Monday, October 26, 2020

SCOTUS, Google v. Oracle, and Appellate Review of Civil Jury Verdicts

The Supreme Court’s first batch of oral arguments this Term included Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., a high-profile and high-stakes ($9 billion) lawsuit about Google’s use of Java programming code to develop its Android operating system. Google prevailed after a jury trial, but the Federal Circuit reversed. Google’s Supreme Court cert petition initially presented two questions: (1) whether copyright protection extends to a software interface; and (2) whether, as the jury found at trial, Google’s use of Oracle’s software interface constituted fair use for purposes of copyright law. That second question, however, prompted the Court to ask its own question: what was “the appropriate standard of review” for the jury’s fair use verdict?

I’ve written a piece that examines this standard of review issue, Appellate Courts and Civil Juries, 2021 Wisconsin L. Rev. 1 (forthcoming). There’s a lot more detail in the full article, but I wanted to highlight a few points in the wake of the recent oral argument—during which there were several questions about the standard of review.

Continue reading

October 26, 2020 in Adam Steinman, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Recent Scholarship, Supreme Court Cases, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Interesting Issues in Today's SCOTUS Cert Grants

Today’s Supreme Court order list contained some high-profile grants of certiorari that include some interesting federal courts issues.

Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab involves a challenge to the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which had been enjoined by lower federal courts. One of the four questions presented is “[w]hether the district court’s universal preliminary injunction is impermissibly overbroad.”

Trump v. Sierra Club involves the Trump administration’s diversion of Department of Defense (DoD) funds to build portions of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The first question presented is whether the plaintiffs “have a cognizable cause of action to obtain review of the Acting Secretary’s compliance with Section 8005’s proviso in transferring funds internally between DoD appropriations accounts.”

Here's where you can check out the cert-stage briefing and follow the merits briefs as they come in:

SCOTUSblog:

Supreme Court website:

 

 

 

October 19, 2020 in Current Affairs, Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 16, 2020

SCOTUS Will Hear Census Case This November

Today the Supreme Court set oral argument in Trump v. New York for Monday, November 30. Here are the questions presented, which include a question on the lower court's authority to grant relief under Article III:

Congress has provided that, for purposes of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives, the President shall prepare “a statement showing the whole number of persons in each State * * * as ascertained under the * * * decennial census of the population.” 2 U.S.C. 2a(a). It has further provided that the Secretary of Commerce shall take the decennial census “in such form and content as he may determine,” 13 U.S.C. 141(a), and shall tabulate the results in a report to the President, 13 U.S.C. 141(b). The President has issued a Memorandum instructing the Secretary to include within that report information enabling the President to implement a policy decision to exclude illegal aliens from the base population number for apportionment “to the maximum extent feasible and consistent with the discretion delegated to the executive branch.” 85 Fed. Reg. 44,679, 44,680 (July 23, 2020). At the behest of plaintiffs urging that the exclusion of illegal aliens would unconstitutionally alter the apportionment and chill some persons from participating in the census, a three-judge district court declared the Memorandum unlawful and enjoined the Secretary from including the information in his report. The questions presented are:

(1) Whether the relief entered satisfies the requirements of Article III of the Constitution.

(2) Whether the Memorandum is a permissible exercise of the President’s discretion under the provisions of law governing congressional apportionment.

Here is the lower court's opinion. You can follow the merits briefs as they come in at SCOTUSblog and at the Supreme Court website.

 

 

October 16, 2020 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A Quick Thought on the Ford Cases

The Supreme Court hears oral argument tomorrow in the much-anticipated Ford cases—the latest in the Court’s recent run of decisions on personal jurisdiction. Oral argument in the two consolidated cases was originally scheduled for last spring, but it was postponed until this week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two cases involve a similar fact pattern. The plaintiffs were injured in accidents involving Ford vehicles, and they sued Ford in the state where they lived and where the accidents occurred. Ford is actively involved in marketing its automobiles in those states (as it is throughout the United States), including the specific kinds of automobiles involved in these accidents. Ford, however, has argued against specific jurisdiction because the vehicles involved in these accidents were initially sold to customers in other states. The vehicle involved in the Minnesota accident was initially sold to a customer in North Dakota. The vehicle involved in the Montana accident was initially sold to a customer in Washington State. Accordingly, Ford contends that its contacts with Minnesota and Montana were not the “cause” of the accidents that occurred there. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that “[s]pecific jurisdiction over a defendant is permissible where a plaintiff has been injured in the forum by a product that the defendant has systematically marketed, sold, and serviced in the forum.”

Numerous law professors have filed amicus briefs supporting personal jurisdiction in Ford (here, here, here, here, and here) and weighed in with blog posts (e.g., here and here). There is also a remarkable amicus brief filed by 39 states and the District of Columbia arguing in support of jurisdiction—a brief joined by many states whose administrations would hardly be considered friends of the plaintiffs’ bar.

Although the Supreme Court has decided lots of cases about when a defendant’s contacts are constitutionally sufficient for specific jurisdiction, it has yet to provide meaningful guidance on what sort of forum-controversy “affiliation” is required to justify specific jurisdiction. I’ve argued elsewhere that the appropriate affiliation touchstone is rationality—that is, whether there is a rational basis for the forum state to adjudicate the availability of judicial remedies in that particular case. But the Supreme Court need not go that far to uphold specific jurisdiction in Ford. The test proposed by the plaintiffs is a sensible one that vindicates the well-established notion that a defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction when it seeks to serve the market for its product in the forum state and its product causes injury there.

There’s a lot more to be said, but with this quick post I want to highlight an additional concern about Ford’s causation argument—one that could sweep beyond the precise facts of these cases and into more traditional “stream of commerce” cases where the product is purchased initially by a customer in the forum state. The plurality and concurring opinions in the Supreme Court’s McIntyre decision indicate that a single product entering the forum state is not a sufficient contact for establishing personal jurisdiction—even if that single product is the one that gives rise to the litigation. Yet Ford’s proposed causal requirement suggests that the only relevant contact is the single vehicle or piece of machinery that was involved in the accident. If that’s right, then every case might turn into McIntyre. Regardless of whether the flow of the defendant’s products into the forum state is a stream, an eddy, or a rushing river, the only contact that would count is the single drop that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. And a single drop is never enough. That would be a radical, unfortunate departure from established doctrine—and it’s another reason why the Court should uphold personal jurisdiction in the Ford cases.

 

 

October 6, 2020 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Solum on Personal Jurisdiction and the Ford Case

Monday, October 5, 2020

October Term 2020 SCOTUS Arguments Begin Today (Remotely)

The Supreme Court begins oral argument by telephone conference this morning. If you want to listen in, here’s some information from the Supreme Court’s press release:

The Court will hear oral arguments by telephone conference on October 5, 6, 7, 13, and 14. In keeping with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, the Justices and counsel will all participate remotely. The oral arguments are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. On days when more than one case will be heard, there will be a three minute pause before the second case begins.

The Court will provide a live audio feed of the arguments to ABC News (the network pool chair), the Associated Press, and C-SPAN, and they will in turn provide a simultaneous feed for the oral arguments to livestream on various media platforms for public access. * * *

The oral argument audio and a transcript of the oral arguments will be posted on the Court's website following oral argument each day.

Today’s arguments include Carney v. Adams, which presents some interesting standing and severability issues.

 

October 5, 2020 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Standing, State Courts, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2020

SCOTUS Cert Grant on Appellate Jurisdiction in Baltimore Climate Change Lawsuit

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. (We covered earlier the Fourth Circuit’s decision from last March.)

The question presented involves the permissible scope of an appellate court’s review of a district court’s order remanding a case to state court. From the cert. petition:

Section 1447(d) of Title 28 of the United States Code generally precludes appellate review of an order remanding a removed case to state court. But Section 1447(d) expressly provides that an “order remanding a case * * * removed pursuant to” the federal-officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, or the civil-rights removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1443, “shall be reviewable by appeal or otherwise.” Some courts of appeals have interpreted Section 1447(d) to permit appellate review of any issue encompassed in a district court’s remand order where the removing defendant premised removal in part on the federal-officer or civil-rights removal statutes; other courts of appeals, including the Fourth Circuit in this case, have held that appellate review is limited to the federal-officer or civil-rights ground for removal. The question presented is as follows:

Whether 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) permits a court of appeals to review any issue encompassed in a district court’s order remanding a removed case to state court where the removing defendant premised removal in part on the federal-officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, or the civil-rights removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1443.

