Friday, April 9, 2021
This week’s Supreme Court decision in Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc. is mostly about copyright law. But there was a very interesting procedural question in the case regarding what standard of review the Court should use in connection with the jury’s verdict in favor of Google on its fair use defense. The answer is: it’s complicated. Justice Breyer’s majority opinion does say that “the ultimate ‘fair use’ question” is subject to de novo review. But he also states that “subsidiary factual questions” must be reviewed deferentially—and that deference ends up playing a very important role in the Court’s decision.
In this post I want to make two quick points about how the Court handles the standard of review issue. First, as I’ve argued in a recent article, I don’t think that Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a court may displace a jury’s verdict only when “a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue,” allows a court to declare that a certain issue (like fair use) is categorically subject to de novo review. But second, Justice Breyer’s deference to the jury on implicitly-found “subsidiary” facts leads to an analysis of fair use that—at the end of the day—isn’t so different from the sort of deferential review Rule 50 would require.
Monday, April 5, 2021
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc. By a 6-2 vote, it holds that Google’s copying of a portion of a computer program owned by Oracle constituted “fair use” for purposes of federal copyright law. The opinion is focused mostly on substantive copyright law, but—as covered earlier here and here—the posture of the case prompted some interesting procedural questions. The jury had ruled in favor of Google on its fair use defense, and the Supreme Court asked the parties to file supplemental letter briefs addressing “the appropriate standard of review” regarding fair use, “including but not limited to the implications of the Seventh Amendment, if any, on that standard.”
Friday, March 26, 2021
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Jasminka Kalajdzic’s essay, AI & the End of Lawyers… Defeating Class Certification. Jasminka reviews Peter Salib’s recent article, Artificially Intelligent Class Actions, Tex. L. Rev. (forthcoming).
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
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.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Stanford Law School is hosting a four-session virtual conference entitled Legal Tech and the Future of Civil Justice. The second installment happens tomorrow (February 17) at 9:00am PST. More details and registration info here.
(H/T David Engstrom)
Monday, October 26, 2020
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.
Friday, September 25, 2020
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Sergio Campos’s essay, Stay (Faraway, So Close!) in Touch with Civil Procedure, which discusses the Civil Procedure Unavailability Workshop series (covered earlier here).
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Jordan Singer’s essay, The Machinery of Justice. Jordan reviews Amnon Reichman, Yair Sagy & Shlomi Balaban’s recent article, From a Panacea to a Panopticon: The Use and Misuse of Technology in the Regulation of Judges, 71 Hastings L.J. 589 (2020).
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Seth Endo’s essay, Charting the Interactions of Legal Tech and Civil Procedure. Seth reviews David Engstrom and Jonah Gelbach’s article, Legal Tech, Civil Procedure, and the Future of Adversarialism, 169 U. Pa. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2020).
Friday, June 5, 2020
Unfortunately, the Sixth Annual Civil Procedure Workshop (originally scheduled to be held at Northwestern Law School this September) has been postponed. Fortunately, the Civil Procedure Workshop steering committee has organized a session on civil procedure pedagogy and distance learning that will take place over Zoom on Wednesday, June 17 at 1:00-3:30pm EDT.
Dave Marcus has shared the following details:
Everyone will assemble on Zoom for an initial session led by Tara Grove (Alabama), Howie Erichson (Fordham), Beth Thornburg (SMU), and Liz Porter (UW). Tara, Howie, Beth, and Liz have all put a good deal of thought into how to make various aspects of distance learning work for law teaching, so I’m really grateful that they’ll share their wisdom. We’ll then divide into breakout sessions for smaller group conversations. The proceedings will conclude with another plenary session.
I’m hopeful that many of you can join us, as I know that I have a lot to learn before the fall semester begins. I also would very much like to see as many of you as possible, if only in a small square on Zoom.
If you’re interested, email Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Below is an updated schedule for the online civil procedure workshop series covered earlier. You can register here (be sure to register for Civ Pro, not Evidence -- unless you also want to join the Evidence one, which is great too).
May 5, 2020: Alexi Lahav -- Bristol-Myers Squibb: Going Forward
May 19, 2020: Rick Marcus -- E-Discovery
June 23, 2020: Robin Effron -- New Perspectives on Joinder
July 7, 2020: Rich Freer -- Civil Procedure and the Bar Exam
July 14, 2020: Valerie Hans -- Civil Juries
July 21, 2020: Kevin Clermont -- Preponderance of the Evidence Standard
August 11, 2020: Brian Soucek -- Pleading Standards for Affirmative Defenses
September 1, 2020: Howie Erichson -- Distinguishing Between Facts And Conclusions Under Iqbal
October 6, 2020: Portia Pedro -- Remedies and Civil Procedure
November 10, 2020: Zach Clopton & Colleen Shanahan -- State Civil Procedure
February 2, 2021: Pamela Bookman & David Noll -- Ad Hoc Procedure
March 2, 2021: Beth Burch -- Multi-District Litigation
April 6, 2021: David Engstrom & Jonah Gelbach -- Legal Tech
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Last week, the Twenty-First Century Courts Act (H.R. 6017) was introduced in the House of Representatives. The bill would require: a Code of Conduct for Supreme Court Justices (§ 2); written recusal explanations, including for Supreme Court Justices (§ 3); online publication of financial disclosure reports (§ 4); same-day audio release of Supreme Court oral arguments (and live audio within two years), and live audio of oral arguments in the federal courts of appeals (§ 5); improvements to electronic case management systems (§ 6); and free access to electronic documents via PACER (§ 7).
