Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Today the Second Circuit issued its decision in Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization. The claims in the case were brought by eleven American families against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority under the Anti-Terrorism Act (18 U.S.C. § 2333(a)), based on terror attacks in Israel. The plaintiffs had won a $655.5 million jury verdict in the district court, but the decision today ruled that U.S. courts lacked personal jurisdiction.
The Second Circuit found that general jurisdiction was not permissible in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler. As for specific jurisdiction, the court concluded:
In sum, because the terror attacks in Israel at issue here were not expressly aimed at the United States and because the deaths and injuries suffered by the American plaintiffs in these attacks were “random [and] fortuitous” and because lobbying activities regarding American policy toward Israel are insufficiently “suit-related conduct” to support specific jurisdiction, the Court lacks specific jurisdiction over these defendants.
Here are the opinion’s final paragraphs:
The terror machine gun attacks and suicide bombings that triggered this suit and victimized these plaintiffs were unquestionably horrific. But the federal courts cannot exercise jurisdiction in a civil case beyond the limits prescribed by the due process clause of the Constitution, no matter how horrendous the underlying attacks or morally compelling the plaintiffs’ claims.
The district court could not constitutionally exercise either general or specific personal jurisdiction over the defendants in this case. Accordingly, this case must be dismissed.
Maya Steinitz and Paul Gowder have posted on SSRN their article Transnational Litigation As a Prisoner’s Dilemma, which has been published in the North Carolina Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
In this Article we use game theory to argue that perceptions of widespread corruption in the judicial processes in developing countries create ex ante incentives to act corruptly. It is rational (though not moral) to preemptively act corruptly when litigating in the courts of many developing nations. The upshot of this analysis is to highlight that, contrary to judicial narratives in individual cases — such as the (in)famous Chevron–Ecuador dispute used herein as an illustration — the problem of corruption in transnational litigation is structural and as such calls for structural solutions. The article offers one such solution: the establishment of an international court of civil justice.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Yesterday the California Supreme Court issued a 4-to-3 decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Company v. Superior Court, upholding personal jurisdiction in California over pharma company Bristol-Myers Squibb. From the introduction:
Bristol Myers Squibb Company (BMS), a pharmaceutical manufacturer, conducts significant business and research activities in California but is neither incorporated nor headquartered here. In March 2012, eight separate amended complaints were filed in San Francisco Superior Court by or on behalf of 678 individuals, consisting of 86 California residents and 592 nonresidents, all of whom allegedly were prescribed and ingested Plavix, a drug created and marketed by BMS, and as a result suffered adverse consequences. BMS contests the propriety of a California court’s exercising personal jurisdiction over it for purposes of adjudicating the nonresident plaintiffs’ claims.
*** Although BMS’s business contacts in California are insufficient to invoke general jurisdiction, which permits the exercise of jurisdiction over a defendant regardless of the subject of the litigation, we conclude the company’s California activities are sufficiently related to the nonresident plaintiffs’ suits to support the invocation of specific jurisdiction, under which personal jurisdiction is limited to specific litigation related to the defendant’s state contacts.
The three dissenters argued that the nonresident plaintiffs’ claims lacked a sufficient relationship to BMS’s California contacts to justify specific jurisdiction.
Scott Dodson has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, Jurisdiction and Its Effects, which is forthcoming in the Georgetown Law Journal. Here’s the abstract:
Jurisdiction is experiencing an identity crisis. The Court has given jurisdiction three different identities: jurisdiction as power, jurisdiction as defined effects, and jurisdiction as positive law. These identities are at war with each other, and each is unsustainable on its own. The result has been a breakdown in the application of the basic question of what is jurisdictional and what is not.
I aim to rehabilitate jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is none of the three identities above. Rather, jurisdiction determines forum in a multi-forum system. It seeks not to limit a particular court in isolation but instead to define boundaries and relationships among forums. Because it speaks to relationships generally, jurisdiction exhibits neither unique nor immutable effects. Instead, positive law can prescribe whatever effects - including waivability, forfeitability, and even equitable discretion - best fit a particular jurisdictional rule.
This identity for jurisdiction resolves tensions across a wide range of doctrines. For example, it reconciles personal jurisdiction and original subject-matter jurisdiction as jurisdictional kin, a pair long estranged because of personal jurisdiction’s waivability. Other categorizations are more surprising. For example, venue, abstention, and even the Federal Arbitration Act are all jurisdictional because they select among forums, while Article III standing is non-jurisdictional because it does not. These categorizations are unconventional, but they ultimately produce a more coherent, consistent, and useful jurisdictional identity.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its decision in Nicosia v. Amazon.com, Inc., holding that the plaintiff’s suit against Amazon should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim based on the mandatory arbitration provision in Amazon’s Conditions of Use.
