Friday, May 31, 2019
Alexandra Lahav and Peter Siegelman have published The Curious Incident of the Falling Win Rate: Individual vs System-Level Justification and the Rule of Law, 52 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1371 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
For forty quarters starting in 1985, the plaintiff win rate in adjudicated civil cases in federal courts fell almost continuously, from 70% to 30%, where it remained — albeit with increased volatility — for the next twenty years. This Essay explores the reasons for this decline and the need for systemic explanations for the phenomenon. Approximately 60% of the fall could be attributable to the changing makeup of the federal docket, but that leaves 40% of the fall (that is, a win rate decline of 14 percentage points over a ten year period) unaccounted for. We show that the most obvious explanations for the remaining fall in the win rate and subsequent volatility do not fit the data and assumptions about rational behavior.
Changes in system-level “outputs” of the justice system require a justification that is consistent with rule of law values. The absence of such an explanation for the falling win rate should be a source of concern. Further empirical studies could help explain this mystery, but such studies require data only in the possession of the courts themselves, or that are not currently systematically collected. We conclude with an explanation for why systemic studies of the workings of the justice system are important.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Ion Meyn has published The Haves of Procedure in the William & Mary Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
In litigation, “haves” and “have-nots” battle over what procedures should govern. Yet, much greater hostilities have been avoided—a war between the “haves” themselves. “Criminal haves” (prosecutors) and “civil haves” (institutional players) litigate in separate territories and under different sets of rules. This is good, for them, because they have incompatible objectives. This Article contends that protecting the “haves” from each other has profoundly influenced the development of procedure in the United States.
The “haves” reap significant benefits in being insulated from each other as they seek rules responsive to their unique preferences. A “criminal have” seeks easy access to the forum and thus prefers a permissive pleading standard. In contrast, a “civil have” seeks to impede a plaintiff from bringing suit and thus prefers a demanding pleading standard. As to discovery, “criminal haves,” possessing actionable facts and seeking to control the pretrial distribution of information, resist discovery and judicial involvement. In contrast, “civil haves” often need information to pursue legal objectives, and thus prefer a formal discovery phase, along with the option of judicial intervention to temper instances of discovery abuse. The procedural divide allows the “haves” to achieve these otherwise incompatible objectives.
In the absence of a procedural divide, “criminal haves” and “civil haves” would engage in contestation over what rules govern litigation. This Article suggests that, should civil and criminal litigants be subject to the same rules, as initially proposed during federal reform in the 1940s, the introduction of litigants into a unified forum would result in a fairer approach to procedure, mitigate existing inequalities, and accomplish some litigation objectives of the “havenots.”
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Today the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Home Depot U. S. A., Inc. v. Jackson. Justice Thomas authored the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. It begins:
The general removal statute, 28 U. S. C. §1441(a), provides that “any civil action” over which a federal court would have original jurisdiction may be removed to federal court by “the defendant or the defendants.” The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) provides that “[a] class action” may be removed to federal court by “any defendant without the consent of all defendants.” 28 U. S. C. §1453(b). In this case, we address whether either provision allows a third-party counterclaim defendant—that is, a party brought into a lawsuit through a counterclaim filed by the original defendant—to remove the counterclaim filed against it. Because in the context of these removal provisions the term “defendant” refers only to the party sued by the original plaintiff, we conclude that neither provision allows such a third party to remove.
Justice Alito authored a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Hernandez v. Mesa, limited to the following question: Whether, when plaintiffs plausibly allege that a rogue federal law enforcement officer violated clearly established Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights for which there is no alternative legal remedy, the federal courts can and should recognize a damages claim under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)?
This is the case’s second trip to SCOTUS; earlier coverage of the 2017 decision is here.
