Monday, April 30, 2018

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Interpreting Arbitration Agreements to Authorize Class Arbitration

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, which presents the question:

Whether the Federal Arbitration Act forecloses a state-law interpretation of an arbitration agreement that would authorize class arbitration based solely on general language commonly used in arbitration agreements.

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog and at the newly e-friendly Supreme Court website.

 

 

April 30, 2018 in Class Actions, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Cy Pres Class Action Awards

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Frank v. Gaos, which presents the question:

Whether, or in what circumstances, a cy pres award of class action proceeds that provides no direct relief to class members supports class certification and comports with the requirement that a settlement binding class members must be “fair, reasonable, and adequate.”

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog and at the newly e-friendly Supreme Court website.

 

 

April 30, 2018 in Class Actions, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 27, 2018

SCOTUS Adopts FRCP Amendments

Yesterday the Supreme Court adopted amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (covered earlier here) and transmitted them to Congress. These amendments affect Rules 5, 23, 62, and 65.1. Unless Congress intervenes, they will take effect on December 1, 2018.

The Court also adopted amendments to the Appellate, Bankruptcy, and Criminal Rules. 

 

 

April 27, 2018 in Class Actions, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Papers: Climate Change Litigation Workshop (Aarhus, Denmark - June 14-15, 2018)

From the call for papers:

The International and Transnational Tendencies in Law Center (INTRAlaw), Aarhus University is pleased to announce a call for papers for a workshop on Climate change litigation: trends, policy implications and the way forward to take place at Aarhus University, Department of Law on 14 - 15 June 2018.

The concept of climate change has shifted from being a controversial issue to progressively becoming a widely recognized global threat. The conclusion of the Paris Agreement and the inclusion of climate action as one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals have forged an accord by the international community on the causes and risks of climate change. At the national level, a surge of laws codifying national and international responses to climate change has given rise to a growing number of lawsuits around the world pertinent to climate change-related matters. As climate litigation continues to expand, the need to understand the role of courts in broader climate change governance grows. The workshop aims to convene participants representing different stakeholders from around the world to reflect on the current status quo of climate litigation, its implications and future prospects

* * *

PAPER SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: Abstracts of max. 500 words with a short bio should be submitted via e-mail to Theodora Valkanou (theodora.valkanou@law.au.dk) by 5 May 2018.

Abstracts will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Authors will be informed about the final decision on their proposals by 10 May 2018.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

April 27, 2018 in Conferences/Symposia | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

SCOTUS Decision in Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a 7-2 decision in Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, covered earlier here. Justice Thomas’s majority opinion begins:

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, 35 U. S. C. §100 et seq., establishes a process called “inter partes review.” Under that process, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is authorized to reconsider and to cancel an issued patent claim in limited circumstances. In this case, we address whether inter partes review violates Article III or the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution. We hold that it violates neither.

Justice Gorsuch writes a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, arguing that the statutory scheme violates Article III: “Today’s decision may not represent a rout but it at least signals a retreat from Article III’s guarantees.”

 

 

 

April 25, 2018 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

SCOTUS Decision in Jesner v. Arab Bank: Corporate Liability under the Alien Tort Statute

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC, which addresses whether corporations may be liable in actions brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. § 1350. It’s a fractured decision, as evidenced by the following notation at the end of the syllabus:

KENNEDY, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II–B–1, and II–C, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, ALITO, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts II–A, II–B–2, II–B–3, and III, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion. ALITO, J., and GORSUCH, J., filed opinions concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.

There are 85 pages worth of opinions, but the very brief takeaway (from Part II-B-1 of Justice Kennedy’s opinion, slip op. at 19) is that “absent further action from Congress it would be inappropriate for courts to extend ATS liability to foreign corporations.”

And from Part II-C, slip op. at 27: “Accordingly, the Court holds that foreign corporations may not be defendants in suits brought under the ATS.”

Justice Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion argues that foreign corporations should not be categorically immune from liability under the ATS.

