Thursday, July 19, 2018

Massachusetts fears Justice Kavanaugh

Following on this post: Josh Blackman writes that Massachusetts is moving to repeal its criminal prohibitions on abortion, adultery, and fornication. Democratic legislators explained that the move anticipated the Court overruling Roe and other cases, after which those laws would become enforceable.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 19, 2018 at 01:56 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Clopton on universal injunctions

At the Take Care Blog, Zachary Clopton (Cornell) argues that history, structure, and precedent "do not provide a once-size-fits-all answer" to the question of the propriety of universal injunction. Clopton's basic argument is that other doctrines, notably nonmutual issue preclusion and full faith and credit (and, I would add, precedent), protect non-parties. There is thus no blanket reason not to allow injunctions to do the same work, especially since all are grounded in policy concerns.

The difference is how hard we make non-parties work to gain those protections. Precedent and preclusion requires affirmative steps by the new party--file her own lawsuit and ask the second court to make use of the prior judgment or precedent. A universal injunction requires the non-party to do nothing more than request the first court to enforce the injunction and, perhaps, to hold the government in contempt. For reasons linked to Article III and the scope of constitutional claims, I favor requiring those non-parties to take those extra steps.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 18, 2018 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The return of Skelly Oil and the Well Pleaded Complaint

MGM Resorts and affiliated companies, owner of the Mandalay Bay Resort and the adjacent fairgrounds at which Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured 500 others in 2017, has filed two federal declaratory judgment actions (one in California, one in Nevada), arguing that they are not liable to the victims of the shooting. The basis for the D/J action is the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act (SAFETY Act) of 2002, a post-9/11 law designed to protect businesses from liability for acts of terrorism. Hundreds of injured or dead are named as individual defendants (the list of parties takes up the bulk of both complaints). The Nevada action is against Nevada citizens and asserts federal-question jurisdiction; the California action is against California citizens and asserts federal-question and diversity jurisdiction (MGM and its affiliates are Nevada and Delaware citizens). One lawyer for many  victims was typically calm and measured in describing this tactic as a "blatant display of judge shopping," verging on unethical, outrageous, and "really sad."

My thoughts, naturally, turned to federal jurisdiction. The news reports read as if MGM sought a declaration of non-liability based on federal law as against state negligence claims. If so, there would not have been federal-question jurisdiction under Skelly Oil, which provides that an anticipatory D/J action does not arise under when the underlying enforcement action would be a state-law claim with a federal defense that would not satisfy the Well Pleaded Complaint Rule. A D/J action arises under only if the hypothetical enforcement action would arise under, because the well-pleaded complaint asserts a claim in which the right of action and rule of decision are created by federal law. This means the California action could go forward based only on diversity jurisdiction but not federal-question jurisdiction, and the Nevada action must be dismissed..

Looking at the pleadings and the SAFETY Act, however, I think there is jurisdiction. MGM's argument seems to be as follows. Section 442 provides a federal cause action, with exclusive federal jurisdiction, "for claims arising out of, relating to, or resulting from an act of terrorism when qualified anti-terrorism technologies have been deployed in defense against or response or recovery from such act." The law of the state in which the acts occurred provides the rule of decision, unless inconsistent or preempted by federal law. MGM's argument, based on the statute and implementing regulations, is that this was an act of terrorism and because MGM hired a vendor to provide security services, any claim based on failure of those security efforts can be brought only under federal law and in federal court,  and can only be brought against the seller of services and not against it as the buyer. I think that solves the jurisdictional problem. The enforcement action would arise under federal law in federal court because federal law provides the right of action in § 442(a)(1) and federalized state law as rule of decision, so the mirror D/J action also arises under. I do not know whether the argument works under the statute, but that is a matter of merits, not jurisdiction.

One more jurisdictional puzzle in the California complaint. The pleading asserts supplemental jurisdiction with respect to claims against any victim/defendants whose claims would be for less than the jurisdictional minimum. But § 1367(b) should preclude supplemental jurisdiction over claims between multiple plaintiffs and multiple defendants, because the first clause of (b) precludes supplemental jurisdiction over claims by plaintiffs against persons made party under Rule 20. Even accounting for the upside-down posture of the case, the D/J action involves claims against multiple defendants, all joined under Rule 20, which should prohibit aggregating amount in controversy this way.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 17, 2018 at 04:45 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fourth Circuit on prosecutorial immunity

Prosecutorial immunity presents a problem. Immunity applies to all functions intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal-justice process, broadly defined. And it includes general office-wide policies relating to the judicial process, even if not to a specific prosecution. Courts have sought to draw a line between immune prosecutorial functions and non-immune administrative functions, namely employment decisions. But that distinction could collapse, because employment decisions may have some connection to a judicial proceeding or to judicial proceedings generally--for example, how to staff a case is an employment decision that implicates a prosecution and involves discretionary legal judgment. One way to avoid that collapse is to ask whether the § 1983 action requires that court to reconsider an underlying investigation or prosecution, a question that functionally turns on the identity of the plaintiff--immunity applies when the suit is brought by the target of the underlying prosecution, but it does not apply when the suit is brought by a non-target, such as an employee.

To take a simple example: Imagine the DA refuses to assign an African-American line prosecutor to a case because he believes the white prosecutor will be tougher on the African-American criminal defendant and push for a harsher sentence. If the defendant brings some sort of wrongful prosecution claim, immunity applies. If the passed-over line prosecutor brings a race-discrimination claim, immunity does not apply.

But the Fourth Circuit declined to accept that distinction. The plaintiff was a police officer who alleged that the state's attorney 1) subjected him to racial harassment by (gratuitously) reading aloud at a trial-preparation meeting letters and statements (that would be used as evidence) containing racial epithets and 2) retaliated against him for complaining about that conduct by refusing to call that officer as a witness at any future proceedings. The court held that trial prep and decisions about who to call as witness are immune prosecutorial functions, as they are intimately connected to the judicial phase of the criminal process, done while the attorney was acting as an advocate for the state. That this occurred in the employment context was irrelevant--"[t]hat a judgment about witness credibility or which cases to try has negative employment consequences - even readily foreseeable ones - does not change the underlying nature of that judgment."

This reasoning could broaden prosecutorial immunity in a way that swallows many employment claims. If discussing evidence and deciding what witnesses to call is prosecutorial, then it seems that an attorney could: sprinkle his trial-prep discussions with racial epithets; decide never to call any African-American police officer as a witness; decide never to prosecute a case in which the arresting officer is African-American; decide never to have an African-American police officer in the trial-prep meeting; decide never to assign a female attorney to work his cases or agree to work with a female attorney on his cases. There is no difference between creating a racially hostile environment and treating someone more poorly because of race or sex or whatever; all (if proved) violate Title VII and the Fourteenth Amendment. If they occur in the judicial phase, immunity should apply.

The court tried to avoid that end, insisting "it is only 'a certain kind of administrative obligation - a kind that itself is directly connected with the conduct of a trial.'" And "even in that context, if a prosecutor's alleged conduct cannot be connected to discretionary judgments about which witnesses to call and which cases to prosecute, then absolute immunity will not apply." But it is easy to connect employment acts to those immune discretionary judgments. The state's attorney can decide not to prosecute a case because the complaining officer is African-American or because the line prosecutor working the case is a woman. Either involves protected discretionary judgments. And the point of absolute immunity is that courts cannot look beneath the function and examine motive--if it is a prosecutorial decision (reviewing evidence, calling witnesses, pursuing cases), it is immune, even if the function is performed for no reason other than racial animus.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 17, 2018 at 01:41 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Two interesting civil rights puzzles (Updated)

No connection, other than being news stories while on a driving vacation.

1) A Cook County Parks District police officer resigned when video emerged of a drunk man harassing a woman renting a covered picnic area, while the officer watched and did nothing, despite requests from the woman. The drunk man, who was arrested when other officers arrived, was screaming about the woman not being American and should not have worn a Puerto Rico t-shirt in America.

The fun puzzle is imagining the woman's lawsuit against the officer (putting aside that she suffered minimal or nominal damages and a lawsuit may not be worth the candle). Under DeShaney, the officer cannot be liable under due process for failing to act to stop the drunk man or otherwise protect the woman. She would have to bring her claim either under equal protection, that the officer failed to act because she is Puerto Rican, or free speech, that the officer failed to act because he disagreed with the message on her t-shirt or, perhaps, because he agreed with and wanted to support the drunk man's anti-Puerto Rico speech directed against her.

Update: Erica Goldberg argues that much of what the drunk man did was pure speech, so the officer would have violated his First Amendment rights had he intervened sooner. I interpreted the video as being more in-your-face and threatening (and thus less purely protected expression), giving the officer leeway to step-in sooner than he did. But I see Erica's point that this can be read as obnoxious counter-speech.

2) Democratic-controlled states, anticipating overruling of Roe/Casey, are moving to update and enact protective abortion laws. Many progressive states still have on the books the restrictive abortion laws from the early 1970s that became unenforceable following Roe.

This shows the downstream effects of the reality of constitutional litigation. Roe declared invalid Texas' blanket ban and enjoined Texas from enforcing that law; it not remove the law from the Texas code. It also did not repeal the laws of any other state (nor did it enjoin other states from enforcing their laws, although most states declined to enforce, knowing they would lose when courts applied Roe. That's the idea of judicial departmentalism).

