Tuesday, May 30, 2017

SCOTUS Symposium: More recusals

Leah flags the summary disposition in Jaffe v. Roberts, where all Justices but Gorsuch were the respondents on the petition and all were recused, leaving only Gorsuch to act on the petition. Below that is a second no-quorum affirmance in Arunga v. Obama, in which Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan were recused.

A quick Google search shows that Arunga is a serial crazy litigator, with past lawsuits against President Clinton, Mitt Romney, and the ACLU. So I doubt there was much comprehensibility or merit to the lawsuit. Still, I am curious why those four Justices were recused.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 30, 2017 at 02:10 PM in 2016-17 End of Term, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (3)

SCOTUS Symposium: General jurisdiction narrows further

I am glad we started our June symposium two days early, because the Court issued four of its remaining opinions, including BNSF R. Co. v. Tyrrell, one of two personal jurisdiction cases from the April sitting.

The question was whether a state court (in this case, Montana) can exercise jurisdiction over a FELA claim for an accident that occurred in another state. The Court unanimously (through Justice Ginsburg) held that FELA itself does not answer the question because the possibly relevant statutory provision did not speak to personal jurisdiction, but only to subject matter jurisdiction (making clear concurrent jurisdiction over FELA claims) and venue (for FELA claims in federal court).

The personal jurisdiction analysis therefore was covered by International Shoe. And here was see the same divide (Ginsburg for the Court, Justice Sotomayor dissenting alone) over the scope of general jurisdiction as in Daimler v. Bauman; Part III of the majority and all of the dissent are an in-miniature rehash of Diamler.

The majority reiterates several things: 1) General jurisdiction is where the defendant's contacts are so "continuous and systematic" as to be "essentially at home"; The "paradigm" of the essential home is the entity's principal place of business and state of incorporation; 3) there may be "exceptional" cases in which general jurisdiction will be available outside those two states; 4) a company doing business in many states cannot be home in all of them and the analysis must consider its in-state contacts in light of its overall activities in other states; 5) Shoe was a specific, not general, jurisdiction case, so any discussion of general jurisdiction there is dicta. The Court added something new: It pointed to Perkins as exemplifying a company essentially at home other than its state of creation and P/P/B, hinting (according to Sotomayor's dissent) that this exhausts the exceptional cases and only a similar set of facts* will qualify.

[*]Unlikely, as Japan is unlikely to invade the Philippines.

Thus, 2000 miles of track and 2000 employees in Montana is not sufficient to make BNSF essentially at home, where it is incorporated and has its PPB elsewhere and where it does similar amounts of business in other states.

The significance of this case in reaffirming the narrowness of general jurisdiction may not be clear until the Court decides Bristol-Myers. The narrowing of general jurisdiction has forced courts to find ways to expand when a contact "gives rise" or "relates to" a claim, thereby expanding specific jurisdiction.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 30, 2017 at 10:51 AM in 2016-17 End of Term, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Symposium Introduction: SCOTUS OT 2016

Welcome to the first (hopefully annual) PrawfsBlawg Symposium on the end of the SCOTUS Term. Our guests and regular Prawfs will be exchanging posts and talking to our readers and to one another about the final cases of the Term, as well as other issues relating to the Court.

I will get the conversation started with a few questions for consideration and discussion before the final month begins and we get into the flood of cases:

• By my count, there are 34 cases left to be decided. Which one(s) are you anticipating and why?

• Fourteen of those cases are from the April sitting, the only one in which Justice Gorsuch participated. Besides the obvious--no 4-4 splits--how do you anticipate Justice Gorsuch affecting the outcomes in these cases, compared with how they might have come out were the Court still short-handed? How does Gorsuch appear to have affected the Court's dynamics?

• What pending cert petitions are you watching and why? Which do you expect the Court to grant?

• Is Justice Kennedy going to retire at the end of this Term?

Feel free to start the month by discussing these and other issues not presented here.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 29, 2017 at 07:17 PM in 2016-17 End of Term, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (6)

Rotations

Thanks to Ben and Andrew for visiting in May; they will be around for a couple final days.

