Monday, October 19, 2020
Today’s Supreme Court order list contained some high-profile grants of certiorari that include some interesting federal courts issues.
Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab involves a challenge to the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which had been enjoined by lower federal courts. One of the four questions presented is “[w]hether the district court’s universal preliminary injunction is impermissibly overbroad.”
Trump v. Sierra Club involves the Trump administration’s diversion of Department of Defense (DoD) funds to build portions of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The first question presented is whether the plaintiffs “have a cognizable cause of action to obtain review of the Acting Secretary’s compliance with Section 8005’s proviso in transferring funds internally between DoD appropriations accounts.”
Here's where you can check out the cert-stage briefing and follow the merits briefs as they come in:
Supreme Court website:
Friday, October 16, 2020
Today the Supreme Court set oral argument in Trump v. New York for Monday, November 30. Here are the questions presented, which include a question on the lower court's authority to grant relief under Article III:
Congress has provided that, for purposes of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives, the President shall prepare “a statement showing the whole number of persons in each State * * * as ascertained under the * * * decennial census of the population.” 2 U.S.C. 2a(a). It has further provided that the Secretary of Commerce shall take the decennial census “in such form and content as he may determine,” 13 U.S.C. 141(a), and shall tabulate the results in a report to the President, 13 U.S.C. 141(b). The President has issued a Memorandum instructing the Secretary to include within that report information enabling the President to implement a policy decision to exclude illegal aliens from the base population number for apportionment “to the maximum extent feasible and consistent with the discretion delegated to the executive branch.” 85 Fed. Reg. 44,679, 44,680 (July 23, 2020). At the behest of plaintiffs urging that the exclusion of illegal aliens would unconstitutionally alter the apportionment and chill some persons from participating in the census, a three-judge district court declared the Memorandum unlawful and enjoined the Secretary from including the information in his report. The questions presented are:
(1) Whether the relief entered satisfies the requirements of Article III of the Constitution.
(2) Whether the Memorandum is a permissible exercise of the President’s discretion under the provisions of law governing congressional apportionment.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Yesterday, Judge Polster partially granted the plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions against the Allergan and Teva defendants in the In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL. The issue was “whether the Plaintiffs are entitled to some relief, given that they only recently received a critical document (‘the Cegidim Report’), even though the Court ordered the Report must be produced and even though Plaintiffs asked Allergan and Teva for it numerous times during discovery in the last 18 months.”
Judge Polster explained:
[I]f the Cegidim Report supported, rather than contradicted, assertions Teva and Allergan made in their summary judgment briefing, it seems awfully likely the defendants would have worked more diligently to find it. And that is the level of diligence that was required, regardless.
Here is the full order:
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
The Supreme Court hears oral argument tomorrow in the much-anticipated Ford cases—the latest in the Court’s recent run of decisions on personal jurisdiction. Oral argument in the two consolidated cases was originally scheduled for last spring, but it was postponed until this week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two cases involve a similar fact pattern. The plaintiffs were injured in accidents involving Ford vehicles, and they sued Ford in the state where they lived and where the accidents occurred. Ford is actively involved in marketing its automobiles in those states (as it is throughout the United States), including the specific kinds of automobiles involved in these accidents. Ford, however, has argued against specific jurisdiction because the vehicles involved in these accidents were initially sold to customers in other states. The vehicle involved in the Minnesota accident was initially sold to a customer in North Dakota. The vehicle involved in the Montana accident was initially sold to a customer in Washington State. Accordingly, Ford contends that its contacts with Minnesota and Montana were not the “cause” of the accidents that occurred there. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that “[s]pecific jurisdiction over a defendant is permissible where a plaintiff has been injured in the forum by a product that the defendant has systematically marketed, sold, and serviced in the forum.”