Of course there’s considerable discussion of the Federal Arbitration Act and substantive contract law, but the court also addresses pleading standards, the relationship between Rule 12(b)(6) motions and motions to compel arbitration, and standing (the latter with respect to the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction).
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Briana Rosenbaum has posted on SSRN a draft of her article, The RICO Trend in Class Action Warfare, which will be published in the Iowa Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
Aggregate litigation, including class-actions and mass actions, have been under attack for decades. Recent Supreme Court cases have further weakened class actions, and the current Congress is considering numerous aggregate litigation and tort reform efforts. Recently, defendants in aggregate litigation have employed an additional tactic by filing civil RICO cases against plaintiffs’ counsel alleging they fraudulently concealed a few baseless lawsuits among larger sets of claims. The predicate acts in those RICO cases consist solely of litigation filings: the filing of complaints and related litigation documents in aggregate litigation. Members of the defense bar have made no secret of the fact that these RICO cases are part of a larger strategy to prevent plaintiffs’ attorneys from bringing large-scale litigation. Despite the rich literature on aggregate litigation, there is little scholarship exploring this recent aggressive use of RICO by the defense bar and corporate interest groups to punish plaintiffs’ attorneys for the alleged fraudulent filing of aggregate litigation.
This Article pulls together several previously unassociated areas of law—including RICO, Rule 11, complex litigation, SLAPP motions, and asbestos litigation—to develop a model for defendants’ use of RICO as a tool of reprisal. It argues that holding plaintiffs’ attorneys liable under civil RICO solely for litigation activities is illegal, results in the lamentable federalization of state common law, and leads to improper forum shopping. The RICO reprisal also avoids legitimate state protections for litigation activity and is a thinly veiled attempt by the defense bar to further weaken aggregate litigation by targeting the plaintiffs’ attorneys themselves. This use of RICO punishes the aggregate litigation device itself, rather than the underlying fraudulent conduct; as a remedy for frivolous aggregate litigation conduct, it is both over- and under-inclusive. The Article concludes by proposing several alternatives, including effectively barring any civil RICO action targeting attorneys’ pure litigation activities without a showing of malicious intent—a proposal that draws on existing common law litigation privilege doctrine.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit handed down another post-Kiobel decision on the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank involves claims against a Lebanese bank alleging that they provided international financial services to Hezbollah that facilitated Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on civilians in Israel.
From the opinion’s introductory paragraphs:
This case is not new to our Court. In fact, this appeal is in its third appearance before us in the last five years. In our prior opinions, we determined (with an assist from the New York Court of Appeals, see Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank, SAL, 20 N.Y.3d 327, 339 (2012) (“Licci III”)) that the District Court had personal jurisdiction over defendant LCB, and that subjecting the foreign bank to personal jurisdiction in New York comports with due process protections provided by the United States Constitution. See Licci ex rel. Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank, SAL, 732 F.3d 161, 165 (2d Cir. 2013) (“Licci IV”); Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank, SAL, 673 F.3d 50, 73–74 (2d Cir. 2012) (“Licci II”). This case presents a different question: Whether the District Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ ATS claims. The District Court dismissed the ATS claims under Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S. Ct. 1659 (2013) (“Kiobel II”), reasoning that Plaintiffs failed to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the ATS. Though we disagree with the District Court’s basis for dismissal, we affirm because the ATS claims seek to impose corporate liability in contravention of our decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 621 F.3d 111, 145 (2d Cir. 2010) (“Kiobel I”).
Here’s the full opinion:
Particularly notable is the Second Circuit’s discussion of the Supreme Court’s Kiobel decision [pp.18-30 of the opinion], and its conclusion that “Plaintiffs have surpassed the jurisdictional hurdle set forth in Kiobel II, 133 S. Ct. at 1669.”
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
I recently received a Call for Papers from the AALS Section on Conflict of Laws, which will be holding a program entitled New Voices in Conflict of Laws at the AALS annual meeting in January 2017. Here’s the submission procedure:
Full-time faculty members of AALS member law schools who are untenured or received tenure in 2015 or 2016 are invited to submit papers.