 

 

April 24, 2018 in Federal Courts, International/Comparative Law, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Ninth Circuit: Monkey satisfies Article III, but lacks statutory standing under Copyright Act

Today a panel of the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in Naruto v. Slater (the Monkey Selfie case), covered earlier here. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought suit as the next friend of Naruto, who “was a seven-year-old crested macaque that lived—and may still live—in a reserve on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.” The majority opinion by Judge Carlos Bea begins:

We must determine whether a monkey may sue humans, corporations, and companies for damages and injunctive relief arising from claims of copyright infringement. Our court’s precedent requires us to conclude that the monkey’s claim has standing under Article III of the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, we conclude that this monkey—and all animals, since they are not human—lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act.

Although the majority opinion stated that “[w]e gravely doubt that PETA can validly assert ‘next friend’ status to represent claims made for the monkey,” it wrote:

Even so, we must proceed to the merits because Naruto’s lack of a next friend does not destroy his standing to sue, as having a ‘case or controversy’ under Article III of the Constitution. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17, which authorizes “next friend” lawsuits, obligates the court “to consider whether [incompetent parties] are adequately protected,” even where they have no “next friend” or “guardian.” U.S. v. 30.64 Acres of Land, 795 F.2d 796, 805 (9th Cir. 1986). Within this obligation, the court has “broad discretion and need not appoint a guardian ad litem [or next friend] if it determines the person is or can be otherwise adequately protected.” Id. (citing Roberts v. Ohio Casualty Ins. Co., 2556 F.2d 35, 39 (5th Cir. 1958) (“Rule 17(c) does not make the appointment of a guardian ad litem mandatory.”)). See also Harris v. Mangum, 863 F.3d 1133, 1139 n.2 (9th Cir. 2017) (noting circumstances in which “appointing a guardian ad litem . . . could hinder the purpose of Rule 17(c),” and thus was not required). For example, “the court may find that the incompetent person’s interests would be adequately protected by the appointment of a lawyer.” Krain v. Smallwood, 880 F.2d 1119, 1121 (9th Cir. 1989) (citing Westcott v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co., 158 F.2d 20, 22 (4th Cir. 1946). Indeed, courts have done just this, and the fact that those courts did not then dismiss the case proves that the lack of a next friend does not destroy an incompetent party’s standing. See, e.g., Westcott, 158 F.2d at 22 (affirming judgment against minor who was represented by an attorney but not a guardian ad litem).

Proceeding to Naruto’s constitutional standing, the majority concluded that Naruto’s claim satisfied Article III:

Here, the complaint alleges that Naruto is the author and owner of the Monkey Selfies. The complaint further alleges that Naruto has suffered concrete and particularized economic harms as a result of the infringing conduct by the Appellees, harms that can be redressed by a judgment declaring Naruto as the author and owner of the Monkey Selfies.

In reaching these conclusions, the majority found that it was bound by an earlier Ninth Circuit decision—Cetacean Cmty. v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2004). In a footnote, however, the majority argued that Cetacean was “incorrectly decided” and “needs reexamination.”

Ultimately, the panel found that the district court correctly dismissed the case because “Naruto—and, more broadly, animals other than humans—lack statutory standing to sue under the Copyright Act.”

Judge N.R. Smith wrote a concurring opinion that disagreed with the majority’s handling of PETA’s lack of next-friend standing.

 

 

 

April 23, 2018 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mulligan on Dodson on Rules Committee Amicus Briefs

Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Lou Mulligan’s essay, More Amicus Briefing? Lou reviews Scott Dodson’s article, Should the Rules Committees Have an Amicus Role?, 104 Va. L. Rev. 1 (2018).

 

 

April 23, 2018 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Scholarship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Seventh Circuit Affirms Nationwide Injunction in "Sanctuary Cities" Case

Today the Seventh Circuit issued its decision in City of Chicago v. Sessions. The court upheld an injunction blocking the Trump administration from imposing restrictions on recipients of federal public safety grants. Those restrictions included what is known as the “notice” condition, “mandating advance notice to federal authorities of the release date of persons in state or local custody who are believed to be aliens,” and what is known as the “access” condition, which “required the local correctional facility to ensure agents access to such facilities and meet with those persons.”