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.

 

 

October 2, 2020 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Case-Linked Jurisdiction and the Ford Cases (Guest Post by Howard M. Erichson, John C. P. Goldberg & Benjamin C. Zipursky)

Howie Erichson, John Goldberg, and Ben Zipursky present the following guest post on the much-anticipated Ford cases that will be argued next week:

* * *

On October 7, an eight-member Supreme Court will hop on the phone and hear oral argument in a pair of cases carried over from last term: Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and Ford Motor Company v. Bandemer. Because these cases focus on personal jurisdiction, Justice Ginsburg will be especially missed. A former civil procedure professor, Justice Ginsburg was the most important voice on the Court in this area of the law. Here, as elsewhere, she occupied positions of principle that cut across political divides.

The Court will need wisdom for these cases because they present a surprisingly difficult legal problem whose resolution could have a significant impact on future civil litigation. Suits were brought on behalf of a Montana resident and a Minnesota resident involved in car accidents in their respective home states. The Montana resident was killed and the Minnesotan suffered a severe brain injury. In both cases, the injury was allegedly caused by a product malfunction in the Ford vehicle in which they rode: a Ford Explorer with rollover problems in the Montana case and a Ford Crown Victoria with defective airbags in Minnesota. Ford has argued that, because the Explorer was first sold by a Ford dealer in Washington State, rather than Montana, the Montana courts have no personal jurisdiction over it. Similarly, it has argued that because the Crown Victoria was first sold by a Ford dealer in North Dakota, rather than Minnesota, the Minnesota courts have no personal jurisdiction over it. The high courts of Montana and Minnesota rejected Ford’s arguments, but Ford successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear both cases. Due to COVID-19, the oral argument originally scheduled in May of 2020 was pushed over until the Term that is about to begin.

Continue reading

September 30, 2020 in Recent Scholarship, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Steinman on Appellate Courts and Civil Juries

I posted on SSRN a draft of my article, Appellate Courts and Civil Juries. Here’s the 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, which has led to confusion regarding 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.

As the abstract indicates, the Supreme Court may be wrestling with this issue this coming Term in Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., which is scheduled for oral argument (telephonically) next Wednesday.

Thanks to the Southeastern Association of Law Schools for letting me present an earlier draft of this paper back in July at the SEALS 2020 Annual Conference Federal Courts and Procedure Panel. I got a lot of great feedback.  

 

 

 

September 29, 2020 in Conferences/Symposia, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Scholarship, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

RBG & Civil Procedure

There have been lots of wonderful tributes and remembrances in the wake of Justice Ginsburg’s passing.

Monday’s episode of the Strict Scrutiny podcast—with Leah Litman, Melissa Murray, Anne Joseph O’Connell, and Kate Shaw—has an interesting exchange about RBG and civil procedure (starting at around 14:00).

 

 

September 23, 2020 in In the News, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 18, 2020

Trump Files Cert Petition in Emoluments Case

Last week, Donald Trump filed a petition for certiorari challenging the Fourth Circuit’s en banc decision in In re Trump. That case arises from a lawsuit filed in Maryland federal court alleging violations of the Emoluments Clauses. As covered earlier, the Fourth Circuit ultimately allowed the lawsuit to proceed, refusing to grant Trump a writ of mandamus directing the district court to dismiss the case.

The pending Supreme Court case is captioned Trump v. District of Columbia, and the questions are focused on appellate jurisdiction:

  1. Whether a writ of mandamus is appropriate because, contrary to the holding of the court of appeals, the district court’s denial of the President’s motion to dismiss was clear and indisputable legal error.
  1. Whether a writ of mandamus is appropriate, contrary to the holding of the court of appeals, where the district court’s refusal to grant the President’s motion to certify an interlocutory appeal was a clear abuse of discretion under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b).

You can follow the Supreme Court filings at the Court’s website or at SCOTUSblog.

If folks are interested, I talk about some of these issues in a recent article Appellate Jurisdiction and the Emoluments Litigation, which was part of the Akron Law Review’s recent symposium on federal appellate procedure.

 

 

 

September 18, 2020 in Federal Courts, In the News, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

SCOTUS will hold October oral arguments remotely

As folks will recall, the last Supreme Court Term ended with oral arguments being held telephonically.

Today the Supreme Court issued a press release stating that “[t]he Court will hear all oral arguments scheduled for the October session by telephone conference, following the same format used for the May teleconference arguments.” And:

The Court will provide a live audio feed of the October oral arguments to a media pool as it did for the May arguments. The pool participants will in turn provide a simultaneous feed for the oral arguments to livestream on various media platforms for live public access. The oral argument audio and a transcript of the oral arguments will also be posted on the Court’s website following oral argument each day.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

September 16, 2020 in Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Steinman on Jacobi & Sag on Laughter at the Supreme Court

Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is my essay, No Laughing Matter. I review a recent article by Tonja Jacobi & Matthew Sag, Taking Laughter Seriously at the Supreme Court, 72 Vand. L. Rev. 1423 (2019).

 

August 11, 2020 in Recent Scholarship, Supreme Court Cases, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Interesting End of Term Cert Grants

This morning featured some important decisions from the Supreme Court, but everyone knows the real action is at the after party. Here are some interesting grants of certiorari from this afternoon’s order list:

AMG Capital Management, LLC v. FTC and FTC v. Credit Bureau Center, LLC involve the extent to which § 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act’s authorization for district courts to issue an “injunction” permits monetary relief such as restitution or the return of unlawfully obtained funds.

Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski presents the question “whether a government’s post-filing change of an unconstitutional policy moots nominal-damages claims that vindicate the government’s past, completed violation of a plaintiff’s constitutional right.”

Here’s where to go if you want to find the cert-stage briefing and follow the merits briefs as they come in:

AMG Capital Management: Supreme Court website; SCOTUSblog
Credit Bureau Center: Supreme Court website; SCOTUSblog
Uzuegbunam: Supreme Court website; SCOTUSblog

 

 

July 9, 2020 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 6, 2020

SCOTUS Decision on Severability: Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, Inc., holding that the government-debt exception to the TCPA’s prohibition on robocalls to cell phones violated the First Amendment. The Court was sharply divided, as the breakdown indicates:

KAVANAUGH, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and ALITO, J., joined, and in which THOMAS, J., joined as to Parts I and II. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. BREYER, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment with respect to severability and dissenting in part, in which GINSBURG and KAGAN, JJ., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which THOMAS, J., joined as to Part II.

The lack of a majority opinion will surely be of interest to Marks-rule enthusiasts. Readers may also be interested in the Justices’ severability analysis. Seven Justices (Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan & Kavanaugh) conclude that the unconstitutional government-debt exception is severable from the rest of the TCPA. Gorsuch’s opinion, joined by Thomas, disagrees: “Respectfully, if this is what modern ‘severability doctrine’ has become, it seems to me all the more reason to reconsider our course.”

 

 

July 6, 2020 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Some Interesting SCOTUS Cert Grants: International Edition

Today’s Supreme Court order list was a big one for the international side of civil procedure and federal courts. The Court granted certiorari in four interesting cases:

Republic of Hungary v. Simon presents the following question: “May the district court abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for reasons of international comity, where former Hungarian nationals have sued the nation of Hungary to recover the value of property lost in Hungary during World War II, and where the plaintiffs made no attempt to exhaust local Hungarian remedies?”

Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp presents two questions:

1) Whether the “expropriation exception” of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(3), which abrogates foreign sovereign immunity when “rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue,” provides jurisdiction over claims that a foreign sovereign has violated international human-rights law when taking property from its own national within its own borders, even though such claims do not implicate the established international law governing states’ responsibility for takings of property.