Submissions may take the form of draft papers or detailed abstracts, although priority may be given to draft papers. Submissions should be anonymous. Please do not include your name, institution or other identifying information in your paper or abstract, and please do not send submissions directly to the Section Chair. One goal of the program is to provide useful feedback on works in progress. Therefore, please do not submit published work or work that is expected to be published or in final form prior to the meeting.
The deadline for submissions is August 26, 2016. Please send your submission in Microsoft Word format to Stacy Tran, assistant to the Section Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line of your submission, please write “AALS New Voices in Conflict of Laws Submission.”
The Executive Committee of the AALS Conflict of Laws section will review submissions and select up to three papers to be included in the program. Authors of selected submissions will be notified by September 28, 2016. Complete drafts of the selected papers are due no later than December 2, 2016.
More details on the announcement below:
Michael Sant'Ambrogio and Adam Zimmerman have posted on SSRN a draft of their article, Inside the Agency Class Action, which will be published in the Yale Law Journal. Here’s the abstract:
Federal agencies in the United States hear almost twice as many cases each year as all the federal courts. But agencies routinely avoid using tools that courts rely on to efficiently resolve large groups of claims: class actions and other complex litigation procedures. As a result, across the administrative state, the number of claims languishing on agency dockets has produced crippling backlogs, arbitrary outcomes and new barriers to justice.
A handful of federal administrative programs, however, have quietly bucked this trend. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has created an administrative class action procedure, modeled after Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to resolve “pattern and practice” claims of discrimination by federal employees before administrative judges. Similarly, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has used “Omnibus Proceedings” resembling federal multidistrict litigation to pool common claims regarding vaccine injuries. And facing a backlog of hundreds of thousands of claims, the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals recently instituted a new “Statistical Sampling Initiative,” which will resolve hundreds of common medical claims at a time by statistically extrapolating the results of a few hearing outcomes.
This Article is the first to map agencies’ nascent efforts to use class actions and other complex procedures in their own hearings. Relying on unusual access to many agencies—including agency policymakers, staff and adjudicators—we take a unique look “inside” administrative tribunals that use mass adjudication in areas as diverse as employment discrimination, mass torts, and health care. In so doing, we unearth broader lessons about what aggregation procedures mean for policymaking, enforcement and adjudication. Even as some fear that collective procedures may stretch the limits of adjudication, our study supports a very different conclusion: group procedures can form an integral part of public regulation and the adjudicatory process itself.
Monday, August 22, 2016
Earlier this summer, Judge Robert Mariani of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued an opinion dismissing an Alien Tort Statute claim brought against Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric who has been a U.S. permanent resident since the 1990s. (Gülen has been in the news more recently following the attempted coup that took place in Turkey last month; Turkey is currently seeking Gülen’s extradition.)
Judge Mariani’s ruling in Ates v. Gülen contains a detailed discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel (an important Alien Tort Statute decision from 2013) as well as some of the post-Kiobel case law in the lower federal courts.
Jonah Gelbach & Dave Marcus have posted on SSRN A Study of Social Security Disability Litigation in the Federal Courts, Final Report to the Administrative Conference of the United States. Here’s the abstract:
A person who has sought and failed to obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (“the agency”) can appeal the agency’s decision to a federal district court. In 2015, nearly 20,000 such appeals were filed, comprising a significant part of the federal courts’ civil docket. Even though claims pass through multiple layers of internal agency review, many of them return from the federal courts for even more adjudication. Also, a claimant’s experience in the federal courts differs considerably from district to district around the country. District judges in Brooklyn decide these cases pursuant to one set of procedural rules and have in recent years remanded about seventy percent to the agency. Magistrate judges in Little Rock handle this docket with a different set of rules and have in recent years remanded only twenty percent.
The adjudication of disability claims within the agency has received relentless attention from Congress, government inspectors general, academic commentators, and others. Social security litigation in the federal courts has not weathered the same scrutiny. This report, prepared for the Administrative Conference of the United States, fills this gap. It provides a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative empirical study of social security disability benefits litigation.
Our report makes four contributions. The first is a thorough introduction to the process by which a disability benefits claim proceeds from initial filing to a federal judge’s chambers. This description is intended to deepen understandings of where many of federal civil cases come from, and why they raise the same sorts of concerns repeatedly.
