moreover, various class counsel file their M & A complaints in multiple jurisdictions. The increasingly large number of multi-forum M&A class action suits burden the defendants and their counsel, the judiciary and even plaintiffs’ lawyers themselves. The paper concludes that absent effective state co-ordination, further Congressional preemption is possible, if not likely.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a decision in In Re Crystal Power Co., Ltd. (No. 11-40115). In March the same panel had issued a writ of mandamus instructing the district court to remand the case to state court (2011 WL 944371). The more recent decision (2011 WL 1833874) withdraws that order and denies the mandamus petition. With some very robust footnotes omitted, Judge Patrick Higginbotham writes:
We are now persuaded that the petition does not meet the stringent demands of the All Writs Act for extraordinary relief. Supreme Court precedent does not ordinarily allow mandamus review of district court decisions that, while not immediately appealable, can be reviewed at some juncture. The Court has instructed that our review of an erroneous refusal to remand must await appeal from a final judgment, even when this forces the parties to submit to proceedings before a tribunal that lacks competent jurisdiction over their dispute. To the same end, the Court has advised that the ordinary costs of trial and appeal are not a sufficient burden to warrant mandamus relief.
Three questions remain. First, whether a zone of review under the All Writs Act remains for cases where post-judgment review of an interlocutory order is an illusion—where the promise of review at some later time is not meaningful. Second, whether mandamus may remain available when delay would cause greater hardship than the normal cost of trying a case to judgment. Third, whether the precedent of this circuit can be defended on these grounds.
Since Crystal Power has not proffered any reason why post-judgment review would be ineffective or why the cost of delay would be atypical, we can leave these questions to another day.
In footnote 5, Judge Higginbotham notes that Supreme Court decisions on the propriety of mandamus relief in this situation "cast a heavy shadow on certain case law of this circuit. See, e.g., In re Hot-Hed, Inc., 477 F.3d 320, 322 (5th Cir. 2007) (granting mandamus where district court’s denial of remand was based on clearly erroneous assertion of federal question jurisdiction); In re Dutile, 935 F.2d 61, 63–64 (5th Cir. 1991) (granting mandamus where district court denied remand on an explicitly non-removable claim). Adding to the confusion, other circuits have held that when a district court denies a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, rather than a motion to remand, mandamus relief may be available. See, e.g., Bell v. Sellevold, 713 F.2d 1396, 1402–05 (8th Cir. 1983); First Jersey Sec., Inc. v. Bergen, 605 F.2d 690, 700–02 (3d Cir. 1979); United States v. Boe, 543 F.2d 151, 157–61 (C.C.P.A. 1976); BancOhio Corp. v. Fox, 516 F.2d 29, 32–33 (6th Cir. 1975); Erie Bank v. U.S. Dist. Ct. for the Dist. of Colo., 362 F.2d 539, 540–41 (10th Cir. 1966)."