Tuesday, April 29, 2014

SCOTUS Decisions in Octane Fitness and Highmark: Awarding Attorney's Fees in Patent Cases

Today the Supreme Court issued unanimous decisions in Octane Fitness v. Icon Health and Fitness (No. 12-1184) and Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Management Systems, Inc. (No. 12-1163), two cases on fee-shifting in patent cases. Both opinions were authored by Justice Sotomayor.

The Octane Fitness opinion begins:

Section 285 of the Patent Act authorizes a district court to award attorney’s fees in patent litigation. It provides, in its entirety, that “[t]he court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.” 35 U. S. C. §285. In Brooks Furniture Mfg., Inc. v. Dutailier Int’l, Inc., 393 F. 3d 1378 (2005), the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that “[a] case may be deemed exceptional” under §285 only in two lim­ited circumstances: “when there has been some material inappropriate conduct,” or when the litigation is both “brought in subjective bad faith” and “objectively base­less.” Id., at 1381. The question before us is whether the Brooks Furniture framework is consistent with the statu­tory text. We hold that it is not. [Slip Op., p.1]

Rather, as Justice Sotomayor explains:

[A]n “exceptional” case is simply one that stands out from others with respect to the substantive strength of a party’s litigating position (considering both the governing law and the facts of the case) or the unreasonable manner in which the case was litigated. District courts may determine whether a case is “excep­tional” in the case-by-case exercise of their discretion, considering the totality of the circumstances. As in the comparable context of the Copyright Act, “‘[t]here is no precise rule or formula for making these determinations,’ but instead equitable discretion should be exercised ‘in light of the considerations we have identified.’” Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U. S. 517, 534 (1994). [pp.7-8 (footnote omitted)]

And here’s how the Highmark opinion begins:

We granted certiorari to determine whether an appellate court should accord deference to a district court’s determination that litigation is “objectively baseless.” On the basis of our opinion in Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., ante, p. ___, argued together with this case and also issued today, we hold that an appellate court should review all aspects of a district court’s §285 determination for abuse of discretion. [Slip Op., p.1] 

 

 

 

April 29, 2014 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 28, 2014

SCOTUS Approves Proposed Amendment to the FRCPs

The Supreme Court of the United States has approved an amendment to Rule 77 that, in the words of the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, “corrects a cross-reference to Rule 6(a) that should have been changed when Rule 6(a) was amended in 2009.” Unless Congress intervenes, the amendment will take effect on December 1, 2014.

Adjust your syllabi accordingly.

If you’re interested in the more controversial batch of proposed amendments that would revise the discovery rules and eliminate the Forms, the Supreme Court is not likely to be acting on those until Spring 2015. And there are still a number of steps in the process, the next of which is the Standing Committee’s meeting in May.

 

 

April 28, 2014 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Call for Papers: Corporate & Securities Litigation Workshop

Second Annual Workshop for Corporate & Securities Litigation: Call for Papers

The University of Richmond School of Law and the University of Illinois College of Law invite submissions for the Second Annual Workshop for Corporate & Securities Litigation. This workshop will be held on Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25, 2014, in Richmond, Virginia. 

Overview

This annual workshop brings together scholars focused on corporate and securities litigation to present their works-in-progress. Papers addressing any aspect of corporate and securities litigation or enforcement are eligible. Appropriate topics include, but are not limited to, securities class actions, fiduciary duty litigation, or comparative approaches to business litigation. We welcome scholars working in a variety of methodologies, including empirical analysis, law and economics, law and sociology, and traditional doctrinal analysis. Participants will generally be expected to have drafts completed by the fall, although there will be one or more "incubator" sessions for ideas in a more formative stage.

Authors whose papers are selected will be invited to present their work at a workshop hosted by the University of Richmond School of Law in Richmond, Virginia, on Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25, 2014. Hotel costs will be covered. Participants will pay for their own travel and other expenses.

The workshop is designed to maximize discussion and feedback. The author will provide a brief introduction to the paper, but the majority of the individual sessions will be devoted to collective discussion of the paper involved.

Submission Procedure

If you are interested in participating, please send an abstract of the paper you would like to present to Verity Winship at vwinship@illinois.edu not later than Friday, May 30, 2014. Please include your name, current position, and contact information in the e-mail accompanying the submission. Authors of accepted papers will be notified by Friday, June 27.  