For June, we are going to run a symposium on the end of the October 2016 SCOTUS Term. This will be a month-long exchange of posts,  in a conversational and interactive manner; we will be discussing final decisions of the Term as they are released, as well as other issues surrounding the Court, such as new cert grants, the influence of Justice Gorsuch on the Court's dynamics, and the rumors of Justice Kennedy's retirement. We will be talking with you and with one another.

Guest-bloggers are Will Baude (Chicago), Daniel Epps (Wash U), Leah Litman (Irvine), Andra Robertson (Case), Stephen Sachs (Duke), Ian Samuel (Harvard),  and Chris Walker (OSU) [ed: and late additions Joseph Miller (Georgia) and David Fontana (GW)]. In addition, the regular Prawfs who write on SCOTUS issues will be joining in the mix. This is something a little different for us. I think it will be fun and interesting.

Because there may be opinions released on Tuesday, we are going to start a couple days early.

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 29, 2017 at 07:13 PM in 2016-17 End of Term, Blogging, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

In my opinion, my Electoral College margin was 538 votes

The President on Twitter this morning: "It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the media." And "it is very possible that those sources don't exist but are made up by fake news writers." A few commentators have suggested that these hedges signal that Trump has "lawyered up" and has someone in the White House counsel vetting his tweets.

But any lawyer knows that slapping "In my opinion" or "I believe" or similar hedges in front of verifiable assertions does not render them something other than statements of fact. It certainly would not get him out from under defamation liability (presidential immunity to one side). And it probably would not work politically to say that it was only his opinion that the leaks were fabricated when it turns out that these leaks were, in fact, coming from the WH. No good lawyer would think or advice otherwise.

If anything, this sounds like what a non-lawyer would think is enough to create a statement of opinion.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 28, 2017 at 11:53 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Scope of injunction in the 4th Circuit travel ban decision

The Fourth Circuit divided 10-3 in affirming the district court and enjoining the second travel ban. The court agreed to keep the injunction nationwide, but reversed the part of the injunction that ran against the President personally (although the injunction stands as to other federal officials involved in its enforcement). I will leave substantive analysis to others, but check out here, here, here, and here. Given my interests, I want to address two points about the scope of the injunction.

1) The court affirmed the nationwide scope of the injunction and actually gave reasons: Plaintiffs are dispersed throughout the country; congressional desire for uniform immigration law; and an interesting Establishment Clause hook--because the EO violates the Establishment Clause, its enforcement as to anyone sends the identical  message that plaintiffs are outsiders and unwelcome in the community.

The first concern is satisfied by a true nationwide injunction, which is to say an ordinary injunction--protect named plaintiffs everywhere they are. It does not justify this injunction, which is universal--protecting everyone everywhere. The second argument proves too much. Congress wants all federal law to be uniform; that is the point of having federal law in some areas. There is nothing special about immigration law in that respect. That the law might go through periods of disuniformity while courts figure out the meaning and validity of some law is inherent in a tiered federal judiciary and unavoidable, given that SCOTUS does not have original jurisdiction in all constitutional challenges to federal law, meaning any challenge must work its way through multiple (possibly disuniform) courts before SCOTUS can offer a final, uniform conclusion. It does not justify a regional court acting as SCOTUS and having the nationally controlling (even if temporary) word on an issue.

The third argument is interesting and would seem to make the Establishment Clause special for injunction purposes. But that Clause also is special for standing purposes, so it offers an interesting way to tie the front-end standing concerns with back-end remedial concerns.

 2) If the President cannot be enjoined in an Ex Parte Young action such as this one, it really means he is immune from suit, should not be named as a defendant at all, and should have been dismissed from the action at the outset. But he wasn't and courts entertain these lawsuits with the President as a named defendant all the time.