2) Whether the doctrine of international comity is unavailable in cases against foreign sovereigns, even in cases of considerable historical and political significance to the foreign sovereign, and even where the foreign nation has a domestic framework for addressing the claims.

Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe I presents two questions:

1) Whether an aiding and abetting claim against a domestic corporation brought under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, may overcome the extraterritoriality bar where the claim is based on allegations of general corporate activity in the United States and where plaintiffs cannot trace the alleged harms, which occurred abroad at the hands of unidentified foreign actors, to that activity.

2) Whether the Judiciary has the authority under the Alien Tort Statute to impose liability on domestic corporations.

And Cargill Inc. v. Doe I presents two related questions:

1) Whether the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute is displaced by allegations that a U.S. company generally conducted oversight of its foreign operations at its headquarters and made operational and financial decisions there, even though the conduct alleged to violate international law occurred in—and the plaintiffs’ suffered their injuries in—a foreign country.

2) Whether a domestic corporation is subject to liability in a private action under the Alien Tort Statute.

The Court has consolidated Nestlé and Cargill for briefing and oral argument.

Here’s where to go if you want to find the cert-stage briefing and follow the merits briefs as they come in:

Hungary v. Simon: Supreme Court website; SCOTUSblog 
Germany v. Philipp: Supreme Court website; SCOTUSblog 
Nestlé and Cargill: Supreme Court website; SCOTUSblog

 

 

July 2, 2020 in Federal Courts, International/Comparative Law, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 29, 2020

SCOTUS Decision in June Medical Services: Standing, Standards of Review, and Stare Decisis

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Russo. By a 5-4 vote, the Court strikes down Louisiana’s admitting-privileges law (Act 620) as imposing an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. The five-Justice majority comes from Justice Breyer’s opinion, which is joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, and Chief Justice Roberts’ concurring opinion. Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh dissent—each of them authoring dissenting opinions.

In addition to the substantive constitutional issues regarding access to abortion, the case implicates some interesting civil procedure and federal courts issues: standing, standards of review, and stare decisis.

1. Standing

The standing issue is whether the plaintiffs, who were abortion providers and clinics, could challenge the Louisiana law as infringing their patients’ rights. Justice Breyer’s opinion concludes that Louisiana waived its standing argument:

The State’s argument rests on the rule that a party cannot ordinarily “‘rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties.’” Kowalski v. Tesmer, 543 U. S. 125, 129 (2004) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U. S. 490, 499 (1975)). This rule is “prudential.” 543 U. S., at 128–129. It does not involve the Constitution’s “case-or-controversy requirement.” Id., at 129; see Craig v. Boren, 429 U. S. 190, 193 (1976); Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U. S. 106, 112 (1976). And so, we have explained, it can be forfeited or waived. See Craig, 429 U. S., at 193–194.

Louisiana had argued in the lower courts that “there was ‘no question that the physicians had standing to contest’ Act 620.” This was an “unmistakable concession,” according to Justice Breyer. He adds that “even if the State had merely forfeited its objection by failing to raise it at any point over the last five years, we would not now undo all that has come before on that basis.” He explains:

What we said some 45 years ago in Craig applies equally today: “[A] decision by us to forgo consideration of the constitutional merits”—after “the parties have sought or at least have never resisted an authoritative constitutional determination” in the courts below—“in order to await the initiation of a new challenge to the statute by injured third parties would be impermissibly to foster repetitive and time-consuming litigation under the guise of caution and prudence.” 429 U. S., at 193–194 (quotation altered).

Justice Breyer also questions whether Louisiana’s standing argument would be persuasive in any event, noting that “[w]e have long permitted abortion providers to invoke the rights of their actual or potential patients in challenges to abortion-related regulations.”

Chief Justice Roberts concurs in Justice Breyer’s standing analysis: “For the reasons the plurality explains, ante, at 11–16, I agree that the abortion providers in this case have standing to assert the constitutional rights of their patients.”