Questions

Any questions concerning the workshop should be directed to the organizers: Professor Jessica Erickson (jerickso@richmond.edu) and Professor Verity Winship (vwinship@illinois.edu).

April 24, 2014 in Conferences/Symposia | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Trammell on Transactionalism Costs

Alan Trammell (Brooklyn Law School) has posted Transactionalism Costs to SSRN.

Modern civil litigation is organized around the “transaction or occurrence,” a simple and fluid concept that brings together logically related claims in one lawsuit. It was a brilliant innovation a century ago, but its time has passed. Two inherent defects always lurked within transactionalism, but modern litigation realities have exacerbated them. 

First, transactionalism represents a crude estimate about the most efficient structure of a lawsuit. Often that estimate turns out to be wrong. Second, the goals of transactionalism are in tension. To function properly, the transactional approach must be simultaneously flexible (when structuring a lawsuit at the beginning of litigation) and predictable (when enforcing preclusion and estoppel doctrines on the back end of litigation). But frequently it is neither.

I propose abandoning the transactional approach in favor of one that actually achieves transactionalism’s goals. In essence, the parties must put forward all of their claims and then, with the court, negotiate the appropriate structure of the lawsuit. Preclusion and estoppel will apply only to the claims that the parties and the court choose to include in the litigation package (and that the parties failed to plead initially). The proposal will achieve three main goals. First, it will give parties and courts true flexibility to determine the most efficient structure of their specific lawsuit. Second, it will give parties new autonomy — the power to shape preclusion and estoppel doctrines. Finally, it will offer certainty and predictability that parties never have had before — knowing exactly how broadly preclusion and estoppel will apply.

RJE

April 23, 2014 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Call for Papers: 7th Annual Jr Faculty Fed Cts Workshop

Seventh Annual Junior Faculty Federal Courts Workshop

CALL FOR PAPERS:

The University of Georgia School of Law will host the Seventh Annual Junior Faculty Federal Courts Workshop on October 10-11, 2014.  The workshop pairs a senior scholar with a panel of junior scholars presenting works-in-progress.  Confirmed senior scholars include, at this time, Janet Alexander (Stanford), A.J. Bellia (Notre Dame), Heather Elliott (Alabama), Evan Lee (UC-Hastings), Gillian Metzger (Columbia), Jim Pfander (Northwestern), Amanda Tyler (UC-Berkeley), and Steve Vladeck (American).

The workshop is open to untenured and recently tenured academics who teach and write in federal courts, civil rights litigation, civil procedure, and other associated topics. Those who do not currently hold a faculty appointment but expect to do so beginning in fall 2014 are welcome. The program is also open to scholars wanting to attend, read, and comment on papers but not present.  There is no registration fee.

The conference will begin with a dinner on Thursday, October 9, then panels on Friday, October 10 and Saturday, October 11. Each panel will consist of approximately 4 junior scholars, with a senior scholar serving as moderator and commenter and leading a group discussion on the papers.  Georgia Law will provide all lunches and dinners for those attending the workshop, but attendees must cover their own travel and lodging costs.

Those wishing to present a paper must submit an abstract by June 20, 2014. Papers will be selected by a committee of past participants, and presenters will be notified by early July. Those planning to attend must register by August 29, 2014. 

Please send abstracts to federalcourtsworkshop@gmail.com. Please contact Matt Hall or Kent Barnett with questions.

April 22, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Senator Provides Scary Near-Reenactment of Erie

Via Gawker: "Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal received an unexpected lesson in practicing what you preach at a press conference yesterday. Standing on the platform at the Milford Metro-North station, Blumenthal and his easel narrowly dodged an oncoming train as Milford Mayor Ben Blake spoke about commuter safety."

It is a good reminder that as civil procedure profs our responsibilities include teaching important lessons of federalism. But also important lessons about not standing too close to trains...

RJE

April 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Social Media, Standard Form Contracts, and the Right to Sue

The New York Times has an interesting article today When "Liking" a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue.  From the article:

General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.

Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site.

RJE

April 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Papers: Akron L. Rev. Symposium Issue on Class Actions

SYMPOSIUM ISSUE

UNIVERSITY OF AKRON LAW REVIEW

 

The Class Action After A Decade of Roberts Court Decisions 

The Akron Law Review invites academic papers on the reasoning, dimensions, and possible impacts of one or more of the class action or other multi-party action cases decided by the “Roberts Court” (2005-present) We welcome papers of any length and request submission before September 14, 2014. Publication will occur in spring of 2015. 

