Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Today the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Shoop v. Twyford. Chief Justice Roberts authors the majority opinion, joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. The case involves Twyford’s request to be transported to a hospital for medical testing that he argued could support his claim for habeas relief. The district court granted Twyford’s request under the All Writs Act.
The Supreme Court reverses the transportation order, noting the many obstacles that AEDPA imposes on individuals seeking to present new evidence in support of a habeas petition. Chief Justice Roberts writes that a court must consider AEDPA’s limits “even when the All Writs Act is the asserted vehicle for gathering new evidence,” because “a petitioner cannot use that Act to circumvent statutory requirements or otherwise binding procedural rules.” The district court should not have granted Twyford’s request for transportation because he “sheds no light on how he might persuade a court to consider the results of his testing, given the limitations AEDPA imposes on presenting new evidence.”
The four dissenting justices do not address the substance of Twyford’s transportation request. Rather, the core disagreement is over appellate jurisdiction. In a lengthy footnote, Chief Justice Roberts concludes that appellate jurisdiction is proper under the collateral order doctrine, citing Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U. S. 541, 546 (1949): “Transportation orders issued under the All Writs Act (1) conclusively require transportation; (2) resolve an important question of state sovereignty conceptually distinct from the merits of the prisoner’s claims, see Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U. S. 139, 144–145 (1993); and (3) are entirely unreviewable by the time the case has gone to final judgment.”
Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, argues that the collateral order doctrine does not apply, reasoning that the transportation order was “analogous to a discovery order” and that there was “no reason why such an order ordinarily should be of greater importance than a discovery order of some other kind.” Justice Gorsuch writes in his dissenting opinion: “I would have dismissed this case as improvidently granted when the jurisdictional complication became apparent. We did not take this case to extend Cohen.”
Monday, May 16, 2022
SCOTUS Cert Grant on District Court Jurisdiction over Challenges to SEC Enforcement Proceedings: SEC v. Cochran
Whether a federal district court has jurisdiction to hear a suit in which the respondent in an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission administrative proceeding seeks to enjoin that proceeding, based on an alleged constitutional defect in the statutory provisions that govern the removal of the administrative law judge who will conduct the proceeding.
Thursday, April 7, 2022
Today the Fourth Circuit issued a unanimous decision in Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. BP P.L.C., on remand from last year’s Supreme Court decision (covered here). Judge Floyd’s 93-page opinion, joined by Chief Judge Gregory and Judge Thacker, affirms the district court’s order remanding the case to Maryland state court. It begins:
This appeal returns to us on remand from the Supreme Court, and we are now tasked with examining the entirety of the district court’s remand order to determine if the climate-change lawsuit in question was properly removed to federal court. BP P.L.C. v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 141 S. Ct. 1532, 1538, 1543 (2021). To accomplish that charge, we must evaluate eight distinct grounds for removal that twenty-six multinational oil and gas companies (Defendants) maintain provide federal jurisdiction over the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore’s (Baltimore) climate-change action. Because we conclude that none of Defendants’ bases for removal permit the exercise of federal jurisdiction, we affirm the district court’s remand order.
For those keeping score, the “eight distinct grounds” are:
(1) federal common law; (2) substantial issues of federal law, including foreign affairs, under Grable; (3) complete preemption under the CAA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401–7671q; (4) federal enclaves; (5) the OCSLA, 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1); (6) the bankruptcy removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1452(a); (7) the admiralty jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1); and (8) the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1).
The opinion concludes:
The impacts of climate change undoubtably have local, national, and international ramifications. See Massachusetts, 549 U.S at 521–53 (noting that the harms associated with climate change are “serious and well recognized”). But those consequences do not necessarily confer jurisdiction upon federal courts carte blanche. In this case, a municipality has decided to exclusively rely upon state-law claims to remedy its own climate-change injuries, which it perceives were caused, at least in part, by Defendants’ fossil-fuel products and strategic misinformation campaign. These claims do not belong in federal court. Given the jurisdictional inquiry before us, we take no view on whether Baltimore will ultimately fail or succeed in proving its claims under Maryland law. We cannot decide those questions. But we are confident that Maryland courts can capably adjudicate claims arising under their own laws that fail to otherwise provide any federal jurisdiction. * * *
Thursday, March 31, 2022
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Badgerow v. Walters (covered earlier here). Justice Kagan’s majority opinion concludes that when a request to confirm or vacate an arbitral award under Sections 9 and 10 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) is filed in federal court, “a court may look only to the application actually submitted to it in assessing its jurisdiction.” That is, the Court rejected the so-called “look-through” approach that it had endorsed for petitions to compel arbitration under Section 4 of the FAA in Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49 (2009). Justice Kagan reasoned that Sections 9 and 10 “lack Section 4’s distinctive language directing a look-through, on which Vaden rested.”