Among other things, Judge Rovner’s majority opinion (joined by Judge Bauer) affirmed the district court’s decision to impose an injunction on a nationwide basis:

The case before us presents an example of the type of case in which a district court should properly be able to apply an injunction nationwide. The case presents essentially a facial challenge to a policy applied nationwide, the balance of equities favors nationwide relief, and the format of the Byrne JAG grant itself renders individual relief ineffective to provide full relief. 

Judge Manion dissented in part, arguing that “the entry of the nationwide injunction constituted an overstep of the district court’s authority.”

 

 

April 19, 2018 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

FRAP 42 and the Monkey Selfie

Last week the Ninth Circuit issued an order denying a joint motion to dismiss the appeal in NARUTO, a Crested Macaque, by and through his Next Friends, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., v. DAVID JOHN SLATER (a.k.a. the Monkey Selfie case). Here is the full order:

Download Naruto v Slater (Order 4-13-2018)

Having reached a settlement, the parties moved—two months after oral argument—to dismiss the appeal and to vacate the lower court’s judgment. In denying the motion, the court noted that voluntary dismissals are permissive, not mandatory, under FRAP 42, and that “denying the motion to dismiss and declining to vacate the lower court judgment prevents the parties from manipulating precedent in a way that suits their institutional preferences.”

The court also observed that Naruto himself was not a party to the settlement between PETA and the appellees.

More coverage here and here

 

 

 

April 18, 2018 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

McPeak on Disappearing Data and the Implications for Discovery

Agnieszka McPeak (Toledo Law) has published an article entitled Disappearing Data at 2018 Wis. L.R. 17, which considers the discovery implications of ephemeral social media platforms like Snapchat. Here's the abstract:

“Ephemeral” applications like Snapchat facilitate social interaction in a format that mimics the impermanence of face-to-face conversations. In the age of “big data” and the growing privacy concerns it raises, platforms offering ephemeral social media tools are meeting a market demand for smaller digital footprints. Additionally, these platforms are responding to regulatory pressure to embrace “privacy by design,” the idea that new technology should be built with privacy as a goal from the ground up. Indeed, ephemeral platforms, though imperfect in their impermanence, mark a positive shift in the direction of data minimization.

But the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for broad discovery of electronically stored information. And they mandate, along with other rules, preservation of potentially relevant data in anticipation of litigation. Preservation duties for this new brand of ephemeral data, however, have not been clearly defined.

This article urges for a fair and balanced approach to defining preservation duties for disappearing data. While ephemeral content may be discoverable, onerous preservation duties are unwarranted and will negatively impact both corporate and individual litigants alike. For corporate interests, overly broad preservation duties lead to risk-averse companies stockpiling all things digital, often at great cost. For individuals, the law should recognize that mobile technology has become ubiquitous and social media is a key tool for personal expression, free speech, and social interaction. But individuals also have become the unwitting stewards of vast amounts of data, some of which is dynamic and ever-changing. Deletion or revision of personal information is a normal occurrence on social media platforms — indeed, some are a product of privacy by design. Overly broad preservation duties for individual litigants thus impose unwarranted burdens and are out of step with technological change.

April 17, 2018 in Current Affairs, Discovery, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Scholarship, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Decision in Wilson v. Sellers: Habeas Review of Unexplained State Court Decisions

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Wilson v. Sellers, covered earlier here. The Court splits 6-3 over the proper standard for assessing unexplained state court decisions in the context of federal habeas proceedings. Justice Breyer writes the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Gorsuch writes a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito.

Justice Breyer’s majority opinion begins:

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) requires a prisoner who challenges (in a federal habeas court) a matter “adjudicated on the merits in State court” to show that the relevant state-court “decision” (1) “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,” or (2) “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U. S. C. §2254(d). Deciding whether a state court’s decision “involved” an unreasonable application of federal law or “was based on” an unreasonable determination of fact requires the federal habeas court to “train its attention on the particular reasons—both legal and factual—why state courts rejected a state prisoner’s federal claims,” Hittson v. Chatman, 576 U. S. ___, ___ (2015) (GINSBURG, J., concurring in denial of certiorari) (slip op., at 1), and to give appropriate deference to that decision, Harrington v. Richter, 562 U. S. 86, 101–102 (2011).

