Tuesday, March 26, 2019
SCOTUS Decision in Republic of Sudan v. Harrison: Service of Process on a Foreign State under the FSIA
This case concerns the requirements applicable to a particular method of serving civil process on a foreign state. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), a foreign state may be served by means of a mailing that is “addressed and dispatched . . . to the head of the ministry of foreign affairs of the foreign state concerned.” 28 U. S. C. §1608(a)(3). The question now before us is whether this provision is satisfied when a service packet that names the foreign minister is mailed to the foreign state’s embassy in the United States. We hold that it is not. Most naturally read, §1608(a)(3) requires that a mailing be sent directly to the foreign minister’s office in the minister’s home country.
Justice Thomas dissented, writing: “I would hold that respondents complied with the FSIA when they addressed and dispatched a service packet to Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at Sudan’s Embassy in Washington, D. C.”
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is my essay, When American Pipe Met Erie. I review a recent article by Steve Burbank and Tobias Wolff, Class Actions, Statutes of Limitations and Repose, and Federal Common Law, 167 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1 (2018).
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Frank v. Gaos (covered earlier here). The Court had initially granted certiorari to decide “[w]hether, 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.’” Following oral argument, however, the Court ordered supplemental briefing on whether any plaintiff had Article III standing under the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Spokeo v. Robins.
Today’s per curiam opinion remands the case for the lower courts to consider the standing question:
After reviewing the supplemental briefs, we conclude that the case should be remanded for the courts below to address the plaintiffs’ standing in light of Spokeo. The supplemental briefs filed in response to our order raise a wide variety of legal and factual issues not addressed in the merits briefing before us or at oral argument. We “are a court of review, not of first view.” Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U. S. 709, 718, n. 7 (2005). Resolution of the standing question should take place in the District Court or the Ninth Circuit in the first instance. We therefore vacate and remand for further proceedings. Nothing in our opinion should be interpreted as expressing a view on any particular resolution of the standing question.
Justice Thomas dissented. He would have found that the plaintiffs’ allegations were sufficient to establish standing but that “the class action should not have been certified, and the settlement should not have been approved.”
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
SCOTUS: Rule 23(f)’s 14-day deadline for class-certification appeals is not subject to equitable tolling
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert, which involves Rule 23(f)’s 14-day deadline for seeking permission to appeal a district court’s class-certification ruling.
In Justice Sotomayor’s opinion, the Court makes clear that the 14-day deadline is not jurisdictional, which means that it “can be waived or forfeited.” [Slip op. at 3-4] Nonetheless, the Court found that it is not subject to equitable tolling:
“Whether a rule precludes equitable tolling turns not on its jurisdictional character but rather on whether the text of the rule leaves room for such flexibility. Here, the governing rules speak directly to the issue of Rule 23(f)’s flexibility and make clear that its deadline is not subject to equitable tolling.” [Slip op. at 4]
Howard Wasserman has a more detailed recap at SCOTUSblog.
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Whether the “discovery rule” applies to toll the one (1) year statute of limitations under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq., as the Fourth and Ninth Circuits have held but the Third Circuit (sua sponte en banc) has held contrarily.
Monday, February 25, 2019
Today the Supreme Court decided Yovino v. Rizo, issuing a per curiam opinion that begins:
A judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt, died on March 29, 2018, but the Ninth Circuit counted his vote in cases decided after that date. In the present case, Judge Reinhardt was listed as the author of an en banc decision issued on April 9, 2018, 11 days after he passed away. By counting Judge Reinhardt’s vote, the court deemed Judge Reinhardt’s opinion to be a majority opinion, which means that it constitutes a precedent that all future Ninth Circuit panels must follow. See United States v. Caperna, 251 F. 3d 827, 831, n. 2 (2001). Without Judge Reinhardt’s vote, the opinion attributed to him would have been approved by only 5 of the 10 members of the en banc panel who were still living when the decision was filed. Although the other five living judges concurred in the judgment, they did so for different reasons. The upshot is that Judge Reinhardt’s vote made a difference. Was that lawful?
The answer is no. The opinion concludes:
Because Judge Reinhardt was no longer a judge at the time when the en banc decision in this case was filed, the Ninth Circuit erred in counting him as a member of the majority. That practice effectively allowed a deceased judge to exercise the judicial power of the United States after his death. But federal judges are appointed for life, not for eternity.
We therefore grant the petition for certiorari, vacate the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Today the Supreme Court issued an 8-0 decision in New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira. Justice Gorsuch authors the opinion (Justice Kavanaugh did not participate).