Friday, May 24, 2019
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Seth Endo has published Discovery Hydraulics, 52 UC Davis L. Rev. 1317 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
Discovery reforms invariably have unexpected consequences. But the growth of electronically stored information has led to one constant — an ever-increasing pressure on the finite resources of both the judiciary and litigants. Courts, through their discovery rules, direct where that pressure will be channeled. However, like any force in a closed system, it must be sent somewhere, ultimately requiring difficult tradeoffs amongst the three mainstay procedural justice norms of accuracy, efficiency, and participation. Discovery Hydraulics explores this phenomenon, cataloging how recently proposed or implemented document discovery reforms affect these norms.
In creating the first purposive taxonomy of recent document discovery reforms, Discovery Hydraulics makes three main contributions to the literature by: (1) articulating an understanding of how the treatment of costs and information volume correspond to the accuracy, efficiency, and participation norms; (2) systematically collecting and organizing the plethora of suggestions that have been offered to address the burdens associated with the growth of electronically stored information; and (3) laying out the normative and instrumental benefits of discovery reforms that focus on reducing costs without losing information. Last, but not least, a significant practical benefit is that this analytical approach should provide courts with the tools needed to assess, ex ante, the potential normative effects of changes to document discovery processes.
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
The main issue in yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC involved the provision of the bankruptcy code regarding a debtor’s rejection of an executory contract. But there was an interesting exchange regarding mootness.
From Justice Kagan’s majority opinion:
Mission has presented a claim for money damages—essentially lost profits—arising from its inability to use the Coolcore trademarks between the time Tempnology rejected the licensing agreement and its scheduled expiration date. See Reply Brief 22, and n. 8. Such claims, if at all plausible, ensure a live controversy. See Memphis Light, Gas & Water Div. v. Craft, 436 U. S. 1, 8–9 (1978). For better or worse, nothing so shows a continuing stake in a dispute’s outcome as a demand for dollars and cents. See 13C C. Wright, A. Miller & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure §3533.3, p. 2 (3d ed. 2008) (Wright & Miller) (“[A] case is not moot so long as a claim for monetary relief survives”). Ultimate recovery on that demand may be uncertain or even unlikely for any number of reasons, in this case as in others. But that is of no moment. If there is any chance of money changing hands, Mission’s suit remains live. See Chafin, 568 U. S., at 172.
Tempnology makes a flurry of arguments about why Mission is not entitled to damages, but none so clearly precludes recovery as to make this case moot.
Monday, May 20, 2019
Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Ritzen Group, Inc. v. Jackson Masonry, LLC, which involves the federal district courts’ appellate jurisdiction over certain bankruptcy court orders The question presented is: “Whether an order denying a motion for relief from the automatic stay is a final order under 28 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1).”
Today the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht. Justice Breyer authored the majority opinion, which was joined by Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch. It begins:
When Congress enacted the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, ch. 675, 52 Stat. 1040, as amended, 21 U. S. C. §301 et seq., it charged the Food and Drug Administration with ensuring that prescription drugs are “safe for use under the conditions prescribed, recommended, or suggested” in the drug’s “labeling.” §355(d). When the FDA exercises this authority, it makes careful judgments about what warnings should appear on a drug’s label for the safety of consumers.
For that reason, we have previously held that “clear evidence” that the FDA would not have approved a change to the drug’s label pre-empts a claim, grounded in state law, that a drug manufacturer failed to warn consumers of the change-related risks associated with using the drug. See Wyeth v. Levine, 555 U. S. 555, 571 (2009). We here determine that this question of pre-emption is one for a judge to decide, not a jury. We also hold that “clear evidence” is evidence that shows the court that the drug manufacturer fully informed the FDA of the justifications for the warning required by state law and that the FDA, in turn, informed the drug manufacturer that the FDA would not approve a change to the drug’s label to include that warning.
Justice Thomas joins the majority opinion but also writes a separate concurring opinion arguing that the preemption defense should fail as a matter of law. (The majority remands the case for the lower courts to address whether the plaintiff’s state-law tort claim is preempted in this case).