When the last state court to address the merits of the petitioner’s claims does not provide any reasons, however, this inquiry is “more difficult.” Here’s what federal the federal habeas court should do:

We hold that the federal court should “look through” the unexplained decision to the last related state-court decision that does provide a relevant rationale. It should then presume that the unexplained decision adopted the same reasoning. But the State may rebut the presumption by showing that the unexplained affirmance relied or most likely did rely on different grounds than the lower state court’s decision, such as alternative grounds for affirmance that were briefed or argued to the state supreme court or obvious in the record it reviewed.

This “look through” approach is different from the one urged by the State (and by the dissenters). That approach would have precluded federal habeas relief as long as a reasonable basis “could have supported” the state court’s rejection of the petitioner’s claims.

The big question going forward will be what is required to rebut the majority’s look-through presumption. One particular issue will be the extent to which the unreasonableness of the looked-through-to lower state court opinion will itself be a basis for rebutting the presumption that the highest state court adopted that same unreasonable reasoning. Justice Breyer indicates that “it is more likely that a state supreme court’s single word ‘affirm’ rests upon alternative grounds where the lower state court decision is unreasonable than, e.g., where the lower court rested on a state-law procedural ground” and that “the unreasonableness of the lower court’s decision itself provides some evidence that makes it less likely the state supreme court adopted the same reasoning.”

Justice Gorsuch’s dissent emphasizes this aspect of the majority opinion, calling it “welcome news of a sort.” He writes: “If, as the Court holds, the ‘look through’ presumption can be rebutted ‘where the lower state court decision is unreasonable,’ it’s hard to see what good it does.” It is not clear that the majority’s opinion goes as far as Justice Gorsuch suggests. But what will be sufficient to rebut the majority’s look-through presumption is likely to be a major issue in the wake of the Court’s decision.

 

 

 

 

April 17, 2018 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Wasby on Visiting Judges in the Federal Courts of Appeals

Steve Wasby has published Borrowed Judges: Visitors in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. (Here’s the link on Amazon.)

[H/T: Alan Childress]

 

 

April 16, 2018 in Books, Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Bradt & Clopton on MDL, Public Law & Trump

Andrew Bradt and Zach Clopton have published their essay, MDL v. Trump: The Puzzle of Public Law in Multidistrict Litigation, 112 Nw. U. L. Rev. 905 (2018). Here’s the abstract:

Litigation against the Trump Administration has proliferated rapidly since the inauguration. As cases challenging executive actions, such as the “travel ban,” multiply in federal courts around the country, an important procedural question has so far not been considered—Should these sets of cases be consolidated in a single court under the Multidistrict Litigation Act? Multidistrict litigation, or MDL, has become one of the most prominent parts of federal litigation and offers substantial benefits by coordinating litigation pending in geographically dispersed federal courts. Arguably, those benefits would also accrue if “public law” cases were given MDL treatment. There also are some underappreciated strategic reasons why both plaintiffs and the government might want to invoke the MDL process in these cases—and we suspect that, sooner rather than later, one of these parties might give MDL a try.

In this Essay, we argue that although the MDL statute would allow for consolidation of these public law cases, there are prudential reasons why the judges in charge of MDL should stay their hands. In our view, these cases rarely achieve the efficiencies of most MDLs, and there is value to these cases undergoing scrutiny in multiple trial and appellate courts before they percolate upward to Supreme Court review. Moreover, consolidation of these cases would raise the political profile of the MDL process and thus might politicize the MDL itself as well as the selection of its judges. This politicization could undermine MDL’s primary role in mass tort litigation—and, indeed, it risks harming the national tort system more generally.