Those laws remained on the books, unenforced, a vestige of a past constitutional regime and a past policy position. States lack any incentive to go through their books and remove or update those laws, assuming that the past constitutional regime does not return and the laws remain unenforceable. Facing the return of that regime of no federal constitutional protection for terminating a pregnancy, meaning plenary legislative authority on the subject, states must legislate their preferred abortion policies. For states wanting to maintain liberal reproductive freedom, that means combing the books and eliminating old laws that no longer reflect current policies.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 13, 2018 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (8)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

JOTWELL: Wasserman on Mitchell on writs of erasure

I have the new Courts Law essay, reviewing Jonathan Mitchell (VAP at Stanford), The Writ-of-Erasure Fallacy, 104 Va. L. Rev. (forthcoming), which debunks the idea that courts "invalidate" constitutionally defective laws, since the laws do not disappear from the U.S. Code. Mitchell's article has lent a welcome new angle to my arguments against universal injunctions and in favor of judicial departmentalism.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 12, 2018 at 09:52 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Enjoining family separation

A judge in the Southern District of California certified a Rule 23(b)(2) class of "[a]ll adult parents who enter the United States at or between designated ports of entry who (1) have been, are, or will be detained in immigration custody by the DHS, and (2) have a minor child who is or will be separated from them by DHS and detained in ORR custody, ORR foster care, or DHS custody, absent a determination that the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child" and issuing a classwide preliminary injunction  prohibiting DHS from "detaining Class Members in DHS custody without and apart from their minor children," to release minor children from detention, and to take steps to reunite parents and children within 30 days. The court found that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on a substantive due process claim, as the zero-tolerance policies and their effects "shock the conscience.

The court followed appropriate procedures. It created a class that is a unique party to the case, then issuing an injunction that protects that party. This is not the sort of universal injunction Justice Thomas and others are criticizing, because it protects only parties and the parties are defined. The class is broad, but it is manageable and seems consistent with the nationwide class and classwide injunction allowed in Califano.

I would guess that the court (or the Ninth Circuit) is going to stay the injunction, at least the mandatory portions that give the government 30 days to release detained children.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 27, 2018 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

(SCOTUS Term) Preliminary Adjudication

Perhaps recognizing how many constitutional cases are coming to it on immediate interlocutory review of the grant or denial of preliminary injunctions, the Court has been couching its constitutional holdings in that preliminary posture. In NIFLA, the majority held that "petitioners are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the FACT Act violates the First Amendment." In Hawaii, the majority concluded that "plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their constitutional claim."

In both, the Court writes as if its constitutional decision was only for purposes of deciding whether to halt enforcement of the challenged law pendente lite. And in both the Court remands for further proceedings, seeming to suggest that this is not the final word on the constitutional validity of the challenged laws and that there may be further arguments to be made during further proceedings on remand.

This seems like something new. Significant constitutional cases have come to the Court on review of preliminary injunctions, at least where issued following a full and detailed hearing (if not a full "trial"). The Court's determination of constitutional invalidity, as part of the likelihood-of-success prong, was seen as the last word on the constitutional merits in that case, requiring only an after-notice conversion to a permanent injunction on remand. And maybe that is what the Court understands as further proceedings for these cases. But putting this in the language of the preliminary-injunction standard hints at a more interlocutory decision and the expectation that more detailed proceedings, including a full trial on the merits, may be required.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 26, 2018 at 06:05 PM in 2018 End of Term, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

(SCOTUS Term) More on universal injunctions (Updated)

I agree with Stephen's post about Gill's foreshadowing of the demise of the universal injunction. Several additional points.

First, the standing analysis in Gill was tied to the nature of the right and the theory of the violation. We see that not only in the Chief's majority opinion, but in Kagan's concurring opinion guiding these and future plaintiffs on how to frame this as a First Amendment claim for which an all-state injunction may be appropriate. But this emphasizes the unavoidable and inherent connection between standing and merits, because the nature of the injury (and thus the permissible scope of the remedy) depends on the substantive right asserted. It is about time we follow Willie Fletcher on this.

Second, an all-state injunction ordering redistricting in a case such as Gill would not be universal, at least not as a formal matter. The injunction would have an unavoidable spillover effect to the benefit of non-parties--the government cannot redristrict to protect only the plaintiff. But the injunction still would protect only the plaintiffs in the case and only the plaintiffs would be able to enforce the injunction.

Third, if Stephen is correct that the next chance to consider universal injunctions is the stay request in Chicago v. Sessions, the result on the issue will be obvious because the universal injunction cannot be justified in Chicago. There are arguments that a universal injunction could be appropriate for the travel ban, given the large number of affected persons, their geographic dispersal, how easily they can move, and the use of third-party standing that made it impossible to identify specific injured persons (for example, Hawaii could not identify which people from the affected countries might want to travel to Hawaii to study or teach). But no such remedy is necessary in Chicago, because each city suffers its own injury by the denial of funding to it and each can bring its own lawsuit.

Update: A good post from Michael Dorf arguing that Thomas' critique of universal injunction is "ridiculous" because it focuses on antiquarian ideas of historic equity. It does not grapple with genuine arguments in favor of universality (conservation of resources) or the obvious solutions, such as Rule 23(b)(2) class actions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 26, 2018 at 02:26 PM in 2018 End of Term, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Term: Bad News for the Universal Injunction

To follow up on Howard's post: one understated result of this morning’s travel-ban decision may be to hasten the demise of the universal injunction.

Ordinary injunctions protect the parties who obtain them. That can include class members, if the case involves a plaintiff class. But in recent years,  district courts have started to regularly award what Howard describes as "universal injunctions" (sometimes called "nationwide injunctions," or even "cosmic injunctions"). These binding orders regulate a defendant’s conduct even as to people who’ve never appeared in court—and, more importantly, who aren’t legally represented by those who did appear.

The travel-ban case involved just such an injunction. But because of the way it was brought, with the State of Hawaii able to advocate for the interests of various other persons, it would have made for a messy analysis. By disposing of the case on the merits, the Court ended up avoiding any detailed discussion of the injunction or its scope. (Justice Thomas discussed it at length in his concurrence—citing excellent work on the topic by Sam Bray, among others. And Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg would have upheld the injunction, though I agree with Howard that the relevant footnote doesn't really explain why.)

So the next opportunity for the Court to reach the issue may be the government’s stay application in the sanctuary-city case. There, the City of Chicago sought and obtained an order forbidding the policy’s application to every locality in the United States. But without an order certifying a class, Chicago ordinarily doesn’t have the right to act as a legal representative for other cities—some of which might like the policy, or which simply might be indifferent. Chicago can sue to protect its own interests, but not to vindicate an abstract position on whether a policy is lawful, much less to obtain binding court orders about (say) the conditions on federal funding for Tampa. So the government has pressed the issue, asking the Court to stay only that portion of the sanctuary-city order which applies to other cities.

Which the Court might well do. As others have noted, the Chief Justice's opinion for the Court in the Gill v. Whitford redistricting case sounded plenty of relevant notes, in explaining why the Gill plaintiffs couldn't sue to reshape the state's legislative districts as a whole:

The plaintiffs’ mistaken insistence that the claims in Baker and Reynolds were “statewide in nature” rests on a failure to distinguish injury from remedy. In those malapportionment cases, the only way to vindicate an individual plaintiff ’s right to an equally weighted vote was through a wholesale “restructuring of the geographical distribution of seats in a state legislature.” Reynolds, 377 U. S., at 561; see, e.g., Moss v. Burkhart, 220 F. Supp. 149, 156–160 (WD Okla. 1963) (directing the county-by-county reapportionment of the Oklahoma Legislature), aff ’d sub nom. Williams v. Moss, 378 U. S. 558 (1964) (per curiam).

Here, the plaintiffs’ partisan gerrymandering claims turn on allegations that their votes have been diluted. That harm arises from the particular composition of the voter’s own district, which causes his vote—having been packed or cracked—to carry less weight than it would carry in another, hypothetical district. Remedying the individual voter’s harm, therefore, does not necessarily require restructuring all of the State’s legislative districts. It requires revising only such districts as are necessary to reshape the voter’s district—so that the voter may be unpacked or uncracked, as the case may be. Cf. Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, 575 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 7). This fits the rule that a “remedy must of course be limited to the inadequacy that produced the injury in fact that the plaintiff has established.” Lewis, 518 U. S., at 357.

The plaintiffs argue that their legal injury is not limited to the injury that they have suffered as individual voters, but extends also to the statewide harm to their interest “in their collective representation in the legislature,” and in influencing the legislature’s overall “composition and policymaking.” Brief for Appellees 31. But our cases to date have not found that this presents an individual and personal injury of the kind required for Article III standing. On the facts of this case, the plaintiffs may not rely on “the kind of undifferentiated, generalized grievance about the conduct of government that we have refused to countenance in the past.” Lance, 549 U. S., at 442. A citizen’s interest in the overall composition of the legislature is embodied in his right to vote for his representative. And the citizen’s abstract interest in policies adopted by the legislature on the facts here is a nonjusticiable “general interest common to all members of the public.” Ex parte Lévitt, 302 U. S. 633, 634 (1937) (per curiam).

What's more, the Court rested this discussion on constitutional grounds:

Our power as judges to “say what the law is,” Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803), rests not on the default of politically accountable officers, but is instead grounded in and limited by the necessity of resolving, according to legal principles, a plaintiff ’s particular claim of legal right.

If the Court really is committed to resolving particular claims of legal right, with remedies targeted at the plaintiff's own injuries, then it's hard to see it upholding the universal injunction.

[UPDATE 6/27: Sam Bray summarizes new developments on the universal-injunction front. Among them, the Seventh Circuit has granted the government's stay request in the Chicago case, meaning that the stay application to the Supreme Court is now moot. (He also notes that the Seventh Circuit "refers to the injunction as 'STAYED as to geographic areas in the United States beyond the City of Chicago' [emphasis added]; footnote 1 of Justice Thomas's opinion is more precise, distinguishing places and parties.") ]

Posted by Stephen Sachs on June 26, 2018 at 01:34 PM in 2018 End of Term, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Scholarship in the Courts | Permalink | Comments (1)

(SCOTUS Term) Thomas adopts universality, rejects injunctions

I may have more to say about Trump v. Hawaii later, but I wanted to start with Justice Thomas' concurring concurring opinion on scope-of-injunction. (The majority, having rejected the merits of the plaintiffs' argument, says it is unnecessary to reach that issue).

Thomas begins with a footnote adopting "universal" as the "more precise" term because the injunctions are distinctive because thet "prohibit the government from enforcing a policy with respect to anyone, including non-parties--not because they have wide geographic breadth." (Unfortunately, Thomas does not cite me for the nomenclature point). Instead, he relies heavily on Sam Bray's discussion of the history of equity and universal injunctions. He then rejects scholarly counter-arguments--protecting non-parties and constraining the executive--as not justified by historical limits on equitable and judicial power. He closes with "[U]niversal injunctions are legall and historically dubious. If federal courts continue to issue them, this Court is dutybound to adjudicate their authority to do so."

[Update: I should have included Justice Sotomayor's brief, conclusory discussion. She argues that given the nature of the Establishment Clause violation, a universal injunction was necessary to accord complete relief to the plaintiffs and was dictated by the extent of the violation established.]

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 26, 2018 at 12:07 PM in 2018 End of Term, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Universal injunctions in other countries

An alert reader emailed this photo, taken at a construction site in London.

Image1

I found the court order. I cannot find details about the case or the separate injunction referenced in the order. [Update: The referenced order is here] The "Seventh Defendant" mentioned is "PERSONS UNKNOWN entering or remaining on the Claimants' property without the Claimants' license or consent." The posted notice constitutes notice of the order and the injunction itself. I think that category was intended either to create a defendant class (only one named defendant was represented) or to constitute a group of John Doe defendants. So it is not quite universal, as there seems to be an attempt to expand the scope of the case to expand the injunction.

Either way, I am not sure it would fly in the U.S. to subject a broad number of unknown people to contempt without being named or well-represented in the action.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 24, 2018 at 11:27 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, June 22, 2018

(SCOTUS Term): Marbury and appellate jurisdiction

Marbury v. Madison made quite the appearance in Friday's decision in Ortiz v. United States, where the Court held that there was no statutory or constitutional violation in having a military officer serve as a judge on a service's Court of Criminal Appeals (which reviews courts martial decisions) while also holding a position as a presidentially-appointed-Senate-confirmed judge on the Court of Military Commission Review.* But the Court split over whether it had Article III jurisdiction to review decisions from the non-Article III Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (the top court in the military-justice system), an issue on which the Court granted argument time to Aditya Bamzai (U Va.) as amicus.

[*] Ortiz was consolidated with Cox v. United States and Dalmazzi v. United States the latter and argued by our own Steve Vladeck. The Court DIG'd both cases, which also raised statutory issues the Court believed were unnecessary to reach.

Justice Kagan wrote for seven that the Court had jurisdiction; Justice Thomas joined that opinion but added a typically idiosyncratic concurrence; and Justice Alito dissented for himself and Justice Gorsuch. And it was all about Marbury, which both the majority and dissent discuss at length (while dropping comments that, of course, everyone knows the details of that case). Marbury establishes that SCOTUS' original jurisdiction is limited to the cases enumerated in Article III and that its appellate jurisdiction is limited to reviewing, revising, and correcting proceedings initiated in a another court, not to creating a judicial case.  Everyone agreed this was not (and could not be) an exercise of original jurisdiction. The point of departure is whether SCOTUS could exercise appellate jurisdiction over a decision of CAAF and the military-justice system.

The majority held that it could. The military-justice system, including CAAF, was judicial in character, even though located in the executive branch not Article III. Each level in that system decides cases in accordance with the Constitution and a body of federal law, wields jurisdiction that overlaps with that of state and federal courts, accords procedural protections, and produces judgments that read the same as a judgment from any tribunal. SCOTUS was not limited to reviewing decisions of Article III courts, as shown by its appellate jurisdiction over decisions of state courts, territorial courts, and District of Columbia courts; the latter two judicial systems have been grouped with military tribunals, all as resting on unique congressional powers. And CAAF's location in Article II did not make it executive, because a decision by a judicial tribunal located in the executive branch was different than the individual executive decision of James Madison not to serve Marbury's commission.

Justice Alito, largely adopting Bamzai's position, begins by arguing that the executive (non-judicial) nature of Madison's actions would not have changed if he had held a formal hearing or established procedural protections prior to deciding not to issue the commission. A decision by an executive is an executive decision, no matter its form. Only an Article III body with Article III judges can exercise federal judicial power; executive-branch officers cannot do so, so they cannot create and decide cases that can be reviewed in an exercise of SCOTUS' appellate jurisdiction. Alito distinguished territorial and D.C. courts, because they exercise the judicial authority of that territory or D.C.; this is different than exercising the judicial authority of the United States, which only can be done by an Article III court.

The dispute leaves open whether SCOTUS could review decisions by modern administrative agencies (something Congress has never purported to do). The majority disclaimed this decision speaking in any way to that issue, emphasizing its foundation on the unique constitutional and historic foundations of courts martial and of the connection to territorial and D.C. courts. Alito rejects this as "halfhearted," insisting there is no relevant distinction  for purposes of SCOTUS' appellate jurisdiction between the military-justice system and civilian agencies. In Alito's view, all are executive and cannot exercise judicial power. But if one can somehow be judicial to allow for SCOTUS review, so can the other.

All the opinions are good reads; Kagan is her breezy self, with references to General Burnside's "notorious facial hair." I am going to add this discussion to Fed Courts--I just have to decide whether to include it at the top with my discussion of SCOTUS jurisdiction or later with discussion of non-Article III jurisdiction.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 22, 2018 at 02:48 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

SCOTUS Term: Finding the Law, Abroad and at Home

Thanks to Howard for the invitation to blog! Amid the morning’s excitement over new opinions, I’d like to add a few thoughts to Cassandra Burke Robertson’s excellent post last week on Animal Science Products v. Heibei Welcome Pharmaceuticals. Animal Science is a sleepy case in a mostly sleepy Term, but it brings up some deep issues, much deeper than the Supreme Court usually faces: what is the law, and how do judges find it?

Animal Science involved a price-fixing claim about Chinese exports of Vitamin C. The defendants said they’d been legally required to fix their prices, and China’s Ministry of Commerce agreed. To the Second Circuit, this was enough: so long as the Ministry’s position was reasonable, it was conclusive. (How could an American court instruct China’s government about Chinese law?) But to a unanimous Court, per Justice Ginsburg, the Ministry’s statement deserved only “respectful consideration”: it wasn’t binding, and U.S. courts would have to make their own judgments.

That all makes sense on the surface, but it raises at least three more fundamental concerns. Are legal questions like these all that different from ordinary questions of fact? Who do we trust to answer them? And what actually makes the answers right? When it comes to foreign law, issues like these aren’t always obvious—suggesting that the answers may not be so easy closer to home.


1. Legal questions and questions of fact. As the Court points out in Animal Science, foreign laws used to be treated as facts—they had to be pleaded and “proved as facts,” subject to rules of evidence and based on expert testimony or authenticated documents. As it turns out, these same rules applied to U.S. states—which were just as foreign to one another, except when the Constitution or Congress intervened, and which therefore needed proof of each other’s laws. (As I’ve argued before, the Full Faith and Credit Clause was mostly about these evidentiary questions: it helped establish what a particular state had said, and left it up to Congress to decide when other states should listen.) Sometimes even a state’s own laws got the factual treatment: courts could take judicial notice of public laws, but private bills were again matters for pleading and proof, as Chief Justice Marshall described:

“The public laws of a state may without question be read in this court; and the exercise of any authority which they contain, may be deduced historically from them: but private laws, and special proceedings of the character spoken of, are governed by a different rule. They are matters of fact, to be proved as such in the ordinary manner.”

Today we do things very differently. Federal and state courts take judicial notice of all kinds of American laws, and FRCP 44.1 and various state equivalents let them do the same for foreign ones. But we haven’t eliminated the basic problem of proving the law. Knowing that judges should answer these questions on their own—without simply outsourcing to juries, rules of evidence, or Ministry statements—doesn’t help us find any particular answers. If we need to know, say, whether French law allows extrinsic evidence of the contracting parties’ intent, should we look to translations of the statute book? To treatises and journal articles? To testimony by experts? And which translations, treatises, or experts should we trust?

2. Who do we trust? Giving only “respectful consideration” to the Ministry suggests that we should be sparing with our trust—making an all-things-considered judgment, looking at all the potential legal sources at once. But according to the Court, at least one kind of source gets special treatment. When a U.S. state court rules on an issue of state law, that ruling doesn’t just get “respectful consideration”; it’s considered as “binding on the federal courts.”

Why so? It’s easy to explain why federal courts might defer to Ohio courts on Ohio law, just as the Second Circuit would usually defer to the Sixth—they see more Ohio cases, so they probably know what they’re doing. But that doesn’t explain why the decisions would be binding, as opposed to just getting  extra-respectful consideration.

Maybe there’s something special about common-law courts. Maybe we might say, with Hale, that the decisions of our courts might be “less than a Law, yet they are a greater Evidence thereof than the Opinion of any private Persons, as such, whatsoever.” (When it came to the construction of “local statutes or local usages,” Justice Story in Swift v. Tyson would have agreed.) But that’s very different from claiming, as Justice Holmes later did, that whenever a state creates a supreme court it’s really creating a junior-varsity legislature, “as clearly as if it had said it in express words.” Some states might want their courts to establish the law of the state, but others might not. Georgia might want its courts to do general common law; Louisiana might want its courts to do its own civil-law thing; Canada, were it admitted as a state (as the Articles of Confederation once offered), might have its own apologetically polite take on the separation of powers. And if a legal system turns out to be very different from ours—say, with a complex network of informal councils and regional magistracies—we might have no idea which entities even count as its courts, let alone how much “respectful consideration” they’re supposed to be getting.

As I note in a draft paper on Finding Law, that’s one of the core problems with the Court’s notorious decision in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins. Instead of looking to a state’s law to learn about its courts, Justice Brandeis did precisely the opposite—assuming, for bad theoretical reasons, that the law of a state is what the state courts say it is, because that’s just what courts get to do. But American courts don’t establish Chinese law when they decide cases like Animal Science. And they don’t necessarily establish American law when they decide their other cases, either. The powers of courts aren’t facts of nature, but society-specific questions on which different legal systems can disagree.

3. What makes the answers right? If courts can sometimes get the law wrong, what does it mean to get it right? How can we disbelieve the Chinese government about Chinese law, if Chinese law is just whatever the Chinese government actually does?

