Thursday, April 27, 2017
More on summary judgment and qualified immunity
Following on my post on Monday's cert denial in Salazar-Limon: Justice Sotomayor questioned that denial in light of the Court's recent summary reversals in cases denying qualified immunity. It is notable for the coincidence that on the same day, the Court denied cert in Needham v. Lewis, a case in which a divided Sixth Circuit denied summary judgment in favor of the officer in a case featuring dashcam video. The majority insisted that a reasonable jury could interpret the video in competing ways (in the face of the dissent saying "That is not the video I have reviewed," not realizing that this is not her job on summary judgment) and that general principles clearly establish that fleeing a traffic stop, without more, does not justify deadly force. The denial also is surprising, first because the type of case the Court has been summarily reversing, and second because of the presence of video and the greater leeway the Court has allowed itself in video cases.
One interesting feature in Needham is that the defendant moved for summary judgment prior to discovery, with the video as the only thing in the record. The court declined to treat the video as one-sided. But perhaps officer testimony confirming the video would have placed the case more squarely within Scott and Plumoff.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Problems of scope and nomenclature in nationwide injunctions
Judge Orrick in the Northern District of California preliminarily enjoined President Trump's Executive Order stripping "sanctuary" cities of federal funds. As per usual in these cases nowadays, Judge Orrick made the injunction "nationwide," rejecting government arguments that it be" issued only with regards to the plaintiffs." The court supported that conclusion by citing Califano v. Yamasaki for the proposition that the "scope of injunctive relief is dictated by the extent of the violation established, not by the geographical extent of the plaintiff." The problem is that Orrick excludes the important next word in the quoted sentence--"class." Califano was a 23(b)(2) injunctive class action. Thus an injunction that prohibited enforcement of the challenged law as to multiple people was appropriate--because everyone in the class was a plaintiff. And it makes sense that the injunction should follow the plaintiff nationwide--if the government cannot enforce a law against a plaintiff (whether an individual or a municipality), it cannot enforce it regardless of where in the country the plaintiff goes.
This illustrates that the proper term for what the court did here is "universal injunction"--an injunction that covers the defendant's conduct (here, prohibiting enforcement of the EO) with respect to everyone, party or non-party. A "nationwide injunction," on the other hand, is an injunction that protects the appropriately protected persons (the plaintiffs) nationwide. The former, which is what courts have been issuing, is inconsistent with general principles of equity and the law of judgments, which limit the binding effect of a judgment to the parties. And Califano does not establish the contrary, because that was a class action, so the parties who could be protected by the injunction (consistent with the law of judgments) included everyone in the class. In other words, Califano involved a nationwide injunction for a nationwide class. It did not involve a universal injunction protecting everyone in the universe, even non-parties.
And this does not seem a situation in which the injunction must protect non-parties to be given its full scope. To protect Santa Clara and San Francisco from enforcement of this unconstitutional order, it is not necessary that the court also protect other sanctuary cities from enforcement. Those cities can bring (and some have brought) constitutional challenges prohibiting enforcement as to them, now with the benefit of Santa Clara v. Trump as persuasive precedent. Other than a desire for simplicity, there is no reason that the first decision on a legal issue should also be the last on the way to SCOTUS. Rather, it runs contrary to the assumption that multiple lower courts and multiple lower-court judges are going to take passes at legal issue before those issues reach SCOTUS.
The less said about the White House statements, which drips not only with contempt for the judiciary (a well-established theme), but a misunderstanding of how the federal judiciary and constitutional litigation operate (one listserv member wondered whether a competent lawyer came anywhere near these press releases. But one notable point: The statement uses some form of the phrase "single unelected district judge" three times. I know the White House is engaging in demagoguery and not series legal argument there.
But let's take it at its word--the problem is the injunction being issued by the single district judge. What would the WH like to do about that? Return to the old system of 3-judge district courts for all actions seeking to enjoin enforcement of federal laws? Amend Article III to give SCOTUS original jurisdiction of actions challenging the constitutionality of federal law? Always have the government win because everything the government does is constitutionally valid? (actually, that is the preferred option). Always have the government win in the lower courts? This may be what disturbs me the most about the administration's statements towards the judiciary--they reflect not substantive disagreement, but disregard (or lack of understanding) of the judicial processes that produce constitutional decisionmaking.
Better Call Saul does professional responsibility
If Season 1 of Better Call Saul brought us impact civil litigation, and Season 2 brought us competition for clients, Season 3 is poised to bring us the attorney-disciplinary process. As things stand entering Episode 3-04, Chuck baited Jimmy into first confessing to tampering with some documents, then to committing a series of crimes, including felony breaking-and-entering. And the plea deal the prosecution offers Jimmy (at Chuck's manipulative suggestion) is pretrial diversion in exchange for a confession, which will be presented to the State Ba. The premise is that confession of a felony would mean disbarment. So we seem to be gearing up to see Jimmy litigating an attorney-disciplinary proceeding in the coming weeks.
Is confession to a felony per se, unaccompanied by jail time, grounds for disbarment (as opposed to suspension or reprimand)? And if the goal is to get Jimmy disbarred, wouldn't tampering with documents in a legal proceeding be stronger grounds than criminal charges resulting from a dispute between two brothers?
I look forward to seeing it play out, although we know the outcome--Jimmy will continue practicing law, just not as Jimmy McGill.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Salazar-Limon and the expansion of summary judgment
On Monday, SCOTUS denied cert in Salazar-Limon v. City of Houston, a § 1983 action arising from an officer-involved shooting of an unarmed person. The Fifth Circuit granted summary judgment in favor of the officer, seeming to credit the officer's version of events over the plaintiff's version, even without video. It also touched on the "he was reaching for his waistband" defense that has become a mainstay in these cases. The case was carried over six times before cert was denied--apparently, because Justice Sotomayor was writing a dissent from denial of cert for herself and Justice Ginsburg, which prompted a concurrence in denial of cert by Justice Alito, joined by Justice Thomas. I am quoted in an Atlantic piece on the case.
The officer testified that he saw the plaintiff turn and reach for his waistband as if for a gun. The plaintiff testified that the officer yelled for him to stop as he was walking away, then shot him immediately--at most a few seconds--after the command. But the plaintiff did not explicitly deny reaching for his waistband, and for both lower courts and Justice Alito, that showed there was no dispute. That the stories told by the officer and the plaintiff contradicted one another, in other words, was not sufficient. The plaintiff had to deny the direct evidence (reaching for the waistband) and could not rely on the competing inference (if what the plaintiff said was true, he did not reach for his waistband) to get past summary judgment. If taken seriously, this could represent a dramatic expansion of summary judgment.
Justice Alito insisted that this is not the kind of case SCOTUS reviews. Sotomayor placed this within Tolan v. Cotton, as a case of the lower court's clear misapprehension of summary judgment standards warranting summary reversal. Notably, however, Justice Alito (joined by Justice Scalia) concurred only in the judgment in Tolan, suggesting that he did not think the Court should have granted cert, but that Court practice is not to dissent from the grant of cert.
Justice Sotomayor highlights the Court's failure to intervene in this and similar cases in which summary judgment is (erroneously) granted against § 1983 plaintiffs, while frequently summarily reversing decisions denying summary judgment in favor of officers. That assymetry, she argues, ignores that the erroneous grant of summary judgment in § 1983 qualified immunity cases harms "society as a whole" as much as an erroneous denial. Tolan was a step to addressing this assymetry, but the Court has now taken a step back. In response, Justice Alito recognizes the cases reversing denial of summary judgment, then says "the dissent has not identified a single case in which we failed to grant a similar petition filed by an alleged victim of unconstitutional police conduct." But that seemed to be her point--the Court is not taking these cases (other than Tolan) and that is the problem.
Finally, Sotomayor points in a footnote to the increasing frequency with which police officers justify shootings of unarmed people by testifying that the defendant reached for his waistband. Sotomayor does not cite it, but in 2014, the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion by Alex Kozinski, held that the absence of a gun raises a reasonable competing inference to officer testimony that the plaintiff reached for his waistband. It makes "no sense whatsoever" for an unarmed person to reach for his waistband. A jury therefore could doubt that the plaintiff did this, making summary judgment inappropriate, even if the officer's testimony about reaching for the waistband is not expressly contradicted.
Getting Civ Pro mileage out of Trump
For my in-semester essays in Civ Pro, I got a lot of mileage out of Zervos v. Trump, the defamation lawsuit filed by the former Apprentice contestant who alleges Trump sexually assaulted her (the allegation is that when Zervos went public with her allegations and Trump denied them, he called Zervos a liar, constituting defamation per se).