Second, the report provides some context for understanding why the federal courts remand claims to the agency at the rate that they do. We argue that the federal courts and the agency have different institutional goals, commitments, and resources. These differences would cause a sizable number of remands even if the agency adjudicated claims successfully and the federal courts applied the appropriate standard of review. Third, we undertake extensive statistical analysis to try to understand what factors explain the sharp variation in district-level remand rates. Circuit boundaries account for some, but not all, of this disparity. After excluding a number of other potential causes, we hypothesize that district courts remand claims to the agency at different rates in part because uneven adjudication within the agency produces pools of appeals of differing quality. Finally, the report analyzes contrasting procedural rules used by different districts to govern social security litigation. We argue that these differences are unnecessary and create needless inefficiencies. We conclude with a set of recommendations to improve social security litigation within the federal courts.
Friday, August 19, 2016
Today U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued an opinion in Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State, a FOIA case seeking employment records relating to Huma Abedin, long-time aide to Hillary Clinton. In connection with the plaintiff’s request for discovery under FRCP 56(d), the court ordered that the plaintiff may serve interrogatories on Hillary Clinton but could not depose her.
From the opinion:
The Court directs Judicial Watch to propound questions that are relevant to Secretary Clinton’s unique first-hand knowledge of the creation and operation of clintonemail.com for State Department business, as well as the State Department’s approach and practice for processing FOIA requests that potentially implicated former Secretary Clinton’s and Ms. Abedin’s emails and State’s processing of the FOIA request that is the subject of this action.
Last week the California Supreme Court issued an important decision on how to calculate the amount of attorney fees in class actions: Laffitte v. Robert Half International Inc.
Alison Frankel (Reuters) has this report.
Monday, August 15, 2016
Howard Wasserman has posted the details for the Ninth Annual Junior Faculty Federal Courts Workshop, which will take place at Emory on March 31 - April 1, 2017. If you’d like to present, submit an abstract to email@example.com by November 1, 2016.
Friday, August 12, 2016
The Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure has published proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (along with proposed amendments to the Appellate, Bankruptcy & Criminal Rules). The proposed FRCP amendments include—among other things—changes to Rule 23’s provisions on class actions.
The comment period runs until February 15, 2017. Comments on the FRCP amendments can be submitted here.
In addition, the Civil Rules Committee will be holding the following public hearings:
- Washington, DC on November 3, 2016
- Phoenix, AZ on January 4, 2017
- Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX on February 16, 2017
The contributions to the Emory Law Journal’s 2015 Pound Symposium are posted here. They include essays by Stephen Daniels & Joanne Martin, Rich Freer, Myriam Gilles, Bob Klonoff, Alexandra Lahav, Cathy Sharkey, and Georgene Vairo.
Just Published: The Sedona Conference Commentary on Rule 34 and Rule 45 "Possession, Custody, or Control"
The Sedona Conference has issued its final Commentary on Rule 34 and Rule 45 "Possession, Custody, or Control." 17 Sedona Conf. J. ____ (forthcoming 2016).
From the Abstract:
Rule 26(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows for the discovery of “documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things” in the responding party’s “possession, custody, or control.” Similarly, Rule 34(a) and Rule 45(a) obligate a party responding to a document request or subpoena to produce “documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things” in that party’s “possession, custody, or control.” Yet, the Rules are silent on what the phrase “possession, custody, or control” means. Therefore, parties must look to case law for a definition. Unfortunately, the case law across circuits (and often within circuits themselves) is unclear and, at times, inconsistent as to what is meant by “possession, custody, or control,” resulting in a lack of reliable legal—and practical—guidance. The inconsistent interpretation and application of Rules 34 and 45 in this context are especially problematic because parties remain absolutely responsible for preserving and producing information within their “possession, custody, or control” and face material consequences, including sanctions, for their failure to do so.
. . . .
This Commentary is intended to provide practical, uniform, and defensible guidelines regarding when a responding party should be deemed to have “possession, custody, or control” of documents and all forms of electronically stored information (hereafter, collectively referred to as “Documents and ESI”) subject to Rule 34 and Rule 45 requests for production. A secondary, corollary purpose of this Commentary is to advocate abolishing use of the common‐law “Practical Ability Test” for purposes of determining Rule 34 and Rule 45 “control” of Documents and ESI. Simply stated, this common‐law test has led to inequitable situations in which courts have held that a party has Rule 34 “control” of Documents and ESI even though the party did not have the actual ability to obtain the Documents and ESI. Therefore, this Commentary recommends that courts should interpret and enforce Rule 34 “possession, custody, or control” obligations in ways that do not lead to sanctions for unintended and uncontrollable circumstances. To support that recommendation, this Commentary also looks to several well‐established legal doctrines upon which to model the contemporary scope of a party’s duty to identify, preserve, and collect Documents and ESI, such as reliance upon a modified version of the business judgment rule. Helping resolve the disparity among circuits to bring a uniform, national standard to this important area of the law is consistent with Sedona’s mission of moving the law forward in a just and reasoned way.
