Friday, May 28, 2021
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in San Antonio v. Hotels.com, L. P. Justice Alito’s opinion for the Court begins:
Civil litigation in the federal courts is often an expensive affair, and each party, win or lose, generally bears many of its own litigation expenses, including attorney’s fees that are subject to the so-called American Rule. Baker Botts L. L. P. v. ASARCO LLC, 576 U. S. 121, 126 (2015). But certain “costs” are treated differently. Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 39 governs the taxation of appellate “costs,” and the question in this case is whether a district court has the discretion to deny or reduce those costs. We hold that it does not and therefore affirm the judgment below.
Although the Court concludes that “Rule 39 does not permit a district court to alter a court of appeals’ allocation of the costs listed in subdivision (e) of that Rule,” it does let the appellate court delegate the cost-allocation question to the district court:
In all events, if a court of appeals thinks that a district court is better suited to allocate the appellate costs listed in Rule 39(e), the court of appeals may delegate that responsibility to the district court, as several Courts of Appeals have done in the past. See, e.g., Emmenegger v. Bull Moose Tube Co., 324 F. 3d 616, 626 (CA8 2003); Guse v. J. C. Penney Co., 570 F. 2d 679, 681–682 (CA7 1978). The parties agree that this pragmatic approach is permitted. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 15, 44. And nothing we say here should be read to cast doubt on it. See Rule 39(a) (imposing no direct limitations on the court’s ability to “orde[r] otherwise”); Rule 41(a) (the mandate includes “any direction about costs”).
And Justice Alito’s opinion also encourages litigants to make their arguments about cost allocation to the appellate court before it makes its cost-allocation decision. Although he recognizes that “the current Rules and the relevant statutes could specify more clearly the procedure that such a party should follow to bring their arguments to the court of appeals,” he writes:
Rule 27 sets forth a generally applicable procedure for seeking relief in a court of appeals, and a simple motion “for an order” under Rule 27 should suffice to seek an order under Rule 39(a). Compare Fed. Rule App. Proc. 39(a) (“The following rules apply unless . . . the court orders otherwise”) with Rule 27(a) (“An application for an order . . . is made by motion unless these rules prescribe another form”). The OTCs also identify instances where parties have raised their arguments through other procedural vehicles, including merits briefing, see Rule 28, objections to a bill of costs, see Rule 39(d)(2), and petitions for rehearing, see Rule 40. Brief for Respondents 42, nn. 9–11. We do not foreclose litigants from raising their arguments in any manner consistent with the relevant federal and local Rules.
And finally, Justice Alito flags but does not resolve an issue raised by the Solicitor General about the relationship between FRAP 39 and 28 U.S.C. § 1920. Here’s footnote 4:
As the United States points out, see Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 19, n. 4, we have interpreted Rule 54(d) to provide for taxing only the costs already made taxable by statute, namely, 28 U. S. C. §1920. See Crawford Fitting Co. v. J. T. Gibbons, Inc., 482 U. S. 437, 441–442 (1987). Supersedeas bond premiums, despite being referenced in Appellate Rule 39(e)(3), are not listed as taxable costs in §1920. San Antonio has not raised any argument that Rule 39 is inconsistent with §1920 in this respect. We accordingly do not consider this issue.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
SCOTUS Cert Grant on Subject Matter Jurisdiction over Applications to Confirm or Vacate Arbitration Awards
This week the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Badgerow v. Walters, which involves whether federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over applications to confirm or vacate arbitration awards. Here’s the question presented (with the usual wind-up):
This case presents a clear and intractable conflict regarding an important jurisdictional question under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1-16.
As this Court has repeatedly confirmed, the FAA does not itself confer federal-question jurisdiction; federal courts must have an independent jurisdictional basis to entertain matters under the Act. In Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49 (2009), this Court held that a federal court, in reviewing a petition to compel arbitration under Section 4 of the Act, may “look through” the petition to decide whether the parties’ underlying dispute gives rise to federal-question jurisdiction. In so holding, the Court focused on the particular language of Section 4, which is not repeated elsewhere in the Act.
After Vaden, the circuits have squarely divided over whether the same “look-through” approach also applies to motions to confirm or vacate an arbitration award under Sections 9 and 10. In Quezada v. Bechtel OG & C Constr. Servs., Inc., 946 F.3d 837 (5th Cir. 2020), the Fifth Circuit acknowledged the 3-2 “circuit split,” and a divided panel held that the “look-through” approach applies under Sections 9 and 10. In the proceedings below, the Fifth Circuit declared itself “bound” by that earlier decision, and applied the “look-through” approach to establish jurisdiction. That holding was outcome-determinative, and this case is a perfect vehicle for resolving the widespread disagreement over this important threshold question.
The question presented is:
Whether federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction to confirm or vacate an arbitration award under Sections 9 and 10 of the FAA where the only basis for jurisdiction is that the underlying dispute involved a federal question.
Monday, May 17, 2021
Today the Supreme Court issued a 7-1 decision in BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (covered earlier here). Justice Gorsuch writes the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Breyer, Kagan, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. Justice Sotomayor dissents, and Justice Alito did not participate.
At issue in the case is 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d), which forbids appellate review of a district court’s remand order “except that an order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed pursuant to section 1442 or 1443 of this title shall be reviewable by appeal or otherwise.” Justice Gorsuch’s opinion begins:
This case began when Baltimore’s mayor and city council sued various energy companies for promoting fossil fuels while allegedly concealing their environmental impacts. But the merits of that claim have nothing to do with this appeal. The only question before us is one of civil procedure: Does 28 U. S. C. §1447(d) permit a court of appeals to review any issue in a district court order remanding a case to state court where the defendant premised removal in part on the federal officer removal statute, §1442, or the civil rights removal statute, §1443?
The answer to that question is: Yes. Justice Gorsuch’s opinion emphasizes in particular the use of the word “order” in § 1447(d): “[W]hen a district court’s removal order rejects all of the defendants’ grounds for removal, §1447(d) authorizes a court of appeals to review each and every one of them. After all, the statute allows courts of appeals to examine the whole of a district court’s ‘order,’ not just some of its parts or pieces.”
The majority does not, however, consider the merits of the defendants’ arguments in favor of removal:
The Fourth Circuit erred in holding that it was powerless to consider all of the defendants’ grounds for removal under §1447(d). In light of that error, the defendants ask us to consider some of those additional grounds ourselves. That task, however, does not implicate the circuit split that we took this case to resolve and we believe the wiser course is to leave these matters for the Fourth Circuit to resolve in the first instance.
Justice Sotomayor dissents. Her opinion concludes:
Section 1447(d) places “broad restrictions on the power of federal appellate courts to review district court orders remanding removed cases to state court.” Things Remembered, Inc. v. Petrarca, 516 U. S. 124, 127 (1995). After today’s decision, defendants can sidestep these restrictions by making near-frivolous arguments for removal under §1442 or §1443. Congress, of course, can amend §1447(d) to make even clearer that appellate review of a district court remand order extends to only §1442 or §1443. Because I believe §1447 already bears that meaning, I respectfully dissent.
Today the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision in Edwards v. Vannoy (covered earlier here). Justice Kavanaugh’s majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett, begins:
Last Term in Ramos v. Louisiana, 590 U. S. ___ (2020), this Court held that a state jury must be unanimous to convict a criminal defendant of a serious offense. Ramos repudiated this Court’s 1972 decision in Apodaca v. Oregon, 406 U. S. 404, which had allowed non-unanimous juries in state criminal trials. The question in this case is whether the new rule of criminal procedure announced in Ramos applies retroactively to overturn final convictions on federal collateral review. Under this Court’s retroactivity precedents, the answer is no.