As Asher Steinberg points out in the comments, in some societies (like Venezuela or the former Soviet Union), government officials don’t always adhere to formal legal sources. Maybe these particular defendants’ hands were forced by Chinese law; but maybe the Ministry officials just issued them orders, the statute-books be damned. If that’s what the officials did, and if law depends on what officials do, then maybe their secret commands really were the law. (Here Steinberg invokes a great paper by Mikołaj Barczentewicz, to which Will Baude and I are currently at work on a reply.)

But law is more than what legal officials do. If the defense in the case were just ordinary duress, it wouldn’t matter whether the threats were backed by legal force (or whether, say, Al Capone had told them to fix prices for Vitamin C). Instead, the defense cited “principles of international comity,” which we usually extend to foreign governments as they’re legally constituted, and not to rogue officials on a frolic of their own. If the officials were supposed to be able to order price-fixing, under some applicable statute or common-law doctrine, then it wouldn’t matter so much if their order were secret or open. But if not—if the officials were departing from what everyone else in the Chinese system (judges, experts, law schools, and so on) would describe as Chinese law—then it’s hard to say that what they were doing was really lawful. That’s why we speak of places like the USSR as having had problems with the rule of law: because in those societies, the law wasn’t always what ruled. As far as diplomacy goes, we might want to respect official actions merely under color of law, just to avoid annoying the officials with whose governments we negotiate. Yet we still shouldn’t confuse official actions with the law—either abroad or at home.

Posted by Stephen Sachs on June 21, 2018 at 12:38 PM in 2018 End of Term, Civil Procedure, International Law, Legal Theory | Permalink | Comments (4)

(SCOTUS Term): Trusting adjudicators on remand

The Court on Thursday decided in Lucia v. SEC (link corrected) that SEC ALJs were officers of the United States rather than employees and that the appointment of ALJ's by SEC staff (rather than the SEC itself) violated the Appointments Clause. Justice Kagan wrote for herself, the Chief, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch. Thomas concurred, with Gorsuch. Breyer concurred in the judgment in part, agreeing that the ALJ in this case was not properly appointed, but for statutory rather than constitutional reasons. Sotomayor dissented on the constitutional question, joined by Ginsburg.

I want to focus on the issue of remedy in the case. The Court remands for a new hearing on the charges against Lucia (involving alleged deception of prospective clients). But it insists that the new hearing cannot be before the same ALJ; it must be before a different (properly appointed) ALJ or the SEC itself. The original ALJ "has already both heard Lucia's case and issued an initial decision on the merits. He cannot be expected to consider the matter as though he had not adjudicated it before." Appointments Clause remedies are intended to incentivize parties to bring Appointments Clause challenges; a party has no incentive to bring the challenge if the remedy is a new hearing before the same adjudicator, properly appointed. Because there was no suggestion the ALJ erred on the merits, he can be expected to reach the same result from hearing the same case. Breyer dissented on this point (and Ginsburg and Sotomayor joined that portion of his opinion). He compared reversal on appeal, where the same judge typically rehears the case on remand. And because this reversal was on a "technical constitutional question, and the reversal implies no criticism at all of the original judge or his ability to conduct the new proceedings," neither due process nor the structural purposes of the Appointments Clause would be violated by the same ALJ rehearing the case.

The competing approaches reflect a paradox. For Kagan, the fact that the judge was not criticized or corrected on the merits shows that he cannot be trusted to hear the case anew, because his views on the merits will not have changed and no new or different evidence or arguments on the merits cause him to change those views. Implicitly, a decision criticizing the original decision or requiring something new forces him to reconsider those merits, whether to correct the original error or because the new information is convincing. Breyer's approach, on the other hand, presumes that a judge criticized on the merits might be put-off by the reversal (lower-court judges do not believe they were "wrong" even though a reviewing court disagreed with their decision) and more dug-in to his original position. If we trust that judge rehear that case on remand, we should trust a judge in this situation.*

[*] Marcus, Redish, Sherman, and Pfander, the Civ Pro book I previously used, included in the Discovery chapter a defamation action against Diana Ross by a former employee. The district court had dismissed the case on 12(b)(6), but the Second Circuit had reversed. The case back before the same district judge in discovery, every discovery decision went against the plaintiff and in favor of Ross, which can be seen as at least influenced by the judge's previously established views on the merits.

Kagan's approach raises the question of what other "structural" errors might be similar to an appointments problem as to require rehearing by a different judge. Denial of counsel comes to mind, although the assumption is that proper counsel will present evidence and arguments that the pro se party failed to present, changing what is available on the merits and requiring the judge to think about the merits differently. Another possibility is routine shackling in Sanchez-Gomez; if the reviewing court says this defendant should not have been shackled, it does not criticize the trial judge on the merits of any decision she made against the defendant, so that judge would be expected to reach all the same judgments.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 21, 2018 at 12:11 PM in 2018 End of Term, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Mootness, enforcement, and particularized injunctions

The mootness analysis in this Eleventh Circuit decision illustrates the importance of focusing on the particularized nature of litigation and remedies, including injunctions. This was an action against Hooter's by Haynes, a visually impaired plaintiff, alleging that the incompatibility of its website with certain software violated the ADA. Hooter's settled a separate lawsuit brought by Gomez and raising similar claims, agreeing to place an accessibility notice on its site and to improve access to the site.

The court held that the settlement in Gomez did not moot Haynes' action, for three reasons. First, whatever Hooters agreed to do had not been done, so Haynes still was suffering a remediable injury. Second, while compliance with the Gomez settlement would provide some of what Haynes sought, it did not provide everything and Haynes sought some unique remedies. Third, and this should be most important, Haynes is not a party to Gomez and so lacks the power or right to enforce that order if Hooters fails to comply or if it should reach a different agreement with Gomez.

That control over enforcement of the judgmentt is essential to party status and to injunctive relief. It is why injunctions are particularized to the parties--binding the defendant as to the plaintiff and allowing the plaintiff to enforce if the defendant fails to comply.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 20, 2018 at 10:57 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, June 18, 2018

(SCOTUS Term): Behold the passive virtues

The Court had not one but two shots at partisan gerrymandering this term. And those chances included limiting (if not avoiding) charges of political bias, because both sides oxen were being gored--one case was Republican gerrymandering to screw Democrats and one case was Democratic gerrymandering to screw Republicans. Alas, the Court punted in both.

Gill v. Whitford, the Republicans-screwing-Democrats case from Wisconsin, was the higher-profile. The Court unanimously rejected the case on standing grounds. The Chief's opinion (joined by everyone at least in part) emphasized the individual nature of the standing inquiry in a vote-dilution case--each plaintiff must show the injury she suffered to her vote in her gerrymandered district, without regard to the makeup of any other district or the statewide balance of partisan power. The Court remanded to give the plaintiffs an opportunity to plead and offer evidence of standing, although Justices Thomas and Gorsuch did not join this part. Justice Kagan, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor (but not Kennedy), concurred to provide a roadmap for how plaintiffs can establish standing on a vote-dilution theory. This may include statewide evidence of harm to plaintiffs in districts throughout the state warranting a statewide remedy to relieve the injury to plaintiffs in multiple districts (on the assumption that the case include plaintiffs from all or most districts). Kagan also mapped how plaintiffs, including a political party, could establish standing on a First Amendment association theory, which by definition focuses on statewide harms.

Benisek v. Lamone was the Democrats-screwing-Republicans case from Maryland and was framed as lower stakes, focusing only on vote dilution in one district and not seeking to combat systemic statewide gerrymandering. Standing was not an issue. But the Court in a per curiam held that the  non-merits elements of the preliminary-injunction analysis were not satisfied, including the public interest and balance of equities.  The Court emphasized plaintiffs' delay in seeking an injunction and the impossibility, if the current map cannot be used, of drawing a new map that could be used in 2018.

Hasen points out that a third partisan gerrymandering case awaits the Court decision on whether to assert jurisdiction that includes a free-association challenge to explicit statewide partisan districting. But the case has similar standing concerns. We will see on remand how much mileage plaintiffs can get from Kagan's concurrence.

The analysis in Gill shows how inextricable standing is from the merits in constitutional litigation, especially seeking systemic mandatory injunctive relief. So inextricable that it confirms William Fletcher's view that standing is merits and lack of standing the failure of a claim. Gill shows this in two respects. First, it shows that the separation of injury and right makes no sense, because the injury depends on the right and the theory of right asserted. Second, the problem as to several plaintiffs was not the early allegations of injury but the failure to provide evidence at trial of that injury. But standing is supposed to be a jurisdictional threshold issue. If we are still arguing about it at trial, we are passed the threshold, so we should consider this as part of the substantive merits at trial.

The other point of note is the Chief's efforts to limit the prospective effect of Kagan's concurrence. On p. 17, he writes: "[T]he opinion of the Court rests on the understanding that we lack jurisdiction to decide this case, much less to draw speculative and advisory conclusions regarding others . . . The reasoning of this Court with respect to the disposition of this case is set forth in this opinion and none other."

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 18, 2018 at 02:47 PM in 2018 End of Term, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Two thoughts on the recall of Judge Persky

Having listened and read various discussions about last week's recall of California trial judge Aaron Persky, I was struck by two points lost in some of the coverage.

First, there is a lot of focus on Persky being recalled and this being the first time in 100 years that has happened. But the issue should be less about recall than about any procedure to remove judges from the bench in response to unpopular rulings. While there had not been a successful recall of a judge in California, critics have successfully targeted judges for removal through other processes. Most famously, three members of the Supreme Court lost retention elections in 1986 following a campaign targeting their decisions in capital-punishment cases. And the anti-Persky movement would have been as problematic had critics found and supported someone to run against him for the seat when it next was up in 2022, when similarly based on disagreement with the Brock Turner decision.