Here are "THE SEDONA CONFERENCE PRINCIPLES ON POSSESSION, CUSTODY, OR CONTROL":
Principle 1: A responding party will be deemed to be in Rule 34 or Rule 45 “possession, custody, or control” of Documents and ESI when that party has actual possession or the legal right to obtain and produce the Documents and ESI on demand.
Principle 2: The party opposing the preservation or production of specifically requested Documents and ESI claimed to be outside its control, generally bears the burden of proving that it does not have actual possession or the legal right to obtain the requested Documents and ESI.
Principle 3(a): When a challenge is raised about whether a responding party has Rule 34 or Rule 45 “possession, custody, or control” over Documents and ESI, the Court should apply modified “business judgment rule” factors that, if met, would allow certain, rebuttable presumptions in favor of the responding party.
Principle 3(b): In order to overcome the presumptions of the modified business judgment rule, the requesting party bears the burden to show that the responding party’s decisions concerning the location, format, media, hosting, and access to Documents and ESI lacked a good faith basis and were not reasonably related to the responding party’s legitimate business interests.
Principle 4: Rule 34 and Rule 45 notions of “possession, custody, or control” should never be construed to override conflicting state or federal privacy or other statutory obligations, including foreign data protection laws.
Principle 5: If a party responding to a specifically tailored request for Documents or ESI (either prior to or during litigation) does not have actual possession or the legal right to obtain the Documents or ESI that are specifically requested by their adversary because they are in the “possession, custody, or control” of a third party, it should, in a reasonably timely manner, so notify the requesting party to enable the requesting party to obtain the Documents or ESI from the third party. If the responding party so notifies the requesting party, absent extraordinary circumstances, the responding party should not be sanctioned or otherwise held liable for the third party’s failure to preserve the Documents or ESI.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Two articles published in the latest issue of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies:
Michael Heise & Martin T. Wells, Revisiting Eisenberg and Plaintiff Success: State Court Civil Trial and Appellate Outcomes
Despite what Priest-Klein theory predicts, in earlier research on federal civil cases, Eisenberg found an association between plaintiff success in pretrial motions and at trial. Our extension of Eisenberg's analysis 20 years later into the state court context, however, does not uncover any statistically significant association between a plaintiff's success at trial and preserving that trial victory on appeal. Our results imply that a plaintiff's decision to pursue litigation to a trial court conclusion is analytically distinct from the plaintiff's decision to defend an appeal of its trial court win brought by a disgruntled defendant. We consider various factors that likely account for the observed differences that distinguish our results from Eisenberg's. First, legal cases that persist to an appellate outcome are a filtered subset of underlying trials and legal disputes and various selection effects inform much of this case filtering. Second, where Eisenberg analyzed the relation between pretrial motions and trial outcomes in federal courts, we assess possible relations between trial and appellate court outcomes in state courts. The pretrial and trial context and the trial and appeals context likely differ in ways that disturb plaintiff success. Third, while Eisenberg studied federal cases between 1978–1985 we study state cases between 2001–2009. In addition to differences between federal and state civil cases, the composition of cases that selected into formal litigation may have evolved over time.
Talia Fisher, Tamar Kritcheli-Katz, Issi Rosen-Zvi, & Theodore Eisenberg, He Paid, She Paid: Exploiting Israeli Courts' Rulings on Litigation Costs to Explore Gender Biases
This study documents gender disparities in litigation-cost rulings in Israel. It expands on the existing literature on judicial bias in at least two important ways: by controlling for the merits of the cases and by focusing on civil litigation. The first improvement is methodological. The unique Israeli regime of litigation costs allows us to control for the merit of the cases, as well as for other typically unobservable variables, and thus to isolate and observe judicial bias. The second improvement on the existing literature on judicial bias involves focusing on outcome disparities in the civil (rather than criminal) justice system. Although numerous studies explore gender-based disparities in the criminal justice sphere, only a very small number of studies explore such disparities in the civil arena. We found clear disparities in the allocation of litigation costs between men and women. Male plaintiffs who lost were ordered to pay the winners' legal fees more often than were losing women as sole plaintiffs or as part of all-women plaintiff groups. Likewise, the fees women plaintiffs who lost a case were obliged to pay were less than those required of losing men, and women defendants who won cases received higher fee awards than similarly situated men.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s federal lawsuit against the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission was dismissed today on Younger abstention grounds. Here’s the order: