Friday, January 31, 2020
This week the Supreme Court ruled on a stay application in Department of Homeland Security v. New York. By a 5-4 vote, the Court granted the Trump administration’s motion to stay a preliminary injunction issued by Judge Daniels of the Southern District of New York. The district court had blocked Trump’s “public charge” rule, which changed the criteria for determining whether a noncitizen applying for admission into the United States or a change in status is ineligible because she is likely to become a public charge. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan would have denied the stay.
Justice Gorsuch authored a four-page opinion, joined by Justice Thomas, concurring in the grant of the stay. The opinion criticizes the issuance of so-called “nationwide” or “universal” injunctions. He concludes: “I concur in the Court’s decision to issue a stay. But I hope, too, that we might at an appropriate juncture take up some of the underlying equitable and constitutional questions raised by the rise of nationwide injunctions.”
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Llezlie Green has published Wage Theft in Lawless Courts, 107 Cal. L. Rev. 1303 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
Low-wage workers experience wage theft—that is, employers’ failure to pay earned wages—at alarmingly high rates. Indeed, the number of wage and hour cases filed in federal and state courts and administrative agencies steadily increases every year. While much of the scholarly assessment of wage and hour litigation focuses on large collective and class actions involving hundreds or thousands of workers and millions of dollars in lost wages, the experiences of individual workers with small claims have received little attention. Furthermore, scholarly consideration of the justice gap in lower courts, more generally, has often focused on debt collection cases in which the individual denied justice is the defendant, not the plaintiff.
This article fills a significant gap in the literature by considering the experiences of individual low-wage workers who pursue their claims in the lower courts. In doing so, it identifies the difference between the law as written and the law as experienced by low-wage workers seeking to vindicate their substantive legal rights. After considering the challenges to adjudicating wage and hour cases in small claims courts, it argues that procedural informality and frequent absence of critical inquiry into the substantive legal issues create significant hurdles to low-wage workers’ ability to prevail on their claims. Indeed, despite the various protections provided by both federal and state wage and hour laws, courts adjudicating these claims often apply a breach of contract analysis that disadvantages vulnerable workers. This return to what I term a pre-New Deal, Lochnerian approach to wage and hour disputes runs afoul of Congress and state governments’ efforts to regulate the workplace and, particularly, to protect vulnerable low-wage workers.
This article argues that the challenge of injecting legal standards into small claims court requires the creative use of narrative and case theory to prevail in wage and hour claims. It also considers potential procedural changes, such as the introduction of specific pleadings and forms for wage and hour claims and state court judge trainings that would better enable pro se parties to assert their federal and state substantive wage and hour rights in small claims courts.
Friday, January 24, 2020
Hiring Announcement: LSU Law Seeking Visitor to Teach Civil Procedure, Federal Courts & Other Courses in 2020-2021
The announcement begins:
LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY, PAUL M. HEBERT LAW CENTER seeks to hire a visiting professor for the 2020-21 academic year or for Fall 2020 and/or Spring 2021 in the following areas: federal courts, constitutional law, civil procedure, and evidence.
The full announcement is below.
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Last week the Ninth Circuit issued a decision in Juliana v. United States, covered earlier here and here. Judge Hurwitz authored the majority opinion, joined by Judge Murguia, finding that the plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to pursue their claims against the federal government. The opinion begins:
In the mid-1960s, a popular song warned that we were “on the eve of destruction.” The plaintiffs in this case have presented compelling evidence that climate change has brought that eve nearer. A substantial evidentiary record documents that the federal government has long promoted fossil fuel use despite knowing that it can cause catastrophic climate change, and that failure to change existing policy may hasten an environmental apocalypse.
The plaintiffs claim that the government has violated their constitutional rights, including a claimed right under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to a “climate system capable of sustaining human life.” The central issue before us is whether, even assuming such a broad constitutional right exists, an Article III court can provide the plaintiffs the redress they seek—an order requiring the government to develop a plan to “phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO2.” Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power. Rather, the plaintiffs’ impressive case for redress must be presented to the political branches of government.
District Court Judge Josephine Staton, sitting by designation, wrote a dissenting opinion. It begins:
In these proceedings, the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response—yet presses ahead toward calamity. It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses. Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation.
My colleagues throw up their hands, concluding that this case presents nothing fit for the Judiciary. On a fundamental point, we agree: No case can singlehandedly prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change predicted by the government and scientists. But a federal court need not manage all of the delicate foreign relations and regulatory minutiae implicated by climate change to offer real relief, and the mere fact that this suit cannot alone halt climate change does not mean that it presents no claim suitable for judicial resolution.
Plaintiffs bring suit to enforce the most basic structural principle embedded in our system of ordered liberty: that the Constitution does not condone the Nation’s willful destruction. So viewed, plaintiffs’ claims adhere to a judicially administrable standard. And considering plaintiffs seek no less than to forestall the Nation’s demise, even a partial and temporary reprieve would constitute meaningful redress. Such relief, much like the desegregation orders and statewide prison injunctions the Supreme Court has sanctioned, would vindicate plaintiffs’ constitutional rights without exceeding the Judiciary’s province. For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
A few weeks ago, Mark Hermann, drug and device law practitioner extraordinaire, posted a short and helpful essay about preparing witnesses for cross-examination on Above the Law. For those of us who dip into trial practice in teaching or in an advisory capacity, it's a great collection of helpful tips. Enjoy!
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Roger Michalski’s essay, Attention Supplicants. Roger reviews Ryan Copus’s article, Statistical Precedent: Allocating Judicial Attention, which is forthcoming in the Vanderbilt Law Review.
Friday, January 17, 2020
Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases on personal jurisdiction: Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court (19-368), and Ford Motor Co. v. Bandemer (19-369). Both present the following question:
The Due Process Clause permits a state court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only when the plaintiff’s claims “arise out of or relate to” the defendant’s forum activities. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The question presented is:
Whether the “arise out of or relate to” requirement is met when none of the defendant’s forum contacts caused the plaintiff’s claims, such that the plaintiff’s claims would be the same even if the defendant had no forum contacts.
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
SCOTUS Decision in Ritzen Group: Appealability and Motions for Relief from Automatic Stays in Bankruptcy
The precise issue the Court today decides: Does a creditor’s motion for relief from the automatic stay initiate a distinct proceeding terminating in a final, appealable order when the bankruptcy court rules dispositively on the motion? In agreement with the courts below, our answer is “yes.” We hold that the adjudication of a motion for relief from the automatic stay forms a discrete procedural unit within the embracive bankruptcy case. That unit yields a final, appealable order when the bankruptcy court unreservedly grants or denies relief.
The opinion concludes:
Because the appropriate “proceeding” in this case is the adjudication of the motion for relief from the automatic stay, the Bankruptcy Court’s order conclusively denying that motion is “final.” The court’s order ended the stay-relief adjudication and left nothing more for the Bankruptcy Court to do in that proceeding. The Court of Appeals therefore correctly ranked the order as final and immediately appealable, and correctly affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of Ritzen’s appeal as untimely.
In a footnote, Justice Ginsburg observes:
We do not decide whether finality would attach to an order denying stay relief if the bankruptcy court enters it “without prejudice” because further developments might change the stay calculus. Nothing in the record before us suggests that this is such an order.
Monday, January 13, 2020
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Suzette Malveaux’s essay, Procedural Law, the Supreme Court, and the Erosion of Private Rights Enforcement. Suzette reviews Steve Burbank & Sean Farhang’s article, Rights and Retrenchment in the Trump Era, 87 Fordham L. Rev. 37 (2018).