This Court has repeatedly stated that a decision announcing a new rule of criminal procedure ordinarily does not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. See Teague v. Lane, 489 U. S. 288, 310 (1989) (plurality opinion); see also Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U. S. 618, 639–640, and n. 20 (1965). Indeed, in the 32 years since Teague underscored that principle, this Court has announced many important new rules of criminal procedure. But the Court has not applied any of those new rules retroactively on federal collateral review. See, e.g., Whorton v. Bockting, 549 U. S. 406, 421 (2007) (Confrontation Clause rule recognized in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36 (2004), does not apply retroactively). And for decades before Teague, the Court also regularly declined to apply new rules retroactively, including on federal collateral review. See, e.g., DeStefano v. Woods, 392 U. S. 631, 635 (1968) (per curiam) (jury-trial rule recognized in Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145 (1968), does not apply retroactively).
Later in the opinion, Justice Kavanaugh overrules Teague v. Lane’s principle that “watershed” rules of criminal procedure may apply retroactively on habeas review:
If landmark and historic criminal procedure decisions—including Mapp, Miranda, Duncan, Crawford, Batson, and now Ramos—do not apply retroactively on federal collateral review, how can any additional new rules of criminal procedure apply retroactively on federal collateral review? At this point, some 32 years after Teague, we think the only candid answer is that none can—that is, no new rules of criminal procedure can satisfy the watershed exception. We cannot responsibly continue to suggest otherwise to litigants and courts. In Teague itself, the Court recognized that the purported exception was unlikely to apply in practice, because it was “unlikely” that such watershed “components of basic due process have yet to emerge.” 489 U. S., at 313 (plurality opinion). The Court has often repeated that “it is unlikely that any of these watershed rules has yet to emerge.” Tyler, 533 U. S., at 667, n. 7 (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted); see also, e.g., Whorton, 549 U. S., at 417; Summerlin, 542 U. S., at 352. And for decades, the Court has rejected watershed status for new procedural rule after new procedural rule, amply demonstrating that the purported exception has become an empty promise. Continuing to articulate a theoretical exception that never actually applies in practice offers false hope to defendants, distorts the law, misleads judges, and wastes the resources of defense counsel, prosecutors, and courts. Moreover, no one can reasonably rely on an exception that is non-existent in practice, so no reliance interests can be affected by forthrightly acknowledging reality. It is time— probably long past time—to make explicit what has become increasingly apparent to bench and bar over the last 32 years: New procedural rules do not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. The watershed exception is moribund. It must “be regarded as retaining no vitality.” Herrera v. Wyoming, 587 U. S. ___, ___ (2019) (slip op., at 11) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Justice Thomas writes a concurring opinion joined by Justice Gorsuch. And Justice Gorsuch writes a concurring opinion joined by Justice Thomas.
Justice Kagan writes a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor. The dissenters take particular aim at the majority’s overruling of Teague. From Justice Kagan’s introduction:
So everything rests on the majority’s last move—the overturning of Teague’s watershed exception. If there can never be any watershed rules—as the majority here asserts out of the blue—then, yes, jury unanimity cannot be one. The result follows trippingly from the premise. But adopting the premise requires departing from judicial practice and principle. In overruling a critical aspect of Teague, the majority follows none of the usual rules of stare decisis. It discards precedent without a party requesting that action. And it does so with barely a reason given, much less the “special justification” our law demands. Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., 573 U. S. 258, 266 (2014). The majority in that way compounds its initial error: Not content to misapply Teague’s watershed provision here, see ante, at 10–14, the majority forecloses any future application, see ante, at 14–15. It prevents any procedural rule ever—no matter how integral to adjudicative fairness—from benefiting a defendant on habeas review. Thus does a settled principle of retroactivity law die, in an effort to support an insupportable ruling.
Monday, May 3, 2021
Interesting Fifth Circuit Decision on Personal Jurisdiction: Douglass v. Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha
On Friday, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a very interesting per curiam decision in Douglass v. Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha. The case involves personal jurisdiction in federal court under FRCP 4(k)(2), which presents a different constitutional inquiry than most personal jurisdiction cases because it implicates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment rather than the Fourteenth Amendment.