Numerous law professors have filed amicus briefs supporting personal jurisdiction in Ford (here, here, here, here, and here) and weighed in with blog posts (e.g., here and here). There is also a remarkable amicus brief filed by 39 states and the District of Columbia arguing in support of jurisdiction—a brief joined by many states whose administrations would hardly be considered friends of the plaintiffs’ bar.
Although the Supreme Court has decided lots of cases about when a defendant’s contacts are constitutionally sufficient for specific jurisdiction, it has yet to provide meaningful guidance on what sort of forum-controversy “affiliation” is required to justify specific jurisdiction. I’ve argued elsewhere that the appropriate affiliation touchstone is rationality—that is, whether there is a rational basis for the forum state to adjudicate the availability of judicial remedies in that particular case. But the Supreme Court need not go that far to uphold specific jurisdiction in Ford. The test proposed by the plaintiffs is a sensible one that vindicates the well-established notion that a defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction when it seeks to serve the market for its product in the forum state and its product causes injury there.
There’s a lot more to be said, but with this quick post I want to highlight an additional concern about Ford’s causation argument—one that could sweep beyond the precise facts of these cases and into more traditional “stream of commerce” cases where the product is purchased initially by a customer in the forum state. The plurality and concurring opinions in the Supreme Court’s McIntyre decision indicate that a single product entering the forum state is not a sufficient contact for establishing personal jurisdiction—even if that single product is the one that gives rise to the litigation. Yet Ford’s proposed causal requirement suggests that the only relevant contact is the single vehicle or piece of machinery that was involved in the accident. If that’s right, then every case might turn into McIntyre. Regardless of whether the flow of the defendant’s products into the forum state is a stream, an eddy, or a rushing river, the only contact that would count is the single drop that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. And a single drop is never enough. That would be a radical, unfortunate departure from established doctrine—and it’s another reason why the Court should uphold personal jurisdiction in the Ford cases.
Monday, October 5, 2020
The Supreme Court begins oral argument by telephone conference this morning. If you want to listen in, here’s some information from the Supreme Court’s press release:
The Court will hear oral arguments by telephone conference on October 5, 6, 7, 13, and 14. In keeping with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, the Justices and counsel will all participate remotely. The oral arguments are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. On days when more than one case will be heard, there will be a three minute pause before the second case begins.
The Court will provide a live audio feed of the arguments to ABC News (the network pool chair), the Associated Press, and C-SPAN, and they will in turn provide a simultaneous feed for the oral arguments to livestream on various media platforms for public access. * * *
The oral argument audio and a transcript of the oral arguments will be posted on the Court's website following oral argument each day.
Today’s arguments include Carney v. Adams, which presents some interesting standing and severability issues.
Friday, October 2, 2020
The question presented involves the permissible scope of an appellate court’s review of a district court’s order remanding a case to state court. From the cert. petition:
Section 1447(d) of Title 28 of the United States Code generally precludes appellate review of an order remanding a removed case to state court. But Section 1447(d) expressly provides that an “order remanding a case * * * removed pursuant to” the federal-officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, or the civil-rights removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1443, “shall be reviewable by appeal or otherwise.” Some courts of appeals have interpreted Section 1447(d) to permit appellate review of any issue encompassed in a district court’s remand order where the removing defendant premised removal in part on the federal-officer or civil-rights removal statutes; other courts of appeals, including the Fourth Circuit in this case, have held that appellate review is limited to the federal-officer or civil-rights ground for removal. The question presented is as follows:
Whether 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) permits a court of appeals to review any issue encompassed in a district court’s order remanding a removed case to state court where the removing defendant premised removal in part on the federal-officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, or the civil-rights removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1443.
Friday, September 25, 2020
Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit issued a 2-1 decision in In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation, a much-anticipated case about the certification of a negotiation class in the Opioid MDL.