Justice Breyer was the lone dissenter, arguing that “Congress intended a single approach for determining jurisdiction of the FAA’s interrelated enforcement mechanisms, not one approach for the mechanism provided in Section 4 and a different approach for the mechanisms provided in all other sections.”
Monday, January 24, 2022
Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Axon Enterprise, Inc. v. FTC, which presents the following question: “Whether Congress impliedly stripped federal district courts of jurisdiction over constitutional challenges to the Federal Trade Commission’s structure, procedures, and existence by granting the courts of appeals jurisdiction to ‘affirm, enforce, modify, or set aside’ the Commission’s cease-and-desist orders.”
The Court limited the cert. grant to this issue only, declining to address a second question regarding the constitutionality of the FTC’s structure regarding administrative law judges.
Friday, December 10, 2021
SCOTUS Decisions in Texas Abortion Cases: United States v. Texas and Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson
Today the Supreme Court issued its decisions in two cases involving Texas’s abortion law, S.B. 8 (covered earlier here).
In United States v. Texas, the Court issued a one-page per curiam order dismissing the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted and denying the application to vacate the stay. Justice Sotomayor dissents.
GORSUCH, J., announced the judgment of the Court, and delivered the opinion of the Court except as to Part II–C. ALITO, KAVANAUGH, and BARRETT, JJ., joined that opinion in full, and THOMAS, J., joined except for Part II–C. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. ROBERTS, C. J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which BREYER and KAGAN, JJ., joined.
Part IV of Justice Gorsuch’s opinion provides this summary:
The petitioners’ theories for relief face serious challenges but also present some opportunities. To summarize: (1) The Court unanimously rejects the petitioners’ theory for relief against state-court judges and agrees Judge Jackson should be dismissed from this suit. (2) A majority reaches the same conclusion with respect to the petitioners’ parallel theory for relief against state-court clerks. (3) With respect to the back-up theory of relief the petitioners present against Attorney General Paxton, a majority concludes that he must be dismissed. (4) At the same time, eight Justices hold this case may proceed past the motion to dismiss stage against Mr. Carlton, Ms. Thomas, Ms. Benz, and Ms. Young, defendants with specific disciplinary authority over medical licensees, including the petitioners. (5) Every Member of the Court accepts that the only named private-individual defendant, Mr. Dickson, should be dismissed.
Friday, October 1, 2021
Yesterday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in several cases—two of which may be of particular interest…
Boechler, P.C. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue presents the following question:
Section 6330(d)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code establishes a 30-day time limit to file a petition for review in the Tax Court of a notice of determination from the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. 26 U.S.C. § 6330(d)(1). The question presented is: Whether the time limit in Section 6330(d)(1) is a jurisdictional requirement or a claim-processing rule subject to equitable tolling.
Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation presents the following question:
The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1602–1611 (“FSIA”), provides that where a foreign nation is not immune from jurisdiction in the courts of the United States or of any State, it “shall be liable in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.” Id. § 1606. In four circuits, the courts of appeals have held that this statutory requirement of parity with private litigation means that a federal court hearing an FSIA case must apply the choice-of-law rules of the State in which it is sitting. But the Ninth Circuit has held—repeatedly and without meaningful analysis, including in the decision below—that choice of law in FSIA cases is determined by application of federal common law.
The choice of law issue is critical in this case, in which the family of a Holocaust survivor seeks the return of a painting stolen by the Nazis. Under California law, a holder of stolen property (such as the Spanish state museum here) can never acquire good title, while under Spanish law, an adverse possession rule protects the museum’s title.
The question presented is: Whether a federal court hearing state law claims brought under the FSIA must apply the forum state’s choice-of-law rules to determine what substantive law governs the claims at issue, or whether it may apply federal common law.