The panel rejects jurisdiction, finding itself constrained by an earlier Fifth Circuit decision. But notwithstanding that case law, the Douglass panel finds the arguments in favor of jurisdiction “persuasive,” and Judge Elrod’s concurring opinion (joined by Judge Willett) calls for the en banc Fifth Circuit “to correct our course.” (In the interest of full disclosure, I joined an amicus brief with fellow civil procedure professors Helen Hershkoff, Arthur Miller, Alan Morrison, and John Sexton supporting the plaintiffs-appellants in this case.)
Monday, April 26, 2021
Whether the court of appeals erred when it rejected the United States’ assertion of the state-secrets privilege based on the court’s own assessment of potential harms to the national security, and required discovery to proceed further under 28 U.S.C. 1782(a) against former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractors on matters concerning alleged clandestine CIA activities.
Thursday, April 22, 2021
Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes the Commission to obtain, “in proper cases,” a “permanent injunction” in federal court against “any person, partnership, or corporation” that it believes “is violating, or is about to violate, any provision of law” that the Commission enforces. 87 Stat. 592, 15 U. S. C. §53(b). The question presented is whether this statutory language authorizes the Commission to seek, and a court to award, equitable monetary relief such as restitution or disgorgement. We conclude that it does not.
The Court’s analysis relies heavily on the interplay between §13(b) and other provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act (§5 and §19) that deal explicitly with monetary relief. Justice Breyer concludes by observing:
Nothing we say today, however, prohibits the Commission from using its authority under §5 and §19 to obtain restitution on behalf of consumers. If the Commission believes that authority too cumbersome or otherwise inadequate, it is, of course, free to ask Congress to grant it further remedial authority.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Readers may be particularly interested in the amendment to Appellate Rule 3 and its accompanying forms. Among other things, the amendment provides: “The notice of appeal encompasses all orders that, for purposes of appeal, merge into the designated judgment or appealable order. It is not necessary to designate those orders in the notice of appeal.”
Unless Congress intervenes, these amendments will take effect on December 1, 2021.
You can find the full transmittal package, including redlines and advisory committee notes, here.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
In an interesting decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has certified four questions to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The case is Akhmetshin v. Browder, which involves a defamation claim against a citizen of the United Kingdom. Personal jurisdiction in D.C. federal court depends on the District of Columbia’s long-arm statute, which the panel’s original opinion summarized as follows:
Section 13-423(a)(4) authorizes the “exercise [of] personal jurisdiction over a person” who has “caus[ed] tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an act or omission outside the District of Columbia.” Any such party over whom personal jurisdiction is sought must have satisfied one of three “plus factors” within the District. See Crane v. Carr, 814 F.2d 758, 763 (D.C. Cir. 1987). These factors are “ regularly do[ing] or solicit[ing] business,  engag[ing] in any other persistent course of conduct, or  deriv[ing] substantial revenue from goods used or consumed, or services rendered.” D.C. CODE § 13-423(a)(4). However, “entr[ies] into the District ... by nonresidents for the purpose of contacting federal governmental agencies [or instrumentalities]” do not factor into the jurisdictional calculus. Env't Rsch. Int'l, Inc. v. Lockwood Greene Eng'rs, Inc., 355 A.2d 808, 813 (D.C. 1976) (en banc) (explaining the “government contacts exception”).
Here are the certified questions:
1. May nonresident aliens who are citizens only of foreign countries invoke the government contacts exception?
2. If the first question is answered in the affirmative, must those nonresident aliens possess cognizable rights pursuant to the First Amendment generally, or any specific clause thereunder, in order to invoke the exception?
3. Does the government contacts exception extend to efforts to influence federal policy other than direct contacts with agents, members, or instrumentalities of the federal government?
4. If the third question is answered in the affirmative, what standard governs in determining whether activities not involving direct contacts with the federal government are covered under the exception?
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a decision in Circuitronix, LLC v. Shenzen Kinwong Electronic Co., which addresses (among other things) FRCP 6(a)(3)’s provision for extending a filing deadline when “the clerk’s office is inaccessible . . . on the last day for filing.”
In that case, the district court’s chief judge “had designated July 5 as a holiday such that ‘the Court will be closed.’” The Eleventh Circuit rejected the argument that “the clerk’s office remained accessible on July 5 because Kinwong could have filed its motion electronically.” Noting that “Rule 6 refers to the clerk’s physical office,” it held that “[t]he clerk’s office is inaccessible when its building is officially closed or otherwise unavailable, even if the parties are still able to submit filings electronically.”