The majority reversed the district court’s certification of a negotiation class. Judge Clay’s majority opinion called it a “novel form of class action.” He observes that Rule 23 “does not mention certification for purposes of ‘negotiation’ or anything along those lines” and writes that “a new form of class action, wholly untethered from Rule 23, may not be employed by a court.” He also found that the district court’s certification of the negotiation class had “papered over the predominance inquiry” required by Rule 23(b)(3).
Judge Moore disagrees, with a 40+ page dissent that begins:
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were not written and have never been interpreted to manacle district courts that innovate within the Rules’ textual borders. The district court has breathed life into a novel concept—a class certified for negotiation purposes—to aid in its Promethean duty to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of this byzantine multidistrict litigation. We should be in the business of encouraging, not exterminating, such resourcefulness. Certifying a negotiation class honors the Rules’ equitable heritage, complements the settlement class’s history, hews to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23’s textual requisites, and stirs no constitutional or policy qualms. So, with respect, I dissent.
The entire dissent is worth a read. Before proceeding to analyze whether the district court properly certified the proposed negotiation class, Part I of Judge Moore’s opinion addresses the proper approach to interpreting and applying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Part II provides an engaging history of Rule 23.
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Last week the Eleventh Circuit issued a decision in Cantu v. City of Dothan, reversing the district court’s grant of qualified immunity. Judge Ed Carnes’ opinion for the panel begins with a quote from Rick Bragg’s The Prince of Frog Town:
When Rick Bragg wrote about “a gothic story” in which “you can see the bad luck tumbling, as if the devil himself had shaved the dice,” he was talking about his father’s tragic life, but those words could also describe Robert Earl Lawrence’s effort to help a stray dog he found in a Walmart parking lot.
The introductory paragraphs describe the events that would lead to Lawrence’s death:
When the backup officer arrived at the shelter parking lot, still more words were exchanged. That officer told Lawrence that if he didn’t stop talking he was going to jail. Lawrence didn’t stop talking and the backup officer, with the assistance of the other two officers on the scene, attempted to arrest and handcuff him. Lawrence would not submit and resisted –– not aggressively, but vigorously. He refused to put his hands behind his back as ordered, he struggled, and twice he temporarily freed himself from an officer’s grip and ran around the car trying to get away, but officers caught up with him. In the last moments of the encounter, while trying to get free from three officers again, he put his hand either on an officer’s taser, or on the officer’s wrist or hand that was holding the taser. In response, an officer pulled her service weapon and without warning, and to the surprise of the other two officers, shot Lawrence while he was being held. He was taken to a hospital where he died from the gunshot wound.
The district court granted summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds to the officer who shot Lawrence. But the panel unanimously reverses and remands for further proceedings:
Taking the facts in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff], a reasonable jury could find that Woodruff violated Lawrence’s clearly established constitutional rights by shooting him. As a result, Woodruff is not entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity or based on state agent immunity.
Monday, August 31, 2020
We covered earlier the D.C. Circuit’s grant of a writ of mandamus in In re Flynn, which involves the federal government’s Rule 48(a) motion to dismiss the criminal charges against Michael Flynn. Today the en banc D.C. Circuit reversed course, denying Flynn’s request for a writ of mandamus by an 8-2 vote.
From the court’s per curiam opinion:
As to Petitioner’s first two requests—to compel the immediate grant of the Government’s motion, and to vacate the District Court’s appointment of amicus—Petitioner has not established that he has “no other adequate means to attain the relief he desires.” Cheney v. U.S. Dist. Court for D.C., 542 U.S. 367, 380 (2004) (quoting Kerr v. U.S. Dist. Court for N. Dist. of Cal., 426 U.S. 394, 403 (1976)). We also decline to mandate that the case be reassigned to a different district judge, because Petitioner has not established a clear and indisputable right to reassignment. See id. at 381. We therefore deny the Petition.