Second, this drives home that the issue for judicial independence is not how judges are initially selected (election, political appointment, judicial commission, some combination), but whether and how they can be removed once on the bench. It does not matter whether Persky reached the bench via election (as he tried, but failed to do) or appointment (as he did). The issue is that, once on the bench, he could be recalled (or not retained or not re-elected) because of his rulings.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 11, 2018 at 12:07 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, June 04, 2018

SCOTUS Term: Free Exercise "Happy talk" (Two Updates)

The Court decided Masterpiece Cake on the narrowest, least generally applicable grounds it could find--that some Colorado Civil Rights Commissioners made anti-religion statements in deciding the case, thereby failing to decide the case with the "religious neutrality that the Constitution requires"  or the "neutral and respectful considerations to which the baker was entitled. But the Court did not recognize Free-Exercise exception to public-accommodation laws and seemed to accept that religious beliefs do not provide an out to public-accommodations laws. That is, the problem was not the decision the Commission made (and the state courts affirmed), but the statements made in the course of making that decision.

• The majority's basic rationale is incoherent. It criticizes the "lack of due consideration for Phillips' free exercise rights and the dilemma he faced" and the failure to consider his religious objection "with the neutrality" required by the First Amendment. But the point of Smith is that there is no dilemma. Religious preferences, no matter how deeply held, yield to laws of general applicability. The required neutrality is in the law's application--the law cannot treat conduct performed for religious reasons less favorably than identical conduct performed for non-religious reasons. The majority here imposes some sort of neutrality of consideration. But what it really imposes is a "happy-talk" requirement--officials must speak respectfully and kindly and happily about religion religious objections to neutral laws, even while rejecting those objections. Because allowing those objections would eviscerate public accommodations laws.

• I have not seen this argued anywhere, but why wasn't this case moot? I believe I read that Phillips closed his bakery. So the sanctions imposed on him--cease-and-desist discriminating, comprehensive staff training, and quarterly compliance reports--no longer have any effect. [Update: In light of comments and further thought, the mootness point seems clear--the possibility of reopening the business renders the case not moot. I was incorrectly recalling a case in which the Court held that closing a nude bar did not render moot the challenge to an anti-nude-dancing ordinance. Apologies for raising an unnecessary issue]

[Second Update: So what happens next. The case came to SCOTUS on direct review from the state court, which was reviewing the Commission decision. The state court of appeals decision affirming the commission is reversed and so, therefore, is the Commission decision and order. One commentator to the Civ Pro listserv described this as an "implicit remand"--the Colorado court now can remand to the Commission to do the case over in a "neutral" manner. Then the question is whether the Commission wants to pursue the case anew, which may get us back into the question of whether Phillips is still running the bakery and/or whether he intends to do so in the future.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 4, 2018 at 01:18 PM in 2018 End of Term, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (17)

Saturday, June 02, 2018

The Civ Pro case that was and could have been

This decision from the District of Maryland granting in part and denying in part a 12(b)(6) motion is a nice Civ Pro problem, both for what it addresses and what it doesn't address--and how. This is a tort action by journalist Kurt Eichenwald, who brought tort claims against John Rivello (known as "@jew_goldstein), a Maryland citizen who sent a GIF containing an animated strobe image designed to cause Eichenwald, who has Epilepsy, to suffer a seizure. The defendant moved to dismiss two of the claims for failure to state a claim, arguing that Texas does not recognize the civil claim of battery (only assault), that there cannot be batter without physical contact, and that Texas does not recognize the tort of purposeful infliction of bodily harm as a prima facie tort. The court analyzed Texas law and the allegations of the complaint to reject the first two arguments.

The court dismissed the count of purposeful infliction, without prejudice. The court recognized this as a "developing area of the law," but that "[i]t is not the place of a federal court, particularly one in Maryland, to interfere with a developing body of state tort law in Texas." But it dismissed without prejudice, "with an eye alert to avoiding disregard of State law" and not preventing plaintiff "from trying his hand in a different court, or at a different time." This does not seem quite right. The uncertainty of state law is not a basis for the court to find that the pleading fails to state a claim for relief. Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, even without prejudice, is not a form of discretionary abstention. No recognized abstention doctrine fits this situation; the closest might be Burson Burford, although that usually involves complex state administrative law, not individual torts. The court had two appropriate options. One was to certify the issue to the Texas Supreme Court (assuming Texas allows for certification). The other was to make an Erie Prediction of what the Texas Supreme Court would do if presented with this case. And those options are appropriate for any federal court, including one located in a state other than the one whose laws are at issue.

The Civ Pro issue that could have been is about personal jurisdiction. Eichenwald, who is from Texas, went to the home of the defendant, who is from Maryland. But there is a fun question of whether Eichenwald could have sued in Texas. Rivello directed the GIF at a Texas citizen intending to cause a Texas citizen harm. But did he intend that it be seen or cause that harm in Texas? By sending it online, it went everywhere and could have been seen wherever Eichenwald happened to be when he saw the file, not necessarily in Texas. The counter-factual combines the recent narrowing of Calder with the problem of establishing purposeful availment through online conduct.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 2, 2018 at 02:40 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (7)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Contempt and the recalcitrant President

Paul Rosenzweig at The Atlantic games out what would happen if Robert Mueller subpoenas the President and the President refuses to comply.*

[*] TL/DR: A stalemate in which nothing can happen legally and the only hope is a political solution. This is where Trump's attacks, and GOP buy-in on those attacks, on Mueller and on the courts matter. Neither Mueller nor the courts have any credibility, so Congressional Republicans will not see disobedience as a crisis; they will see it as a heroic stand against an overweening prosecutor and judge.

But in considering the first step of civil contempt, Rosenzweig jumps right to the prospect of jail and the impossibility of pulling that off (because the Secret Service would never allow the U.S. Marshal to arrest the President, at worst resulting in a gun fight between officers of the two agencies). But the court has discretion to enforce contempt--to attempt to compel compliance--by other means short of jailing. One is monetary fines. So could the court impose a series of escalating fines against Trump? Could those be collected without having to go through and past the Secret Service, as by by attaching some assets? Would the threat to his wallet compel the President to comply? Or to do something really stupid?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 26, 2018 at 02:32 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Universality as judicial impatience and control

Universal injunctions reflect judicial impatience and a desire of the court issuing the injunction to maintain control over a set of legal issues. Seeing disputes likely to recur, courts use the injunction to resolve all issues for all parties, rather than allowing other doctrines, designed to handle duplicative litigation, to do their work. And the reason is that those other doctrines may take awhile to reach a conclusion (that the issuing court believes is correct) and may leave control in the hands of another court.

In my forthcoming article, I argue that it is impatience with precedent. The Seventh Circuit recognizes Santa Clara will want to maintain its federal funding despite sanctuary policies, just as Chicago does. Rather than letting the process of precedent play out--having the district court or Ninth Circuit decide the issues in the separate action, perhaps using the Seventh Circuit decision as precedent; allowing courts of appeals to work through authority; allowing SCOTUS to resolve--the Seventh Circuit uses the injunction to get the singular result at once. This is both faster, because the process of building to consensus or resolution of precedent can take awhile. And it leaves the first court in control, rather than allowing another court to perhaps reject the first court's precedent.

This dispute over the contempt citation reflects impatience and a desire for control over a different limit on duplicative litigation--preclusion. The key to this case is the district court's conclusion that individual FLSA plaintiffs (and their attorneys) are in privity with the United States with respect to the validity of the overtime regulations, a dubious proposition (and, if I had to predict, the basis on which the Fifth Circuit will reverse the contempt order). But accepting that there is privity, the proper space for that analysis is issue preclusion--for Chipotle to argue in the District of New Jersey that the first court's decision as to the invalidity of the regulations has preclusive effect on the individual lawsuits. But this takes control from the first court, since "[d]eciding whether and how prior litigation has preclusive effect is usually the bailiwick of the second court."   By proceeding via injunction, the first court retains authority to decide all related issues under the guise of enforcing its injunction.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 24, 2018 at 07:26 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Contempt and the universal injunction

Last month, I wrote about a case in which a district court in Texas enforced a universal injunction barring enforcement of the Obama Labor Department's overtime regulations (issued in a case against DOL) by holding in contempt private attorneys who brought a private action claiming that Chipotle violated those regs. The law firms have appealed the contempt order to the Fifth Circuit, calling it an "extraordinary and concededly unprecedented use of the contempt power to dictate the legal arguments that a stranger to that court may advance in another federal court." The firms question the conclusion that DOL can be in privity with millions of individuals merely because they would make the same legal arguments.

Tellingly, however, the plaintiffs accept the power to issue universal injunctions. Their challenge is to the logical conclusion that every universal injunction "against the federal government would apparently be binding, in personam, against each of the tens or even hundreds of millions of Americans that the relevant arm of the government purports to serve."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 23, 2018 at 07:03 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trumps' Twitter blocking violates First Amendment

District court decision here. Eugene Volokh comments. I agree with the First Amendment analysis. While a public official can speak on his own, the dispute here is over an interactive part of Twitter and who gets to engage on those features.

After the jump, I consider several procedural points.

• The court did not rely on the "one good plaintiff" approach to standing. After finding that the four individual plaintiffs had standing, the court considered whether the Knight Foundation had standing on its own (based on wanting to read comments from one of the blocked individuals).

• The Court linked standing to Ex Parte Young and recognized that Young allowed for claims for prospective relief against federal officials as much as state officials. The latter can be based on § 1983 while the former are based on the judicially created equitable claim. But the precedents overlap.

• The big standing issue involved Trump's aide Daniel Scavino, who has the power to control access to the account (including blocking or unblocking users), but did not block the individual plaintiffs. But the plaintiffs remained injured so long as blocked. Because Scavino could unblock, their ongoing injury was traceable to him.

• The court discussed whether the President or Scavino were state actors in managing the account, although the analysis was buried in the public-forum analysis. By contrast, in Davis v. Loudon County Board of Supervisors, involving a local official blocking members of the public from her Facebook page, the court focused on state action.

• The court gave a lengthy discussion of whether a court can enjoin the President. It rejected the categorical argument that the President cannot be enjoined, acknowledged that courts must hesitate and balance separation-of-powers concerns, and found that an injunction here would only compel the President to act constitutionally without interfering with executive discretion. The court declined to resolve the issue, because an injunction against Scavino and a declaratory judgment offered sufficient relief. (The court's decision to issue only declaratory relief without an injunction highlights a point Sam Bray made--declaratory relief is a sufficient remedy where limited judicial oversight or management is necessary).