H/T: C.E. Petit
Friday, April 9, 2021
This week’s Supreme Court decision in Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc. is mostly about copyright law. But there was a very interesting procedural question in the case regarding what standard of review the Court should use in connection with the jury’s verdict in favor of Google on its fair use defense. The answer is: it’s complicated. Justice Breyer’s majority opinion does say that “the ultimate ‘fair use’ question” is subject to de novo review. But he also states that “subsidiary factual questions” must be reviewed deferentially—and that deference ends up playing a very important role in the Court’s decision.
In this post I want to make two quick points about how the Court handles the standard of review issue. First, as I’ve argued in a recent article, I don’t think that Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a court may displace a jury’s verdict only when “a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue,” allows a court to declare that a certain issue (like fair use) is categorically subject to de novo review. But second, Justice Breyer’s deference to the jury on implicitly-found “subsidiary” facts leads to an analysis of fair use that—at the end of the day—isn’t so different from the sort of deferential review Rule 50 would require.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
In Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619 (1993), the Court held that the test for determining whether a constitutional error was harmless on habeas review is whether the defendant suffered “actual prejudice.” Congress later enacted 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), which prohibits habeas relief on a claim that was adjudicated on the merits by a state court unless the adjudication “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law.” Although the Court has held that the Brecht test “subsumes” § 2254(d)(1)’s requirements, the Court declared in Davis v. Ayala, 576 U.S. 257, 267 (2015), that those requirements are still a “precondition” for relief and that a state-court harmlessness determination under Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18 (1967), still retains “significance” under the Brecht test. The question presented is:
May a federal habeas court grant relief based solely on its conclusion that the Brecht test is satisfied, as the Sixth Circuit held, or must the court also find that the state court’s Chapman application was unreasonable under § 2254(d)(1), as the Second, Third, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits have held?
Monday, April 5, 2021
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc. By a 6-2 vote, it holds that Google’s copying of a portion of a computer program owned by Oracle constituted “fair use” for purposes of federal copyright law. The opinion is focused mostly on substantive copyright law, but—as covered earlier here and here—the posture of the case prompted some interesting procedural questions. The jury had ruled in favor of Google on its fair use defense, and the Supreme Court asked the parties to file supplemental letter briefs addressing “the appropriate standard of review” regarding fair use, “including but not limited to the implications of the Seventh Amendment, if any, on that standard.”
Monday, March 29, 2021
Whether a state attorney general vested with the power to defend state law should be permitted to intervene after a federal court of appeals invalidates a state statute when no other state actor will defend the law.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court (which is consolidated with a case from Minnesota, Ford Motor Co. v. Bandemer). The Court unanimously upholds personal jurisdiction over Ford in both cases. Justice Kagan writes the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kavanaugh. Justice Alito writes a separate concurring opinion, and Justice Gorsuch writes a separate concurring opinion that is joined by Justice Thomas. (Justice Barrett did not participate.)
More coverage to come, but here’s a very quick recap. Justice Kagan’s majority opinion begins:
In each of these two cases, a state court held that it had jurisdiction over Ford Motor Company in a products-liability suit stemming from a car accident. The accident happened in the State where suit was brought. The victim was one of the State’s residents. And Ford did substantial business in the State—among other things, advertising, selling, and servicing the model of vehicle the suit claims is defective. Still, Ford contends that jurisdiction is improper because the particular car involved in the crash was not first sold in the forum State, nor was it designed or manufactured there. We reject that argument. When a company like Ford serves a market for a product in a State and that product causes injury in the State to one of its residents, the State’s courts may entertain the resulting suit. (emphasis added)
Justice Kagan explains that these cases are proper exercises of specific jurisdiction, and she provides a helpful summary of what specific jurisdiction requires:
The plaintiff’s claims, we have often stated, “must arise out of or relate to the defendant’s contacts” with the forum. Bristol-Myers, 582 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 5) (quoting Daimler, 571 U. S., at 127; alterations omitted); see, e.g., Burger King, 471 U. S., at 472; Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A. v. Hall, 466 U. S. 408, 414 (1984); International Shoe, 326 U. S., at 319. Or put just a bit differently, “there must be ‘an affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy, principally, [an] activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State and is therefore subject to the State’s regulation.’” Bristol-Myers, 582 U. S., at ___−___, ___ (slip op., at 5−6, 7) (quoting Goodyear, 564 U. S., at 919).