Saturday, August 22, 2020
This week the Ninth Circuit issued a 2-1 decision in Rittmann v. Amazon.com, addressing an arbitration issue similar to the one recently decided by the First Circuit last month (covered earlier here). The Ninth Circuit case involves drivers who participate in the “AmFlex program,” under which “Amazon contracts with individuals to make ‘last mile’ deliveries of products from Amazon warehouses to the products’ destinations using the AmFlex smart phone application.” Like the First Circuit, the Ninth Circuit concludes that Amazon’s arbitration provision is not covered by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and is not enforceable.
Judge Milan Smith authors the majority opinion (joined by Judge Randy Smith, no relation), and Judge Bress dissents. The majority concludes that the AmFlex last-mile delivery providers are exempt from the FAA under 9 U.S.C. § 1 because they are “transportation workers ‘engaged in foreign or interstate commerce’” even though they do not cross state lines: “The plain meaning of the relevant statutory text, case law interpreting the exemption’s scope and application, and the construction of similar statutory language all support the conclusion that transportation workers need not cross state lines to be considered ‘engaged in foreign or interstate commerce’ pursuant to § 1.”
Monday, August 17, 2020
Earlier this month, the Federal Circuit issued its decision in National Veterans Legal Services Program v. United States. Judge Hughes’ opinion begins in the style of Goldilocks:
These interlocutory cross-appeals challenge the district court’s interpretation of a statutory note to 28 U.S.C. § 1913 permitting the federal judiciary to charge “reasonable fees” for “access to information available through automatic data processing equipment.” Plaintiffs contend that under this provision unlawfully excessive fees have been charged for accessing federal court records through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system and that the district court identifies too little unlawful excess. The government argues that the district court identifies too much (and also that the district court lacked jurisdiction). We conclude that the district court got it just right. We therefore affirm and remand for further proceedings.
Here’s coverage from Debra Cassens Weiss (ABA Journal).
(H/T Roger Baron)
Monday, August 10, 2020
The Ninth Circuit recently issued its decision in Judd v. Weinstein. Judge Murguia’s opinion reverses the district court’s dismissal of Ashley Judd’s state-law sexual harassment claim against producer Harvey Weinstein.
In doing so, the court confronts an issue of “first impression under California law” and proceeds to “predict how the California Supreme Court would resolve it.” The court also finds that Judd’s complaint passes muster under Iqbal, despite Weinstein’s argument that she failed to adequately allege a professional relationship at the time of the alleged harassment:
Judd sufficiently alleged a “business, service, or professional relationship” at the time of the alleged harassment: Judd alleged that she established a professional relationship with Weinstein after working on the 1995 Miramax film Smoke, and went to the Peninsula Hotel in hopes of building upon that existing relationship to discuss future professional endeavors. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”). Moreover, Judd alleged that “at the time of the harassment, [she] was discussing potential roles in films produced or distributed by Weinstein or Miramax.” This is more than enough to allege a professional relationship at the time of the alleged harassment.
(H/T: Aaron Caplan)
Friday, July 24, 2020
Last week, the Second Circuit issued its decision in La Liberte v. Reid. Judge Jacobs’ opinion addresses a thorny question that has divided the circuits—whether state anti-SLAPP statutes apply in federal court under the Erie doctrine/Rules Enabling Act framework. The specific state provision in this case is California’s “special motion to strike” procedure. Here are some highlights:
The test is whether “a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ‘answer[s] the same question’ as the [special motion to strike].” Abbas, 783 F.3d at 1333 (alteration in original) (quoting Shady Grove Orthopedic Assocs., P.A. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 559 U.S. 393, 398–99 (2010)). If so, the Federal Rule governs, unless it violates the Rules Enabling Act. Id. Applying that test, we first conclude that the special motion to strike in California’s anti-SLAPP statute answers the same question as Federal Rules 12 and 56.