I got four essays out of the basic lawsuit, with only a little bit of elaboration beyond the Complaint itself and only a few made-up or altered facts, as necessary: 1) Whether another of Trump's sexual-assault accusers (I used Natasha Stoynoff, the People Magazine journalist) could join as a plaintiff; 2) How Trump could raise a defense of presidential immunity (that is, the difference between 12(b)(6) and 12(c) for affirmative defenses--I moved the case to federal court); 3) Whether Trump could remove to federal court in New York (a test of the Forum Defendant Rule--I tweaked the facts and had the lawsuit filed on January 23); and 4) Whether Zervos could have filed the lawsuit in her home state of California rather than New York (a test of the Effects Test for personal jurisdiction, with some internet thrown in).
All-in-all, a helpful teaching case, in a framework that students would be interested in and with which they would be somewhat familiar. And, at least so far, no complaints from students about asking them to write about Donald Trump and his misdeeds, even having to answer one question as Trump's counsel.
I will leave with a question for the Civ Pro types: What would your conclusion be on the P/J-in-California question? Based on the allegations in the Complaint, Zervos is from California and one of the sexual assaults that Trump denies occurred there (the other occurred in New York). But Trump's denials of the assault accusations (i.e., the defamatory statements) were made either via Twitter directed at the world or at campaign rallies in states other than California, with no indication the statements made it into California through his efforts. And what makes Trump's denials defamatory is that he is denying Zervos' statements about the assaults, which were not made in California, not the California-based assault itself. My initial thought was that there would be no jurisdiction in California. But when I sat down to write the sample answer reaching that conclusion, I moved in the other direction (I ended up writing two sample answers, one going each way). Thoughts?
If my initial conclusion was wrong and California would have jurisdiction over Trump, it raises some interesting questions and ties personal jurisdiction to other, strategic issues for the plaintiff. If there is jurisdiction in California, why did the plaintiff go to New York, especially New York state court? Trump is certainly no less popular in New York City than in California (although perhaps not Orange County, where Zervos lives). One answer may be that she wanted to keep the case in state court--because of the Forum Defendant Rule, Trump (almost certainly a New Yorker) could not remove to federal court in New York, although he could remove to federal court in California. But to the extent any temporal presidential immunity exists, it would be in state court (an issue the Court in Clinton v. Jones left open), while it is clear that no such immunity exists in federal court. That being so, why would Zervos pick state court over federal court?
Monday, April 24, 2017
JOTWELL: Thornburg on Hoffman on plausibility pleading
The new Courts Law essay is from Elizabeth Thornburg (SMU), reviewing Lonny Hoffman, Plausible Theory, Implausible Conclusions (U. Chi. L. Rev. Online), in which Hoffman responds to William H.J. Hubbard, A Fresh Look at Plausibility Pleading, (U. Chi. L. Rev.).
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Justice Alito, funny man
Well, perhaps Justice Alito is looking to fill-in the gap. Alito was, relatively speaking, a laugh riot last Monday. During the argument in Perry v. MSTB, Alito got laughs for asking who had written the CSRA, whether it was someone who enjoyed pulling wings off flies. And in the subsequent argument in Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Alito got laughs with an extended riff on how defendant standing makes no sense, that a defendant would be perfectly happy for the court to tell it that it must leave the case for lack of standing.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
SCOTUS on inherent powers
I have a piece at SCOTUSBlog on Tuesday's unanimous decision (8-0, as Justice Gorsuch was not on the bench when the case was argued in January) in Goodyear Tire & Rubber v. Haeger, holding that there must be a but-for connection for an award of attorney's fees for bad-faith conduct under a federal court's inherent powers. The court remanded to determine whether Goodyear waived its challenge to a base award of $ 2 million or whether the district court must redo the entire fee calculation. I am a bit surprised by the outcome, although the Court announced a legal standard broad enough to support a similarly large award, if the court makes appropriate findings.
Notes on Monday's SCOTUS arguments
I covered two of yesterday's arguments for SCOTUSBlog--in Perry v. MSPB (considering where review is had for MSPB decisions) and Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates (considering whether intervenors must have standing). Some additional thoughts below.
First, the story for many commentators about Perry was how engaged Justice Gorsuch was with both sides in the first case on his first argument day (it is not clear from the transcript, but reports are he asked his first question about ten minutes in). What has been discussed less is that Gorsuch seemed poised to rejected everything the Court had said previously about mixed cases. While the Court as recently as five years ago in Kloeckner v. Solis had stated that mixed cases go entirely to a district court, Gorsuch pushed both sides to the conclusion that the CSRA does not authorize district courts to review MSPB decisions and that mixed cases must be split up, with discrimination issues going to the district court and CSRA issues to the Federal Circuit. It is not clear where and whether he will follow that position. I previously, mainly jokingly, predicted that Gorsuch would write Perry, because it seemed the kind of case assigned to the junior-most Justice and I expected it to be unanimous, in light of Kloeckner. I may prove partially correct about him writing--but it may be a solo dissent.
Second, Gorsuch showed a distinct style on the bench (I cannot tell the tone of that style from the transcript--I am anxious to listen to the audo). He is well prepared and able to dig into the minutiae of the case, including statutory language (contrast that with the 10,00o-foot professorial musings of Justice Breyer). And he does not let attorneys get away with half-answers or skirting his questions; he keeps coming back and demanding answers. An exchange in Town of Chester with respondent's counsel is illustrative. Gorsuch was asking about the line between an intervenor seeking his own relief and seeking to benefit from the same judgment that a plaintiff with standing is seeking. Counsel argued it depends on the scope of the judgment sought, in light of the "one good plaintiff" rule. When counsel tried to pivot, Gorsuch apologized for interrupting, but said "[i]if you would just answer my question, I would be grateful," later insisting "that's not a trick question." When counsel again returned to the one good plaintiff, Gorsuch said "I'll let you go."
Third, Town of Chester silently ties into debates about the proper scope of judgment. Everyone was getting tripped up by the "one good plaintiff" rule, under which a non-class judgment can work to the benefit of multiple plaintiffs so long as one has standing. But that rule may be problematic under Article III, as Aaron Bruhl argued in an amicus brief and a forthcoming article. And it may be problematic as a matter of the law of judgments, where a court should be limited to issuing a judgment that directly benefits only a named plaintiff (and a named plaintiff must, under Article III, have standing). The one good plaintiff rule reflects the same misunderstanding of judgments and injunctions that allows for nationwide/universal injunctions.
Fourth, the Justices keep dancing around the connection between standing and merits, without seeing (or wanting to see) the identity between them. In Chester, Justice Alito asked respondent's counsel for an example of a case in which an intervenor lacked standing. Counsel responded with Trbovich v. UMW, in which a union member, who would not have been allowed to sue under the LMRDA, was allowed to intervene. To which Alito responded "that's not an Article III question. That's a merits question. That's the scope of the claim." That it is, Justice Alito. That it is.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Donald Trump's First Amendment
This tweet from early this morning captures it: Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!
Let's break this out:
• There is something wrong with people paying or accepting money to engage in First Amendment activity. The source of the funds should be investigated, disclosed, and (perhaps) sanctioned.
• There is something wrong with organized rallies or other peaceable assemblies.
• The only opportunity people have to express their political preferences is during an election. Once the election is over, the First Amendment runs out and it is inappropriate to take to the streets to criticize the President.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Sponsored Post: Contract Interpretation (in the Real World)
The following post is by Lawrence Cunningham (George Washington) and former GuestPrawf Miriam A. Cherry (SLU), and is sponsored by West Academic.
Recently a couple of fun and whimsical cases about legal interpretation have appeared in the headlines. The first case, O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, involved a Maine statute that exempted certain groups of workers from eligibility for overtime wages. The dispute ultimately centered on a missing oxford comma in the statute. The end result was that the transportation workers were able to collect $10 million in overtime wages, so unlike the perception of grammar questions as insignificant matters, this one certainly had a real-world impact.
The second case involved a familiar piece of kitsch, the snuggie, which its marketers advertised as a “blanket with sleeves.” An article from Bloomberg News describes the case, and the case itself, Allstar Marketing v. U.S., can be found here. The tax code provided for a lower rate for imported blankets than it did for clothes; the dispute centered on whether to classify the snuggie as a blanket or clothing. Back in 2009, when the snuggie first came out, a reporter tried wearing a snuggie outside, in public; the reporter received strange looks from children and kept tripping over the snuggie. The court ultimately agreed with the reporter’s anecdotal assessment, noting that the snuggie seemed mostly to be for indoor use. The court noted that the snuggie had no snaps or clasps, as one might expect from clothing. Ultimately the court applied the lower tariff rate applicable to blankets.
While these two headline cases deal with interpretation questions in statutes or codes, many of the same questions and issues present themselves in contracts. We are delighted to announce that we have signed a contract with West Academic Publishing for our forthcoming casebook, Contracts in the Real World, which we expect to be available for adoption staring in Fall 2018. Our casebook features contemporary cases, ripped from the headlines, juxtaposed with the canonical cases establishing or classically used to illustrate fundamental principles. So in addition to the familiar discussion of interpretation in the “what is chicken” case that many of us read in law school, we have also included the more recent issue of whether a burrito is a sandwich.