 

 

 

April 13, 2018 in Federal Courts, MDLs, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Litman on Convergence of Remedial Restrictions

Leah Litman has posted on SSRN a draft of her article, Remedial Convergence and Collapse, which is forthcoming in the California Law Review. Here’s the abstract:

This Article describes and interrogates a phenomena of spillovers across remedies—how the legal standards governing the availability of remedies in cases regarding executive violations of individuals’ constitutional rights, particularly in the area of policing, have converged around similar ideas that narrow the availability of several different remedies. A similar set of limits restricts the availability of writs of habeas corpus to challenge criminal convictions, damages against government officials, the exclusion of evidence in criminal trials, and causes of action to sue federal officials for damages. The convergence results in considerable tension in the doctrine and notable effects in practice. For example, courts frequently deny one remedy on the ground that another remedy is available and preferable to the remedy that a party has sought. But when the same standard governs the availability of remedies that are supposed to substitute for one another, courts eliminate all remedies when they deny one of them. The remedial doctrines discussed in this article primarily address executive violations of constitutional rights, particularly violations that occur in the course of policing. Denying the availability of remedies in cases that involve policing and executive power replicates the racialized effects of policing in the federal courts and forsakes oversight and accountability in an area where it might be particularly needed.

 

 

 

April 11, 2018 in Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Lammon on Appellate Jurisdiction

Bryan Lammon has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, Finality, Appealability, and the Scope of Interlocutory Review, which will be published in the Washington Law Review. Here’s the abstract:

Most of the law of federal appellate jurisdiction comes from judicial interpretations of 28 U.S.C. § 1291. That statute gives the courts of appeals jurisdiction over only “final decisions” of the district courts. The federal courts have used this grant of jurisdiction to create most of the rules governing appellate jurisdiction. But those efforts have required giving many different meanings to the term “final decision.” And those many different meanings are to blame for much of the confusion, complexity, unpredictability, and inflexibility that plague this area of law. The literature has accordingly advocated reform that would base most of the law on something other than case-by-case interpretations of what it means for a decision to be final. Before any reform, however, it is crucial to understand the ways in which the federal courts have interpreted the term “final decision.”

This article unearths the three contexts in which courts have interpreted § 1291 to create three different kinds of rules: (1) rules about when district court proceedings have ended and parties can take the classic, end-of-proceedings appeal on the merits; (2) rules about when litigants can appeal before the end of those proceedings; and (3) rules limiting or expanding the scope of review in those appeals. Though related, these contexts are distinct and involve unique issues and interests. Successful reform must fill each of the roles that interpretations of the term “final decision” have played. In the meantime, federal courts could bring some much-needed candor and transparency to this area of law by acknowledging the three different ways in which they have used this term.

 

 

 

 

April 10, 2018 in Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Thomas on de Figueiredo, Lahav & Siegelman on “The List”

Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Suja Thomas’s essay, Take Down the List. Suja reviews an article by Miguel de Figueiredo, Alexandra Lahav & Peter Siegelman, Against Judicial Accountability: Evidence From the Six Month List.

 

 

 

April 9, 2018 in Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Wisconsin Requires Disclosure of Litigation Funding

Yesterday’s story in the National Law Journal begins: “All litigation funding arrangements in Wisconsin state courts will have to be disclosed in civil cases under a new measure signed into law by the state’s governor Tuesday.”

Here’s the text of the bill.

 

 

 

April 5, 2018 in Discovery, In the News, State Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

SCOTUS Per Curiam Decision on Qualified Immunity

This week, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Kisela v. Hughes, reversing the Ninth Circuit without hearing oral argument. From the Court’s per curiam opinion:

Petitioner Andrew Kisela, a police officer in Tucson, Arizona, shot respondent Amy Hughes. Kisela and two other officers had arrived on the scene after hearing a police radio report that a woman was engaging in erratic behavior with a knife. They had been there but a few minutes, perhaps just a minute. When Kisela fired, Hughes was holding a large kitchen knife, had taken steps toward another woman standing nearby, and had refused to drop the knife after at least two commands to do so. The question is whether at the time of the shooting Kisela’s actions violated clearly established law. * * *