In applying this test, Justice Kagan rejects the “causation-only approach” put forward by Ford, which would have “locat[ed] specific jurisdiction in the State where Ford sold the car in question, or else the States where Ford designed and manufactured the vehicle.” She notes that in the World-Wide Volkswagen case, “this Court has stated that specific jurisdiction attaches in cases identical to the ones here—when a company like Ford serves a market for a product in the forum State and the product malfunctions there.”
In the final part of the opinion (II-C), Justice Kagan distinguishes the Supreme Court’s recent decisions rejecting personal jurisdiction in Bristol-Myers and Walden. As she explains: “We found jurisdiction improper in Bristol-Myers because the forum State, and the defendant’s activities there, lacked any connection to the plaintiffs’ claims.” And Walden “had no occasion to address the necessary connection between a defendant’s in-state activity and the plaintiff’s claims” because the defendant had no contacts with the forum state to begin with.
On to the concurring opinions...
Justice Alito agrees that the result in Ford “is settled by our case law” but he expresses a “quibble” with what he calls the “new gloss that the Court puts on our case law.” He writes that the majority “recognizes a new category of cases in which personal jurisdiction is permitted: those in which the claims do not ‘arise out of ‘ (i.e., are not caused by) the defendant’s contacts but nevertheless sufficiently ‘relate to’ those contacts in some undefined way, ante, at 8–9.” He also states that “for the reasons outlined in Justice Gorsuch’s thoughtful opinion, there are grounds for questioning the standard that the Court adopted in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U. S. 310 (1945)” and that “there are also reasons to wonder whether the case law we have developed since that time is well suited for the way in which business is now conducted.”
Justice Gorsuch’s concurring opinion (joined by Justice Thomas) also takes issue with the majority’s recognition that specific jurisdiction is appropriate when a lawsuit “relates to” the defendant’s activities in the forum. In the second part of the opinion, however, he challenges “the old International Shoe dichotomy” between specific and general jurisdiction, noting “it’s hard not to ask how we got here and where we might be headed.” Justice Gorsuch posits that “the right question” is “what the Constitution as originally understood requires, not what nine judges consider ‘fair’ and ‘just.’” And after surveying pre-International Shoe practice, Justice Gorsuch indicates that the current approach to personal jurisdiction gives corporations “special jurisdictional protections in the name of the Constitution.” In particular:
Even today, this Court usually considers corporations “at home” and thus subject to general jurisdiction in only one or two States. All in a world where global conglomerates boast of their many “headquarters.” The Court has issued these restrictive rulings, too, even though individual defendants remain subject to the old “tag” rule, allowing them to be sued on any claim anywhere they can be found. Burnham, 495 U. S., at 610–611.
Ultimately, Justice Gorsuch agrees that personal jurisdiction is proper in the Ford cases: “The parties have not pointed to anything in the Constitution’s original meaning or its history that might allow Ford to evade answering the plaintiffs’ claims in Montana or Minnesota courts. . . . The real struggle here isn’t with settling on the right outcome in these cases, but with making sense of our personal jurisdiction jurisprudence and International Shoe’s increasingly doubtful dichotomy. On those scores, I readily admit that I finish these cases with even more questions than I had at the start.”
Monday, March 22, 2021
Whether the discretion granted to district courts in 28 U.S.C. §1782(a) to render assistance in gathering evidence for use in “a foreign or international tribunal” encompasses private commercial arbitral tribunals, as the Fourth and Sixth Circuits have held, or excludes such tribunals without expressing an exclusionary intent, as the Second, Fifth, and, in the case below, the Seventh Circuit, have held.