Here is the full text:
You can follow the bill’s progress here.
Monday, September 23, 2019
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Amy Schmitz has published Expanding Access to Remedies through E-Court Initiatives, 67 Buff. L. Rev. 89 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
Virtual courthouses, artificial intelligence (AI) for determining cases, and algorithmic analysis for all types of legal issues have captured the interest of judges, lawyers, educators, commentators, business leaders, and policymakers. Technology has become the “fourth party” in dispute resolution through the growing field of online dispute resolution (ODR), which includes the use of a broad spectrum of technologies in negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and other dispute resolution processes. Indeed, ODR shows great promise for expanding access to remedies, or justice. In the United States and abroad, however, ODR has mainly thrived within e-commerce companies like eBay and Alibaba, while most public courts have continued to insist on traditional face-to-face procedures. Nonetheless, e-courts and public ODR pilots are developing throughout the world in particular contexts such as small claims and property tax disputes, and are demonstrating how technology can be used to further efficiency and expand access to the courts. Accordingly, this Article explores these e-court initiatives with a critical eye for ensuring fairness, due process, and transparency, as well as efficiency, in public dispute resolution.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Agnieszka McPeak (Toledo Law) has published an article entitled Disappearing Data at 2018 Wis. L.R. 17, which considers the discovery implications of ephemeral social media platforms like Snapchat. Here's the abstract:
“Ephemeral” applications like Snapchat facilitate social interaction in a format that mimics the impermanence of face-to-face conversations. In the age of “big data” and the growing privacy concerns it raises, platforms offering ephemeral social media tools are meeting a market demand for smaller digital footprints. Additionally, these platforms are responding to regulatory pressure to embrace “privacy by design,” the idea that new technology should be built with privacy as a goal from the ground up. Indeed, ephemeral platforms, though imperfect in their impermanence, mark a positive shift in the direction of data minimization.
But the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for broad discovery of electronically stored information. And they mandate, along with other rules, preservation of potentially relevant data in anticipation of litigation. Preservation duties for this new brand of ephemeral data, however, have not been clearly defined.
This article urges for a fair and balanced approach to defining preservation duties for disappearing data. While ephemeral content may be discoverable, onerous preservation duties are unwarranted and will negatively impact both corporate and individual litigants alike. For corporate interests, overly broad preservation duties lead to risk-averse companies stockpiling all things digital, often at great cost. For individuals, the law should recognize that mobile technology has become ubiquitous and social media is a key tool for personal expression, free speech, and social interaction. But individuals also have become the unwitting stewards of vast amounts of data, some of which is dynamic and ever-changing. Deletion or revision of personal information is a normal occurrence on social media platforms — indeed, some are a product of privacy by design. Overly broad preservation duties for individual litigants thus impose unwarranted burdens and are out of step with technological change.
Monday, March 6, 2017
In my opinion, the video is suitable for law students and also the general public. I think there is a great need for clear, brief videos on various aspects of the U.S. government. There appears to be a dearth of knowledge on that score. For example, the Annenberg Public Policy Center recently found that only 27% of Americans could name all three branches of government, and 31% could not name any of the three branches.
Friday, October 14, 2016
Eugene Volokh and Paul Levy have an interesting post over at the Washington Post/Volokh Conspiracy. It begins:
There are about 25 court cases throughout the country that have a suspicious profile:
- All involve allegedly self-represented plaintiffs, yet they have similar snippets of legalese that suggest a common organization behind them. (A few others, having a slightly different profile, involve actual lawyers.)
- All the ostensible defendants ostensibly agreed to injunctions being issued against them, which often leads to a very quick court order (in some cases, less than a week).
- Of these 25-odd cases, 15 give the addresses of the defendants — but a private investigator (Giles Miller of Lynx Insights & Investigations) couldn’t find a single one of the ostensible defendants at the ostensible address.
Now, you might ask, what’s the point of suing a fake defendant (to the extent that some of these defendants are indeed fake)? How can anyone get any real money from a fake defendant? How can anyone order a fake defendant to obey a real injunction?
Check it out to find the answers.
Monday, October 3, 2016
Last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of the Northern District of California invoked Rule 4(f)(3) to order that a plaintiff be allowed to use Twitter to serve process on a Kuwaiti national. The case is St. Francis Assisi v. Kuwait Financial House, and the opinion begins:
The plaintiff, St. Francis Assisi (a non-profit corporation), sued the defendants, Kuwait Finance House, Kuveyt-Turk Participation Bank Inc., and Hajjaj al-Ajmi (an individual) for damages and equitable relief arising from the defendants’ financing of the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which resulted in the targeted murder of Assyrian Christians in Iraq and Syria. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.)
St. Francis has not been successful in serving process on al-Ajmi. (See ECF No. 10.) Al-Ajmi is a Kuwaiti national and efforts to locate him have been unsuccessful. (Id.) St. Francis now asks to serve al-Ajmi by alternative means under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3) via the social-media platform, Twitter. (Id.) The court grants St. Francis’s request because service via Twitter is reasonably calculated to give notice and is not prohibited by international agreement.
Eric Goldman has coverage here.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its decision in Nicosia v. Amazon.com, Inc., holding that the plaintiff’s suit against Amazon should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim based on the mandatory arbitration provision in Amazon’s Conditions of Use.
Of course there’s considerable discussion of the Federal Arbitration Act and substantive contract law, but the court also addresses pleading standards, the relationship between Rule 12(b)(6) motions and motions to compel arbitration, and standing (the latter with respect to the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction).
Wednesday, June 15, 2016