2. Standard of Appellate Review

Another procedural issue is the standard of appellate review regarding the district court’s findings. Justice Breyer’s opinion notes:

We start from the premise that a district court’s findings of fact, “whether based on oral or other evidence, must not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and the reviewing court must give due regard to the trial court’s opportunity to judge the witnesses’ credibility.” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 52(a)(6). In “‘applying [this] standard to the findings of a district court sitting without a jury, appellate courts must constantly have in mind that their function is not to decide factual issues de novo.’” Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U. S. 564, 573 (1985) (quoting Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 395 U. S. 100, 123 (1969)).

And the opinion concludes:

We conclude, in light of the record, that the District Court’s significant factual findings—both as to burdens and as to benefits—have ample evidentiary support. None is “clearly erroneous.” Given the facts found, we must also uphold the District Court’s related factual and legal determinations. These include its determination that Louisiana’s law poses a “substantial obstacle” to women seeking an abortion; its determination that the law offers no significant health-related benefits; and its determination that the law consequently imposes an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion. We also agree with its ultimate legal conclusion that, in light of these findings and our precedents, Act 620 violates the Constitution.

Chief Justice Roberts also emphasizes the deferential standard of review:

The question is not whether we would reach the same findings from the same record. These District Court findings “entail[ed] primarily . . . factual work” and therefore are “review[ed] only for clear error.” U. S. Bank N. A. v. Village at Lakeridge, LLC, 583 U. S. ___, ___, ___ (2018) (slip op., at 6, 9). Clear error review follows from a candid appraisal of the comparative advantages of trial courts and appellate courts.

3. Stare Decisis

And of course, the case presents important questions of stare decisis, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down Texas’s admitting privileges requirement. Stare decisis is key to Chief Justice Roberts’ tie-breaking fifth vote in favor of the plaintiffs: “I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided. The question today however is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case.” Roberts concludes:

Stare decisis instructs us to treat like cases alike. The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law. The Louisiana law burdens women seeking previability abortions to the same extent as the Texas law, according to factual findings that are not clearly erroneous. For that reason, I concur in the judgment of the Court that the Louisiana law is unconstitutional.

 

 

June 29, 2020 in Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Standing, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 26, 2020

SCOTUS Upholds IIRIRA's Restrictions on Federal Habeas Review of Asylum Claims: DHS v. Thuraissigiam

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a 5-2-2 decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam. The majority rejected a constitutional challenge—based on the Suspension Clause and the Due Process Clause—to provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) that restrict federal habeas review of rejected asylum claims.

Justice Alito authored the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. Alito writes:

Respondent’s Suspension Clause argument fails because it would extend the writ of habeas corpus far beyond its scope “when the Constitution was drafted and ratified.” Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U. S. 723, 746 (2008). Indeed, respondent’s use of the writ would have been unrecognizable at that time. Habeas has traditionally been a means to secure release from unlawful detention, but respondent invokes the writ to achieve an entirely different end, namely, to obtain additional administrative review of his asylum claim and ultimately to obtain authorization to stay in this country.

Respondent’s due process argument fares no better. While aliens who have established connections in this country have due process rights in deportation proceedings, the Court long ago held that Congress is entitled to set the conditions for an alien’s lawful entry into this country and that, as a result, an alien at the threshold of initial entry cannot claim any greater rights under the Due Process Clause. See Nishimura Ekiu v. United States, 142 U. S. 651, 660 (1892). Respondent attempted to enter the country illegally and was apprehended just 25 yards from the border. He therefore has no entitlement to procedural rights other than those afforded by statute.

Justice Breyer authors a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg, which agrees only that IIRIRA’s limit on federal habeas review comports with the Suspension Clause as applied “in this particular case” (emphasis in original). He reasons that the respondent had been apprehended “just 25 yards inside the border” and “has never lived in, or been lawfully admitted to, the United States.” And Breyer also argues that the respondent’s claims were either “challenges to factual findings” rather than claims of “legal error,” or “procedural claims” that “concern not the outright denial (or constructive denial) of a process, but the precise way in which the relevant procedures were administered.”