Monday, March 8, 2021
Today the Supreme Court issued an 8-1 decision in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, which addresses whether claims for nominal damages can satisfy Article III’s redressibility requirement. They can.
Here are some highlights from Part III of Justice Thomas’s majority opinion:
Because nominal damages were available at common law in analogous circumstances, we conclude that a request for nominal damages satisfies the redressability element of standing where a plaintiff’s claim is based on a completed violation of a legal right. . . .
This is not to say that a request for nominal damages guarantees entry to court. Our holding concerns only redressability. It remains for the plaintiff to establish the other elements of standing (such as a particularized injury); plead a cognizable cause of action, Planck v. Anderson, 5 T. R. 37, 41, 101 Eng. Rep. 21, 23 (K. B. 1792) (“if no [actual] damage be sustained, the creditor has no cause of action” for some claims); and meet all other relevant requirements. We hold only that, for the purpose of Article III standing, nominal damages provide the necessary redress for a completed violation of a legal right.
Applying this principle here is straightforward. For purposes of this appeal, it is undisputed that Uzuegbunam experienced a completed violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him. Because “every violation [of a right] imports damage,” Webb, 29 F. Cas., at 509, nominal damages can redress Uzuegbunam’s injury even if he cannot or chooses not to quantify that harm in economic terms.
Chief Justice Roberts dissents, arguing that Article III is not satisfied because “an award of nominal damages does not alleviate the harms suffered by a plaintiff, and is not intended to.” Even under the majority’s view, however, Roberts contends that “[w]here a plaintiff asks only for a dollar, the defendant should be able to end the case by giving him a dollar, without the court needing to pass on the merits of the plaintiff ’s claims.” And he further asserts that such a defendant might invoke FRCP 68 and thereby “render the plaintiff liable for any subsequent costs if he receives only nominal damages.”
Justice Kavanaugh joins the majority opinion, but he writes a one-paragraph concurring opinion endorsing the view—which was also urged by the Solicitor General in this case—that a defendant “should be able to accept the entry of a judgment for nominal damages against it and thereby end the litigation without a resolution of the merits.”
Thursday, February 25, 2021
There’s a lot of interesting stuff in Justice Thomas’s opinion for the Court, but the basic takeaway is that the judgment in an FTCA suit against the federal government can trigger the judgment bar—and thereby preclude claims against the responsible government employees—even when the result of the FTCA suit is a dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. In this case, the plaintiff’s tort claims against the federal government “failed to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss,” meaning that “the United States necessarily retained sovereign immunity, also depriving the court of subject-matter jurisdiction.” As Justice Thomas puts it: “where, as here, pleading a claim and pleading jurisdiction entirely overlap, a ruling that the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction may simultaneously be a judgment on the merits that triggers the judgment bar.”
The Supreme Court leaves open one important issue—whether the judgment bar applies to the dismissal of claims raised in the same lawsuit. In footnote 4, Justice Thomas leaves this issue for the Sixth Circuit to address on remand, and Justice Sotomayor writes a concurring opinion “to emphasize that, while many lower courts have uncritically held that the FTCA’s judgment bar applies to claims brought in the same action, there are reasons to question that conclusion.”
Monday, February 8, 2021
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued an important decision on class actions, Cherry v. Dometic Corp. Judge William Pryor’s unanimous opinion for the panel rejects the view that “administrative feasibility” is a requirement for class certification under Rule 23.
The court does recognize that administrative feasibility is “relevant” for Rule 23(b)(3) class actions—because of the “manageability criterion of Rule 23(b)(3)(D).” But even so, “the district court must balance its manageability finding against other considerations.” Therefore, “administrative difficulties—whether in class-member identification or otherwise—do not alone doom a motion for certification.”
Thursday, February 4, 2021
Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey. The petition raises the question of whether the Natural Gas Act delegates to FERC certificate holders the power to assert the federal government’s eminent domain powers over state-owned land. But the Court added a second question in granting cert: “Did the Court of Appeals properly exercise jurisdiction over this case?”