Friday, April 19, 2019
Josh Douglas & Mike Solimine have published Precedent, Three-Judge District Courts, and the Law of Democracy, 107 Geo. L.J. 413 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
As recent partisan gerrymandering cases have shown, three-judge district courts play a unique and important role in how the federal judiciary considers significant election law disputes. Yet two somewhat quirky procedural questions involving these courts remain unresolved: first, is a Supreme Court ruling to summarily affirm a three-judge district court’s decision precedential on all future courts? That is, why should a one-line order from the Supreme Court, without explanation, formally bind all future courts on the issue, especially when it is unclear what aspect of the lower court’s decision was correct? Second, must a three-judge district court follow, as mandatory authority, circuit precedent in the circuit in which it sits, even though an appeal from the ruling of a three-judge district court will skip the court of appeals and go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court?
This Article tackles these problems and provides clear-cut answers, which will ultimately improve judicial decisionmaking for some of the most important cases that the federal judiciary hears given their effect on democracy. On the first question, we find that summary decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court are entitled to zero or very little precedential value, and therefore that the Justices need not feel obliged to hear these cases in full if they want the issue to percolate in the lower courts first. Yet there should be a presumption in favor of the Court providing legal guidance on the issue, meaning that most of the time it should set the case for oral argument and provide a full written opinion. On the second question, we conclude that circuit precedent is not formally binding on three-judge district courts, although of course in many cases it will be highly persuasive.
Procedural questions stemming from three-judge district courts impact their substantive rulings, which mostly involve redistricting and campaign finance. Resolving these two questions on the procedures involving three-judge district courts will help to ensure that these special courts operate as Congress intended, ultimately improving our electoral system.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Jessica Steinberg has published A Theory of Civil Problem-Solving Courts, 93 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1579 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
This Article is the first to develop a problem-solving theory for the civil justice system. Drug courts pioneered the problem-solving model in the 1990s to pursue therapeutic goals as an alternative to “assembly line” jail-based sentencing. This Article explores the potential for migration of the drug court framework into the two most commonly adjudicated private law cases: rental housing and consumer debt.
Three structural conditions in the civil courts—systemic lack of counsel, high-volume dockets, and corporate capture of the small claims process—routinely position vulnerable classes of individuals on the losing end of litigation. In the aggregate, these conditions have rendered the civil justice system predictably ineffective in combatting recurring social issues such as substandard housing and unscrupulous debt collection. The heart of the problem-solving theory in drug courts is the availability of an alternative remedy: treatment over prison. In civil courts, the remedy itself is not necessarily deficient; it is access to the remedy that is compromised. Relying on two years of field research in an experimental court, this Article demonstrates how core drug court principles, such as naming the purpose of the court as solving a social problem, interdisciplinary collaboration, and a strong judicial role, can be manipulated to address process failures in the civil justice system and reimagine the courts as proactive institutions responsible for the pursuit of socially beneficial outcomes.
The Article also argues that a civil problem-solving theory survives many of the valid critiques levied against drug courts. In particular, drug courts have come under fire for playing a moralizing role and using compulsory treatment as a form of social control. A civil problem-solving court, however, would not exacerbate the negative impact of state power on already over-burdened groups. Instead, the targets of monitoring and behavior modification are the more powerful private actors to the litigation, such as property owners and debt buyers, who otherwise have been known to manipulate the courts—an instrument of the state—to evade their legal obligations and suppress individual rights.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Suja Thomas’s essay, Plea Bargaining with Juveniles. Suja reviews a recent article by Erika Fountain & Jennifer Woolard, How Defense Attorneys Consult With Juvenile Clients About Plea Bargains, 24 Psych. Pub. Pol’y & L. 192 (2017).
Friday, April 5, 2019
Cassandra Robertson has published Judicial Impartiality in a Partisan Era, 70 Fla. L. Rev. 739 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
Judicial legitimacy rests on the perception of judicial impartiality. As a partisan gulf widens among the American public, however, there is a growing skepticism of the judiciary’s neutrality on politically sensitive topics. Hardening partisan identities mean that there is less middle ground on political issues and less cooperation among those with differing political views. As a result, the public increasingly scrutinizes judges and judicial candidates for signs of political agreement, distrusting those perceived to support the opposing political party.
Judges themselves are not immune to these political forces. In spite of a strong judicial identity that demands impartiality and judicial conduct rules that require judges to avoid even the appearance of bias, judges have the same unconscious biases and preconceptions as anyone else. Moreover, judges must generally have strong political affiliations to reach the bench at all, regardless of whether they are elected or appointed. Drawing the line between mere political affiliation and an inappropriate appearance of partisan bias can therefore be difficult.
This Article analyzes the mechanisms available to safeguard judicial impartiality. Although recusal motions are the most common weapon against partisan bias, this Article argues that recusal motions cannot effectively guard against the appearance of bias arising from a judge’s political views. When recusal rules rely on an undefined “appearance” standard, they are susceptible to an interpretive bias that undermines their purpose. Nonetheless, the Article concludes that the appearance of partisan bias in the judicial branch is not so different from other types of unconscious bias. As a result, ordinary procedural tools—including the right to a jury trial and our system of appellate review—may provide a stronger safeguard against judicial bias than recusal motions.
Thursday, April 4, 2019
Christopher Leslie has published Conspiracy to Arbitrate, 96 N.C. L. Rev. 381 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
Beginning in the 1980s, the Supreme Court has ushered in a new Age of Arbitration in which firms can use arbitration clauses to include otherwise unenforceable terms in their contracts. This has allowed defendants to shorten statutes of limitations, to limit damages, and to prevent injunctive remedies altogether. Given the pro-business nature of arbitration clauses, mandatory arbitration clauses have become standard in some industries. Some industries may transition to market-wide mandatory arbitration, in part, through conspiracies to arbitrate. A conspiracy to arbitrate exists when the competing firms in a market illegally agree that they will all impose mandatory arbitration on their consumers.
This Article highlights the dangers of conspiracies to impose arbitration, their illegality, and their utility in concealing and protecting price-fixing conspiracies. Despite the fact that conspiracies to arbitrate violate antitrust law, courts have misapplied arbitration law in ways that make such conspiracies profitable and perhaps inevitable in some markets. Relying on the false premise that Congress created a federal policy favoring arbitration, federal courts have employed seemingly neutral doctrines in ways that actively implement conspiracies to arbitrate. For example, courts have compelled antitrust plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims that defendants have conspired to impose arbitration, which means courts are enforcing—instead of condemning—the very agreement among competitors that they are supposed to adjudicate. Courts have also misapplied equitable doctrines and have given retroactive effect to arbitration clauses. These judicial decisions protect both conspiracies to arbitrate and price-fixing cartels.
The Article then presents a case study of recent litigation involving an alleged conspiracy among banks that issue credit cards to impose arbitration clauses on their customers. Following a bench trial, the federal trial judge held—and the Second Circuit affirmed—that the plaintiffs failed to prove an agreement among the defendants to impose arbitration clauses. In reaching this conclusion, the court committed a litany of mistakes and ultimately failed to recognize that it did, in fact, actually find an illegal conspiracy to arbitrate. These errors flowed from the court’s incorrect belief that Congress intended courts to favor arbitration over litigation.
The Article concludes by proposing changes to the way that courts evaluate conspiracy-to-arbitrate claims. Federal courts are essentially complicit in antitrust violations when they compel compliance with arbitration clauses that are the product of alleged illegal conspiracies. The Supreme Court’s rush to encourage and enforce arbitration clauses should not blind lower courts to the possibility that conspiracies to arbitrate are preventing the free market from operating properly to protect consumer interests.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
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).
Monday, March 11, 2019
Simona Grossi and Allan Ides have posted on SSRN a draft of their article, The Modern Law of Class Actions and Due Process. Here’s the abstract:
Our goal in writing this article was to offer helpful insight for a reformed interpretation and application of Rule 23 that would make the Rule serve its intended democratic function. The idea of due process is a promise of the rule of law tempered by reasonableness, fairness, and efficiency. It embraces both the value of individual autonomy and the collective interests of the community. The idea of class actions, premised on due process, is to provide a pragmatic method of dispute resolution that is fair to the individual and responsive to the needs of the community and the challenges generated by widely spread and shared harms. In this respect, class actions operate as a tool of democracy. Rule 23 should be interpreted from this hopeful and effective perspective, one that balances individual autonomy against the legitimate needs of the community. But the Rule is not accomplishing its mission. As we show in the article, it appears to be infused with its framers’ self-doubts, and the Supreme Court treats it as an unwelcome guest in the home of traditional litigation forms—see, for example, our discussions of Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corporation (1999); Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (2011); Jennings v. Rodriguez (2018); Nutraceuticals Corp. v. Lambert (2019).
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Roger Michalski’s essay, A Primer on Opioid-Epidemic Litigation. Roger reviews a recent article by Abbe Gluck, Ashley Hall & Gregory Curfman, Civil Litigation and the Opioid Epidemic: The Role of Courts in a National Health Crisis, 46 J.L. Med. & Ethics 351 (2018).
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Linda Mullenix has published Policing MDL Non-Class Settlements: Empowering Judges Through the All Writs Act, 37 Rev. Litig. 129 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
Commentators have identified that one of the most significant problems in current MDL practice is the lack of judicial authority over non-class aggregate settlements. This paper explores the use of the All Writs Act to provide MDL judges with robust authority to manage, supervise, and ultimately review non-class aggregate deals that are the object of much recent criticism. It rejects the thesis that judicial supervision of non-class settlements is unwarranted because these deals are contractual, and that oversight therefore removes claimant autonomy and damages the adversarial system. Several MDL judges already have invoked the All Writs Act to police parallel class action settlements that might jeopardize pending MDL negotiations. This paper explores and endorses the argument that MDL judges may, with equal force, exercise power pursuant to the All Writs Act to police pending non-class settlements in their jurisdiction.
As the MDL non-class settlement paradigm has evolved, some MDL judges have sought to intervene in settlement activities by invoking authority pursuant to three theories: (1) the quasi-class action, (2) the inherent powers of the court, and (3) the All Writs Act. As critics note, the quasi-class action and inherent judicial power have provided weak support for judicial intervention in non-class aggregate settlements. But to date, commentators have paid scant attention to judicial power under the All Writs Act or its use in MDL proceedings.
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Jasminka Kalajdzic’s essay, In Praise of Non-Partisan Law Reform of Class Actions. Jasminka reviews Howard Erichson’s recent article, Civil Litigation Reform in the Trump Era: Threats and Opportunities Searching for Salvageable Ideas in FICALA, 87 Fordham L. Rev. 19 (2018).
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Jay Tidmarsh’s essay Building a Better Mousetrap. Jay reviews a recent book by Christopher Hodges & Stefaan Voet, Delivering Collective Redress: New Technologies (2018).
Thursday, January 31, 2019
Rhonda Wasserman has posted on SSRN her article, Ascertainability: Prose, Policy, and Process, 50 Conn. L. Rev. 695 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
One of the most hotly contested issues in class action practice today is ascertainability – when and how the identities of individual class members must be ascertained. The courts of appeals are split on the issue, with courts in different circuits imposing dramatically different burdens on putative class representatives. Courts adopting a strict approach require the class representative to prove that there is an administratively feasible means of determining whether class members are part of the class. This burden may be insurmountable in consumer class actions because people tend not to save receipts for purchases of low-cost consumer goods, like soft drinks and snacks and have no other objective proof of their membership in the class. Thus, in circuits adopting the strict approach, class certification may be denied, whereas in other circuits, the same class may be certified. Notwithstanding the circuit split on this critical issue, the Supreme Court has denied several petitions for writs of certiorari raising the issue; the Senate has failed to act on a bill passed by the House to address it; and the Advisory Committee has placed the issue on hold. Given the current state of disuniformity and the resultant inequitable administration of the laws, the time is ripe to address the issue.