Monday, July 26, 2021
Sixth Circuit Decision on Appellate Jurisdiction and Manufactured Finality (Guest Post by Andrew Pollis)
Andrew Pollis presents the following guest post on a very interesting Sixth Circuit decision:
* * *
Last week, in Rowland v. Southern Health Partners, Inc., the Sixth Circuit issued a split decision on the vexing question of manufactured finality in civil actions—that is, a party’s dismissal of unadjudicated claims as a means of securing appellate jurisdiction over the district court’s resolution of an adjudicated claim. The majority rejected the maneuver, explaining its rationale in the opening paragraph of the decision:
Can a litigant circumvent the requirements of Rule 54(b) by the expedient of voluntarily dismissing her surviving claims in order to seek immediate appellate review of an adverse judgment on her resolved claims, with the intention of reinstating the dismissed claims should she obtain a favorable outcome on appeal? Eight years ago, we answered this question no, because such a dismissal does not create a final order under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Page Plus of Atlanta, Inc. v. Owl Wireless, LLC, 733 F.3d 658, 658 (6th Cir. 2013). The answer is still no.
The majority reiterated the court’s previous holding in Page Plus that there are only two circumstances that permit the appeal to go forward in the face of manufactured finality: (1) when “a voluntary dismissal comes at a cost,” such as when “a party assumes the risk that the statute of limitations, any applicable preclusion rules or any other defenses might bar recovery on the claim”; and (2) when “a claim voluntarily dismissed without prejudice must be re-filed in a separate action,” which removes the “risk that the same case will produce multiple appeals raising different issues.” The majority also noted that its holding was consistent with the holdings of other appellate courts to address the issue, save the Second Circuit.
Judge Karen Moore, in dissent, took issue primarily with the majority’s characterization that the plaintiff had in fact assumed no risks in agreeing to dismiss her unresolved claims:
Unlike in Page Plus, here nothing in the district court’s order states or even hints that the parties agreed that Defendants would not assert any time-based affirmative defenses against the voluntarily dismissed state-law claims. In fact, Defendants have explicitly stated that they believe that any re-filing of the voluntarily dismissed claims would be time-barred.
But perhaps the most interesting feature of Judge Moore’s dissent is her discussion of the inconsistent rulings courts have issued in these types of cases. She noted that litigants’ efforts to manufacture finality have “troubled courts of appeals for over forty years” and that “[n]early every circuit has weighed in on this question with inter- and intra-circuit splits causing confusion and frustration for both courts and litigants.” And she lamented the “disturbing lack of predictability in circuits that allow or do not allow litigants to employ Rule 41(a) dismissals without prejudice to gain appellate review; intra-circuit splits and unclear exceptions exist both in circuits with a bright-line rule disfavoring such appeals and in circuits that routinely allow them.” She admonished litigants that the “disagreement and confusion sown by the circuits” require parties to be “very wary of using Rule 41(a) as a mechanism for obtaining immediate appellate review. . . . Nothing is certain, even in a circuit that purports to allow parties to utilize Rule 41(a)(2) voluntary dismissals to secure appellate review.” Judge Moore also suggested that the Supreme Court “may eventually “intervene and decisively bar litigants from using Rule 41(a) voluntary dismissals without prejudice as an option to pursue appellate review,” given its holding in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, 137 S. Ct. 1702 (2017), that “evinces a strong respect for rulemaking as the proper avenue for determining when a decision is final for purposes of [28 U.S.C. § 1291] or when a decision is otherwise appealable.”
Friday, June 25, 2021
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez (covered earlier here). It’s 5-4, with Justice Kavanaugh writing the majority opinion joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett. Justice Thomas writes one dissent, which is joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. And Justice Kagan writes another dissent, which is joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor.
The case is a class action bringing claims under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and the key issue in the case is Article III standing. The majority finds that Article III was satisfied for some class members and claims, but was not satisfied for others. From the majority’s introduction:
In this case, a class of 8,185 individuals sued TransUnion, a credit reporting agency, in federal court under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The plaintiffs claimed that TransUnion failed to use reasonable procedures to ensure the accuracy of their credit files, as maintained internally by TransUnion. For 1,853 of the class members, TransUnion provided misleading credit reports to third-party businesses. We conclude that those 1,853 class members have demonstrated concrete reputational harm and thus have Article III standing to sue on the reasonable-procedures claim. The internal credit files of the other 6,332 class members were not provided to third-party businesses during the relevant time period. We conclude that those 6,332 class members have not demonstrated concrete harm and thus lack Article III standing to sue on the reasonable-procedures claim.