Here, the Court need not, and does not, decide whether Kisela violated the Fourth Amendment when he used deadly force against Hughes. For even assuming a Fourth Amendment violation occurred—a proposition that is not at all evident—on these facts Kisela was at least entitled to qualified immunity. * * *

Kisela says he shot Hughes because, although the officers themselves were in no apparent danger, he believed she was a threat to Chadwick. Kisela had mere seconds to assess the potential danger to Chadwick. He was confronted with a woman who had just been seen hacking a tree with a large kitchen knife and whose behavior was erratic enough to cause a concerned bystander to call 911 and then flag down Kisela and Garcia. Kisela was separated from Hughes and Chadwick by a chain-link fence; Hughes had moved to within a few feet of Chadwick; and she failed to acknowledge at least two commands to drop the knife. Those commands were loud enough that Chadwick, who was standing next to Hughes, heard them. This is far from an obvious case in which any competent officer would have known that shooting Hughes to protect Chadwick would violate the Fourth Amendment.

Justice Sotomayor authored a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Ginsburg. The dissent begins:

Officer Andrew Kisela shot Amy Hughes while she was speaking with her roommate, Sharon Chadwick, outside of their home. The record, properly construed at this stage, shows that at the time of the shooting: Hughes stood stationary about six feet away from Chadwick, appeared “composed and content,” Appellant’s Excerpts of Record 109 (Record), and held a kitchen knife down at her side with the blade facing away from Chadwick. Hughes was nowhere near the officers, had committed no illegal act, was suspected of no crime, and did not raise the knife in the direction of Chadwick or anyone else. Faced with these facts, the two other responding officers held their fire, and one testified that he “wanted to continue trying verbal command[s] and see if that would work.” Id., at 120. But not Kisela. He thought it necessary to use deadly force, and so, without giving a warning that he would open fire, he shot Hughes four times, leaving her seriously injured.

If this account of Kisela’s conduct sounds unreasonable, that is because it was. And yet, the Court today insulates that conduct from liability under the doctrine of qualified immunity, holding that Kisela violated no “clearly established” law. See ante, at 5–6. I disagree.

 

 

 

April 4, 2018 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Sachs on Finding Law

Steve Sachs has posted on SSRN his essay, Finding Law, which is forthcoming in the California Law Review. Here’s the abstract:

That the judge's task is to find the law, not to make it, was once a commonplace of our legal culture. Today, decades after Erie, the idea of a common law discovered by judges is commonly dismissed -- as a "fallacy," an "illusion," a "brooding omnipresence in the sky." That dismissive view is wrong. Expecting judges to find unwritten law is no childish fiction of the benighted past, but a real and plausible option for a modern legal system.

This Essay seeks to restore the respectability of finding law, in part by responding to two criticisms made by Erie and its progeny. The first, "positive" criticism is that law has to come from somewhere: judges can't discover norms that no one ever made. But this claim blinks reality. We routinely identify and apply social norms that no one deliberately made, including norms of fashion, etiquette, or natural language. Law is no different. Judges might declare a customary law the same way copy editors and dictionary authors declare standard English -- with a certain kind of reliability, but with no power to revise at will.

The second, "realist" criticism is that this law leaves too many questions open: when judges can't find the law, they have to make it instead. But uncertain cases force judges to make "decisions," not to make "law." Different societies can give different roles to precedent (and to judges). And judicial decisions can have many different kinds of legal force -- as law of the circuit, law of the case, and so on -- without altering the underlying law on which they're based.

This Essay claims only that it's plausible for a legal system to have its judges find law. It doesn't try to identify legal systems that actually do this in practice. Yet too many discussions of judge-made law, including the famous ones in Erie, rest on the false premise that judge-made law is inevitable -- that judges simply can't do otherwise. In fact, judges "can" do otherwise: they can act as the law's servants rather than its masters. The fact that they can forces us to confront, rather than avoid, the question of whether they should. Finding law is no fallacy or illusion; the brooding omnipresence broods on.

 

 

April 3, 2018 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)