As the Supreme Court of the United States recognized:

The policy at the very core of the class action mechanism is to overcome the problem that small recoveries do not provide the incentive for any individual to bring a solo action prosecuting his or her rights. A class action solves this problem by aggregating the relatively paltry potential recoveries into something worth someone’s (usually an attorney’s) labor.

Amchem Products, Inc. v. Windsor, 117 S.Ct. 2231, 2246 (1997) (quoting Mace v. Van Ru Credit Corp., 109 F.3d 338, 344 (7th Cir. 1997)). Earlier in 2014, the Court refused to intervene in a class action brought by consumers in “the case of the moldy washing machines” against three large corporations. Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Butler, 13-430, Whirlpool v. Glazer, 13-431, and BSM Home Appliances v. Cobb, 13-138. Although a victory for consumers, the decision is arguably an anomaly amidst recent pro-business cases restricting plaintiffs’ class certification. See e.g., Comcast v. Berend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013); AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011); Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011). Multi-party litigation may well be changing, and the Akron Law Review seeks your contribution to the conversation.

Your contribution to this conversation will be both timely and visible. The Washington and Lee Law Review Rankings ranked the Akron Law Review as a top 55 general, student-edited journal (in combined score based on impact factor and citation). Additionally, Ohio Supreme Court Justices cited the Akron Law Review more times in the past decade than any other journal. See Jared Klaus, Law Reviews: An Undervalued Resource, 26 Ohio Lawyer, May/June 2012, at 28.

 You may submit manuscripts by email or regular mail. To submit by email, please forward a copy of your article in Word format to lawreview@uakron.edu. You may submit a hardcopy to: Justin M. Burns, Editor-in-Chief, Akron Law Review, The University of Akron School of Law, 150 University Avenue, Akron, Ohio 44325. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Justin Burns at jmb349@zips.uakron.edu.

April 17, 2014 in Class Actions, Conferences/Symposia | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Report on Last Week's Civil Rules Advisory Committee Meeting

We covered earlier the agenda for the Civil Rules Advisory Committee’s April meeting, which took place in Portland, Oregon last week and was an important step for the recently proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Bloomberg BNA’s U.S. Law Week has this report on the result of the meeting.

The Advisory Committee’s recommendations go next to the Standing Committee on the Rules of Practice and Procedure, which will meet in May.

Hat Tip: Tom Rowe

 

 

April 16, 2014 in Discovery, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wasserman on Cy Pres Distributions of Class Action Settlements

Rhonda Wasserman (Pittsburgh) has posted on SSRN a draft of her article, Cy Pres in Class Action Settlements, which will be published in the Southern California Law Review. Here’s the abstract: 

Monies reserved to settle class action lawsuits often go unclaimed because absent class members cannot be identified or notified or because the paperwork required is too onerous. Rather than allow the unclaimed funds to revert to the defendant or escheat to the state, courts are experimenting with cy pres distributions – they award the funds to charities whose work ostensibly serves the interests of the class “as nearly as possible.”

Although laudable in theory, cy pres distributions raise a host of problems in practice. They often stray far from the “next best use,” sometimes benefitting the defendant more than the class. Class counsel often lacks a personal financial interest in maximizing direct payments to class members because its fee is just as large if the money is paid cy pres to charity. And if the judge has discretion to select the charitable recipient of the unclaimed funds, she may select her alma mater or another favored charity, thereby creating an appearance of impropriety.

To minimize over-reliance on cy pres distributions and to tailor them to serve the best interests of the class, the Article makes four pragmatic recommendations. First, to align the interests of class counsel and the class, courts should presumptively reduce attorneys’ fees in cases in which cy pres distributions are made. Second, to ensure that class members and courts have the information they need to assess the fairness of a settlement that contemplates a cy pres distribution, class counsel should be required to make a series of disclosures when it presents the settlement for judicial approval. Third, to inject an element of adversarial conflict into the fairness hearing and to ensure that the court receives the information needed to scrutinize the proposed cy pres distribution, the court should appoint a devil’s advocate to oppose it. Finally, the court should be required to make written findings in connection with its review of any class action settlement that contemplates a cy pres distribution.

 

 

April 15, 2014 in Class Actions, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tidmarsh on Resurrecting Trial By Statistics

Jay Tidmarsh (Notre Dame) has posted Resurrecting Trial by Statistics to SSRN.