The Fourth Circuit relied on Franklin v. Massachusetts, including Justice Scalia's concurrence. Scalia argued that it was enough to enjoin the Secretary to stop unlawful executive action, just as we enjoin the executive to stop unlawful legislative action. But the reason is that legislators enjoy absolute Speech-or-Debate immunity from all suits for all remedies. In fact, we have EPY at all because of sovereign immunity-- the sovereign (the United States) cannot be sued, so we sue the executive acting on behalf of the sovereign. The President purportedly is not immune, at least not from an injunction, so there should be no reason to look elsewhere. Or, if he is immune, say so and proceed accordingly.

The Fourth Circuit also cites Franklin for the proposition that this does not leave the President free to act unconstitutionally. The secretaries through whom he acts are enjoined. And "[e]ven though the President is not directly bound by the injunction, we assume it is substantially likely that the President . . . would abide by an authoritative interpretation" of the EO.

Why is that so in a departmentalist world? The key to functional departmentalism is the difference between an injunction/judgment and precedent--the President is bound by the former, not by the latter. But if the President cannot be enjoined, there is no way to compel him (beyond persuasion) to the judicial interpretation. I suppose the answer is that the President cannot enforce the EO himself, but only through his secretaries, aides, and federal employees--all of whom are enjoined. Still, it adds an unnecessary step that is inconsistent with EPY, unless the President enjoys an as-yet unrecognized immunity.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 25, 2017 at 05:52 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Another unwarranted universal/nationwide injunction

Last week, Judge Jones of the Western District of Washington issued a nationwide TRO against enforcement of a federal regulation barring attorneys from providing limited limited legal services for otherwise-pro bono litigants in immigration proceedings. The regulation requires attorneys to file a formal appearance as counsel of record in order to provide any representation, something the plaintiff Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, a nonprofit advocacy organization, cannot afford to do in all cases for all clients. NWIRP argued that the regulation violated the First Amendment.

As always, the court made the order nationwide: "Counsel for the Government represented during the hearing on the TRO that it desired to continue issuing cease and desist letters to non-profit organizations providing legal services to immigrants. As such, the Court grants this TRO on a nationwide basis. Therefore, the Court prohibits the enforcement of 8 C.F.R. § 1003.102(t) during the pendency of this TRO on a nationwide basis."

Even if universal injunctions might at times be warranted, this is not one of those times. NWIRP represents clients only in the Pacific Northwest, so it would be sufficiently protected by an injunction prohibiting the issuance of cease-and-desist letters to it in Washington. We could even extend that to the issuance of letters to NWIRP anywhere in the country (a real "nationwide" injunction). But NWIRP's is in no way deprived of complete relief if the government issues C/D letters to any other lawyers or nonprofit organizations anywhere else in the country. There is no reason, and no basis in principles of equity and judgments, for one district court in a non-class action to freeze enforcement as to every other person everywhere in the country.

But we have reached a point where universality is automatic and unthinking. Every district judge believes that every injunction baring enforcement of a provision of federal law must be universal.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 23, 2017 at 06:08 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, May 22, 2017

JOTWELL: Thomas on Wistrich and Rachlinski on implicit bias

The new Courts Law essay is from Suja Thomas (Illinois), reviewing Andrew J. Wistrich and Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, Implicit Bias in Judicial Decision Making: How It Affects Judgment and What Judges Can Do About It, a forthcoming book chapter in a volume exploring implicit bias in the judicial system.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 22, 2017 at 10:47 AM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Baseball rules--collect them all, trade them with your friends

For my recent birthday, my wife and daughter got me a baseball card for the Infield Fly Rule. The card, from 1978, features a picture of an infielder (for you fans of late-'70s baseball, it is Jerry Remy, then of the Angels, later the Red Sox) sitting under a fly ball with an umpire (decked out in very-1970s umpire gear and the old league-specific hat) standing in the background, although he has not yet signaled infield fly. The back of the card explains and defends the rule as "Unique and Necessary."

It turns out to have been part of a series of cards produced by the company Sportscaster from 1977-79 on "The Rules." The cards featured a photo of player in action, with an explanation of the rule or play on the back. According to this list, there were cards for Interference, the Hidden-Ball Trick, Pickoff, Rundown, and other plays and rules. I was in the heart of my baseball-card collecting phase in this period, so I am disappointed that I did not know about these at the time. I was fascinated by the Infield Fly Rule even then.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 22, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Police in changing communities

Some good stuff in this lengthy Buzzfeed piece on the tensions between the (overwhelmingly white) police and the increasing Black and minority communities in Troy, New York. Two items to pull out that are common in these types of stories, but illustrate some things I have been thinking about:

1) Describing the cycle that multiple incidents followed: "a stop for a low-level infraction; an interaction that escalates; use of force by officers; a charge of resisting arrest, dismissed by prosecutors or acquitted at trial; and then a lawsuit settlement with the city that allows officers to deny the allegations of misconduct." And four officers involved in multiple incidents remain on the police force. And the city works these (relatively small) settlements into the cost of doing business, so civil damages litigation produces no political or accountability pressure to change its policies or the behavior of its officers.

2) Among the reforms the chief of police proposed were dashcams, which were opposed by the union and ultimately rejected. Again, a common reaction--police unions are the one stakeholder not enamored of cameras and many unions are going in the opposite direction of moving away from initial support.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 22, 2017 at 08:06 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Are esports sport?

It has been awhile since I wrote on the bar debate over what is and is not sport. Now Gizmodo asks the question about esports.

My preferred definition of sport has four elements: 1) Large motor skills; 2) Simple machines; 3) Competition; and 4) Outcome determined by success in performing skills to achieve some other instrumental end, rather than for the virtue of the skill itself. On that definition, esports fail on # 1--operating a game console involves fine rather than large motor skills.  I also would question # 2--the competitors small-motor physical actions do not do all the work--it is the complex machine translating those physical actions into something bigger on the screen. So while esports do require "training, endurance, mental focus, and, yes, physical precision," the physical precision is of the wrong type and works too indirectly.

The comments are interesting in that several people have argued "not a sport" based on a definition that requires direct interaction between competitors and the possibility of one competitor thwarting another.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 21, 2017 at 07:26 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How other law schools do things

Looking for some ideas on how law schools handle some faculty matters.

1) Course/credit releases. How do you handle periodic/special releases from the regular number of courses and credits (whether from 4 to 3 or 3 to 2). Not thinking about faculty buying out, but rather  one-year reductions because of big scholarly projects, etc. How often can faculty do this? Who decides--the dean, faculty, or some combination? Is there written criteria as to what justifies it or is left to decanal discretion? Do the credits get made up in a subsequent year? Is it a banking system?

2) Co-authored articles for P&T. How are P&T committees handling co-authored works in evaluating a colleague's productivity and in deciding what to send for outside review? Are such works being discounted? Do you ask the candidate for a breakdown of who did what or how the writing process worked on the project?

Please respond in comments.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 18, 2017 at 03:48 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Welcome Carissa Byrne Hessick as perma blogger

We are happy to announce that Carissa Byrne Hessick of UNC has joined PrawfsBlawg as a permanent blogger. Carissa, who has visited hear many times in the past, writes on criminal law, including Redefining Child Pornography Law: Crime, Language, and Social Consequences.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 17, 2017 at 12:30 PM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Conspiracy theory of the day

In July 2016, after Trump selected Mike Pence as his running mate, Pence visited James Comey at FBI headquarters and said, "I want you to help me become President of the United States."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 16, 2017 at 07:57 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Parlor Games and the FBI Directorship

Mitch McConnell (following the lead of Utah's Mike Lee) is urging President Trump to nominate Merrick Garland for FBI Director. McConnell insists that Garland would provide the nonpolitical professionalism needed for the position, plus he would get Democratic support, which would be a benefit for this appointment. And, of course, although McConnell does not say so, it also would give Trump a vacancy on the D.C. Circuit.