Justice Alito writes a concurring opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh. Justice Alito agrees that this is a question of law to be decided by courts rather than juries, but he is “concerned that [the majority’s] discussion of the law and the facts may be misleading on remand.”
Friday, May 17, 2019
Jie (Jeanne) Huang has published Personal Jurisdiction Based on the Location of a Server: Chinese Territorialism in the Internet Era?, 36 Wis. Int’l L.J. 87 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
Whether a court can exercise personal jurisdiction based on the location of a server in internet tort cases is a controversial issue. Its significance comes from the paradox that the internet is de-localized because it is ubiquitous, but servers are indispensable to the internet and every server has a geographic location. Since 2001, Chinese law has allowed courts to exercise personal jurisdiction solely based on the location of a server or other computing equipment in intellectual property infringement cases. Recently, it has extended this jurisdiction rule to all internet torts. This paper asks whether the location of a server should be considered the place where the tort occurs and whether this territorial-based jurisdiction rule can suffice its public-law legislative goal. It may enrich current research about technology-mediated legal challenges to private international law in two aspects. Firstly, it conducts a broad international survey by looking into laws in China, the U.S., Australia and the EU. It also analyzes where the tort occurs when servers are owned by an infringer, a third party or an infringee in domain name registration, service outsourcing, platform, cloud computing, commercial spams, etc. It concludes that in legal theory, the location of the server is not the place where an internet tort occurs. Secondly, by analyzing China’s experience, it argues that, in the internet era, states have to look for private-international-law tools to advance their public policy claims. However, the practice shows that the territorial-based jurisdiction rule is limited in fulfilling its pubic-law legislative goal.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Marin Levy has published Visiting Judges, 107 Cal. L. Rev. 67 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
Despite the fact that Article III judges hold particular seats on particular courts, the federal system rests on judicial interchangeability. Hundreds of judges “visit” other courts each year and collectively help decide thousands of appeals. Anyone from a retired Supreme Court Justice to a judge from the U.S. Court of International Trade to a district judge from out of circuit may come and hear cases on a given court of appeals. Although much has been written about the structure of the federal courts and the nature of Article III judgeships, little attention has been paid to the phenomenon of “sitting by designation”—how it came to be, how it functions today, and what it reveals about the judiciary more broadly.
This Article offers an overdue account of visiting judges. It begins by providing an origin story, showing how the current practice stems from two radically different traditions. The first saw judges as fixed geographically, and allowed for visitors only as a stopgap measure when individual judges fell ill or courts fell into arrears with their cases. The second assumed greater fluidity within the courts, requiring Supreme Court Justices to ride circuit—to visit different regions and act as trial and appellate judges—for the first half of the Court’s history. These two traditions together provide the critical context for modern-day visiting.
The Article then presents a thick descriptive analysis of contemporary practice. Relying on both qualitative and quantitative data, it brings to light the numerous differences in how the courts of appeals use outside judges today. While some courts regularly rely on visitors for workload relief, others bring in visiting judges to instruct them on the inner workings of the circuit, and another eschews having visitors altogether in part because the practice was once thought to be used for political ends.
These findings raise vital questions about inter- and intra-circuit consistency, the dissemination of culture and institutional knowledge within the courts, and the substitutability of federal judges. The Article concludes by taking up these questions, reflecting on the implications of visiting judges for the federal courts as a whole.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Mike Pardo has published The Paradoxes of Legal Proof: A Critical Guide, 99 B.U. L. Rev. 233 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
For several decades, a variety of paradoxes have fascinated and frustrated legal scholars and courts discussing evidence, procedure, and legal proof. These paradoxes concern issues such as statistical evidence, burdens and standards of proof, and rules for jury verdicts. As with other types of paradoxes, the paradoxes of legal proof raise fundamental issues and assumptions. In the legal context, the issues and assumptions are not merely of theoretical interest; they also have significant practical implications at trial and, indeed, throughout the processes of civil and criminal litigation. At the same time, there remains very little agreement about any of the paradoxes, and the issues they raise remain highly contested.