Ascertainability is not only of great practical importance, but it is interesting on three different levels. First, there is a question of prose – whether the text of the Rule supports the implication of the strict ascertainability requirement. Second, there is a question of policy – whether concern for the class action defendant, the absent class members, or the trial court overseeing the action justifies imposition of the strict requirement, notwithstanding its harsh impact on consumer class actions. Third, there is a process question: which governmental actor – the lower courts, the Supreme Court, the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules, or Congress – has the greatest institutional competency to resolve the policy issue and establish a uniform approach to ascertainability. This Article addresses each of these questions in turn.
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Jim Pfander’s essay, Enhancing the Role of States in Making Constitutional Law. Jim reviews Judge Jeffrey Sutton’s recent book, 51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law (2018).
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Steve Burbank and Tobias Wolff have published Class Actions, Statutes of Limitations and Repose, and Federal Common Law, 167 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
After more than three decades during which it gave the issue scant attention, the Supreme Court has again made the American Pipe doctrine an active part of its docket. American Pipe addresses the tolling of statutes of limitations in federal class action litigation. When plaintiffs file a putative class action in federal court and class certification is denied, absent members of the putative class may wish to pursue their claims in some kind of further proceeding. If the statute of limitations would otherwise have expired while the class certification issue was being resolved, these claimants may need the benefit of a tolling rule. The same need can arise for those who wish to opt out of a certified class action. American Pipe and its progeny provide such a tolling rule in some circumstances, but many unanswered questions remain about when the doctrine is available.
In June 2017, the Court decided CalPERS v. ANZ Securities, holding that American Pipe tolling was foreclosed to a class member who opted out of a certified class in an action brought to enforce a federal statute (the Securities Act of 1933) that contained what the Court labeled a “statute of repose.” In June 2018, the Court decided Resh v. China Agritech, which held that American Pipe tolling is not available when absent members of a putative class file another class action following the denial of certification in the first action rather than pursuing their claims individually in subsequent proceedings.
In this Article we develop a comprehensive theoretical and doctrinal framework for the American Pipe doctrine. Building on earlier work, we demonstrate that American Pipe tolling is a federal common-law rule that aims to carry into effect the provisions and policies of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, the federal class action device. Contrary to the Court’s assertion in CalPERS, American Pipe is not an “equitable tolling doctrine.” Neither is it the product of a direct mandate in Rule 23, which is the source of authority, not the source of the rule. Having clarified the status of American Pipe tolling as federal common law, we explain the basis on which the doctrine operates across jurisdictions, binding subsequent actions in both federal and state court. We argue that the doctrine applies whether the initial action in federal court was based on a federal or state cause of action—a question that has produced disagreement among the lower federal courts. And we situate American Pipe within the framework of the Court’s Erie jurisprudence, explaining how the doctrine should operate when the putative class action was in federal court based on diversity jurisdiction and the courts of the state in which it was filed would apply a different rule. Finally, we discuss how CalPERS should have been decided if the Court had recognized the true nature of the American Pipe rule and if it had engaged the legislative history of the Securities Act rather than relying on labels.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Pamela Bookman’s essay, Procedural Innovations to Address the Secrecy Problem in National Security Litigation. Pam reviews Shirin Sinnar’s recent article, Procedural Experimentation and National Security in the Courts, 106 Cal. L. Rev. 991 (2018).