“Trial by statistics” was a means by which a court could resolve a large number of aggregated claims: a court could try a random sample of claim, and extrapolate the average result to the remainder. In Wal-Mart, Inc. v. Dukes, the Supreme Court seemingly ended the practice at the federal level, thus removing from judges a tool that made mass aggregation more feasible.

After examining the benefits and drawbacks of trial by statistics, this Article suggests an alternative that harnesses many of the positive features of the technique while avoiding its major difficulties. The technique is the “presumptive judgment”: a court conducts trials in a random sample of cases and averages the results, as in trial by statistics. It then presumptively applies the average award to all other cases, but, unlike trial by statistics, any party can reject the presumptive award in favor of individual trial. The Article describes the circumstances in which parties have an incentive to contest the presumption, and explores a series of real-world issues raised by this approach, including problems of outlier verdicts, strategic behavior by parties, and the parties’ risk preferences. It proposes ways to minimize these issues, including a requirement that the party who reject a presumptive judgment must pay both sides’ costs and attorneys’ fees at trial.

The Article concludes by showing that this approach is consonant with important procedural values such as efficiency, the accurate enforcement of individual rights, dignity, and autonomy.

RJE

April 15, 2014 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Steinman on Appeal of SJ Denials

Joan Steinman (Chicago-Kent) has posted The Puzzling Appeal of Summary Judgment Denials: When Are Such Denials Reviewable? to SSRN.

An important aspect of summary judgment law is now in great disorder. The intermediate federal courts of appeals are split both internally and among themselves on the circumstances, if any, under which denials of summary judgment should be appealable after trial and final judgment, and a Supreme Court decision that addressed the contentious issues only in dicta made matters worse. The Court’s approach was off-the-cuff, its thought process superficial and in some respects flatly in error, and its dicta seriously misguided, with the result that the intermediate federal courts of appeals were left in a quandary over whether to follow the dicta. An additional layer of splits among the circuits resulted. This Article describes the circuit splits, analyzes Ortiz v. Jordan, examines how the courts of appeals have handled the issues since Ortiz and, most importantly, addresses the issues so unsatisfactorily treated in Ortiz.

The introduction to the Article explains the importance of the Article to anyone concerned with the workings of our court systems, because it raises significant issues about the appealability of harmful error, the circumstances under which interlocutory rulings are and are not "merged" in a judgment, and the relationship between interlocutory and post-judgment appeals. It raises important questions about the circumstances under which lower federal courts should, and should not, honor Supreme Court dicta. The Introduction also enumerates the multiple insights and contributions that the Article makes.

In its analysis section, the Article argues why interlocutory appeals of summary judgment denials should not be made more freely available, to reduce the occasions for post-judgment review. It argues that when pre-judgment appeals of denials of summary judgment are available, those appeals both are and should be permissive, rather than mandatory. Most significantly, it argues that regardless of whether interlocutory appeals of summary judgment are available, post-trial/post-judgment appeals of the denials should be allowed when the denials were based on conclusions of law, rather than on the existence of genuine issues of material fact. In so arguing, I disagree with the position taken in dicta by the Supreme Court in Ortiz.

The analysis section is multi-faceted. It debunks the allegedly problematic nature of relying on a law/fact distinction to distinguish differently based summary judgment denials; undermines the view that adequate alternative remedies exist, with particular focus on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50; rejects the argument that post-judgment appeals of law-based summary judgment denials will come as an unfair surprise to the successful litigant in the trial court; considers whether the system should require litigants to offer trial judges an opportunity to reconsider their summary judgment denials and how that might best be done; shows the error of the views that the interlocutory nature of summary judgment denials constitutes a reason to deny post-judgment appeal and that it is necessary to preclude post-judgment appeals of law-based summary judgment denials to avoid greater injustice; and establishes that the fear of wasted trials is not an adequate reason to reject such appeals. The Article also calls for rejection of Supreme Court dicta that is not well-reasoned. The Article recommends what it takes to be the appropriate approach and concludes.

RJE

April 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Reinert on the Burdens of Pleading

Alex Reinert (Cardozo) has published on SSRN a draft of his article, The Burdens of Pleading, which will be published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Here is the abstract:

The changes to pleading doctrine wrought by Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal have been criticized on many grounds. As many commentators have noted, the plausibility pleading doctrine introduced by these cases is consistent with other procedural reforms that have the effect of limiting access of putative plaintiffs to federal civil adjudication. In this Article, I argue that Twombly and Iqbal are more than just the most recent examples of anti-litigation reforms. Plausibility pleading asks federal courts – for the first time since the advent of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure – to use their "judicial experience and common sense" to assess the likelihood of a claim’s success prior to discovery. But the very characteristics of the procedural changes leading up to Twombly and Iqbal – fewer trials, an increase in private adjudication such as arbitration, pervasive secrecy, and increased use of summary judgment – also make it far less likely that judges will have the experience necessary to reliably apply plausibility pleading. In the absence of relevant information, judges are likely to fall back on heuristics that will take them farther from an accurate decision on the merits. The result, I contend –one that is confirmed by the empirical data available to date – will be an increased dismissal of cases that is essentially random rather than merit-based.

 

 

 

April 9, 2014 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Scholarship, Twombly/Iqbal | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Genetin on the New PJ Cases

Bernadette Bollas Genetin (University of Akron) has psoted The Supreme Court's New Approach to Personal Jurisdiction to SSRN.

This article provides an analysis of the Court’s two recent personal jurisdiction opinions, Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014), and Walden v. Fiore, 134 S. Ct. 1115 (2014), and concludes that these cases suggest a new doctrinal approach to personal jurisdiction.

In Daimler AG v. Bauman, the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of general jurisdiction, making it available primarily in a corporation’s states of incorporation and principal place of business and rejecting, in most instances, the prior approach of permitting general jurisdiction based on a defendant’s “continuous and systematic” forum contacts. In Walden v. Fiore, the Court used an interest balancing approach to resolve the specific jurisdiction question at issue, turning away from its longstanding purposeful availment approach.

Together, these cases can be interpreted to reinvigorate the reasonableness analysis of International Shoe, in which the Court focused on the “relation among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.” The Supreme Court has, famously, reversed course several times on its analysis of personal jurisdiction. The article concludes that the Court should, in the full range of specific jurisdiction cases, return to an analysis that considers all relevant interests, including the interests of the defendant, the plaintiff, and the state.

RJE

April 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seiner on Issue Class Certification

Joe Seiner (South Carolina) has posted on SSRN a draft of his article The Issue Class, which will be published in the Boston College Law Review. Here’s the abstract:

In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011), the Supreme Court refused to certify a proposed class of one and a half million female workers who had alleged that the nation’s largest private employer had discriminated against them on the basis of their sex. The academic response to the case has been highly critical of the Court’s decision. This paper does not weigh in on the debate of whether the Court missed the mark. Instead, this Article addresses a more fundamental question that has gone completely unexplored. Given that Wal-Mart is detrimental to plaintiffs, what is the best tool currently available for workers to pursue systemic employment discrimination claims?

Surveying the case law and federal rules, this paper identifies one little used procedural tool that offers substantial potential to workplace plaintiffs seeking to pursue systemic claims — issue class certification. Rule 23(c)(4)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the issue class, allowing common issues in a class case to be certified while the remaining issues are litigated separately. The issue class is typically used where a case has a common set of facts but the plaintiffs have suffered varying degrees of harm. This is precisely the situation presented by many workplace class action claims.

This paper explains how the issue class is particularly useful for systemic discrimination claims. The paper further examines why traditional class treatment often fails in workplace cases, and addresses how the plaintiffs in Wal-Mart could have benefited from issue class certification. Finally, this Article discusses some of the implications of using the issue class in employment cases, and situates the paper in the context of the broader academic scholarship. This paper seeks to fill the current void in the academic scholarship by identifying one overlooked way for plaintiffs to navigate around the Supreme Court’s decision.

 

 

April 8, 2014 in Class Actions, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 7, 2014

SCOTUS Cert Grant in Dart Cherokee v. Owens: What Must a Notice of Removal Include?

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens (No. 13-719). Here is the question presented that appears in the cert. petition (like many cert. petitions these days, it includes a few paragraphs of prologue before the “question” is “presented”)…

A defendant seeking removal of a case to federal court must file a notice of removal containing “a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal” and attach only the state court filings served on such defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a). Consistent with that statutory pleading requirement, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits require only that a notice of removal contain allegations of the jurisdictional facts supporting removal; those courts do not require the defendant to attach evidence supporting federal jurisdiction to the notice of removal. District courts in those Circuits may consider evidence supporting removal even if it comes later in response to a motion to remand.

