Friday, March 29, 2013

Appellate Jurisdiction and Guantanamo

This week the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review denied petitions for writs of mandamus filed by the ACLU (order here) and a group of several media outlets (order here) in connection with the military commission trials at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The petitions were filed under the All Writs Act [28 U.S.C. § 1651(a)], and challenged a protective order issued by the Military Commission Judge. Among other things, the protective order authorizes automatic closure of proceedings and sealing of records whenever classified information is disclosed, even if the information is publicly known, and prohibits personal testimony by the defendants about their experiences while in U.S. custody.

The Court’s order does not address the merits of the petitioners’ arguments, or whether the All Writs Act is properly invoked in this context. Rather, it concludes that the case “is not ripe for our review.” From the order regarding the media petitioners:

This controversy is not ripe for our review. The judge has issued a protective order in accordance with Military Commission Act (MCA) Sec. 949p-3, 10 U.S.C. §949p-3. Petitioners have not alleged a single instance where the Military Commission Judge has improperly applied Amended Protective Order #1 to deny Petitioners access to information, sufficient to warrant the sort of extraordinary relief petitioners seek. See MCA Sec. 949d(c). See generally Clapper v. Amnesty International, 133 S. Ct. 1138 (2013); Cheney v. United States, 542 U.S. 367 (2004); Am. Civil Liberties Union v. U.S. Dep’t of Def., 628 F.3d 612 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (discussing classified information and Freedom of Information Act).

We emphasize the limited scope of our holding. We are not ruling on the merits of the parties claim that there is writ jurisdiction under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a).

Judge Silliman authored a concurring opinion urging the Court to address whether it has jurisdiction under the All Writs Act and arguing that 28 U.S.C. § 2241(e)(2) “explicitly stripped our Court of such jurisdiction.”

Steve Vladeck (American University) has more coverage at Lawfare.


March 29, 2013 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SCOTUS Oral Argument in U.S. v. Windsor

Today the Supreme Court heard oral argument in United States v. Windsor, the first of two cases on same-sex marriage. The transcript and audio are available on the Supreme Court’s website.

As covered earlier (e.g., here, here, and here), Windsor presents some interesting issues relating to jurisdiction and Article III standing, to which the Court devoted the first half (almost an hour's worth) of the oral argument . 


March 27, 2013 in Federal Courts, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend

Today the Supreme Court decided Comcast Corp. v. Behrend (No. 11-864), a case challenging a Third Circuit decision affirming certification of an antitrust class action. For our earlier coverage, see here and here. By a 5-to-4 vote, the Court concluded that the class action did not satisfy Rule 23(b)(3). Justice Scalia writes the majority opinion. Here’s an excerpt [Slip Op. 6-7]:

Respondents’ class action was improperly certified under Rule 23(b)(3). By refusing to entertain arguments against respondents’ damages model that bore on the propriety of class certification, simply because those arguments would also be pertinent to the merits determination, the Court of Appeals ran afoul of our precedents requiring precisely that inquiry. And it is clear that, under the proper standard for evaluating certification, respondents’ model falls far short of establishing that damages are capable of measurement on a classwide basis. Without presenting another methodology, respondents cannot show Rule 23(b)(3) predominance: Questions of individual damage calculations will inevitably overwhelm questions common to the class.

The dissenting opinion is co-authored by Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, and joined by Sotomayor and Kagan. Among other things, the dissenters argue that case should have been DIG’ed—that the writ of certiorari should have been dismissed as improvidently granted. [See Dissenting Op. 1-2] They note that the Supreme Court had reformulated the question presented when granting certiorari, but that “our reformulated question was inapt” given Comcast’s failure to preserve certain issues.Turning to Rule 23, the dissenting opinion states:

While the Court’s decision to review the merits of the District Court’s certification order is both unwise and unfair to respondents, the opinion breaks no new ground on the standard for certifying a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). In particular, the decision should not be read to require, as a prerequisite to certification, that damages attributable to a classwide injury be measurable “‘on a class-wide basis.’” See ante, at 2–3 (acknowledging Court’s dependence on the absence of contest on the matter in this case); Tr. of Oral Arg. 41. To gain class-action certification under Rule 23(b)(3), the named plaintiff must demonstrate, and the District Court must find, “that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members.” This predominance requirement is meant to “tes[t] whether proposed classes are sufficiently cohesive to warrant adjudication by representation,” Amchem Products, Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 623 (1997), but it scarcely demands commonality as to all questions. See 7AA C. Wright, A. Miller, & M. Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure §1778, p. 121 (3d ed. 2005) (hereinafter Wright, Miller, & Kane). In particular, when adjudication of questions of liability common to the class will achieve economies of time and expense, the predominance standard is generally satisfied even if damages are not provable in the aggregate. See Advisory Committee’s 1966 Notes on Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 23, 28 U. S. C. App., p. 141 (“[A] fraud perpetrated on numerous persons by the use of similar misrepresentations may be an appealing situation for a class action, and it may remain so despite the need, if liability is found, for separate determination of the damages suffered by individuals within the class.”); 7AA Wright, Miller, & Kane §1781, at 235–237. Recognition that individual damages calculations do not preclude class certification under Rule 23(b)(3) is well nigh universal. 


March 27, 2013 in Class Actions, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SCOTUS Oral Argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry

Today the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the first of two cases on same-sex marriage. The argument transcript and audio are available on the Supreme Court’s website.

As covered earlier (e.g., here, here, and here), the case presents some interesting Article III standing issues, which received a good amount of attention during the argument.


March 26, 2013 in Federal Courts, In the News, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Agenda Book for the Civil Rules Advisory Committee's April 2013 Meeting

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has posted the agenda book for the upcoming meeting of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules (April 11-12). Action items include:

  • Report of Duke Conference Subcommittee: Proposal to Recommend Publication, Rules 1, 4, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36, and 37
  • Revisions of Rule 37(e) as approved for publication


(Hat Tip: Emery Lee)

March 25, 2013 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Plaintiffs' Mass Tort Lawyer Disbarred in Kentucky

In an opinion released March 21, 2013, the Kentucky Supreme Court has "permanently disbarred" plaintiffs' mass tort lawyer Stan Chesley from practicing law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  Chesley may face reciprocal disbarment from his home state of Ohio, where he is married to a federal judge.

The Kentucky Supreme Court held that Chesley was guilty of eight ethical violations relating to the collection of an "unreasonable" fee in connection with the fen-phen litigation.

Hat tip: ABA Weekly Journal.


March 24, 2013 in Current Affairs, Mass Torts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Moore on Confronting the Myth of "State Court Class Action Abuses"

In the shameless self-promotion category . . .

I have posted on SSRN a draft of my article "Confronting the Myth of 'State Court Class Action Abuses' Through an Understanding of Heuristics and a Plea for More Statistics."  The paper has been accepted for publication in the UMKC Law Review, Volume 82, No. 1 (2013).


      The Supreme Court heard five cases involving class actions this term.  One of these cases, Standard Fire Insurance Company v. Knowles, brought the Class Action Fairness Act to the Court for the first time.  Petitioner insurance company and its numerous business-interest amici repeatedly claimed before the Court that "state court class action abuses" should justify removal of the case (which was based on state law and filed in state court) to federal court. 

      The charge of "state court class action abuses" echoes the same rhetoric that CAFA's supporters used in their ultimately successful efforts to pass the legislation.  Hyperbolic assertions of a "flood of state court class actions" in which plaintiffs' lawyers were "abusing" the limits of diversity jurisdiction to keep cases in state court, and state courts were "abusing" the class action device by granting "drive-by" class certifications, fill the pages of CAFA's legislative history.

        Unfortunately for the quality of the debate, then and now, no current data and very little past data about class actions are readily and publicly available, for federal or state courts.  In other words, courts in the United States offer no data on such basic questions as the number of cases filed as class actions, the percentage of cases designated as class actions that are eventually certified as such, or the ultimate disposition of such cases.  

        To be sure, the herculean efforts of the Federal Judicial Center, the California Office of Court Research, and private academic researchers have resulted in the compilation of databases that provided partial answers to some of these questions.  But these limited efforts are well beyond the resources and skill available to the public, the press, and even to most policy-makers and the Court. 