• The court's decision not to issue an injunction deprived it of an opportunity to make the injunction universal and prohibit Trump and/or Scavino from blocking anyone from his Twitter account, in a case in which such a non-particularized remedy is unwarranted. But this reminds us that a declaratory judgment should be as party-particularized as an injunction. If Trump or Scavino block people other than the plaintiffs from the account, they would not act inconsistent with the judgment and it would not alone be a basis for converting the D/J into an injunction. New Twitter users must sue to assert their own rights to their own judgments, regardless of whether the judgment is a declaration or an injunction.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 23, 2018 at 06:37 PM in Civil Procedure, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 21, 2018

JOTWELL: Steinman on Davis and Whytock on human rights litigation in state court

The new Courts Law essay comes from section co-editor Adam Steinman (Alabama), reviewing Seth Davis & Christopher A. Whytock, State Remedies for Human Rights, 98 B.U. L. Rev. 397 (2018), which considers how human rights violations can be litigated and redressed in state court.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 21, 2018 at 11:54 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mootness in Sanchez-Gomez

SCOTUS on Monday decided United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, unanimously holding (per the Chief) that the constitutional challenge to a district-wide policy of shackling all pretrial detainees was moot when the prosecutions of the four defendants ended; neither the special treatment of class actions (where there had been no class certification) nor capable-of-repetition kept the case alive. My opinion analysis is on SCOTUSBlog.

The opinion contains a fair bit of language emphasizing the individual nature of constitutional litigation, thereby supporting the view that injunctions must be particularized to the parties and not accord universal protection or limitations to non-parties. The Court emphasized the "usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only" and that the "'mere presence of . . . allegations' that might, if resolved in respondents' favor, benefit other similarly situated individuals" does not matter. The Court was talking about Article III mootness and when disputes remain alive. But the principles carry to questions such as the scope of an injunction.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 14, 2018 at 03:44 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Eighth Circuit on municipal liability

In Webb v. City of Maplewood, a class challenged various practices relating to unpaid traffic fines (H/T: Volokh Conspiracy's weekly round-up). The Eighth Circuit affirmed denial of the City's defense of sovereign immunity, which was correct. The city tried to obtain immunity by emphasizing the role of the municipal court, a separate, immune entity, in enacting and carrying out the challenged practices. But the court said that the municipal court's separate liability or immunity, if any, did not shield the city from its liability. "If the municipal court rather than the City is responsible for the practices, the City will have a defense on the merits but not immunity from suit."

On that last point, many courts would treat the last point as a matter of Article III standing--the plaintiffs would be said to lack standing to sue the City, because the injury was not traceable to the City nor redressable by an injunction against the City.*

[*] This happened in many marriage-equality cases. Plaintiffs would sue the governor or attorney general, who would argue that he is not the responsible executive officer for things such as marriage licenses or vital records such as death certificates. The dismissal always was framed as 12(b)(1) lack of standing.

I have long believed that position was wrong, that suing a non-responsible defendant should be treated as grounds for the defendant to prevail on a 12(b)(6) or summary judgment. I am glad the court got this right, although with little analysis or explanation for why this should be a matter of merits (and likely because the City failed to frame it as standing).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 12, 2018 at 12:29 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Because it's International *Shoe*

For the third straight year, most of my Civ Pro students completed extra-credit "creative projects," including video skits, parody songs, board games, poems, and crossword puzzles. I stole this idea from former GuestPrawf Josh Douglas and I love how it has caught on. Students know about it from year to year and they seem to have a good time with it.

Among my favorites this year was a series of buttons that one student made. One button read "Certain Minimum Contacts," then the rest contained a drawing of a different type of shoe bearing the name of one of the tests for purposeful availment ("stream of commerce," "Effects," "Seek to Serve," etc.). Pretty cool-I can wear the appropriate one to class when we cover each of the tests.

But until someone pointed it out to me today, I did not understand why the student drew shoes.

I need a vacation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 10, 2018 at 05:46 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

To Dismiss or Transfer a Mockingbird

My recently-administered-but-still-to-be-graded  Civ Pro exam was built around the lawsuit over the Aaron Sorkin-penned stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, including questions on personal jurisdiction. On Monday, as my students were taking the exam, the district court denied Rudin's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court concluded that there was purposeful availment given the contract with Lee (an Alabaman) and her ongoing influence over the script, along with the fact (downplayed in Rudin's brief) that Rudin pursued Lee in Alabama (through emails to Lee and her Alabama attorney) for some time to get her to enter into negotiations. But the court transferred the action to the Southern District of New York under § 1404, finding that the private interest factors (mainly the location of witnesses) favored New York and that Lee's choice of forum received less deference because of her inequitable action in suing rather than meeting with Rudin to discuss concerns with the script.

All of which became moot today, when the Estate and Rudin "amicably settled" the litigation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 10, 2018 at 05:28 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

"Nationwide" Injunctions Are Really "Universal" Injunctions (Revised)

The updated/revised draft of my article on universal injunctions (complete with new, and more descriptive, title) is on SSRN (hoping the article will be published by June). The new version adds four new developments to the discussion: the Seventh Circuit affirmance of the universal injunction prohibiting enforcement of the sanctuary-city regulations in Chicago; a third district court decision enjoining DACA rescission (this one from D.D.C.); the brief discussion from Justice Gorsuch of cosmic injunctions during Trump v. Hawaii arguments; and an excellent new article by Jonathan Mitchell (VAP at Stanford) exposing what he labels the "writ-of-erasure fallacy," the incorrect belief that declaring a law unconstitutional erases the law, when what it actually does is prohibit enforcement of the law. (I would add prohibit enforcement of the law against the parties to that case, although Mitchell takes no express position on that).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 8, 2018 at 11:49 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Bray on conflicting universal injunctions

One of the problems with universal injunctions is the risk of conflicting universal injunctions--Ct I enjoins government to do X universally, while Ct II enjoins government to refrain from doing X, universally. This almost happened with DAPA--after affirmance of the Fifth Circuit injunction prohibiting enforcement of DAPA, lawsuits were filed in federal courts in Illinois and New York, seeking declarations that the Fifth Circuit injunction did not affect enforcement of DAPA in states that were not party to Texas; those cases were dismissed before courts reached that point.

The situation may arise again over DACA rescission--judges in the Northern District of California, Eastern District of New York, and District of the District of Columbia have issued universal injunctions requiring the federal government to continue enforcing the DACA policy and granting or renewing DACA status for eligible recipients. As Sam Bray discusses, seven states have filed suit in the Southern District of Texas (naturally), seeking a universal injunction prohibiting the federal government from granting or renewing DACA status. If issued, it would create imposing directly conflicting obligations on the government--required by one court to continue granting DACA status to all persons everyone, required by one court to refrain from granting DACA status to any persons anywhere.

Bray describes a "fight to the death" between universal injunctions and the principle that a judgment resolves issues between parties to a lawsuit, but does not conclude the rights of strangers to those proceedings.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 6, 2018 at 11:19 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 03, 2018

A solution for the wrong problem

At National Review, James Lucas argues argues for special procedures to limit the effects of nationwide injunctions, including automatic stays, de novo review, and some form of mandatory SCOTUS review. The problem is not nationwide injunctions, but their issuance by single district judges working within a narrow geographic area.

But the issue with these injunctions is not their nationwide scope, it is their universal application beyond the named plaintiffs  in individual actions, without class certification or broad third-party standing. So Lucas' proposals offer solutions to the wrong problem. (That is not, in fact, a problem at all. Injunctions should be nationwide, in the sense of protecting the named plaintiff everyone in the nation).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 3, 2018 at 02:42 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Adjudicative jurisdiction and substantive merits under the ATS

Michael Dorf explains the connection between the "only jurisdictional' understanding of the ATS and the narrowing of the judge-made substantive cause of action. Although the Court has never put it in these terms, Michael argues that it makes "internal sense" to understand the jurisdictional grant as the source of the implied right of action (a substantive, non-jurisdictional issue), so the right of action should not extend beyond the circumstances cognizable in 1789. I tried to get at the same idea in discussing Kiobel.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 1, 2018 at 08:49 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cosmic injunctions

Not much discussion of universal injunction in Wednesday's argument in Trump v. Hawaii. The one real exchange occurred late in Neal Katyal's argument for Hawaii, prompted by Justice Gorsuch, who questioned the "troubling rise of this nationwide injunction, cosmic injunction." Gorsuch recognized that the issue was not geography, but district courts issuing a remedy "not limited to relief for the parties at issue or even a class action" and  "assert[ing] the right to strike down a -- a federal statute with regard to anybody anywhere in the world." Katyal acknowledged sharing Gorsuch's impulse, but argued that the Court should not address the issue in this case, because of its immigration context and the need to leave it to lower courts to figure out in the first instance.

I am curious whether the lack of interest in the scope of the injunction hints at where the Court will come down on the merits.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 25, 2018 at 08:59 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I only want to see you working on your Civ Pro test

Zimmer as Trustee for the Kin of Prince Rogers Nelson v. Trinity Medical Center, a wrongful death action in Illinois state court by Prince's Estate against the hospital and doctors in Moline, Illinois that treated him, and failed to recognize a possible overdose, about a week prior to his death, and Walgreen's, two Walgreen's stores, and several Walgreen's pharmacists for prescribing him medications improperly.

Consider:

• All the defendants are from Illinois, except for the two Walgreen's stores, which are located in Minnesota (where Prince was a citizen prior to his death). Those defendants destroy complete diversity, keeping the case in state court. And that likely is the reason they were sued. Of course, even without the non-diverse defendants, the case is not removable because of the forum-defendant rule.

• It is not clear how there could be personal jurisdiction over the stores. I presume they filled prescriptions for drugs for Prince in Minnesota and had no obvious connection or direction to Illinois in their prescription activities. There are allegations in the Complaint that sound in obtaining jurisdiction over the stores through their connections to Walgreen, which is an Illinois corporation with its PPB in Illinois and subject to general jurisdiction. So it is the converse of Daimler--attempting to use a parent to get jurisdiction over the underling.  I suppose there is purposeful availment through owning a Walgreen's franchise (which presumably requires some contractual or other relationship with Walgreen's), but those contacts don't give rise to this claim. (The analogy would be if someone who choked on a Burger King fry sued Rudzewicz in Florida, based on his franchise agreement with BK). Expect the stores to move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (although, because of the F/D/R, dismissing them has no removal effects).