The case involves § 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act, which provides that “nothing herein contained shall apply to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” This provision
The Court addresses two questions. The first is: “When a contract delegates questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator, must a court leave disputes over the application of §1’s exception for the arbitrator to resolve?” [Op. at 1] The answer is no. “Given the statute’s terms and sequencing, we agree with the First Circuit that a court should decide for itself whether §1’s ‘contracts of employment’ exclusion applies before ordering arbitration.” [Op. at 4 (emphasis added)]
The second question is: “[D]oes the term ‘contracts of employment’ refer only to contracts between employers and employees, or does it also reach contracts with independent contractors?” [Op. at 1] The answer is that contracts with independent contractors can also be excluded from the FAA. Justice Gorsuch reasoned that “Congress used the term ‘contracts of employment’ in a broad sense to capture any contract for the performance of work by workers,” [Op. at 10 (emphasis in original)], and that the term ‘workers’ “easily embraces independent contractors.” [Op. at 10]
This part of Justice Gorsuch’s opinion emphasizes that statutory terms “generally should be interpreted as taking their ordinary meaning at the time Congress enacted the statute.” [Op. at 6 (citation omitted)]. Justice Ginsburg writes a brief concurring opinion to stress that there may be some exceptions to this interpretive principle, because Congress “may design legislation to govern changing times and circumstances” [Ginsburg Op. at 1]. Her opinion notes that “sometimes, words in statutes can enlarge or contract their scope as other changes, in law or in the world, require their application to new instances or make old applications anachronistic.” [Ginsburg Op. at 2 (citation omitted)]
Friday, January 11, 2019
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., requires plaintiffs to exhaust claims of employment discrimination with the EEOC before filing suit in federal court. Id. § 2000e-5(b), (f)(1).
The question presented is: Whether Title VII’s administrative exhaustion requirement is a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit, as three Circuits have held, or a waivable claim-processing rule, as eight Circuits have held.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc. Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion—his first on the Supreme Court—begins:
Under the Federal Arbitration Act, parties to a contract may agree that an arbitrator rather than a court will resolve disputes arising out of the contract. When a dispute arises, the parties sometimes may disagree not only about the merits of the dispute but also about the threshold arbitrability question—that is, whether their arbitration agreement applies to the particular dispute. Who decides that threshold arbitrability question? Under the Act and this Court’s cases, the question of who decides arbitrability is itself a question of contract. The Act allows parties to agree by contract that an arbitrator, rather than a court, will resolve threshold arbitrability questions as well as underlying merits disputes. Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U. S. 63, 68−70 (2010); First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U. S. 938, 943−944 (1995).
Even when a contract delegates the arbitrability question to an arbitrator, some federal courts nonetheless will short-circuit the process and decide the arbitrability question themselves if the argument that the arbitration agreement applies to the particular dispute is “wholly groundless.” The question presented in this case is whether the “wholly groundless” exception is consistent with the Federal Arbitration Act. We conclude that it is not. The Act does not contain a “wholly groundless” exception, and we are not at liberty to rewrite the statute passed by Congress and signed by the President. When the parties’ contract delegates the arbitrability question to an arbitrator, the courts must respect the parties’ decision as embodied in the contract.
Friday, November 16, 2018
SCOTUS grants cert to decide the scope of discovery in case challenging 2020 census question about citizenship status
The petition for a writ of mandamus is treated as a petition for a writ of certiorari. The petition for certiorari is granted. Petitioners' brief on the merits is to be filed on or before Monday, December 17, 2018. Respondents' brief on the merits is to be filed on or before Thursday, January 17, 2019. The reply brief is to be filed on or before Monday, February 4, 2019. The case is set for oral argument on Tuesday, February 19, 2019.
The question presented is:
Whether, in an action seeking to set aside agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 701 et seq., a district court may order discovery outside the administrative record to probe the mental processes of the agency decisionmaker—including by compelling the testimony of high-ranking Executive Branch officials—when there is no evidence that the decisionmaker disbelieved the objective reasons in the administrative record, irreversibly prejudged the issue, or acted on a legally forbidden basis.
Friday, November 2, 2018
There’s been a flurry of recent Supreme Court activity involving Juliana v. United States, a case pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon (covered earlier here and here). Twenty-one young plaintiffs are suing the federal government alleging that it has contributed to climate change in violation of the their constitutional rights.
On October 18, the Solicitor General applied for a stay of discovery and trial. The Supreme Court granted the stay on October 19, “pending receipt of a response, due on or before Wednesday, October 24, 2018, by 3 p.m., and further order of the undersigned or of the Court.” The plaintiffs filed their response on October 22, and the Solicitor General file a reply on October 24.