In two other claims, all 8,185 class members complained about formatting defects in certain mailings sent to them by TransUnion. But the class members other than the named plaintiff Sergio Ramirez have not demonstrated that the alleged formatting errors caused them any concrete harm. Therefore, except for Ramirez, the class members do not have standing as to those two claims.
This was not the result that we urged in this legal scholars amicus brief, which was joined by myself, Tommy Bennett, Erwin Chemerinsky, Heather Elliott, Steve Vladeck, and Howard Wasserman. We had argued in favor of Article III standing for the entire class as to all of the claims they proved at trial. One point that we made, however, found some purchase in Justice Thomas’s dissenting opinion—that rejecting Article III standing in federal court would not necessarily stop these same federal claims from being pursued by these same plaintiffs in state court. Here’s footnote 9 from the Thomas dissent:
Today’s decision might actually be a pyrrhic victory for TransUnion. The Court does not prohibit Congress from creating statutory rights for consumers; it simply holds that federal courts lack jurisdiction to hear some of these cases. That combination may leave state courts—which “are not bound by the limitations of a case or controversy or other federal rules of justiciability even when they address issues of federal law,” ASARCO Inc. v. Kadish, 490 U. S. 605, 617 (1989)—as the sole forum for such cases, with defendants unable to seek removal to federal court. See also Bennett, The Paradox of Exclusive State-Court Jurisdiction Over Federal Claims, 105 Minn. L. Rev. 1211 (2021). By declaring that federal courts lack jurisdiction, the Court has thus ensured that state courts will exercise exclusive jurisdiction over these sorts of class actions.
As to Article III standing generally, Justice Thomas’s final paragraph is notable:
Ultimately, the majority seems to pose to the reader a single rhetorical question: Who could possibly think that a person is harmed when he requests and is sent an incomplete credit report, or is sent a suspicious notice informing him that he may be a designated drug trafficker or terrorist, or is not sent anything informing him of how to remove this inaccurate red flag? The answer is, of course, legion: Congress, the President, the jury, the District Court, the Ninth Circuit, and four Members of this Court.
In addition to Article III standing, TransUnion presented a question regarding whether the class action satisfied Rule 23(a)’s typicality requirement. The Court did not address that question, however: “In light of our conclusion about Article III standing, we need not decide whether Ramirez’s claims were typical of the claims of the class under Rule 23. On remand, the Ninth Circuit may consider in the first instance whether class certification is appropriate in light of our conclusion about standing.”
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.
Monday, March 15, 2021
Emory Law School’s Center on Federalism and Intersystemic Governance is hosting a conference on federal diversity jurisdiction this Friday, March 19 (11:20am – 5:40pm Eastern Time).
Here’s the link to register: https://emorylaw.wufoo.com/forms/conference-on-federal-diversity-jurisdiction/
(H/T: Jonathan Nash)
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.”
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?”
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp, which addresses the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act’s expropriation exception. Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion begins:
The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provides that foreign nations are presumptively immune from the jurisdiction of United States courts. The statute, however, sets forth several specific exceptions. One such exception provides that a sovereign does not enjoy immunity in any case “in which rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue.” 28 U. S. C. §1605(a)(3). The question presented is whether a country’s alleged taking of property from its own nationals falls within this exception.
The answer is no, because of the “domestic takings rule,” which “assumes that what a country does to property belonging to its own citizens within its own borders is not the subject of international law.” Roberts concludes: “We hold that the phrase ‘rights in property taken in violation of international law,’ as used in the FSIA’s expropriation exception, refers to violations of the international law of expropriation and thereby incorporates the domestic takings rule.”
The Court punted, however, on a couple of other interesting issues in the case. First, it did not consider Germany’s argument that federal courts were “obligated to abstain from deciding the case on international comity grounds.” Second, the Court did not address the plaintiffs’ argument that the individuals whose property was taken “were not German nationals at the time of the transaction,” directing the lower courts “to consider this argument, including whether it was adequately preserved below.”