* * *
Since Rules 12 and 56 answer the same question as California’s special motion to strike, they “govern in diversity cases in federal court, unless Rules 12 and 56 violate the Rules Enabling Act.” Abbas, 783 F.3d at 1336. “So far, the Supreme Court has rejected every challenge to the Federal Rules that it has considered under the Rules Enabling Act.” Id. Neither Reid nor amici curiae invite us to deviate. Still, we briefly address the question for the sake of completeness. The test is “whether a rule really regulates procedure,--the judicial process for enforcing rights and duties recognized by substantive law and for justly administering remedy and redress for disregard or infraction of them.” Sibbach v. Wilson & Co., 312 U.S. 1, 14 (1941). Like the Eleventh Circuit, “[w]e have little difficulty concluding” that Rules 12 and 56 “comply with the Rules Enabling Act,” particularly because they “‘affect only the process of enforcing litigants’ rights and not the rights themselves.’” Carbone, 910 F.3d at 1357 (second alteration in original) (quoting Burlington N. R.R. Co. v. Woods, 480 U.S. 1, 8, (1987)). Accordingly, federal courts must apply Rules 12 and 56 instead of California’s special motion to strike.
H/T: Howard Wasserman
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
First Circuit Finds Amazon's Arbitration Provision Unenforceable in Class Action by Last-Mile Drivers
On Friday, the First Circuit issued its decision in Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc. Judge Lipez’s decision begins:
This putative class action requires us to decide whether employment contracts of certain delivery workers -- those locally transporting goods on the last legs of interstate journeys -- are covered by the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA" or the "Act"), given its exemption for "contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce." 9 U.S.C. § 1. * * * After close examination of the text and purpose of the statute and the relevant precedent, we now hold that the exemption encompasses the contracts of transportation workers who transport goods or people within the flow of interstate commerce, not simply those who physically cross state lines in the course of their work.
Plaintiff-appellee Bernard Waithaka, a so-called "last mile" delivery driver for [Amazon] falls within this category of transportation workers whose contracts are exempt from the FAA. Hence, we conclude that the FAA does not govern the enforceability of the mandatory arbitration provision of his employment agreement with appellants. Because that provision prohibits proceeding on a class basis, either in the arbitral or judicial forum, we also agree with the district court that the arbitration provision is unenforceable under state law.
Thursday, July 9, 2020
This morning featured some important decisions from the Supreme Court, but everyone knows the real action is at the after party. Here are some interesting grants of certiorari from this afternoon’s order list:
AMG Capital Management, LLC v. FTC and FTC v. Credit Bureau Center, LLC involve the extent to which § 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act’s authorization for district courts to issue an “injunction” permits monetary relief such as restitution or the return of unlawfully obtained funds.
Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski presents the question “whether a government’s post-filing change of an unconstitutional policy moots nominal-damages claims that vindicate the government’s past, completed violation of a plaintiff’s constitutional right.”
Here’s where to go if you want to find the cert-stage briefing and follow the merits briefs as they come in:
Monday, July 6, 2020
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, Inc., holding that the government-debt exception to the TCPA’s prohibition on robocalls to cell phones violated the First Amendment. The Court was sharply divided, as the breakdown indicates:
KAVANAUGH, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and ALITO, J., joined, and in which THOMAS, J., joined as to Parts I and II. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. BREYER, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment with respect to severability and dissenting in part, in which GINSBURG and KAGAN, JJ., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which THOMAS, J., joined as to Part II.
The lack of a majority opinion will surely be of interest to Marks-rule enthusiasts. Readers may also be interested in the Justices’ severability analysis. Seven Justices (Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan & Kavanaugh) conclude that the unconstitutional government-debt exception is severable from the rest of the TCPA. Gorsuch’s opinion, joined by Thomas, disagrees: “Respectfully, if this is what modern ‘severability doctrine’ has become, it seems to me all the more reason to reconsider our course.”
Thursday, July 2, 2020
Today’s Supreme Court order list was a big one for the international side of civil procedure and federal courts. The Court granted certiorari in four interesting cases:
Republic of Hungary v. Simon presents the following question: “May the district court abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for reasons of international comity, where former Hungarian nationals have sued the nation of Hungary to recover the value of property lost in Hungary during World War II, and where the plaintiffs made no attempt to exhaust local Hungarian remedies?”
Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp presents two questions:
1) Whether the “expropriation exception” of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(3), which abrogates foreign sovereign immunity when “rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue,” provides jurisdiction over claims that a foreign sovereign has violated international human-rights law when taking property from its own national within its own borders, even though such claims do not implicate the established international law governing states’ responsibility for takings of property.
2) Whether the doctrine of international comity is unavailable in cases against foreign sovereigns, even in cases of considerable historical and political significance to the foreign sovereign, and even where the foreign nation has a domestic framework for addressing the claims.
Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe I presents two questions:
1) Whether an aiding and abetting claim against a domestic corporation brought under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, may overcome the extraterritoriality bar where the claim is based on allegations of general corporate activity in the United States and where plaintiffs cannot trace the alleged harms, which occurred abroad at the hands of unidentified foreign actors, to that activity.
2) Whether the Judiciary has the authority under the Alien Tort Statute to impose liability on domestic corporations.
And Cargill Inc. v. Doe I presents two related questions:
1) Whether the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute is displaced by allegations that a U.S. company generally conducted oversight of its foreign operations at its headquarters and made operational and financial decisions there, even though the conduct alleged to violate international law occurred in—and the plaintiffs’ suffered their injuries in—a foreign country.
2) Whether a domestic corporation is subject to liability in a private action under the Alien Tort Statute.
The Court has consolidated Nestlé and Cargill for briefing and oral argument.
Here’s where to go if you want to find the cert-stage briefing and follow the merits briefs as they come in:
Monday, June 29, 2020
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Russo. By a 5-4 vote, the Court strikes down Louisiana’s admitting-privileges law (Act 620) as imposing an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. The five-Justice majority comes from Justice Breyer’s opinion, which is joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, and Chief Justice Roberts’ concurring opinion. Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh dissent—each of them authoring dissenting opinions.
In addition to the substantive constitutional issues regarding access to abortion, the case implicates some interesting civil procedure and federal courts issues: standing, standards of review, and stare decisis.
The standing issue is whether the plaintiffs, who were abortion providers and clinics, could challenge the Louisiana law as infringing their patients’ rights. Justice Breyer’s opinion concludes that Louisiana waived its standing argument:
The State’s argument rests on the rule that a party cannot ordinarily “‘rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties.’” Kowalski v. Tesmer, 543 U. S. 125, 129 (2004) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U. S. 490, 499 (1975)). This rule is “prudential.” 543 U. S., at 128–129. It does not involve the Constitution’s “case-or-controversy requirement.” Id., at 129; see Craig v. Boren, 429 U. S. 190, 193 (1976); Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U. S. 106, 112 (1976). And so, we have explained, it can be forfeited or waived. See Craig, 429 U. S., at 193–194.
Louisiana had argued in the lower courts that “there was ‘no question that the physicians had standing to contest’ Act 620.” This was an “unmistakable concession,” according to Justice Breyer. He adds that “even if the State had merely forfeited its objection by failing to raise it at any point over the last five years, we would not now undo all that has come before on that basis.” He explains:
What we said some 45 years ago in Craig applies equally today: “[A] decision by us to forgo consideration of the constitutional merits”—after “the parties have sought or at least have never resisted an authoritative constitutional determination” in the courts below—“in order to await the initiation of a new challenge to the statute by injured third parties would be impermissibly to foster repetitive and time-consuming litigation under the guise of caution and prudence.” 429 U. S., at 193–194 (quotation altered).
Justice Breyer also questions whether Louisiana’s standing argument would be persuasive in any event, noting that “[w]e have long permitted abortion providers to invoke the rights of their actual or potential patients in challenges to abortion-related regulations.”