Friday, December 21, 2018
Alex Parkinson has published Behavioral Class Action Law, 65 UCLA L. Rev. 1090 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
Behavioral law and economics has been deployed to analyze nearly every field of law. Class action practice and procedure is a notable exception. This Article is the first to supplement stagnating class action debates and the traditional law and economics account of class action law with behavioral psychology. It draws on a litany of behavioral tendencies, biases, and pathologies— ranging from prospect theory, loss aversion, anchoring, and the status quo bias to the availability heuristic, group-attribution error, reactive devaluation, and the endowment effect—and considers their application to class action practice generally and Rule 23 in particular. In addition to this descriptive survey, this Article makes three contributions to class action scholarship. First, it applies behavioral psychology to an unresolved puzzle: how to explain opt-out rights. Traditional law and economics cannot explain why Rule 23 permits absent class members to opt-out of certain class actions, which appears inefficient and dependent on irrational behavior, or why this opt-out right is exercised according to predictably irrational patterns. However, behavioral law and economics fills these analytical gaps. Second, this Article demonstrates the prescriptive power of behavioral law and economics by illustrating how absent class members can be nudged toward class settlement by self-interested choice architects. Finally, this Article crystallizes the judicial role in light of the potency of behavioral psychology, choice architecture, and nudging in class settlement notices.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
Campos on the Bolch Judicial Institute’s Guidelines and Best Practices for Implementing the 2018 Amendments to FRCP 23
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Sergio Campos’s essay, Practice Makes Perfect. Sergio reviews Guidelines and Best Practices Implementing 2018 Amendments to Rule 23 Class Action Settlement Provisions, which was published in 2018 by the Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke Law School.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Diego Zambrano has published Judicial Mistakes in Discovery, 113 Nw. U. L. Rev. 197 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
A recent wave of scholarship argues that judges often fail to comply with binding rules or precedent and sometimes apply overturned laws. Scholars have hypothesized that the cause of this “judicial noncompliance” may be flawed litigant briefing that introduces mistakes into judicial decisions—an idea this Essay calls the “Litigant Hypothesis.” The Essay presents a preliminary study aimed at exploring ways of testing the validity of the Litigant Hypothesis. Employing an empirical analysis that exploits recent amendments to Federal Discovery Rule 26, this Essay finds that the strongest predictor of noncompliance in a dataset of discovery decisions is indeed faulty briefs. This study concludes that the Litigant Hypothesis of noncompliance may have explanatory value.
Friday, December 14, 2018
Joseph Seiner (South Carolina) has posted a new article on SSRN: The Discrimination Presumption, 94 Notre Dame L. Rev. __ (2019) (Forthcoming). This piece offers a new approach to pleading employment discrimination cases given recent social science research in the area.
Here is the abstract:
Employment discrimination is a fact in our society. Scientific studies continue to show that employer misconduct in the workplace is pervasive. This social science research is further supported by governmental data and litigation statistics. Even in the face of this evidence, however, it has never been more difficult to successfully bring a claim of employment discrimination. After the Supreme Court’s controversial decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), all civil litigants must sufficiently plead enough facts to give rise to a plausible claim. Empirical studies show that this plausibility test has been rigidly applied in the employment context, creating a heightened pleading standard for workplace plaintiffs. This paper argues that Twombly and Iqbal are largely irrelevant for employment discrimination claims. As employment discrimination is a fact, most allegations of workplace misconduct are plausible on their face, rendering these Supreme Court cases meaningless for this subset of claims. This Article summarizes the overwhelming number of social science studies which demonstrate the fact of employment discrimination, and this paper also synthesizes the governmental data and litigation in this field. This Article offers a model framework that the courts and litigants can use to evaluate workplace claims, taking into consideration the widespread scientific research in this area. This proposed model navigates the Supreme Court decisions and federal rules and provides a new approach to pleading employment claims, where the fact of discrimination is presumed. This Article concludes by situating the proposed framework in the context of the broader academic scholarship.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Allan Erbsen has posted on SSRN a draft of his essay, Wayfair Undermines Nicastro: The Constitutional Connection Between State Tax Authority and Personal Jurisdiction, 128 Yale L.J. F. __ (forthcoming 2019). Here’s the abstract:
This Essay exposes connections between two controversial cases that unsettled two ostensibly distinct areas of constitutional law. The Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair held that the Commerce Clause permits enforcement of sales taxes against online retailers with no physical presence in the taxing state. In contrast, the Court’s 2011 decision in J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro held that the Due Process Clause prevents states from exercising personal jurisdiction over nonresident manufacturers who did not target the forum. Wayfair and Nicastro address conceptually similar questions about extraterritorial enforcement of state law yet rely on inconsistent assumptions. A close reading of Wayfair illuminates normative and practical insights that warrant narrowing or overruling Nicastro. More generally, this Essay highlights how situating doctrinal problems in the broader context of horizontal federalism can improve constitutional analysis.