At this point, there’s been no further ruling from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court proceedings are captioned In re United States and the docket is here.
UPDATE: Late Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court issued an order denying the Solicitor General’s motion. The Court indicated, however, that “adequate relief may be available in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”
Friday, September 28, 2018
This action was commenced when Citibank, N.A. filed a routine state-court collection action against respondent George W. Jackson. Petitioner Home Depot U. S. A., Inc. was not a party to that action and never became a party to that collection dispute. Jackson then filed a counterclaim against Citibank asserting class-action consumer-protection claims. In addition to naming Citibank, Jackson named Home Depot and another company as original defendant to that counterclaim class action. The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-2, 119 Stat. 4, permits "any defendant in a state-court class action to remove the action to federal court if it satisfies certain jurisdictional requirements. Petitioner Home Depot is an original defendant in the class action at issue here and was never a plaintiff in any claim associated with this case.
The question presented is: Whether an original defendant to a class-action claim can remove the class action if it otherwise satisfies the jurisdictional requirements of the Class Action Fairness Act when the class action was originally asserted as a counterclaim against a co-defendant.
The Court also directed the parties to address the following question:
Should this court’s holding in Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100 (1941)—that an original plaintiff may not remove a counterclaim against it—extend to third-party counterclaim defendants?
Friday, August 10, 2018
Today Wikileaks was served via Twitter, pursuant to FRCP 4(f)(3), in Democratic National Committee v. The Russian Federation et al., No. 18-cv-3501 (SDNY).
Here's the tweet effecting service:
Here's the court's order (from earlier this week) authorizing service via Twitter:
Here's the plaintiff's motion:
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Yesterday the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in Rodriguez v. Swartz. It’s a particularly interesting case in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Ziglar v. Abbasi and Hernandez v. Mesa.
By a 2-1 vote, the panel affirmed the district court’s refusal to dismiss a claim against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who, while standing on American soil, shot and killed a teenage Mexican citizen who was walking down a street in Mexico. (In the interest of full disclosure, I joined an amicus brief on behalf of law professors in support of the plaintiff-appellee.)
Judge Andrew Kleinfeld’s majority opinion concludes:
Under the particular set of facts alleged in this case, Swartz is not entitled to qualified immunity. The Fourth Amendment applies here. No reasonable officer could have thought that he could shoot J.A. dead if, as pleaded, J.A. was innocently walking down a street in Mexico. And despite our reluctance to extend Bivens, we do so here: no other adequate remedy is available, there is no reason to infer that Congress deliberately chose to withhold a remedy, and the asserted special factors either do not apply or counsel in favor of extending Bivens.
Of course, the facts as pleaded may turn out to be unsupported. When all of the facts have been exposed, the shooting may turn out to have been excusable or justified. There is and can be no general rule against the use of deadly force by Border Patrol agents. But in the procedural context of this case, we must take the facts as alleged in the complaint. Those allegations entitle J.A.’s mother to proceed with her case.
Judge Milan Smith dissented, arguing that no Bivens action was available.
Friday, July 27, 2018
Earlier this year the Ninth Circuit issued a 2-1 decision in In re Hyundai and Kia Fuel Economy Litigation. The panel reversed the district court’s certification of a settlement class involving claims against Hyundai and Kia over their vehicles’ fuel efficiency. The decision was particularly controversial because of the majority’s choice-of-law analysis and its potential impact on certifying nationwide classes.
Today the full Ninth Circuit granted en banc rehearing.
Oral argument is scheduled for the week of September 24, 2018.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
SDNY rules on motions to dismiss cases challenging addition of a citizenship status question to 2020 census
Today U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman (S.D.N.Y.) issued an opinion and order granting in part and denying in part the defendants’ motion to dismiss two related cases, New York v. United States Department of Commerce and New York Immigration Coalition v. United States Department of Commerce. The plaintiffs in these cases are challenging—on a number of grounds—Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to reinstate a question on citizenship status for the 2020 census. The upshot, as the court summarizes is this:
Plaintiffs’ claims under the Enumeration Clause — which turn on Secretary Ross’s power rather than his purposes — must be and are dismissed. By contrast, their claims under the APA (which Defendants seek to dismiss solely on jurisdictional and justiciability grounds) and the Due Process Clause — which turn at least in part on Secretary Ross’s purposes and not merely on his power — may proceed.
In reaching this conclusion, the opinion covers a number of interesting issues, including Article III standing, the political question doctrine, and whether the plaintiffs plausibly alleged discriminatory animus for purposes of their equal protection claim under the Due Process Clause.