      What does the lack of baseline data on class actions mean?  A wealth of psychological research has shown that human cognition and judgment are subject to a variety of heuristics and biases.  For example, the mantra of "state court class action abuses" has a "priming effect" making it easier to see or imagine such "abuses."  Further, the mind automatically attempts to create a coherent story out of the information it has, even if that information is incomplete or invalid.  This manifests itself in many ways, including the "anchoring effect," the "availability heuristic," and the "representativeness heuristic," which are exploited by those spreading the myth of "state court class action abuses."  Even if a person knew the base rate of class action filings or dispositions, for example, the "representativeness heuristic" would make it difficult to avoid making judgments about class actions based on negative stereotypical anecdotes.  Without such base rates available at all, it will be almost impossible.  One can only hope that the Court will resist the lure of class action mythology as it considers the five class action cases pending this term.


March 22, 2013 in Class Actions, MDLs, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SCOTUS Decision in Standard Fire Insurance v. Knowles

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]


March 19, 2013 in Class Actions, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Goldberg on Article III standing in the SCOTUS same-sex marriage cases (Perry and Windsor)

The University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online has a featured essay by Suzanne B. Goldberg (Columbia) entitled Article III Double-Dipping: Proposition 8's Sponsors, BLAG, and the Government's Interest. It begins:

A major procedural question looms over the two marriage cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court: Do the parties who seek to defend the marriage-recognition bans have standing to advance their views? The question arises because the governments that would have Article III standing, by virtue of their enforcement authority, are not defending their own laws. Instead, in Hollingsworth v. Perry, private parties are attempting to take up the state government’s mantle to defend Proposition 8, which withdrew marriage rights from same-sex couples in California. And in United States v. Windsor, five members of the House of Representatives leadership seek to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in the name of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group. Not only are these parties not clearly authorized by the appropriate legislative bodies to pursue such actions, but there are two more fundamental difficulties with the Perry petitioners’ and BLAG’s claims to standing. First, each presents the Article III double-dipping problem to which this Essay’s title refers. The problem arises because there are parties asserting the government’s interest and, therefore, the government’s standing, on both sides of each case. The second problem arises from the premise, essential to the standing claims of both the Perry petitioners and BLAG, that governments can confer their Article III standing on private actors and subsets of legislators. The difficulty is that the government’s standing derives from its interest in enforcing its laws, which is not an interest shared by either group. In this essay, I argue that both the double-dipping problem and the limits on a government’s ability to transfer its standing to private actors in this context leave Proposition 8’s sponsors and BLAG without Article III standing to press their positions. Nor can either group of would-be defenders demonstrate the “concrete and particularized” stake it would need to have standing in its own right rather than on the government’s behalf. In short, neither party can answer the Supreme Court’s question in the affirmative.


March 14, 2013 in Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship, Standing, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Erbsen on Cheng on Aggregate Litigation and Sampling

Now available on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is an essay by Allan Erbsen (Minnesota) entitled Seeking Accuracy in Aggregate in Litigation. It reviews a recent article by Edward Cheng (Vanderbilt), When 10 Trials Are Better Than 1000: An Evidentiary Perspective on Trial Sampling, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. 955 (2012).


March 13, 2013 in Recent Scholarship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2012 Annual Report on Federal Courts Released

The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has just released its 2012 Annual Report of the Director.  This report contains detailed statistics for all federal courts for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012.

As reported earlier here, civil case filings fell 4% to 278,442, with cases involving diversity jurisdiction falling 15% from the previous year.


March 12, 2013 in Federal Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Stanford Journal of Complex Litigation: Call for Articles and Peer Reviewers

See announcement below:

The Stanford Journal of Complex Litigation is seeking articles for Volume 2 of the Journal. The Journal publishes articles and essays that are timely and make a significant, original contribution to the field of complex litigation. The Journal publishes scholarship on a range of topics including the rules of civil procedure, aggregate litigation, mass torts, jurisdictional disputes, complex litigation reform, and transnational litigation. Published articles not only address issues pertinent to complex litigation practice, but also comment on theoretical aspects of the law.

The Stanford Journal of Complex Litigation prefers to accept submissions through ExpressO. However, submissions may also be sent directly to [email protected]. All submissions should be in Microsoft Word format. PDF and other text formats are not accepted. The text and citations of submissions should generally conform to The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed. 2010). Submissions should also include a brief abstract and a resume or CV. Cover letters are not required but are permitted. The Stanford Journal of Complex Litigation has a word limit of 30,000 words (including footnotes), and a preference for 25,000 words or fewer.