We also discuss what happens when the parties sign a contract and then technology changes rapidly. This is exactly what happened to controversial rapper Eminem, who signed a long-term contract in 1995 that provided different royalty rates for “records sold” versus “masters licensed,” but which never set out royalty rates for digital downloads of music or cellphone ringtones. Eminem successfully argued that the wording of the language of the contract allowed him to recover under the higher royalty rate. As with the overtime case, the language and grammar used mattered to the court.
Recent cases spark student interest. In our experience, students enjoy the more contemporary vibe, with hypos about everything from Uber’s surge pricing (and whether it causes economic duress), to cases about the recent housing crisis (and the doctrine of unconscionability), to the augmented reality game PokemonGo.
Our casebook’s rich provenance may be familiar to some of you. It emerged from Larry’s Cambridge University Press book, Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter, which was featured in a Concurring Opinions Symposium online as well as a symposium in the print version of the Washington Law Review. In preparing those materials, our background research examined all of the leading Contracts casebooks to assure that all of the canonical cases and doctrines appear, while assuring contemporary illustrations and treatments.
We are circulating the manuscript for a final test run to select colleagues—let us know if you want to volunteer – but in the meantime, what is your favorite interpretation question (contract or otherwise)? Even though a court has ruled that a snuggie is a blanket, lingering questions still remain. What do you think: Is a burrito a sandwich?
Monday, April 10, 2017
Did United Airlines act under color?
It strikes me as a question worth considering. Ordinarily, one private actor calling law enforcement to enforce private rights as against another private actor is insufficient. And properly so, otherwise everyone would act under color any time she called the police to remove trespassers or to protect her rights and things went sideways.
But does this situation go beyond that, since UA brought in the police specifically for purposes of physically removing this passenger from the plane? The use of force, perhaps excessive, was both UA's purpose in calling the police and a likely result. Is this the sort of "brutal joint adventure," in which police action is necessary to enable private actors to carry-out questionable or unlawful actions? Is dragging this guy off the plane in this manner equivalent to arresting Mrs. Adickes and her students?
UA is going to settle--and do so very quickly. So no court will reach this. Worth thinking about, though.
Upcoming procedure cases (Updated)
I have two previews at SCOTUSBlog today for procedure cases to be argued at the Court next Monday. In Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, the Court considers the proper court (the Federal Circuit or a district court) for reviewing a decision of the MSPB that some discriminatorily motivated adverse employment action is not appealable to the Board (this case follows on a 2012 decision, that I also covered, holding that such "mixed cases" are reviewed in district court). In Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, the Court considers whether a person seeking to intervene as of right as a plaintiff must have Article III standing.
Two quick additional points on Town of Chester. First, I want to flag the amicus brief of Aaron-Andrew Bruhl (William & Mary), urging the Court to hold not only that the Court should require intervenors to have standing, but also to hold that every original plaintiff must have standing and to reject the current doctrine that, so long as one plaintiff has standing, there is no need to inquire into standing of all other plaintiffs seeking undifferentiated relief (such as injunction barring enforcement of some law). The brief follows on Bruhl's article (forthcoming Duke L.J.) arguing that the doctrine of "one good plaintiff" violates Article III.
Second, this case, especially if the Court is willing to pursue Bruhl's argument, could be significant to the ongoing debate over universal (or nationwide) injunctions. The ongoing confusion over universal injunctions is over the permissible scope of an injunction. That, in turn, reflects confusion over who is (or can be) directly protected by the injunction as an enforceable judgment and who is (or can be) indirectly protected by the injunction only as binding or persuasive precedent in a new lawsuit. Only parties enjoy the former benefits. By allowing people without standing to be plaintiffs, courts expand who is a party and thus who enjoys the direct benefits of the injunction. Pulling back on this conception of standing may go a way to correcting scope-of-injunction problems.
Update: These also will be the first cases heard by Justice Gorsuch, who was sworn in yesterday and will participate in the April sitting.* I will make a second, more-random prediction: Gorsuch will write Perry. It is the kind of cases that goes to the junior-most Justice (Kagan, then early in her third Term, wrote Kloeckner). It likely will be unanimous (although I cannot predict from the briefs which way) and there is a tradition of giving a new Justice a unanimous decision.
* My long-ago prediction that Scalia's successor would not be deciding cases until OT 2017 was off by two weeks, although I was right that the earliest anyone would be confirmed was mid-April. But I assumed that it would not be worth the candle for the new Justice to step-in for a week or two of cases, which turned out to be wrong. I also did not anticipate that the Court would hear 13 cases--about 20% of the merits cases for the Term--in these two weeks.
Friday, April 07, 2017
DOJ, civil rights, and police reform (Updated)
Last Friday, Attorney General Sessions issued a memorandum enumerating a series of principles regarding law enforcement and the relation between the federal government and local law enforcement; these include local control and responsibility for local law enforcement, promotion of public respect for police work, and the idea that the "misdeeds of individual bad actors" should not impugn law enforcement as a whole. The memo than calls for review of all DOJ activities to ensure compliance with those principles.
This almost certainly means we will not see new § 14141 actions or investigations being pursued against local agencies. Sessions (and Trump) rarely, if ever, sees police as being at fault in anything, and any misconduct that occurs is a product of a single bad actor, not systemic or institutional problems. It probably means ongoing cases in which a consent decree has not been approved, as in Chicago and Baltimore, will be abandoned or altered. (Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said the city will move forward with reforms, even absent a consent decree). It will be more difficult to undo existing consent decrees; because these reflect final judgments, the court must approve and oversee any changes, regardless of DOJ having changed its mind or policies.
This offers a nice reminder of the relationship between governmental and private enforcement of civil rights and the special role of private enforcement--the change of administration brings changes in enforcement priorities. Private enforcement (through "private attorneys general") provides a constant baseline of enforcement that can pick up the slack, however much slack there is, depending on the administration.
Update: District Judge James Bredar approved the consent decree, declining DOJ's request for a 30-day delay so DOJ could reassess the deal, stating that the case no longer was in a phase in which one side can unilaterally reconsider or amend an agreement and that the court did not need further time to consider the terms of the judgment. On a different procedural point, the NAACP is seeking to intervene, obviously concerned that DOJ is no longer committed to ensuring compliance or enforcing the decree.
Thursday, April 06, 2017
More on the Leib-Lee Solution for SCOTUS
A couple of reactions to Ethan's piece:
1) The deal is better (and Garland a better nominee) for Republicans for the additional reason that Garland is 64 while Gosuch is 49.
2) Trump is and never has been a bipartisan dealmaker, so expecting him to be one was beyond wishful thinking.He gets results by running roughshod from a position of power created by wealth (suing contractors or forcing contractors to sue him, knowing he can wait them out) or, as here, numerical partisan advantage. I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with that, only that this is his real M.O. He has no interest in doing anything else.
The solution to late-game fouling?
No one likes late-game intentional fouling in basketball, because it drags out games and produces boring basketball of constant stoppages and endless free throws. On the other hand, there is no way around the strategy, as it reflects the only way that a trailing defensive team can save time and get the ball back.
But it appears Nick Elam, a middle-school principle principal and MENSA member from Dayton, has a solution: In the final three minutes of the NBA game (final four in college), turn off the game clock and play until either team reaches a target score, set at +7 from the leading team's score when the clock is turned off. So if Team A leads 99-91 when the clock goes off, the teams play to 106. Elam has been sending his proposal around to basketball types, some of whom purportedly find it interesting, but too radical to implement just yet. But it is going to be used in the early rounds of The Basketball Tournament, a $2-million 64-team tournment featuring teams of former college players. (Elam is interviewed on the tournament podcast).
The proposal does eliminate any incentive to take fouls at the end of the game, because a trailing team can simply play good defense without having to worry about preserving time on the clock. The only fouls we might see are to stop a three-pointer, although that strategy is so time-sensitive (it only works under :04 or so) that it might dissolve on its own. Eliminating the game clock somewhat changes the nature of the game somewhat, which is played in a rhythm of time, but not as much as soccer shoot-outs or college football overtime. And the shot clock remains, so there still is a time element to keep possessions and the game moving.
The proposal may not succeed in shortening games and might lengthen them--not because the clock is stopping constantly, but because teams are not scoring. This will be especially true in close playoff games, where the defense ratchets up in the final minutes. For example, at the 3:00 mark of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the score was 89-89, meaning the game would have been played to 96. The final score was 93-89, and one of those points came on a made free throw off an intentional foul with :10 left. The defense was that good and the players were that tired (this included LeBron James's block of a fast-break layup).
On the other hand, perhaps offenses would be freer to look for the best shot at anytime, no longer worried about any time considerations. Teams now get as many possessions as it takes to score the requisite points, so they need not save or waste time. Back to Game 7: After Cleveland's Kyrie Irving hit a go-ahead 3 with :53 left, Golden State used almost the entire shot clock to get Steph Curry isolated on a weak defender, who forced Curry to miss a three-pointer. But Golden State does not need a three in that situation; it can get a better two-point shot, knowing that, if it plays good defense, it will have a greater number of possessions and opportunities to score.
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Your Fed Courts/Civil Rights Exam
Identify the problems with this complaint: The victims who will testify in the Michigan sexual-abuse prosecution Lawrence Nassar, the former doctor for USA Gymnastics. The witnesses have sued the criminal trial judge, the attorney general, and Nassar, challenging a gag order the judge imposed on the witnesses (on Nassar's motion), alleging it violates due process and the First Amendment. Where to begin?
• The claims against Nassar rest on the conclusion that a criminal defendant acts under color of law when performing ordinary, presumptively lawful litigation maneuvers, such as making motions. That is a dangerous idea.
• Rooker-Feldman bars federal constitutional claims seeking relief from an injury caused by a state court order. And the Sixth Circuit is part of the majority of circuits holding that RF applies to interlocutory judgments. I see no way around that in this case, as even the Deadspin commentators recognize.
• The appropriate move should be for the witnesses to intervene and/or to file a motion in the criminal court challenging the gag order, which non-parties can do to challenge orders that affect their interests (for example, what newspapers do to challenge orders that cut-off access to the court). I suppose the move after that would be to mandamus the judge in the state appellate or supreme court--and, if necessary, move the issue to SCOTUS after a final judgment on the mandamus. A federal § 1983 action is nowhere on the list of appropriate strategies.
I have not had a chance to read the en banc Seventh Circuit decision in Hively v. Ivy Tech Comm. College, holding that sexual-orientation discrimination is discrimination "because of sex" under Title VII. This sets up a circuit split with a panel of the Eleventh Circuit. Two broad thoughts, beyond the substance of the Title VII question.
First, Hively sued a community college, a state actor that also could have been sued for an equal protection violation under § 1983, although there is no indication the plaintiff did so (there is a § 1981 claim mentioned, but § 1983). At least in race cases, courts treat the substantive discrimination analysis under Title VII and the Fourteenth Amendment as co-extensive, is all prevent intentional discrimination. So if sexual orientation discrimination is "because of sex" for Title VII, must it also be for constitutional purposes, as well?
Second, there is a lot of discussion of how Hively tees this up for SCOTUS resolution, with focus turning to what the SG and the Bush Administration will do. But Ivy Tech has indicated, at least for now, that it will not seek SCOTUS review, but will go back to the trial court and litigate the factual questions of whether the school discriminated. So note the prospect this potentially creates--a clear circuit split and every ideologically interested person wanting the issue to go to SCOTUS, but no vehicle to pursue the split because the parties controlling the vehicle choose not to do so. SCOTUS should get this issue because the plaintiff from the Eleventh Circuit will seek cert in order to revive her dismissed claim. But the en banc Eleventh Circuit might review the case first and rule consistently with the Seventh Circuit, removing the circuit split. All of which provides reminds us that the power of federal courts (and the SG) often remain subject to the whims, strategies, and preferences of private or non-federal litigants. [Update: The plaintiff in the Eleventh Circuit has petitioned for rehearing en banc].
Tuesday, April 04, 2017
JOTWELL: Pfander on Morley on equity
The new Courts Law essay comes from Jim Pfander (Northwestern-Pritzker), reviewing Michael T. Morley, The Federal Equity Power, arguing that Erie principles should affect how federal courts wield equitable power.
Sunday, April 02, 2017
Welcome to April. April Fool's Day jokes have never been a Prawfs thing, but here is one from Mike Dorf.
Thanks to our March guests. David Fontana will continue from March, joining our returning April visitors of Mark Fenster (Florida), Corinna Lain (Richmond), and Mark Moller (DePaul).
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Twiqbal on life support?
On a Twiqbal question on the preliminary exam in Civ Pro, no fewer than three students wrote that the rules require more than a "threadbare resuscitation of the elements."
Monday, March 27, 2017
Ornstein on election do-overs
In The Atlantic, Norm Ornstein proposes the creation of a mechanism for special presidential and vice-presidential election in "extraordinary circumstances," covering not only a terrorist attack or other catastrophic event, but also attacks on the electoral process itself, as well as "foreign interference in the election combined with a winning party’s involvement in or reinforcement of the interference." Ornstein's basic point is that if a cloud if illegitimacy hangs over the President and Vice President, everyone who might replace him within the line of succession sits under that same cloud. (This is the converse to the logic of having cabinet officers as primary successors--they enjoy what Akhil Amar calls "apostolic democratic legitimacy" should they be elevated to acting president, by virtue of having been appointed by the legitimate President. But if that President is not legitimate, then no one enjoys apostolic legitimacy).
Norm knows more about presidential succession than just about anyone alive. I had the privilege of working with him a bit on the Continuity of Government Commission, an effort he co-chaired in the years after 9/11 to alter the rules of presidential succession to respond to a mass-destruction event aimed at Washington (recall that Flight 93 was headed to the Capitol). Those efforts went nowhere, as the political urgency subsided. His point now is that a different political urgency has presented itself.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Welcome to Max Stearns and "Blindspot"
Max Stearns (Maryland) has joined the law professor blogosphere with Blindspot, which he describes here. Posts so far have covered the Gorsuch hearings, coffee, the TV show "Rectify" (whose final season I need to watch), and ideological blindspots of both political parties.
Definitely worth adding to your regular blog stops.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
JOTWELL: Campos on Glover on claims as property
The new Courts Law essay is from Sergio Campos, reviewing J. Maria Glover's A Regulatory Theory of Legal Claims (Vand. L. Rev.), which considers the implications of understanding legal claims as property.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Journalism, law, and asking questions
This piece, arguing that reporters undermine their checking function by asking complex, multi-part questions or burying a single question in a long lead-up, is spot-on. And the comparison to what we try to do in law school and law is apt. Effective cross-examination involves single, pointed questions. The same for effective questioning during oral argument--part of why Justice Breyer's questions are so incomprehensible and impossible to wade through is all the crap surrounding the question--which is usually just "respond to what I just rambled about for 3 transcript pages." It also what effective classroom teachers do, guiding the discussion with singular pointed and precise questions.
The result in journalism and law is the same: If the question is memorable because so beautifully and intricately phrased, the answer will not be memorable--because it will not have gotten a meaningful answer or even any answer, at the least not the one the questioner was hoping for.
Update: Needless to say, this also would make confirmation hearings far more bearable.
Whose money is it, anyway?
A manager's amendment to AHCA was submitted on Monday, containing several changes designed to get conservative and Freedom Caucus members on board. Under the new legislation, people will not be able to roll unused tax credits into health savings accounts. This change was made as a sop to anti-choice activists, who argued (as far as I can tell) that allowing tax credits to be placed in individual's HSAs would be for government funds to, potentially, be used for abortions. This is on top of a provision that prohibits tax credits from being used to purchase insurance plans that cover abortion.
But in Arizona Christian School Tuition Org. v. Winn, the Court rejected Establishment Clause taxpayer standing in a challenge to a state scheme of giving tax credits to individuals in the precise amount of their contributions to organizations that gave scholarships to students attending religious private schools. The linchpin of the Court's analysis was that the tax credit was not an expenditure of government funds, because the money never passed into government hands--it was money that the government never collected because it lowered that individual's tax bill (for whatever reason). There was no Flast standing to challenge what amounted to charitable expenditures by private individuals.
But doesn't it follow that these restrictions on the use of tax credits are imposing restrictions on the use of private funds (in a way that arguably constitutes an undue burden). The government is lowering the tax bill for individuals, but then limiting how that individual can spend their own money.
What am I missing?
Friday, March 10, 2017
The forgotten police shooting?
The latest episode of NPR's Embedded explores the shooting of Jonathan Ferrell by a Charlotte police officer in 2013. This was the prototype for the many "officer-involved shootings" around which Black Lives Matter has grown: Part of the encounter (not the actual shots, though) was captured on dashcam; the officer described fear of an unarmed black man impervious to weapons with "holograms" for eyes; the jury hung (8-4 in favor of acquittal, split roughly along racial lines) based on seeing different things in the video and the state did not retry; the officer resigned; and the city settled (for about $ 2.5 million).
First, the show explores the ambiguity of video evidence and the fact that different people see different things in the video. It notes the demographic correlations, but no more than that. The producers did not talk to Dan Kahan or about his studies of how people view and understand video evidence and the demographic connections. They instead let everything stand on one person's comments that "people see what they want to see," which is a simplistic way of describing a complicated process of perception and cognition that Kahan has tried to explain.
Second, Ferrell has somewhat become the forgotten police-shooting victim. In writing about police shootings and video the past few years, my paradigms are always the post-Ferguson victims--Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Walter Scott. I had not thought about the Ferrell case until I heard the program.
Third, I wonder what we should make of Ferrell settling for $ 2.5 million in 2015, whereas McDonald's settled for $ 5 million and Scott's and Garner's families settled for more than $ 6. Why the difference? Has the post-Ferguson environment created a settlement premium in these cases?
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
JOTWELL: Malveaux on Selmi and Tsakos on the effects of Wal-Mart v. Dukes
The new Courts Law essay comes from Suzette Malveaux (Catholic), reviewing Michael Selmi & Sylvia Tsakos, Employment Discrimination Class Actions After Wal-Mart v. Dukes (Akron L. Rev.), which argues that Wal-Mart has not been the feared death knell for employment-discrimination class actions.
Saturday, March 04, 2017
Maybe it is seniority
Early in last week's argument in Packingham v. North Carolina, the Chief "called on" Justice Ginsburg over Justice Kagan. It does appear that the answer to who gets precedence is seniority. Which makes sense, given how everything else runs in that institution.
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
Thanks to our February visitors, who may be sticking around for a few more days. Thanks especially to our symposium participants, who definitely will be around for a few more days. That seems to have worked well and we look forward to doing more things like this in the future.
Welcome to our March visitors: Seth Cavis (UC-Irvine), David Fontana (George Washington), Jack Harrison (Northern Kentucky-Chase), and Brad Snyder (Wisconsin).
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Rugby and the Infield Fly Rule?
I do not understand rugby well enough (really, at all) to fully analyze or deconstruct this play that has many people up in arms. But it raises the question of a limiting rule for that sport, a la the Infield Fly Rule in baseball.
As I understand it: When a player is tackled, the tackler must let go and move away from the tackled player, while the tackled player gives up possession by trying to play the ball back to his teammate. The players nearby will then try to stand over the ball to gain possession. When that happens, a "ruck" is formed; groups of players from both teams stand and push each other, trying to heel the ball back out of the ruck or allow a teammate to reach in and pull it out. When the ruck forms, teams must get onside, so everyone not in the ruck must be back and between the ruck and the goal they are defending.
In a game between England and Italy (video in link), Italy, for strategic reasons, never formed a ruck after tackling an English player. The Italian players backed away and let England keep possession. But this also meant that Italy's players did not have to get onside on the other side because there was no ruck--they could wait behind the ball, in the area to which an English ball carrier wanted to pass the ball (the ball only can be passed laterally or backwards in rugby). It took England a while to adjust to the strategy and allowed underdog Italy to stay in the game for awhile. At one point in the Deadspin video, an English player asks the referee what they should do and the ref responds that he is not the coach and they should figure it out. This is all lawful (there is not obligation to form a ruck), but the English coach complained that it is "not rugby."
But does it demand a limiting rule a la the Infield Fly? Based on my limited understanding of how rugby works, I think the answer is no.First, Italy does appear to be acting contrary to ordinary athletic expectations within the game. Teams ordinarily want to form a ruck because that is the way to get the ball back and the only way to score points, which is the goal of the game.
But the second and third prongs suggest no special rule is necessary. This is not a one-sided, extraordinarily disparate cost-benefit exchange. Rather, both teams are gain something and surrender something on the play: England retains possession, although facing a confusing defensive situation; Italy surrenders possession, but keeps itself in a better defensive posture. Relatedly, England is not powerless to counter the strategy, as shown in the second half. Teams can find a way to get someone open to pass backward. Teams also can kick the ball forward, which they might be better able to do, since so many defenders are now behind the ball. Given the absence of these two prongs, this is not a situation, like the infield-fly, in which the equities of the game demand a rule change.
Instead, this seems to be another example (along with responses to hacking in the NBA) of an aesthetic concern--that deploying this strategy is not playing the game the "right way." Or not playing the game at all, if you believe England's coach that this is not rugby. Sports will enact rules to limit strategy for aesthetic reasons, even if not necessary to maintain cost-benefit balance and equity.
Monday, February 27, 2017
Qualified Immunity meets advisory opinions
One of my students flagged the Fifth Circuit decision in Turner v. Driver from two weeks ago. A divided panel held that the right to video-record police and police stations from the public sidewalk was not clearly established in September 2015. The court then went on to say:
Because the issue continues to arise in the qualified immunity context, we now proceed to determine it for the future. We conclude that First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent demonstrate that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.
That section of the opinion was even titled "Whether the Right Is Clearly Established Henceforth."
There has always been something advisory-opinionish about the qualified immunity analysis. The court addresses the merits and finds a violation, but does not impose liability in this casebecause the right was not clearly established. Instead, that merits analysis serves (perhaps) to clearly establish the right for the next case, at least the next case involving largely similar facts.
But the majority here seems to have crossed over into a pure advisory statement of abstract legal principles. It was not even purporting to do a merits-first analysis (and not just because this part came after the clearly established prong). The court did not find that the officers violated Turner's rights in this case. Rather, it simply announced a First Amendment right to record in public (subject to reasonable time, place, manner restrictions), devoid of any facts or details to the case at hand. And the court did so expressly because the issue would continue to arise in the qualified immunity context, where courts otherwise would continually have to deny liability because the right would forever remain not clearly established. Of course, the need to establish constitutional law is one reason that courts may and often should abide by the merits-first approach, even if not mandatory. This goes beyond that--law divorced from any facts or any violation in the case at hand.
Moreover, it is not clear the majority did or could achieve what it wanted to do. As the dissent argued, future cases must look to factually similar cases for the clearly established analysis, not general principles of law. But the facts were not part of the analysis here. Thus, the dissent argues, "[b]ecause the majority does not hold that the officers actually violated the First Amendment, 'an officer acting under similar circumstances”' in the future will not have violated any clearly established law."
It is good to have another circuit weighing in on the First Amendment right to record. But the way the court got there was procedurally odd.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
One more from Hernandez v. Mesa
The following exchange occurred toward the end of Petitioner's argument:
Justice Alito asked whether a plaintiff would have a § 1983 action if the shooter had been a state or local police officer; petitioner's attorney responded "You would not have a claim over the State officer, but if you don't --but a Bivens claim--a constitutional Bivens claim could apply to the State officer."
Did counsel misspeak? Or is he arguing that a plaintiff can enforce the Fourteenth Amendment (including the incorporated Fourteenth Amendment) through a Bivens action in situations in which § 1983 runs out (as everyone seems to accept here, where § 1983 protects citizens and "other person[s] within the jurisdiction thereof")? And can that be right, certainly descriptively, under the Court's recent Bivens jurisprudence, where § 1983 would be an alternative remedy?
The Ringer looks at the many, many lawyers who have gone on the Bachelor/Bachelorette, including the upcoming bachelorette.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Hernandez v. Mesa argument
Just finished the argument in Hernandez v. Mesa (shooting across the Mexican border). A couple quick notes:
The argument was dominated by Justices Breyer and Kagan, with fewer questions from the Chief or Kennedy and even fewer from Justice Alito, who I would have expected to challenge the petitioner more than he did. On that note: At one point, the transcript shows Kagan beginning to ask a question when the Chief jumped in to call on Justice Kennedy (who, according to the transcript, had not begun to say anything). I want to hear it on audio. The Chief often plays traffic cop during arguments,* although this was the first time I have seen him do it without an apparent verbal signal that someone was trying to speak.
[*] An interesting research question: Is he more likely to "call on" a male Justice, especially over a female Justice? It feels that way from the individual examples I notice. I wonder if a regularized study would bear that out.
Qualified immunity was not discussed much, only a couple of questions from the Chief and Kennedy. One of them asked whether qualified immunity accounts for different plaintiffs--that is, if case law establishes that X violates the Constitution, can courts distinguish that precedent (to find the right not clearly established) when the identity of the plaintiff subjected to X is different.
Finally, Kagan and Breyer both pushed back against the idea that Bivens must be "extended," at least for Fourth Amendment excessive-force claims to recognize a cause of action. Kagan suggested that Bivens should be understood as allowing Fourth Amendment claims unless it arises in the military context. And Kagan pushed hard on the absence of an alternative remedy here, seeming to suggest that we should not even look at special factors if the plaintiff is left entirely without a remedy. These ideas, if followed, would pull the Court back from where it has gone with Bivens in the past two decades, similar to the vision Justice Ginsburg espoused in her dissent in Wilkie v. Robbins.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Third Annual Civil Procedure Workshop (Reposted)
The following is re-posted on behalf of Brooke Coleman (Seattle), David Marcus (Arizona), and Elizabeth Porter (Washington).
We are excited to announce the third annual Civil Procedure Workshop, to be co-hosted by the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law, the University of Washington School of Law, and Seattle University School of Law. The CPW will be held at the University of Arizona in Tucson on November 3-4, 2017.
The CPW gives both emerging and established civil procedure scholars an opportunity to gather with colleagues and present their work to an expert audience. Scholars will present their papers in small panel sessions. A senior scholar will moderate each panel and lead the commentary. In addition to paper presentations, we intend to engage members of the judiciary and federal civil rulemaking bodies in discussions about current developments in procedure. Our ongoing goal is for the CPW to strengthen the study of procedure as an academic discipline, and to deepen ties among the academy, rulemakers, and the judiciary.