In Lewis v. Governor of Alabama, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of an equal protection challenge to a 2016 Alabama statute that nullified a Birmingham city ordinance raising the minimum wage to $10.10. Here’s the introductory paragraph:
For a single day in February 2016, Marnika Lewis and Antoin Adams secured a pay raise. The Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, William Bell, had just affixed his signature to Birmingham Ordinance No. 16-28, which guaranteed Lewis, Adams, and all other wage earners in the city $10.10 per hour. But the following afternoon, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed the Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act (The Minimum Wage Act or the Act) into law. The Minimum Wage Act nullified Birmingham Ordinance No. 16-28, preempted all local labor and employment regulation, and mandated a uniform minimum wage throughout Alabama—which, then and now, sits at $7.25 per hour. At the heart of this appeal is whether Lewis and Adams have stated a plausible claim that the Minimum Wage Act had the purpose and effect of discriminating against Birmingham’s black citizens, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Because they have, we reverse the dismissal of that claim. We affirm the dismissal of all other claims.
The opinion addresses standing, sovereign immunity, and pleading standards. As to pleading, the court concludes:
Here, a sensitive but thorough examination of the plaintiffs’ detailed allegations leads us to conclude that they have plausibly alleged a discriminatory motivation behind the Minimum Wage Act, despite the law’s neutrality and rationale. This is all that is required for their claim to survive a motion to dismiss.
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
This week the Sixth Circuit decided Martin v. Behr Dayton Thermal Products, affirming the district court’s decision to certify various issues for class treatment under Rule 23(c)(4). The court sided with what it called “the broad view” of the relationship between Rule 23(b)(3)’s requirements and issue class actions under Rule 23(c)(4). From Judge Stranch’s opinion:
Under what is known as the broad view, courts apply the Rule 23(b)(3) predominance and superiority prongs after common issues have been identified for class treatment under Rule 23(c)(4). The broad view permits utilizing Rule 23(c)(4) even where predominance has not been satisfied for the cause of action as a whole.
After reviewing the circuit split over this question, the opinion concludes:
In sum, Rule 23(c)(4) contemplates using issue certification to retain a case’s class character where common questions predominate within certain issues and where class treatment of those issues is the superior method of resolution. See Nassau, 461 F.3d at 226; Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(4) adv. comm. n. to 1966 amend. A requirement that predominance must first be satisfied for the entire cause of action would undercut the purpose of Rule 23(c)(4) and nullify its intended benefits. The broad approach is the proper reading of Rule 23, in light of the goals of that rule.
Friday, June 29, 2018
It may have been lost in all of the news surrounding Justice Kennedy’s retirement, but yesterday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, which presents the question:
“Whether Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410 (1979), which permits a sovereign state to be haled into another state’s courts without its consent, should be overruled.”
This is the case’s third trip to the Supreme Court.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Yesterday’s Supreme Court order list included grants of certiorari in several cases, including these three:
Sudan v. Harrison presents the question:
Whether the Second Circuit erred by holding — in direct conflict with the D.C., Fifth, and Seventh Circuits and in the face of an amicus brief from the United States — that plaintiffs suing a foreign state under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act may serve the foreign state under 28 U.S.C § 1608(a)(3) by mail addressed and dispatched to the head of the foreign state’s ministry of foreign affairs “via” or in “care of” the foreign state’s diplomatic mission in the United States, despite U.S. obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to preserve mission inviolability.
Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert presents the question:
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f) establishes a fourteen-day deadline to file a petition for permission to appeal an order granting or denying class-action certification. On numerous occasions, this Court left undecided whether mandatory claim-processing rules, like Rule 23(f), are subject to equitable exceptions, because the issue was not raised below. See, e.g., Hamer v. Neighborhood Hous. Serv. of Chicago, 138 S. Ct. 13, 18 n.3, 22 (2017). That obstacle is not present here. The question presented is: did the Ninth Circuit err by holding that equitable exceptions apply to mandatory claim-processing rules and excusing a party’s failure to timely file a petition for permission to appeal, or a motion for reconsideration, within the Rule 23(f) deadline? As the Ninth Circuit acknowledged below, its decision conflicts with other United States Circuit Courts of Appeals that have considered this issue (the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits).
The question presented is: did the Ninth Circuit err by holding that equitable exceptions apply to mandatory claim-processing rules and excusing a party’s failure to timely file a petition for permission to appeal, or a motion for reconsideration, within the Rule 23(f) deadline?
And Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales, Inc. presents the question:
Whether the Federal Arbitration Act permits a court to decline to enforce an agreement delegating questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator if the court concludes the claim of arbitrability is “wholly groundless.”
June 26, 2018 in Class Actions, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, International/Comparative Law, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)