Chief Justice Roberts concurs in Justice Breyer’s standing analysis: “For the reasons the plurality explains, ante, at 11–16, I agree that the abortion providers in this case have standing to assert the constitutional rights of their patients.”
2. Standard of Appellate Review
Another procedural issue is the standard of appellate review regarding the district court’s findings. Justice Breyer’s opinion notes:
We start from the premise that a district court’s findings of fact, “whether based on oral or other evidence, must not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and the reviewing court must give due regard to the trial court’s opportunity to judge the witnesses’ credibility.” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 52(a)(6). In “‘applying [this] standard to the findings of a district court sitting without a jury, appellate courts must constantly have in mind that their function is not to decide factual issues de novo.’” Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U. S. 564, 573 (1985) (quoting Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 395 U. S. 100, 123 (1969)).
And the opinion concludes:
We conclude, in light of the record, that the District Court’s significant factual findings—both as to burdens and as to benefits—have ample evidentiary support. None is “clearly erroneous.” Given the facts found, we must also uphold the District Court’s related factual and legal determinations. These include its determination that Louisiana’s law poses a “substantial obstacle” to women seeking an abortion; its determination that the law offers no significant health-related benefits; and its determination that the law consequently imposes an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion. We also agree with its ultimate legal conclusion that, in light of these findings and our precedents, Act 620 violates the Constitution.
Chief Justice Roberts also emphasizes the deferential standard of review:
The question is not whether we would reach the same findings from the same record. These District Court findings “entail[ed] primarily . . . factual work” and therefore are “review[ed] only for clear error.” U. S. Bank N. A. v. Village at Lakeridge, LLC, 583 U. S. ___, ___, ___ (2018) (slip op., at 6, 9). Clear error review follows from a candid appraisal of the comparative advantages of trial courts and appellate courts.
3. Stare Decisis
And of course, the case presents important questions of stare decisis, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down Texas’s admitting privileges requirement. Stare decisis is key to Chief Justice Roberts’ tie-breaking fifth vote in favor of the plaintiffs: “I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided. The question today however is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case.” Roberts concludes:
Stare decisis instructs us to treat like cases alike. The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law. The Louisiana law burdens women seeking previability abortions to the same extent as the Texas law, according to factual findings that are not clearly erroneous. For that reason, I concur in the judgment of the Court that the Louisiana law is unconstitutional.
Friday, June 26, 2020
SCOTUS Upholds IIRIRA's Restrictions on Federal Habeas Review of Asylum Claims: DHS v. Thuraissigiam
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a 5-2-2 decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam. The majority rejected a constitutional challenge—based on the Suspension Clause and the Due Process Clause—to provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) that restrict federal habeas review of rejected asylum claims.
Justice Alito authored the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. Alito writes:
Respondent’s Suspension Clause argument fails because it would extend the writ of habeas corpus far beyond its scope “when the Constitution was drafted and ratified.” Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U. S. 723, 746 (2008). Indeed, respondent’s use of the writ would have been unrecognizable at that time. Habeas has traditionally been a means to secure release from unlawful detention, but respondent invokes the writ to achieve an entirely different end, namely, to obtain additional administrative review of his asylum claim and ultimately to obtain authorization to stay in this country.
Respondent’s due process argument fares no better. While aliens who have established connections in this country have due process rights in deportation proceedings, the Court long ago held that Congress is entitled to set the conditions for an alien’s lawful entry into this country and that, as a result, an alien at the threshold of initial entry cannot claim any greater rights under the Due Process Clause. See Nishimura Ekiu v. United States, 142 U. S. 651, 660 (1892). Respondent attempted to enter the country illegally and was apprehended just 25 yards from the border. He therefore has no entitlement to procedural rights other than those afforded by statute.