Confirmed participants for 2017 include the Hon. David Campbell, Allen Erbsen, Margaret Lemos, Troy McKenzie, Mark Moller, the Hon. Lee Rosenthal, Elizabeth Schneider, Norman Spaulding, and Beth Thornburg. We welcome all civil procedure scholars to attend. Those wishing to present a paper for discussion should submit a two-page abstract by March 1, 2017. While we welcome papers from both emerging and senior scholars, preference may be given to those who have been teaching for less than ten years. We will select papers to be presented by April 15, 2017. Please send all submissions or related questions to Dave Marcus.
The CPW will provide meals for registrants. Participants must cover travel and lodging costs. We will provide information about reasonably priced hotels as the date approaches. Feel free to contact us with questions.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Burning your own cross on your own lawn?
A couple in Stamford, CT had a racial slur spray-painted on their garage door. Convinced that the police are not doing enough to investigate the incident, they have refused to paint-over or cover the word. In response, the town is moving to cite them for having blighted property, which would result in a fine of $100/day. The NAACP has gotten involved, although the stories do not (yet) mention the First Amendment.
That citation and fine should raise First Amendment problems. Although the blight ordinance is content-neutral, leaving the word on the garage is expressive in several respects: 1) the word has obvious political content; 2) the homeowners can be seen as reappropriating someone else's hate speech;and 3) the purpose behind their actions is itself expressive, as an act of protest against what they see as police wrongdoing. Plus, the blight ordinance is not being applied content-neutrally here--the conclusion that the garage is blighted is justified only with reference to the content or message expressed by that word.
Intentional walks and limiting rules
Major League Baseball announced agreement on a rule change under which intentional walks will now require only a signal from the dugout, rather than the pitcher intentionally throwing four pitches wide of the plate and the catcher's box. The goal is to shorten games, although given how infrequent intentional walks are (one every 2.6 games last season), the effect will be minimal.
Intentional walks are one of the plays cited by critics of the Infield Fly Rule as an analogous play, with one team intentionally acting contrary to the game's ordinary expectations. My response has been twofold: 1) The cost-benefit imbalance is not one-sided and not disparate, as both teams incur costs and receive benefits (the batting team gets the benefit of a baserunner, at the cost of not having a good hitter bat, while the fielding team incurs the cost of a baserunner with the benefit of a more favorable batter and base-out situation), and 2) the batting team could counter the strategy by declining the intentional walk and trying to get a hit by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone (or if the pitcher mistakenly leaves a pitch too close to the plate).
The rule change eliminates the second piece--the batting team can do nothing to prevent the intentional walk. Nevertheless, because the play involves an equitable cost-benefit exchange, it is not analogous to the infield-fly situation and thus does not warrant a limiting rule (or undermine the existence of the Infield Fly Rule).
Update: This, on everything wrong with the rule change.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
JOTWELL: Lahav on Coffee on entrepreneurial litigation
The new Courts Law essay comes from Alexandra Lahav (U Conn), reviewing John C. Coffee, Entrepreneurial Litigation: Its Rise, Fall, and Future (Harvard University Press). Very timely book and review, with aggregate litigation again in the crosshairs.
Friday, February 17, 2017
The Ringer's Bryan Curtis has a great piece describing the evolution of sportswriting into a liberal profession and sportswriters into a group of liberal professionals. I have thought about this in connection with athlete speech and political activism. If you go back to what many regard as the heyday of athlete activism, especially black athlete activism (the mid-'60s through early '70s, with Ali, Flood, Brown, Carlos, Smith, etc.), the opinions of sportswriters ran overwhelmingly and angrily against the athletes. Perhaps to a greater degree than Curtis describes in the piece. Worth a read
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Acosta nominated as Secretary of Labor
Alexander Acosta, my dean at FIU College of Law since 2009, has been nominated (and will almost certainly be confirmed, possibly overwhelmingly) as Secretary of Labor. When we hired Alex, I predicted out loud that we would have him until a Republican was next in the White House. Turns out, I was right. I predicted/hoped that it would be 2021 rather than 2017. And I predicted/expected we would lose him to DOJ as Attorney General or to the federal bench; Labor never crossed my mind, despite his time at the NLRB.
Alex had what I believe should be regarded as a very successful deanship. The quality and success of our students has improved dramatically; we are ranked in the mid-50s on US News (yeah, I know) for student quality and job placement and we have topped Florida in bar passage the past three cycles. (Scholarly reputation is nearly immovable, although he supported programs to help on that front). He managed us through the financial and application drop--our applications have been up or down less than national averages most years. The only thing I predicted back in 2009 that he might do, but has not, was find a naming-rights donor. But those do not grow on trees.
I was skeptical of hiring a non-academic dean at the beginning. It turned out we were on the leading edge of a trend that numerous similar schools followed. He brought a unique skill set (notably the ability to recruit and support students) that is not easy to find or replicate and it did wonders for the school.
He will be missed, but I wish him all the best.
Whittington on Trump and the courts
This Balkinization piece by Keith Whittington. I have been trying to figure out why Trump's comments about the judiciary have rankled, especially given my (newfound) adherence to departmentalism. Keith's answer is that they are content-free and rest on a rejection of judicial authority (and an attempt to scapegoat judges for whatever might happen in the future), rather than a substantive critique of why the judiciary, while authorized, was wrong.
Monday, February 13, 2017
CFP: 2d Annual Ad Law New Scholarship Roundtable
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law is pleased to host the Second Annual Administrative Law New Scholarship Roundtable on June 27-28, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.
The Roundtable is the creation of four schools—Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and University of Wisconsin—each of which has committed to hosting the Roundtable during one of the first four years of the Roundtable.
The Roundtable will bring together a mix of emerging and established scholars to present new work on Administrative Law. Participants will present their papers in small panel sessions designed to foster rich discussions with experts in the field and contribute to a vibrant Administrative Law community. Each panel will be led by a distinguished scholar who will facilitate the discussion. Confirmed commentators currently include Emily Hammond (George Washington), Lisa Heinzerling (Georgetown), Jon Michaels (UCLA), Nick Parrillo (Yale), Peter Shane (Ohio State), Cathy Sharkey (NYU), and Glen Staszewski (Michigan State). In addition to the paper panels, a lunch program will address current issues in Administrative Law and institutional resources for empirical research projects.
Scholars wishing to participate in the Roundtable and present a paper must submit a one-to-two-page abstract by Friday, March 17, 2017. Applicants should include their title, institutional affiliation, and number of years teaching in the academy. Preference will be given to those who have been teaching nine years or less in a tenure-track position. Abstracts should be sent to Chris Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact Chris Walker or Peter Shane with any questions you may have about the Roundtable.
The Roundtable will provide meals for all participants. Participants must cover their own travel and lodging costs. We will reserve a block of reasonably priced rooms at a local hotel in advance of the Roundtable.
Administrative Law New Scholarship Roundtable Host Committee
- Nicholas Bagley, University of Michigan
- Michael Sant’Ambrogio, Michigan State University
- Miriam Seifter, University of Wisconsin
- Peter Shane, The Ohio State University
- Glen Staszewski, Michigan State University
- Christopher Walker, The Ohio State University
Friday, February 10, 2017
The process of challenging the travel order
The litigation in Washington v. Trump has become politically confused following Thursday's decision by the Ninth Circuit.
The district court issued a Temporary Restraining Order; while it was entered following an adversary hearing, it was on light briefing and without an evidentiary hearing. It was designed to maintain the status quo until there could be briefing and a an evidentiary hearing on a preliminary injunction, although the briefing schedule was set so that the TRO would last more than the 14 days allowed by FRCP 65(b)(2), although not substantially more than that. The order was, as many have noted, bare-bones and conclusory in the constitutional analysis, as befits a TRO.
The United States appealed, although it was not clear what or how. TROs are not subject to immediate appeal, although preliminary injunctions are. The purpose of the appeal appears to have been to get the Ninth Circuit to stay the district court order.
The Ninth Circuit panel recast the TRO as a PI (pursuant to Ninth Circuit precedent allowing the court of appeals to look through the label), granting it appellate jurisdiction, then denied the stay pending appeal. The Ninth Circuit has set a briefing schedule for the appeal (running into March), so we are done at the district court, at least at the preliminary injunction stage. At the same time, the panel left open the possibility that the merits panel could revisit the issue, decide this is really a TRO and that there is no appellate jurisdiction, kicking it back to the district court for the evidentiary hearing it was trying to hold. There also is the possibility that the Ninth Circuit panel will decide that it cannot review the decision without an evidentiary record and remand for that hearing.So consider where this leaves us: The case is in the Ninth Circuit to review a bare-bones order, entered without an evidentiary hearing and without giving an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing. This means, as described by one professor on the Civ Pro Listserv, the appeal will be nothing more than a replay of the stay motion with longer and more drawn-out briefing (and with the burden of persuasion shifted to the State), but with nothing more in the record to review. This reflects an insight Samuel Bray has made in his work criticizing nationwide injunctions--if the courts see their role as deciding whether to "strike down" a statute, then the narrow, party-specific work in the district court becomes less important. And litigants may view it that way, as well.