Justice Sotomayor authors a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Kagan, which begins:

The majority declares that the Executive Branch’s denial of asylum claims in expedited removal proceedings shall be functionally unreviewable through the writ of habeas corpus, no matter whether the denial is arbitrary or irrational or contrary to governing law. That determination flouts over a century of this Court’s practice. In case after case, we have heard claims indistinguishable from those respondent raises here, which fall within the heartland of habeas jurisdiction going directly to the origins of the Great Writ. ***

Making matters worse, the Court holds that the Constitution’s due process protections do not extend to noncitizens like respondent, who challenge the procedures used to determine whether they may seek shelter in this country or whether they may be cast to an unknown fate. The decision deprives them of any means to ensure the integrity of an expedited removal order, an order which, the Court has just held, is not subject to any meaningful judicial oversight as to its substance.

 

 

June 26, 2020 in Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 19, 2020

SCOTUS Decision on DACA

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued its decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of University of California. As folks are surely aware by now, the Court voted 5-4 to vacate the Trump administration’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The case raised some interesting issues relating to civil procedure and federal courts that are worth flagging. The first is pleading. On the APA issue, Chief Justice Roberts authors the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. But the plaintiffs had also argued that the rescission of DACA violated the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment because the rescission was motivated by discriminatory animus. In Part IV—which Justice Sotomayor did not join—Chief Justice Roberts finds that the plaintiffs’ allegations of animus were “insufficient.” He writes:

To plead animus, a plaintiff must raise a plausible inference that an “invidious discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor” in the relevant decision. Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U. S. 252, 266 (1977). Possible evidence includes disparate impact on a particular group, “[d]epartures from the normal procedural sequence,” and “contemporary statements by members of the decisionmaking body.” Id., at 266–268. Tracking these factors, respondents allege that animus is evidenced by (1) the disparate impact of the rescission on Latinos from Mexico, who represent 78% of DACA recipients; (2) the unusual history behind the rescission; and (3) pre- and post-election statements by President Trump. Brief for New York 54–55.

None of these points, either singly or in concert, establishes a plausible equal protection claim.

Justice Sotomayor does not join this part of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion, and she writes a partial dissent on the equal protection issues. From her opinion:

Respondents’ equal protection challenges come to us in a preliminary posture. All that respondents needed to do at this stage of the litigation was state sufficient facts that would “allo[w a] court to draw the reasonable inference that [a] defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U. S. 662, 678 (2009). The three courts to evaluate respondents’ pleadings below held that they cleared this modest threshold. 908 F. 3d 476, 518–520 (CA9 2018) (affirming the District Court’s denial of the Government’s motion to dismiss); see also Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen, 291 F. Supp. 3d 260, 274 (EDNY 2018).

I too would permit respondents’ claims to proceed on remand. The complaints each set forth particularized facts that plausibly allege discriminatory animus.

The Supreme Court’s handling of the equal protection claims raises another recurring chestnut for federal courts enthusiasts: the Marks rule and nonmajority opinions. The dissenting justices on the APA issue—Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh—write that they “concur in the judgment insofar as the Court rejects [the] equal protection claim.” It’s not clear, however, whether and how those votes can be added to the four-justice plurality on the plaintiffs’ pleading of their equal protection claims to generate a binding “majority” opinion on that issue. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Court avoided the recurring-yet-still-unaddressed question of nationwide injunctions (see, e.g., here). Footnote 7 of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion explains that, because the Supreme Court affirmed the D.C. federal court’s order vacating the Trump administration’s rescission of DACA, it was “unnecessary to examine the propriety of the nationwide scope of the injunctions” that had been issued by other federal courts.

 

 

June 19, 2020 in Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases, Twombly/Iqbal | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 15, 2020

Same Case, Different Cert Grant: Henry Schein v. Archer and White Sales Goes Back to SCOTUS

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales, Inc. It presents the following question: “whether a provision in an arbitration agreement that exempts certain claims from arbitration negates an otherwise clear and unmistakable delegation of questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator.”

You may recall that this litigation led to a January 2019 Supreme Court decision (Justice Kavanaugh’s debut opinion, incidentally), which addressed a slightly different question about whether the court or the arbitrator decides arbitrability.

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.

 

 

 

June 15, 2020 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)