Justice Breyer authors a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg, which agrees only that IIRIRA’s limit on federal habeas review comports with the Suspension Clause as applied “in this particular case” (emphasis in original). He reasons that the respondent had been apprehended “just 25 yards inside the border” and “has never lived in, or been lawfully admitted to, the United States.” And Breyer also argues that the respondent’s claims were either “challenges to factual findings” rather than claims of “legal error,” or “procedural claims” that “concern not the outright denial (or constructive denial) of a process, but the precise way in which the relevant procedures were administered.”
Justice Sotomayor authors a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Kagan, which begins:
The majority declares that the Executive Branch’s denial of asylum claims in expedited removal proceedings shall be functionally unreviewable through the writ of habeas corpus, no matter whether the denial is arbitrary or irrational or contrary to governing law. That determination flouts over a century of this Court’s practice. In case after case, we have heard claims indistinguishable from those respondent raises here, which fall within the heartland of habeas jurisdiction going directly to the origins of the Great Writ. ***
Making matters worse, the Court holds that the Constitution’s due process protections do not extend to noncitizens like respondent, who challenge the procedures used to determine whether they may seek shelter in this country or whether they may be cast to an unknown fate. The decision deprives them of any means to ensure the integrity of an expedited removal order, an order which, the Court has just held, is not subject to any meaningful judicial oversight as to its substance.
Friday, June 19, 2020
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued its decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of University of California. As folks are surely aware by now, the Court voted 5-4 to vacate the Trump administration’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
The case raised some interesting issues relating to civil procedure and federal courts that are worth flagging. The first is pleading. On the APA issue, Chief Justice Roberts authors the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. But the plaintiffs had also argued that the rescission of DACA violated the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment because the rescission was motivated by discriminatory animus. In Part IV—which Justice Sotomayor did not join—Chief Justice Roberts finds that the plaintiffs’ allegations of animus were “insufficient.” He writes:
To plead animus, a plaintiff must raise a plausible inference that an “invidious discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor” in the relevant decision. Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U. S. 252, 266 (1977). Possible evidence includes disparate impact on a particular group, “[d]epartures from the normal procedural sequence,” and “contemporary statements by members of the decisionmaking body.” Id., at 266–268. Tracking these factors, respondents allege that animus is evidenced by (1) the disparate impact of the rescission on Latinos from Mexico, who represent 78% of DACA recipients; (2) the unusual history behind the rescission; and (3) pre- and post-election statements by President Trump. Brief for New York 54–55.
None of these points, either singly or in concert, establishes a plausible equal protection claim.
Justice Sotomayor does not join this part of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion, and she writes a partial dissent on the equal protection issues. From her opinion:
Respondents’ equal protection challenges come to us in a preliminary posture. All that respondents needed to do at this stage of the litigation was state sufficient facts that would “allo[w a] court to draw the reasonable inference that [a] defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U. S. 662, 678 (2009). The three courts to evaluate respondents’ pleadings below held that they cleared this modest threshold. 908 F. 3d 476, 518–520 (CA9 2018) (affirming the District Court’s denial of the Government’s motion to dismiss); see also Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen, 291 F. Supp. 3d 260, 274 (EDNY 2018).
I too would permit respondents’ claims to proceed on remand. The complaints each set forth particularized facts that plausibly allege discriminatory animus.
The Supreme Court’s handling of the equal protection claims raises another recurring chestnut for federal courts enthusiasts: the Marks rule and nonmajority opinions. The dissenting justices on the APA issue—Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh—write that they “concur in the judgment insofar as the Court rejects [the] equal protection claim.” It’s not clear, however, whether and how those votes can be added to the four-justice plurality on the plaintiffs’ pleading of their equal protection claims to generate a binding “majority” opinion on that issue.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the Court avoided the recurring-yet-still-unaddressed question of nationwide injunctions (see, e.g., here). Footnote 7 of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion explains that, because the Supreme Court affirmed the D.C. federal court’s order vacating the Trump administration’s rescission of DACA, it was “unnecessary to examine the propriety of the nationwide scope of the injunctions” that had been issued by other federal courts.