It did not have to proceed this way. The United States could have instead sought a Writ of Mandamus, which would have allowed the Ninth Circuit to look at the TRO to determine whether it was egregiously wrong, without being a run-of-the-mill appeal. And it could have done that without having to manufacture appellate jurisdiction, review a cursory order entered without a full record, or waste time remanding to obtain that full record. But the U.S. seemed so anxious to be able to enforce the E.O. pendent lite that it blew through many of these details.
A nice question to consider: Where did the decision to pursue the appeal in this way come from? At the time, there was no AG and no SG. So did the instructions and oversight come from the White House?
Monday, February 06, 2017
Criticizing v. Threatening--wither the line?
Where is the line between criticizing the judiciary and engaging in threats that potentially undermine the independence of the judiciary? That is the question following Donald Trump's tweets over the challenge to the travel order--where he first referred to District Judge James Robart as a "so-called judge," then said Robart and the judicial system had put the country in peril and would be to blame if there were a terrorist attack while enforcement of the order is enjoined. Will Baude, Eric Posner, and profs on various listservs have decried this as a genuine threat--undermining judicial independence and possibly inciting mob violence against judges should anything happen.*
[*] Threats aside, the comments also rest on a false premise--that there has been a dramatic increase in travel to the United States since the TRO was entered or that the TRO prohibits all vetting and discretion in issuing visas or accepting refugees.
I agree that this is a wrong and intemperate way to criticize a court, a judge, and a judicial ruling and a wiser President would tone it down, focusing on the correctness of the decision rather than whether the judge was acting as a judge and thus had the power to render that decision (Will's point). But I am not convinced this reflects a threat or a shot across the bow of an independent judiciary. Nor am I convinced by how bound up the comments are with whether Trump might disobey or disregard a judicial order. Trump could disobey the order without verbally attacking the judge. These tweets perhaps prime the public to support and accept his disobedience, because they have been primed to understand the decision as non-judicial and thus not entitled to obedience. But they are not a necessary condition for a presidential showdown with the courts, should Trump choose to have one.
On the other hand, I worry that in seeing the President's tweets as so much noise that should not be taken seriously, I am falling into the very trap that a would-be authoritarian President needs--missing efforts to undermine the judiciary before it is too late.
Saturday, February 04, 2017
Nationwide TRO bars enforcement of immigration order (Updated)
A judge on the Western District of Washington has issued a nationwide Temporary Restraining Order barring enforcement of the main provisions of President Trump's immigration executive order. The order is short (7 pages) and cursory and lasts only until the parties can brief the preliminary injunction, which presumably will receive fuller analysis. Josh Blackman has a quick analysis, with which I basically agree. At the same time, a judge in the District of Massachusetts refused to extend the TRO issued on an emergency basis last weekend.
Some quick highlights:
The lawsuit was brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota. The court seemingly accorded them parens patriae standing, although courts generally do not allow states to assert their citizens' rights--Virginia tried unsuccessfully to use it to challenge the Affordable Care Act). The court also finds harm to the state itself, through its public universities, tax bases, operations, and public funds.
Standing to one side, I cannot see how the EO violates the rights of either State. The constitutional defects in the EO are that it violates the First and Fifth Amendment rights of those who would be kept out of the country. So this must be third-party standing on behalf of residents, although I do not yet see the connection between either state and the rights-holders (apart from through parens patriae). As with the other TROs that have issued, the focus is far more on irreparable harm and far less on the merits. Maybe in the early days that is appropriate. But the success of these lawsuits seems to rest on courts finding that the government's power over immigration is less than it was 100 years ago, because rights of equality and religious freedom are greater than they were then. Perhaps they are. But there needs to be more discussion of this following a fuller hearing and more time.
The judge made the order nationwide (more accurately, universal), rejecting the government's argument that the order should be limited only to the two states, citing Texas v. US and the need for uniform immigration rules. The politics of who is seeking and defending these universal injunctions to one side, the need for uniformity cannot justify such orders. Disuniformity pendent lite is an inevitable, perhaps even intended, consequence of dividing the lower courts regionally. Different lower courts might disagree on the same issues, producing momentarily different law in different places. Uniformity arrives at the end of the day from SCOTUS, which is why the Framers mandated that Court at the top. If one regional district court (or one regional court of appeals reviewing that regional district court) has the power to resolve the issue for the entire country, there would be no need for SCOTUS; uniformity would come from whichever court got there (and ruled against the government) first. While this does create some possible confusion and uncertainty in the interim, which would look bad to the public, I do not see how you avoid that problem without altering the nature of regional courts and judicial remedies.
For what it is worth, I am less troubled than Josh is by Washington arguing for a universal injunction, when it explicitly argued against that in the Texas DACA litigation. This is why we have presumptively transsubstantive rules--so repeat players who might find themselves on either side of a dispute cannot sit on rules favoring one side or another.
As expected, the White House responded in its usual reasoned and even-handed way. A WH statement decried the "outrageous" order, although quickly re-issued the statement without the adjective. The President himself was not so reserved--he tweeted (and did not delete) about the "so-called judge" issuing the "ridiculous" opinion. Ah, the new "conversation among the branches." [Update: The President also cannot understand why the lawyers are not "looking at and using" the order from the District of Massachusetts. I assume Bannon or Miller will calmly explain binding v. persuasive authority to our fearless leader.]
Josh reports that the government is working on an appeal to the Ninth Circuit and SCOTUS. Note that this is not an appeal of the TRO itself (which is not subject to immediate review), but seeking a stay of the TRO. The analysis is similar, but not the same.
Update: The United States has appealed. It appears the argument is that this is a de facto preliminary injunction, even though designated as a TRO. Ninth Circuit precedent allows the court of appeals to look below the label, especially where the order lasts more than 14 days. Alternatively, the government may try to turn the appeal into a petition for writ of mandamus, a frequent end-run for interlocutors appeals. It appears that no stay was sought.
Update: The Ninth Circuit treated the appeal as a request for stay of the TRO. It denied the request for an immediate administrative stay, then ordered briefing by Monday of the request for a stay pending appeal. Beyond the stay request, it is not yet clear how the court of appeals is characterizing the district court's order and how that affects appellate jurisdiction.
Friday, February 03, 2017
More on Eight is Enough--the Appointments Process
Some further thoughts on Eric Segall's proposal for an eight-person, even-partisan-divided Supreme Court. I believe it produces a functioning Supreme Court, so the objections that it cannot work--that it will create disuniformity and uncertainty in federal law--are overstated. But it does not resolve problems in the appointments process, leaving in place gamesmanship and perverse incentives that may create more. I alluded to these in my JOTWELL essay and want to flesh them out further.
Broadly speaking, Eric's proposal has four pieces (put aside how to codify this): Eight Justices; no more than four Justices from either major party and each seat must be filled by a member of that same party; 2/3 supermajority to appoint an independent or someone who refuses to disclose her party affiliation (to leave open the possibility of a highly qualified independent); approval by a majority of members on the Senate Judiciary Committee from the nominee's party.
One goal of the plan is to fix the appointments process. The theory is that because no appointment shifts the Court's ideological balance, the stakes are not as high. A Justice of one party always will be replaced by a Justice of the same party, with only a difference of degree depending on the party of the appointing President. Segall also hopes it will produce less ideological Justices--as a President of one party will seek out a moderate from the other.
The problem is that an ideological balance remains at stake with the appointment, just in reverse--while a seat is vacant, there is a 4-3 Court, tilted to one side ideologically. And that may affect the desire to appoint or confirm anyone at all or how willing an actor in the appointments process is to negotiate over a Justice from the opposite party.
After the jump, thoughts on how the game might play out in four situations, all with a President from Party A. The game changes depending on four variables. The result might not be what we expect.Situation I: Senate Majority A, Justice A: This is the situation of maximum political control. The A's can appoint whoever they want and probably will look for an extremely A Justice. The only check is a B filibuster, but I do not expect the filibuster to survive the Gorsuch nomination. Franky, this is the only situation in which confirmation is possible anymore. Segall's proposal might not change that.
Situation II: Senate Majority A, Justice B. This is the situation that theoretically produces more-moderate, less-ideological nominees, as the President and Senate Majority look for the least B-ish/most A-ish B Justice they can find (a BINO--B In Name Only--if you will). The requirement that a majority of the B members of the Judiciary Committee approve the nominee tempers this somewhat, producing someone within the B mainstream.
But another perverse incentive arises here. As long as that B seat remains empty, there is a 4-3 Court with an A majority. President A (and Senate A) probably like that status quo and would be happy to maintain it as long as possible. This gives them an incentive to delay--or avoid altogether--any nomination or confirmation. It also gives them incentive to play hardball with the B members of the Judiciary Committee--accept our BINO or we are happy to leave the seat open and retain the partisan advantage.