Here, in a clean break from Section 1446(a)’s language and its sister Circuits’ decisions, the Tenth Circuit let stand an order remanding a class action to state court based upon the district court’s refusal to consider evidence establishing federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) because that evidence was not attached to the notice of removal. (That evidence, which was not disputed, came later in response to the motion to remand.)

The question presented is:

Whether a defendant seeking removal to federal court is required to include evidence supporting federal jurisdiction in the notice of removal, or is alleging the required “short and plain statement of the grounds for removal” enough?

More information about the case is available at SCOTUSblog.

 

 

 

April 7, 2014 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Next Steps in the FRCP Amendment Process

As we’ve been covering, the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure (a.k.a. the Standing Committee) has proposed a significant batch of amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The public comment period on that proposal ended in February, with over 2,300 comments submitted.

The next step in the process is a meeting of the Civil Rules Advisory Committee that will take place on April 10-11 in Portland, Oregon. As covered earlier, the agenda book for that meeting has now been posted on the US Courts website and is available here. At this meeting, the Civil Rules Committee will make recommendations to the Standing Committee, which will meet at the end of May.

The materials in the 580-page agenda book suggest that there could be some important changes to the original package of amendments that was circulated last August. Most significantly, the Duke Conference Subcommittee (named for a conference convened by the Civil Rules Advisory Committee in May 2010) recommends withdrawal of amendments that would have (1) lowered the presumptive numbers of depositions and interrogatories, (2) limited the presumptive number of requests to admit, and (3) reduced the presumptive length of depositions.

Abandoning these proposals is certainly a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the subcommittees recommend moving forward with other troubling changes, including (1) amendments to the scope of discovery under Rule 26(b), and (2) the abrogation of Rule 84 and the Forms that appear in the Civil Rules Appendix (which are especially significant with regard to pleading standards).

In February, some colleagues and I submitted a joint comment opposing these changes. That comment was submitted by myself, Helen Hershkoff (NYU), Lonny Hoffman (Houston), Alex Reinert (Cardozo), Elizabeth Schneider (Brooklyn), and David Shapiro (Harvard) [Direct link to the pdf available here]. Thereafter, Janet Alexander (Stanford), Judith Resnik (Yale), and Steve Yeazell (UCLA) submitted a letter – on behalf of themselves and 168 other law professors – supporting our comments in opposition to these changes [direct link to the pdf available here]. Numerous other law professors have also submitted critical comments (e.g., here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

I hope these critiques will prompt the various committees to reconsider these problematic proposals. As we stated in the introduction to our joint comment

As in 1993 and in 2000, evidence of system-wide, cost-multiplying abuse does not exist, and the proposed amendments are not designed to address the small subset of problematic cases that appear to be driving the Rule changes. We anticipate that, as with past Rule changes, untargeted amendments will fail to eliminate complaints about the small segment of high-cost litigation that elicits headlines about litigation gone wild; instead they will create unnecessary barriers to relief in meritorious cases, waste judicial resources, and drive up the cost of civil justice. The amendments are unnecessary, unwarranted, and counterproductive.*** In our view, the amendments are likely to spawn confusion and create incentives for wasteful discovery disputes. Even more troubling, by increasing costs and decreasing information flow, the proposed amendments are likely to undermine meaningful access to the courts and to impede enforcement of federal- and state-recognized substantive rights.

 

 

April 3, 2014 in Discovery, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SCOTUS Issues Preemption Decision

Lost in today's coverage of the campaign finance case might be the fact that SCOTUS has ruled on a preemption issue.  In Northwest, Inc. v. Ginsberg, the Court found that the Airline Deregulation Act preempts state common law contract claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

So, in case anyone was ever under the impression that they had any contract rights against an airline for frequent flyer status...now you know.

As for me, I'll just take my privilege in boarding in Group 1.  Which, on most airlines, apparently comes third or fourth after several other privileged groups.  [sigh.]

April 2, 2014 in Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SCOTUS Cert Grant: FRCP 52 and Patent Cases

Yesterday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc. (No. 13-854). Here is the question presented: 

Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that in matters tried to a district court, the court’s “[f]indings of fact ... must not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.”

The question presented is as follows: 

Whether a district court's factual finding in support of its construction of a patent claim term may be reviewed de novo, as the Federal Circuit requires (and as the panel explicitly did in this case), or only for clear error, as Rule 52(a) requires.

More info available at SCOTUSblog.

 

April 1, 2014 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)