• There is an interesting state venue question. The lawsuit was brought in the Circuit Court of Cook County. But Prince was treated at a hospital in Moline, Illinois, in Rock Island County. Illinois law makes venue proper in the county of residence of any defendant, with corporate defendants residing in any county in which it has a registered or other office or is doing business. Walgreen's headquarters is in Deerfield, in Cook County.

• The case offers a simple illustration of the fact that conduct in one state injuring someone who is from another state does not, without more, create personal jurisdiction in the injured person's home state. Hence the Estate going to Illinois rather than making the defendants come to Minnesota.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 24, 2018 at 08:23 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Universal injunctions in Trump v. Hawaii and Chicago v. Sessions

SCOTUS hears argument on Wednesday in Trump v. Hawaii on the constitutional and statutory validity of the third travel ban, including (perhaps) the validity of the universal injunction. Marty Lederman explores the scope-of-injunction issue; he concludes that if the court reaches the scope question, it may be entirely dicta. A Supreme Court decision declaring the ban constitutionally invalid will, in almost all cases, result in the government suspending enforcement across the board. So the Court passing on the scope issue will have no practical effect.

Meanwhile, a divided Seventh Circuit panel affirmed the universal injunction as to the sanctuary-city-funding regulations. Sam Bray critiques the ruling at the VC. I will be spending the coming week updating some writing on the subject.

A few thoughts after the jump.

Marty's argument that a Supreme Court decision has the same effect as a universal injunction is right as a formal matter, because the President tends to proceed on an assumption of judicial supremacy--the Court's constitutional word is the last constitutional word. Much of the public shares that assumption, so the President may be politically bound to do the same. But a committed judicial-departmentalist executive could make these questions interesting.

Marty touches on the plaintiffs' Establishment Clause argument in favor of universality--that a limited injunction "fail[s] to 'remove the stigmatic harm that respondents suffer based on ‘the simple enactment’ of the Government’s policy.'”  Although I do not discuss it in my article, this argument has never made sense to me. The traditional conception is that the simple enactment of a law, regulation, or policy does not violate constitutional rights; only the (actual, attempted, or threatened) enforcement of the law, regulation, or policy violates constitutional rights. And I do not believe there is anything unique about the Establishment Clause in this regard. The E/C cases involving stigmatic harm have involved executive actions sending a message of exclusion--religious displays, football prayer, legislative prayer, etc. Stigmatic harm has not been a basis (to my recollection--I have not looked at this recently) for challenging the enactment and existence of the law itself. If it were, the injunction would have to compel repeal of the law or regulation, rather than prohibiting its enforcement. This logic, if it prevails, could not be limited to the Establishment Clause. It also should apply to speech cases, because the "simple enactment" of the law would have a chilling effect even on those not threatened with enforcement, justifying an injunction to protect them along with the threatened (so as to have standing) plaintiffs.

Hawaii also argues that it cannot identify in advance who might seek to study there so as to be protected by the injunction, so everyone must be protected. But the difficulty of identifying those with a sufficient connection with the plaintiff can be left for future enforcement of the injunction protecting Hawaii; it need not be decided at the point of issuance.

As for Chicago and sanctuary cities, the court deserves credit for offering a detailed and non-conclusory defense of universality, only the second court to do so (the other being the district court it was affirming). Sam captured the defects in the opinion. The problem remains the same. The attempt to allow this universal injunction while limiting universal injunctions to "rare circumstances" fails, because the limiting principles are not limiting principles and appear to justify a universal injunction in every case.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 22, 2018 at 05:59 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

More on PowerPoint

As one of the "Oh, I never use PowerPoint" people Derek mentions, I wanted to add on to a couple pieces of his post. Derek says he uses PP for three things: 1) The text of a rule or statute; 2) Visualizing a concept such as a flowchart; and 3) Photos and other AV material. And he and I teach some of the same classes.

First, not using PowerPoint is not the same as "simply sp[eaking], lectur[ing], engag[ing] in Socratic dialogue." While I (proudly) never use PP, I fill the dry-erase board with flow charts, key terms or phrases, hypothetical problems, and occasionally statutory text, especially if I want to break the pieces of the statute down. I recall a SEALS panel on using AV in class and one of the speakers presented his slide for the Erie flowchart. It was the same flowchart I use, just with more color and boxes and permanency. But the dry-erase board allows me to interact with the visuals, circling and underling things as we go, something that is impossible on the sterile slide (even with a laser pointer).

Second, the drawback to putting text on a slide is that students stare at the slide instead of the text in their books. I want them to learn to read and highlight or underline or mark-up the text as they go, by having the text right in front of them and being able to work with it. I have been aware this semester of how much students jot down what they hear about a statute in their notes and use the remembered language from their notes, rather than going back to the precise text and textual language. This is important when we are jumping around to multiple rules and they have to figure out how to read the rules together and fit them as parts of a whole. I prefer to read the rule together, with everyone looking in her own book, rather than presenting it in one spot for all.

Third, Derek says he does not churn through and read slide after slide. But the temptation to do so is overwhelming and commonplace, thus becoming expected by students and audience members.

Fourth (and this is going to be a matter of personal style), the question must be whether a visual adds something to the presentation and to the students' learning. When teaching Lujan, does it really add to the students' understanding of the case to flash a picture of the Nile Crocodile? It's nice as trivia or cocktail-party conversation--which certainly is important--but does it help the students understand the material? If my answer is no, it is something I leave out of the classroom, but perhaps present on the course-adjacent blog or web site.

Finally, while I believe I shared this story here years ago, it is worth repeating. It involves an academic talk rather rather than class, but it gets at the same thing. I was presenting my empirical study of the infield-fly rule , which had charts with numbers and pictures of fields showing location of batted balls, and the AV system was not working. The moderator told me to "do the best I can," which would have been "not at all," since the talk would have been incoherent without the audience being able to see what I was talking about. (They fixed the system by the time I got up there, so it worked out). That the moderator could believe the talk could work without the visuals tells me that many people are giving many talks using PP that adds nothing of consequence, probably with visuals that contain the text of what the speaker is saying and that are going to be read, but nothing more. If someone can do the same talk and be as understood without the visuals, the visuals add nothing essential and can be discarded.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 21, 2018 at 05:47 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Speeding cases

Last week I flagged Suja Thoma' JOTWELL review of the study by Miguel de Figeueirdo, Alexandra Lahav, and Peter Siegelman of the effect of the six-month list on judicial decisionmaking. Those authors criticize new regulations requiring immigration judges to clear a minimum number of cases to be evaluated as satisfactory. Based on their findings on the minimal-or-negative effects of the six-month list on the quality of judicial deisionmaking, they conclude that imposing such obligations on judges who lack life tenure will "cause their decisions to suffer even more."

I continue to wonder whether there are due process concerns with these regulations, by giving judges a personal or pecuniary interest in the case--if not in the outcome, then in the way in which it is litigated (which affects the outcome).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 19, 2018 at 07:00 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Naruto lives

Naruto v. Slater, the so-called "Monkey Selfie" case, lives. The Ninth Circuit denied the Joint Motion to Dismiss the Appeal and Vacate the Judgment, filed after the parties settled. In denying the motion, the court relied on cases in which courts have declined to dismiss appeals following briefing and argument, particularly where the judges suspect a party settled to avoid adverse precedent. Oh, and Naruto was not party to the settlement. (H/T: A Civ Pro student who is interested in the case, since the Complaint is one of the models we use in class).

So now we will get to see if Naruto loses on the merits (as he should, because the scope of a statute is a merits issue) or on standing grounds (as the argument sounded the court was heading).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 15, 2018 at 10:28 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Erie and litigation financing

Wisconsin enacted a law amending its discovery rules to require that a party's initial disclosures include "any agreement under which any person, other than an attorney permitted to charge a contingent fee representing a party, has a right to receive compensation that is contingent on and sourced from any proceeds of the civil action, by settlement, judgment, or otherwise." (§ 12 of the legislation). The political valence is that this is a victory for business defendants over the plaintiff's bar (which is how it was fought in the state), although there is some broader support for disclosure of third-party funders in the wake of Peter Thiel's funding of Hulk Hogan's suit against Gawker.

There also is an interesting Erie/Hanna question of whether a plaintiff must disclose this information in state-law actions in federal court. Since I am afraid I am not going to reach Erie (at least not in-depth) this semester, it may have to wait until next year. After the jump, I take a stab at what I think should be the analysis.

The quick answer would seem to be no, it is not required. The disclosure requirement is in the state discovery rules. The Federal Rules contain a provision that covers mandatory disclosures and does not include funding arrangements. Rule 26 is a rule of practice and procedure because it at least arguably regulates the manner and means by which rights are enforced or the fairness and efficiency of the truth-finding process. And since no procedural rule has ever been held to abridge, enlarge, or modify a substantive right, it is unlikely this one does (especially since incidental A/E/M is permissible). Were Scalia on the Court, this would be his approach.

But the disclosure requirement is part of a broader state effort (pushed by the Chamber of Commerce) at tort reform (or "civil-justice reform," which now seems to be the lingo), in furtherance of substantive policies of protecting and encouraging businesses to relocate, expand, and remain in the state. This might raise an A/E/M concern, that applying FRCP 26(a) to not require this undermines the substantive rights created by state law. And to avoid that problem, a court might narrow 26(a) to be not controlling, as providing a list of materials that must be disclosed that does not exhaust other disclosure obligations from other sources. And that pushes us to the "relatively unguided Erie analysis." And while disclosure will not materially alter outcomes, it may affect plaintiff's choice of state or federal court. And the recognized state substantive policy at work means the analysis requires application of state law (as it almost always does). I could see Ginsburg doing something like this (this is basically how she resolved Gasperini).

