Friday, April 9, 2021

Some Thoughts on the Google v. Oracle Decision and the Standard of Review for Civil Jury Verdicts

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.

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April 9, 2021 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

SCOTUS Cert Grant in Brown v. Davenport

Yesterday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Brown v. Davenport. Here’s the question presented (with the usual wind-up)…

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?

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog and at the Supreme Court website.

April 6, 2021 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 5, 2021

SCOTUS Decision in Google v. Oracle

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.”

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April 5, 2021 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, March 29, 2021

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Intervention by State AGs to Defend State Laws from Constitutional Challenge

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, limited to the following question:

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.

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog and at the Supreme Court website.

March 29, 2021 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2021

SCOTUS Decision in Ford: Personal Jurisdiction

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 25, 2021 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Appellate Courts and Civil Juries

The final version of my article, Appellate Courts and Civil Juries, 2021 Wisconsin L. Rev. 1, is now posted. It tackles the question of what standard of review appellate courts should use for findings made by civil juries. There’s a fair amount of confusion on this issue, because some appellate courts have conflated it with the framework for choosing the standard of appellate review for rulings by lower court judges. (The confusion is not helped by the extent to which the often elusive distinction between “law” and “fact” plays a role.)

This is also an issue that the Supreme Court is considering right now in Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., a $9 billion lawsuit about Google’s use of Java programming code to develop its Android operating system. SCOTUS issued a specific order asking the parties to brief the appropriate standard of review for the jury’s verdict in favor of Google on its fair use defense. The Google case was argued at the beginning of this Term but is still awaiting a decision—here are some of my thoughts on the case from back in October after the oral argument: SCOTUS, Google v. Oracle, and Appellate Review of Civil Jury Verdicts.

I enjoyed working on this piece, and I hope folks find it helpful. Special thanks to the great editors at the Wisconsin Law Review, who did a fantastic and timely job getting the article finalized—maybe even in time for SCOTUS to read it! Here’s the full abstract:

In federal civil litigation, decisionmaking power is shared by juries, trial courts, and appellate courts. This Article examines an unresolved tension in the different doctrines that allocate authority among these institutions, one that has led to confusion surrounding the relationship between appellate courts and civil juries. At base, the current uncertainty stems from a longstanding lack of clarity regarding the distinction between matters of law and matters of fact. The high-stakes Oracle-Google litigation--which is now before the Supreme Court--exemplifies this. In that case, the Federal Circuit reasoned that an appellate court may assert de novo review over a jury's verdict simply by characterizing a particular issue as legal rather than factual. But this approach misperceives the approach demanded by Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which permits judicial override of a jury's verdict only when "a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis" to reach such a verdict.

Rule 50's reasonable-jury standard does not permit de novo review of a jury's verdict on a particular issue. Rather, it requires deference to the jury's conclusion on that issue unless the reviewing court can explain why principles of substantive law or other aspects of the trial record render that verdict unreasonable. This deferential standard of review faithfully implements the text and structure of the Federal Rules and respects the jury's role in our federal system. Yet, it also preserves appellate courts' ability to provide meaningful clarification that will guide future decisionmakers.

 

 

 

March 23, 2021 in Adam Steinman, Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Scholarship, Supreme Court Cases, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 22, 2021

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Section 1782 Discovery and Arbitration

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC, which presents the following question:

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.

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog and at the Supreme Court website.

 

 

 

March 22, 2021 in Discovery, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Woolhandler & Mahoney on Takings Litigation in Federal Court

Ann Woolhandler and Julia Mahoney have posted on SSRN a draft of their article, Federal Courts and Takings Litigation. Here’s the abstract:

Disagreements about takings claims extend to both substantive and jurisdictional issues. Many advocates of deference to state and local government land use decisions also oppose a significant role for federal courts in adjudicating disputes over these decisions, while a number of property rights advocates argue that federal courts are an appropriate forum for such disputes. These issues were brought into sharp relief by the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Knick v. Township of Scott, which allows property owners to resort to federal court without first pursuing compensation in state court.

While Knick clearly expands the lower federal court role in takings claims, many questions remain, for it is not yet clear whether federal courts will embrace a robust federal judicial role in land use cases. This Article surveys the history of takings claims in the federal courts and recommends that going forward federal courts develop an abstention doctrine particular to takings cases in order to ensure prudent deployment of judicial resources. This Article also explains why § 1331 actions may be superior vehicles for takings cases than § 1983 actions.

 

 

 

March 9, 2021 in Federal Courts, Recent Scholarship, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 8, 2021

SCOTUS Decision on Article III & Nominal Damages: Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski

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.”

 

 

March 8, 2021 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 5, 2021

Today: Alabama Law Review Virtual Symposium, Ten Years of the Supreme Court's Personal Jurisdiction Revival

It’s not too late to register for the Alabama Law Review’s virtual symposium (via Zoom), Ten Years of the Supreme Court’s Personal Jurisdiction Revival. The program will run from 9:00am–3:30pm central time. You can register here.

Hope to see you all soon!

 

 

March 5, 2021 in Conferences/Symposia, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2021

SCOTUS Opinion in Brownback v. King: Preclusion, Jurisdiction & the FTCA's Judgment Bar

Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Brownback v. King, which involves the so-called “judgment bar” of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). (See our earlier coverage here.)

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.”

 

 

 

February 25, 2021 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, February 4, 2021

SCOTUS adds an appellate jurisdiction question to PennEast Pipeline case

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?”

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog and at the Supreme Court website.

 

 

 

February 4, 2021 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Decision on the FSIA's Expropriation Exception: Germany v Philipp

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.”

 

 

 

 

February 4, 2021 in Federal Courts, International/Comparative Law, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

SCOTUS Goes Full Munsingwear on the Trump Emoluments Cases

Yesterday’s Supreme Court order list included orders in two cases, Trump v. CREW and Trump v. District of Columbia, in which the plaintiffs have alleged that Donald Trump’s business activities while serving as President violated the Emoluments Clauses. In both cases, the Supreme Court granted Trump’s cert petition, vacated the judgment, and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case as moot—citing United States v. Munsingwear, Inc., 340 U. S. 36 (1950). Although the Court provided no further explanation, it appears that these claims were moot because Trump is no longer President. (The cases sought only declaratory and injunctive relief.)

Unfortunately, the Munsingwear mootness vacatur wipes out a thoughtful Fourth Circuit en banc majority opinion rejecting Trump’s petition for a writ of mandamus. One particularly intriguing question—which was one of the questions presented in Trump’s cert petition—is whether the court of appeals may use mandamus to require the district court to certify an order for an interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). If folks are interested, I discuss that issue—and other questions of appellate jurisdiction that have arisen in the Trump Emoluments litigation—in a recent article that was part of the Akron Law Review’s recent symposium on federal appellate procedure.

January 26, 2021 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 25, 2021

SCOTUS Dismisses Arbitration Case From December Argument Calendar

Today the Supreme Court decided Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc. (See our earlier coverage here). The case was argued in December, and the per curiam ruling dismisses the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted.

Today’s DIG (dismissed as improvidently granted) leaves in place a Fifth Circuit decision on whether arbitration contracts delegate questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator.

 

January 25, 2021 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 11, 2021

SCOTUS denies cert in 7th Circuit case on Bristol-Myers, personal jurisdiction & class actions

Today’s lengthy Supreme Court order list includes a denial of certiorari in IQVIA Inc. v. Mussat. The Seventh Circuit’s decision below (covered earlier here) had concluded that “the principles announced in Bristol-Myers do not apply to the case of a nationwide class action filed in federal court under a federal statute.”

The question presented in the cert petition was “[w]hether a district court with jurisdiction coextensive with a state court in the district can exercise personal jurisdiction over absent class members’ claims as part of a putative class action when the court concededly could not exercise personal jurisdiction over the absent class members’ claims if they had been brought in individual suits.”

 

 

 

January 11, 2021 in Class Actions, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 18, 2020

SCOTUS Rejects Challenge to Trump's Census Policy on Standing and Ripeness Grounds

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.

 

 

 

 

 

December 18, 2020 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Class Actions

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.)

You can find all the cert-stage briefing—and follow the merits briefs as they come in—at SCOTUSblog and at the Supreme Court website.

 

 

 

 

December 16, 2020 in Class Actions, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

SCOTUS Decision on RFRA Damages Claims: Tanzin v. Tanvir

Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous (8-0) decision in Tanzin v. Tanvir, covered earlier here. Justice Thomas’s opinion begins:

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the Federal Government from imposing substantial burdens on religious exercise, absent a compelling interest pursued through the least restrictive means. 107 Stat. 1488, 42 U. S. C. §2000bb et seq. It also gives a person whose religious exercise has been unlawfully burdened the right to seek “appropriate relief.” The question here is whether “appropriate relief” includes claims for money damages against Government officials in their individual capacities. We hold that it does.

First, the Court finds that government officials can be sued in their personal capacities. Justice Thomas explains: “A suit against an official in his personal capacity is a suit against a person acting under color of law. And a suit against a person acting under color of law is a suit against ‘a government,’ as defined under RFRA. §2000bb–1(c).”

Second, the Court approves of claims for monetary damages against such officials: “A damages remedy is not just ‘appropriate’ relief as viewed through the lens of suits against Government employees. It is also the only form of relief that can remedy some RFRA violations.” In a footnote, however, Justice Thomas raises the possibility of qualified immunity:

Both the Government and respondents agree that government officials are entitled to assert a qualified immunity defense when sued in their individual capacities for money damages under RFRA. Indeed, respondents emphasize that the “qualified immunity defense was created for precisely these circumstances,” Brief for Respondents 22, and is a “powerful shield” that “protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who flout clearly established law,” Tr. of Oral Arg. 42; see District of Columbia v. Wesby, 583 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2018) (slip op., at 13–15).

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 10, 2020 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Decision on Article III Standing: Carney v. Adams

Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous (8-0) decision in Carney v. Adams, covered earlier here. Justice Breyer’s opinion begins:

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 10, 2020 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)