This Article explores the different types of legal-proof paradoxes and the connections between them. In analyzing the structure of the paradoxes, the Article makes three contributions. First, it explains the practical significance of the paradoxes and why they raise fundamental issues for evidence law and civil and criminal procedure. Second, it reveals the necessary connections between the different types of paradoxes and the ways in which one type of paradox has implications for the others. These unexplored connections help to explain why individual paradoxes have resisted consensus and continue to prompt discussion and disagreement. The paradoxes are too often treated as isolated problems to be “solved” without appreciating how the underlying issues relate to those raised by the other paradoxes. Third, the analysis clarifies the primary source of confusion for each type of paradox: namely, the popular but mistaken assumption that standards of proof are probabilistic thresholds. Abandoning this spurious assumption provides a number of salutary theoretical and practical consequences, including greater clarity of the legal issues underlying the paradoxes, a better explanation of legal doctrine, and an improved understanding of the manifold litigation issues dependent on the legal-proof process.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, covered earlier here. Justice Thomas’s majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, begins:
This case, now before us for the third time, requires us to decide whether the Constitution permits a State to be sued by a private party without its consent in the courts of a different State. We hold that it does not and overrule our decision to the contrary in Nevada v. Hall, 440 U. S. 410 (1979).
Justice Breyer authored the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
Thursday, May 9, 2019
Fifty years ago, Charles Alan Wright and Arthur Miller first published the Federal Practice & Procedure treatise. Thomson Reuters is releasing a series of podcasts during 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
The first episode, which is now posted, features Arthur Miller discussing the initial development of the treatise.
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Lou Mulligan’s essay, Is Personal Jurisdiction Constitutionally Self-Enacting? Lou reviews Ben Spencer’s recent article, The Territorial Reach of Federal Courts, which is forthcoming in the Florida Law Review.
Friday, May 3, 2019
Roger Michalski has published How to Sue a Robot, 2018 Utah L. Rev. 1021. Here’s the abstract:
We are entering the age of robots where autonomous robots will drive our cars, milk cows, drill for oil, invest in stock, mine coal, build houses, pick strawberries, and work as surgeons. Robots, in mimicking the work of humans, will also mimic their legal liability. But how do you sue a robot? The current answer is that you cannot. Robots are property. They are not entities with a legal status that would make them amendable to sue or be sued. If a robot causes harm, you have to sue its owner. Corporations used to be like this for many procedural purposes. They were similarly tethered to human owners. Over time, courts and legislators abandoned the model of treating corporations solely as property and increasingly treated them as an independent artificial person for litigation purposes.
Robots might also make a transition along those lines. If they do, which legal model should we adopt for robots? Are they more like an employee, a franchisee, a slave, a subsidiary, a child, an animal, a subcontractor, an agent, or something else altogether? Given the inherent path-dependence of procedural law, picking the right model will have important consequences and will be difficult to reverse.
This Article lays the groundwork for this fundamental decision. It explains the urgency and importance of this decision and presents three analytical frameworks (ontological, deontological, and functional) for how we can approach the question of robots in civil litigation. Often unnoticed and unarticulated, these analytical frameworks structure important doctrinal and normative positions. The Article then applies these analytical frameworks to evaluate numerous concrete contestant models for treating robots as litigation entities. The resulting taxonomy exposes the weaknesses of analogizing robots to established models—none fits, and all would have negative practical consequences. Instead of utilizing an existing model, this Article argues that we must treat robots as a new litigation category that borrows insights selectively and partially from a range of the existing models. For example, we must craft a new in robotam personal jurisdiction doctrine to supplement the old in personam jurisdiction doctrine. Doing otherwise would expose procedure to doctrinal incoherence, legislation to policy mayhem, and parties injured by robots to unnecessary costs and insurmountable procedural hurdles.