Friday, December 18, 2020
Today the Supreme Court issued a decision in Trump v. New York, a case involving the Trump administration’s policy to exclude aliens without lawful status from the 2020 census count. In a per curiam opinion, the majority finds the case to be non-justiciable on standing and ripeness grounds, vacating the district court’s judgment against Trump. It concludes:
At the end of the day, the standing and ripeness inquiries both lead to the conclusion that judicial resolution of this dispute is premature. Consistent with our determination that standing has not been shown and that the case is not ripe, we express no view on the merits of the constitutional and related statutory claims presented. We hold only that they are not suitable for adjudication at this time.
Justice Breyer authors a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. From the dissent (citations omitted):
Waiting to adjudicate plaintiffs’ claims until after the President submits his tabulation to Congress, as the Court seems to prefer, risks needless and costly delays in apportionment. Because there is a “substantial likelihood that the [plaintiffs’] requested relief . . . .will redress the alleged injury,” I would find that we can reach plaintiffs’ challenge now, and affirm the lower court’s holding.
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, which presents the question: “Whether either Article III or Rule 23 permits a damages class action where the vast majority of the class suffered no actual injury, let alone an injury anything like what the class representative suffered.”
(The cert petition presented a second question relating to punitive damages, but the grant is limited to Question 1.)
Thursday, December 10, 2020
This case concerns a Delaware constitutional provision that requires that appointments to Delaware’s major courts reflect a partisan balance. Delaware’s Constitution states that no more than a bare majority of members of any of its five major courts may belong to any one political party. Art. IV, §3. It also requires, with respect to three of those courts, that the remaining members belong to “the other major political party.” Ibid.
The plaintiff, a Delaware lawyer, brought this lawsuit in federal court. He claimed that Delaware’s party-membership requirements for its judiciary violate the Federal Constitution. We agreed to consider the constitutional question, but only if the plaintiff has standing to raise that question. We now hold that he does not.
The Court’s analysis looks closely at the summary judgment record, including Adams’ answers to interrogatories and deposition testimony, noting that “[t]his is a highly fact-specific case.” It ultimately concludes that “the record evidence fails to show that, at the time he commenced the lawsuit, Adams was ‘able and ready’ to apply for a judgeship in the reasonably foreseeable future.” He therefore “failed to show that ‘personal,’ ‘concrete,’ and ‘imminent’ injury upon which our standing precedents insist.”
Justice Sotomayor authors a concurring opinion. Although she agrees that Adams lacked standing, she observes that the constitutional challenge to Delaware’s system “will likely be raised again.” Accordingly, she briefly identifies “two important considerations” relevant to such a challenge, including the difficulty in determining whether Delaware’s major party and bare majority requirements are severable from one another. On severability, Justice Sotomayor suggests that federal courts may be “well advised to consider certifying such a question to the State’s highest court.”
Friday, October 30, 2020
Yesterday the First Circuit issued its decision in Rhode Island v. Shell Oil Products Co., which addresses the scope of appellate jurisdiction over district court remand orders—the same issue for which the Supreme Court granted certiorari (in a Fourth Circuit case) earlier this month.
Judge Thompson’s opinion begins:
Rhode Island is salty about losing its already limited square footage to rising sea levels caused by climate change. Facing property damage from extreme weather events and otherwise losing money to the effects of climate change, Rhode Island sued a slew of oil and gas companies for the damage caused by fossil fuels while those companies misled the public about their products' true risks.
Because those claims were state law claims, Rhode Island filed suit in state court. The oil companies, seeing many grounds for federal jurisdiction, removed the case to federal district court. Rhode Island opposed removal and asked that the district court kindly return the lawsuit to state court. The district court obliged and allowed Rhode Island's motion for remand.
The oil companies appealed the district court's order to us and a heated debate ensued over the scope of our review. After careful consideration, we conclude that 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) permits our review of remand orders only to the extent that the defendant's grounds for removal are federal-officer jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442 or civil rights jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1443. The oil companies make no argument that this is a civil rights case and we conclude the allegations in Rhode Island's state court complaint do not give rise to federal-officer jurisdiction. Having jurisdiction to review no more than that question, we affirm the district court's remand order.