Situation III: Senate Majority B, Justice A. Now the President and Senate majority at odds, with the B-majority Senate happy to keep the seat open, prompting the President to nominate a less A-ish Justice who is acceptable to the B Senate. This reflects the current system in periods of divided government, with Presidents often nominating a less-preferred choice to appease the opposing party in the Senate (think Anthony Kennedy or, perhaps, Merrick Garland--we do not know what Obama was thinking there). But the Senate holds greater power, because it benefits more from the vacancy in this new scheme than under the current system. It can and might hold out for an especially less-A-ish Justice on threat of not confirming anyone, preferring the partisan status quo to the evenly divided norm. (Of course, that threat has always been present with divided government--but 2016 showed that the threat is real).
Situation IV: Senate Majority B, Justice B. This is the flip of III, with the President lacking real incentive to fill the vacancy, happy to retain the 4-3 A Court. This gives him greater power to appoint a less-B-ish Justice., again with the take-it-or-leave-it position of not needing the vacancy filled if the B-majority Senate will not yield to his preferences.
So where does this leave us? In periods of divided government, power rests with any actor (President or Senate) from the opposite party of the seat to be filled, because he/they have no incentive to fill it. They can hold out for the least opposite-party Justice they can get, knowing that the vacancy status-quo favors their preferences. Or they can decide not to fill the vacancy at all by refusing to confirm anyone. In periods of unified government, actors will always be able to get the most their-party Justice, because nothing other than a filibuster will stop them. And they can get the least other-party Justice, because their lack of incentive to fill the vacancy allows them to overbear the limited check granted the other-party minority. In all, the new system either leaves existing or creates new perverse incentives that might break the appointments process further.
Power to limit such gamesmanship comes from the Court itself, in two ways. First, a retiring Justice can make her retirement effective on confirmation of a successor. This prevents that 4-3 split, even temporarily. But this is impossible if the vacancy is an unexpected one due to death, illness, or disability.
Second, the Court could limit by internal rule the decisions and judgments it will render in the event of a vacancy. For example: "In the event of a vacancy, the Court only can render judgment if five Justices [the number necessary to decide on an eight-person Court] agree; otherwise, the Court will DIG the case or hold it until back to full eight-Justice strength." The result is that no party benefits ideologically from a vacancy, because there can be no 4-3 purely partisan decisions. So both parties have incentive to make an appointment as expeditiously as possible, subject to (normal) negotiations over how A-ish or B-ish the Justice will be. It levels the bargaining positions between the President and Senate majority in times of divided government and between the President and the opposite-party Judiciary Committee members on an opposite-party appointment.
Unfortunately, such a rule would require the Court to take a position on a political controversy, something the Court (particularly this Chief) has been reluctant to do.
JOTWELL: Wasserman on Segall on Eight is Enough
I have the new Courts Law essay, reviewing Eric Segall's Eight Justices Are Enough: A Proposal to Improve the United States Supreme Court, which proposes codifying the current eight-Justice/even partisan divide on the Court.
We moved up publication on this piece to time it with the Gorsuch nomination, which either spells the death knell for the proposal or gives it life. I remain unsure whether I am sold on Segall's plan as a normatively best design or whether it just looks good compared with the political alternative. But it has some genuine merit. Iwill have more to say in a second post.
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
Framing the coming debate on the Gorsuch nomination
Neil Gorsuch will be on the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, speaking purely as a political partisan, I would like to see Democrats filibuster the nomination and force Republicans to own the decision to eliminate the procedure. Or that both sides agree to end the arms race and adopt Eric Segall's plan to hold the Court at eight.
But the framing of the strategy is going to be essential. It is too easy to say (as the press already is saying) that a filibuster is extraordinary and unprecedented and this would be only the second time it has happened. Forget that the filibuster of Fortas's nomination as Chief was bi-partisan and done when the filibuster was an extraordinary step (as in the then-fresh filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), rather than a routine part of Senate business producing a de facto super-majority requirement. The year 1968 was the dark ages for Supreme Court confirmations and filibusters, no longer a meaningful historical analogue.
Similarly, the argument has to be more than that the seat was "stolen" from President Obama and Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans did not merely deny Garland a hearing, but did so for a purported principle--a President should not fill a SCOTUS vacancy in an election year/in the final year of his term (although I have never been clear whether that was the final year of a term or only in the final only of a second term).*
[*] That was the stated principle; I am not saying I believe it. Mitch McConnell would have led the Republicans to do the same thing had Scalia died on December 13, 2015 or August 13, 2015 (when the Republicans were already holding primary debates). Or, frankly, anytime after the 2014 mid-terms.
So the Democrats need to find their own principle beyond tit-for-tat.One principle is that, given longevity, the central role of the Supreme Court in the legal and political scheme, and the increasing polarization in society, Justices must command super-majority support to be confirmed. True, this principle is not found in Article III or history and the lone example of a filibuster shows it has not been used in this context. But the "no election-year confirmations" principle also had no basis in Article III and ignored a history of election-year appointments (including 100 years prior, the confirmation of Louis Brandeis). The (new) rules of the game do not appear to estop a Senate caucus from adhering to new principles; the only question is whether the principle sticks, as the GOP's move did, or not, as will happen when Senate Republicans eliminate the filibuster for SCOTUS nominations.
I would add that this principle flies less in the face of text than McConnell's. The idea of no appointments in the final year disregards that a President serves for four years (January 20, Year 1-January 20, Year 5) and that vested in him for the entire four years is the executive power, including the power to make appointments. McConnell's principle essentially says that power runs out sometime earlier, although it is not clear when (again, I expect it would be Election Day of Year 2).
Alternatively, Mark Tushnet suggests a principle of no appointments by a President who lost the popular vote. It last happened 1893, when lame-duck Republican Benjamin Harrison appointed a Democrat a month before newly (re-) elected Democrat Grover Cleveland took office. Again, however, we have had other election-year appointments in our history (and most more recently than 1893), all of which Republicans ignored last year.
Ultimately, the principle I believe we end with* is this: No one will be appointed to the Supreme Court except where the President and Senate majority are of the same political party. I do not necessarily believe that is a normatively good principle. But it is functionally where we now found ourselves in the current political circumstance.
[*] This assumes the Democrats decline to filibuster to save it for another day, which would be politically stupid. But then, Senate Democrats . . .
Update: But see Richard Primus' argument that the real threat is Donald Trump, not a judicial nominee who might have come from any Republican President.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Holocaust, Shoah, and unique group experiences
Lost amidst President Trump's offending Muslims the world over was his offending many Jews with his Holocaust Remembrance Day Statement. The statement spoke of the "depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people," without mentioning that more than half of those, the primary targets, and the raison d'être of the Nazi efforts, were Jews. Spokesperson Hope Hicks defended the statement by pointing to the 5 million victims of other groups, including "priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah's Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters." Chief of Staff Reince Priebus tried to do the same on Meet the Press on Sunday, producing a fascinating three minutes of video (after the jump) in which he stares blankly ahead while concocting a word soup of adjectives to describe the Holocaust, including "horrible event," "miserable time in history," and "extraordinarily sad." All without ever saying, explicitly (as opposed to blandly agreeing with Chuck Todd's premises) that Jews were the central victims.
Jewish groups were outraged. Stripping away its uniquely Jewish nature is an element of denial--"many people died, not only Jews, and it entailed nothing programmatic or unique to history. And it divorces the event from 2000 years of unique anti-Semitism that made it possible. Fortunately, Preibus reminded us that Trump has Jewish family members, which will be his get-out-of-jail-free card for the next few years.
The question of universalizing affects what we even call this thing. I prefer the Hebrew word "Shoah" (literally, "destruction" or "total destruction"), although that word could isolate the event, and its victims, from the rest of the world and of world experience (not unaided by that historic anti-Semitism). On the other hand, a generic English word such as "Holocaust" allows for the Jewish element to be ignored, perhaps for those same reasons, just as Trump did here.
Updates: First is Deborah Lipstadt in the Atlantic, labeling this "de-Judaization of the Holocaust" as "softcore denialism."
Second is WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who was beyond annoyed by people nitpicking of the statement, insisting it had been "praised" (without mentioning by whom) and arguing that President Obama's "anti-Israel" policies of the last eight years are a bigger deal than a statement remembering the Holocaust. Three remarks. First, Spicer makes me long for Ari Fleischer. Second, every statement from the White House trying to defuse this keeps coming back, without acknowledging (or maybe even recognizing), the problem--that the statement is troubling because its memory of the Holocaust is historically wrong in significant ways that play on anti-Semitism. And third, the downshift of how much Trump loves Israel, because: 1) Israel is not the Holocaust and 2) what Trump loves is Benjamin Netanyahu and his government--which is not "Israel" in the same way that Donald Trump is not "America."