On the other hand, maybe none of this matters. The real question may be whether funding arrangements are discoverable. So even if not subject to automatic disclosure, defense counsel know enough to ask for the information.

Thoughts?

 

 

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 5, 2018 at 11:24 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Class certification and universal injunctions

Judge Chutkan of the District of the District of Columbia last week issued a preliminary injunction barring HHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement from enforcing policies preventing pregnant unaccompanied undocumented minors in federal detention from obtaining services to terminate pregnancies. Wanting a broad injunction that would reach beyond the four named plaintiffs (all of whom had terminated their pregnancies) to all women who might be subject to the challenged regulations, the court did it the proper way. It certified a class and issued a class-wide 23(b)(2) injunction prohibiting enforcement of the policies as to all members of a class defined as "all pregnant, unaccompanied immigrant minor children (UCs) who are or will be in the legal custody of the federal government."

Unlike courts in many recent cases, Judge Chutkan  followed the middle step of certifying a broad class, then issuing an injunction protecting the entire class that is the plaintiff in the action. But the case illustrates an important point. If universal injunctions are readily available, no plaintiff would bother jumping through the class-certification hurdles, but will proceed directly to asking the court for the same broad injunction while keeping the action as an individual one.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 5, 2018 at 12:42 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Yet another qualified-immunity summary reversal (Link Corrected)

SCOTUS on Monday summarily reversed the Ninth Circuit's denial of qualified immunity in Kisela v. Hughes, which resulted from an officer shooting a woman in the mistaken belief that she was threatening her roommate with a knife. Such summary reversals of denial of qualified immunity have become commonplace, as you recall. This one brought a dissent from Justice Sotomayor joined by Justice Ginsburg, who argued that, even if the lower court was wrong, it was not "so manifestly incorrect as to warrant 'the extraordinary remedy of a summary reversal.'"

I have not had a chance to read or digest the opinion. But Will Baude offers some comments, especially about the one-side nature of qualified immunity and its evolution into an absolute bar to recovery. So does Orin Kerr, who offers an explanation for why the Court has gone down this road with immunity grounded in the distincion between conduct rules and decision rules.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 3, 2018 at 04:41 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The danger of universal injunctions

If you want to see the consequences of inappropriate universal injunctions, look no further than the contempt order imposed by Judge Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas on the associates of a large firm.

Mazzant issued a universal injunction in 2016 against Obama-era minimum-wage regulations, in an action brought by several states against the Department of Labor. Lawyers representing an individual filed an action in the District of New Jersey against Chipotle seeking to enforce the regulations. Judge Mazzant ordered the attorneys to dismiss the New Jersey action and held the attorneys in contempt. Mazzant held that DOL represented the interests of the individual workers, such as the New Jersey plaintiff, who would be affected by the rule.

The problem here is  the court expanding the scope of the injunction rather than waiting for preclusion to do its work. The injunction should have been limited to DOL (and nationwide, by applying anywhere DOL attempted to enforce the regulations). But there was no reason for the injunction to extend beyond DOL or for this to be resolved as a question of contempt. To the extent DOL represented the interests of individuals (a questionable proposition), that should have been addressed as a matter of preclusion in the D.N.J. case, with the New Jersey court determining whether the second action was precluded.

This case also shows that allowing universal injunctions may harm individual non-parties rather than benefiting them. Proponents of universal injunctions argue that a district court ruling declaring a law or regulation invalid should protect other persons against whom the rule may be applied, without making them file their own lawsuits and obtain their own injunctions. This case presents the flip side--a universal injunction depriving potential rights-holders of any opportunity to litigate these issues themselves.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 1, 2018 at 08:23 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

12(b)(6) denied in Beckman v. Chicago Bears

I wrote last year about Beckman v. Chicago Bears, a First Amendment lawsuit by a Green Bay Packers fan who holds season tickets and a Personal Seat License ("PSL") at Soldier Field and was prohibited from participating in an on-field event for season-ticket holders because he was wearing a Packers jersey. The district court denied the Bears' 12(b)(6); Beckman plausibly pleaded a connection between the event and the Chicago Parks District to make the Bears a state actor and viewpoint discrimination. (The court granted the NFL's motion to dismiss on standing grounds).

The state-action analysis relies on a combination of the CPD retaining power to approve certain on-field events for PSL-holders and receiving revenues from certain PSL sales. Beckman filed the complaint pro se, so the court's Iqbal analysis bent-over backwards to draw inferences in the plaintiff's favor. The court identified several inferences as plausible despite no express allegations to fill the gap. For example, there was no allegation that CPD approved the event at issue or that Beckman held one of the PSLs from which CPD gained revenues, both facts necessary to the state-action analysis. But the court insisted that both inferences were plausible, which was sufficient.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 31, 2018 at 10:30 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

SCOTUS: Hall v. Hall and the limits of all-purpose consolidation

SCOTUS decided Hall v. Hall, unanimously (in a most-Robertsian opinion) holding that consolidated cases, even those consolidated for "all purposes," retain their independent identities for finality purposes, so judgment on one set of claims is final and appealable, even if other sets of claims remain in the district court. I called this one wrong, before and after argument. My SCOTUSBlog recap is here.

What I did not expect was the Court's seeming rejection of any distinction between limited and all-purpose consolidation, at least for appealability purposes. (The Court never discussed the scope of consolidation in the case, because it did not matter). Consolidation for all purposes should create a single action--as if separate sets of claims and parties had been joined in a single action in the first instance under FRCP 18 and 20.* In a single action, even complete resolution of some claims or some parties does not produce a final-and-appealable order (absent FRCP 54(b) certification). The Hall Court disclaimed any suggestion that all-purpose consolidation was not allowed. But it pulled finality and appealability out as issues affected by all-purpose consolidation; in other words, all-purpose consolidation does not create a single action for purposes of finality and appealability, although it may create a single action for other purposes. But that takes much of the force from all-purpose consolidation, which no longer produces the same procedural effect (in at least one respect) as if joined in the first instance. And without the finality benefit, it is not clear why else parties or courts would consolidate for all purposes, as all other benefits are available with limited-purpose consolidation.

[*] I teach that consolidation for all purposes is permissible only if the claims and parties could have been joined in the first place--not only because of a common question of law or fact (required in both Rule 20 and Rule 42(a)), but also where the claims arising out of the same transaction or occurrence.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 27, 2018 at 02:48 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

"Bound and gagged in body armor, hung upside down"

My analysis of Monday's argument in United States v. Sanchez-Gomez is on SCOTUSBlog. It was a good argument--both attorneys were very good, the Justices asked probing-but-not-obnoxious questions, and the bench left room for both attorneys to answer. I believe the Respondents will win--Kennedy seemed inclined towards them. The title of the post (and of my SCOTUSBlog post) comes from a hypothetical from Breyer.

On a different note, what is going on with the male Justices and Justice Sotomayor. Justice Kennedy interrupted her three or four times yesterday. And in NIFLA v. Becerra (the clinic compelled-speech case) last week, the Chief cut Sotomayor off when she interrupted an answer to a question from Justice Breyer, snapping " Maybe could welet him finish the answer, please?", something the Chief virtually never does--and certainly not as sharply.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 27, 2018 at 10:50 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

JOTWELL: Pfander on Nourse on statutory interpretation and democracy

The new Courts Law essay comes from James Pfander (Northwestern-Pritzker), reviewing Victoria Nourse, Misreading Law, Misreading Democracy (Harvard Univ. Press 2016), arguing for a "legislative decision" approach to statutory interpretation that recognizes how the legislative process functions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 27, 2018 at 01:13 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Argument preview: U.S. v. Sanchez-Gomez

I have a SCOTUSBlog preview on next Monday's argument in United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, which considers issues of appealability, mandamus, and mootness in a case arising from a district policy of placing all defendants in five-point restraints for non-jury proceedings. (The Court denied cert. on the constitutional merits).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 19, 2018 at 12:07 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

(Edited)The Next Hanna/Erie issue for SCOTUS (redux)

Three years ago, I flagged a circuit split that I thought my draw SCOTUS' attention--on whether state anti-SLAPP statutes apply in federal court. Three circuits say yes, the D.C. Circuit sahys no. The Tenth Circuit this week joined the D.C. Circuit on the "no" side. Plus, the court divided on whether the denial of a SLAPP motion is subject to immediate review under the collateral order doctrine. SCOTUS has been interested in possible overuse of C/O/D, taking one case and poised to address in another until possible settlement delayed argument.

Another reason to take this is that the Tenth Circuit analysis bears no resemblance to how courts are supposed to approach Erie/Hanna questions (and how the other courts in this split have analyzed the question). The analysis begins and ends with the conclusion that a SLAPP statute is procedural. The discussion of whether there is a controlling federal statute and of Hanna and the "twin aims" of Erie is relegated to a footnote at the end of the opinion, described as the analysis for "more nuanced cases" that leads to the same result but is unnecessary in this case.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 14, 2018 at 10:22 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Too clever by a cent

A student shared this story about a plaintiff who sued Southwest Airlines in Missouri state court for the "amount of $74,999.99 and nothing more." The author praises the plaintiff and his lawyer for their cleverness and creativity in keeping the case exactly one cent below the jurisdictional threshold to keep the case in state court. (According to the author, Southwest recently ceased providing service to Branson, so the plaintiff may benefit from the local controversy if the case remains in Taney County, MO, rather than moving 50 miles to the nearest federal court).

If the attorney's goal was to show off his cleverness in keeping the case in state court and his mastery of federal jurisdiction, however, he failed--by one cent. Section 1332 requires that the amount in controversy "exceeds $ 75,000." The federal jurisdictional minimum is $ 75,000.01 and the maximum amount to keep the case in state court is "$ 75,000 and nothing more," not $74,999.99.

I make sure to point this out in class, using the example of a complaint that pleads "the amount in controversy is $ 75,000" would not establish jurisdiction. It is nice to have a specific, erroneous, example to work with. It also shows the students that this stuff matters, at least to how the lawyer is perceived--if you are going to make a big show of cutting under the jurisdictional amount by one cent, make sure you get it right.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 13, 2018 at 01:31 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (27)