The Stanford Journal of Complex Litigation is a peer-reviewed journal, meaning all final decisions regarding publication offers are made by a panel of anonymous faculty reviewers. To that end, the Journal is continually looking for more peer reviewers. If you are interested in serving as a reviewer, please contact: [email protected].


March 11, 2013 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grossi on Gunn v. Minton

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. 

Continue reading

March 6, 2013 in Recent Decisions, Recent Scholarship, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Civil Procedure Will Be on February 2015 Multistate Bar Examination

Perhaps I should have titled this post "Lifetime Employment for Civil Procedure Professors Announced."

The National Conference of Bar Examiners has announced that Civil Procedure will be included as the seventh topic tested on the Multistate Bar Examination effective with the February 2015 administration.

With the addition of Civil Procedure, the MBE will continue to have 200 questions, 190 of which are scored (10 are unscored pretest items).  The difference will be that there will be 28 Contracts items, and 27 items each for the remaining six topics (Civ Pro, Con Law, Crim Law and Pro, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts), for a total of 190 tested questions. 

As of July 2013, every state except Louisiana will administer the MBE.

The "test specifications" (I assume this means the subjects possibly tested by) MBE Civil Procedure items will be announced no later than June 30, 2013.


March 6, 2013 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Marcus on the History of the Class Action

David Marcus (University of Arizona) has posted The History of the Modern Class Action, Part I: Sturm und Drang, 1953-1980 on SSRN.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent and intensive engagement with class action doctrine has changed the device for claim aggregation significantly. The first era in the history of the modern class action, which began with the revision of Rule 23 in the 1950s and 1960s, may be ending. If so, the class action’s remarkable story deserves telling. This Article provides the first chapter, explaining how class action doctrine coalesced just moments before the great social and political strife of the 1960s, provoked a heated political war within a couple of years of its emergence, and finally stabilized by the end of the 1970s.

After telling the story of the revised Rule 23’s origins, I describe the emergence of the fiery class action politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Combatants clashed over two competing conceptions of the new device. Advocates for plaintiffs’ interests championed a “regulatory conception” of Rule 23: Courts and lawmakers, they insisted, should treat the class action as a mechanism designed to boost the regulatory force of the substantive law. Decision-makers should apply Rule 23 flexibly, to recognize that the class action played a key role in new regulatory strategies pursued in the 1970s. Corporate interests and their allies countered with an “adjectival conception” of the class action, or an understanding of the device that conceived of it as a joinder rule like any other. They argued that courts should limit the class action strictly, lest a mere procedural rule significantly distort the role that civil litigation properly played in American government.

The clash between these conceptions of Rule 23 offers a way to understand doctrinal evolution during the first chapter of the device’s modern history. Congress and federal rulemakers were unable to resolve the conflict between the regulatory and adjectival conceptions. The federal courts, however, did so successfully. Using a pragmatic balancing strategy in each substantive area affected by class actions, the federal courts preserved Rule 23’s regulatory force while insisting that class litigation not deviate too far from more traditional models of civil adjudication. This strategy stabilized class action doctrine by the end of the 1970s, laying a foundation for far more adventurous uses of the device in the 1980s and 1990s.


March 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 4, 2013

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Personal Jurisdiction & Venue: Walden v. Fiore

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Walden v. Fiore (No. 12-574), a case involving personal jurisdiction and venue. Here are the questions presented:

1. Whether due process permits a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant whose sole “contact” with the forum State is his knowledge that the plaintiff has connections to that State. 

2. Whether the judicial district where the plaintiff suffered injury is a district “in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred” for purposes of establishing venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) even if the defendant’s alleged acts and omissions all occurred in another district.

You can find a link to the 9th Circuit’s opinion below and other information about the case at SCOTUSblog’s casefile.

Here’s a story on the case from the AP.


March 4, 2013 in In the News, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Coverage of Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l

Here are links to some recent coverage of last week’s Supreme Court decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International, which rejected a challenge to federal wiretapping procedures for lack of Article III standing:


March 4, 2013 in In the News, Recent Decisions, Standing, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)