But Garrett Epps argues that it need not create any vacancy. Nothing in the Constitution or federal statutes prohibits a judicial officer from holding executive-branch office (I wrote in January wondering whether Garland would have had to resign his seat had Obama made a recess appointment). Epps cites numerous examples of simultaneous work, including Justice Jackson taking a one-year leave from SCOTUS to serve as Nuremberg prosecutor and Chief Justice Warren simultaneously chairing the commission investigating the Kennedy assassination. Epps argues that Garland could take a leave of absence from the D.C. Circuit to head the FBI for a few years (long enough to investigate Russia and anything else that comes down the Trumpian pike), then go back to the court after a few years in the Hoover Building* All it takes is the approval of the Chief Judge of the Circuit--and the Chief Judge of the Circuit is Merrick Garland.

[*] Although how much administrative trouble would it create when Garland came back to the D.C. Circuit. Would he have to recuse from nearly every federal criminal case in which FBI agents investigated?

Of course, McConnell is politically savvy and would ensure that Garland agreed to resign from the bench as a condition of confirmation. But Democrats might still score some political points, showing that McConnell's desire for bipartisanship is a ruse to create a judicial vacancy for a Republican president. If McConnell is  serious about wanting Democratic support and a non-partisan figure for the FBI, he should not insist on the new partisan gain of the judicial appointment

Ultimately, this is a parlor game (hence the title of the post) that makes for fun musings but will never come close to reality.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 16, 2017 at 02:23 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Comments on the attorney disciplinary hearing on Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul moved to Jimmy's bar disciplinary proceeding this week. Spoilers and discussion after the jump.

It played as a standard courtroom drama (which I generally do not like)--lots of testimony and argument masquerading as questions from the attorney, lots of long speeches and monologues by witnesses discussing irrelevant and inadmissible stuff, an unsworn potential witness in the gallery offering "testimony." In the end, Jimmy induced Chuck into showing that his allergy to electricity is psychosomatic (in part by planting a cell-phone batter in his suit jacket, courtesy of light-fingered Huell, who becomes Saul Goodman's fixer) and that Chuck's efforts against Jimmy are part of a lifetime of fraternal resentment and a desire to end Jimmy's legal career. The episode ended with Chuck sitting on the witness stand, having come undone; we must wait until next week to see what happens to either Jimmy or Chuck at the hands of the Bar.

The charges read at the beginning of the hearing were (they got the Code provisions right): 1) § 16-102(D): Engaging in conduct the lawyer knows to be criminal (breaking into the house); 2) § 16-804(b): Committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer (assaulting another lawyer, Chuck, in his home); 3) § 16-304(a): Unlawfully altering, destroying, or concealing a document or other material having potential evidentiary value (the tape recording as evidence in an ongoing legal case).

So several questions and comments.

First, two of the provisions do not seem to apply to this situation. Section 16-304 is titled "Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel" and sits within a series of provisions under the heading "Advocate." The whole portion of the code speaks to attorneys' obligations and prohibitions when acting as lawyers in any judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding before a tribunal. Section 16-304 is about an attorney's discovery, pre-trial, and trial obligations to the other side in a proceeding; sub-section (a) prohibits an attorney from destroying, altering, or obstructing the opposing party's access to evidence--implicitly, evidenceis in the lawyer's (or her client's) control and that the other side may want or need in the course of formal proceedings.  Jimmy and Chuck were not opposing counsel in any ongoing proceeding before a tribunal and Jimmy did not destroy evidence in his control to keep Chuck, as opposing counsel, from having access to it. And that language does not seem to contemplate one lawyer breaking into another's house to destroy evidence the other side has in its control, especially outside formal adversary and representative contexts.

Similarly, § 16-102 is about the  the attorney-client relationship and the scope of representation, prohibiting criminal conduct within that relationship (as well as counseling or assisting a client in criminal conduct). Again, not this--whatever criminal conduct Jimmy engaged in had nothing to do with his representation of anyone.

That leaves § 16-804, which defines prohibited misconduct in a section on maintaining the integrity of the profession. This is what should be in play here--regulations that govern someone not when acting as a lawyer or in his representative relationship, but as a person with a law degree whose extra-curricular activities reflect badly on the profession.  And this section is broad enough to capture Jimmy's three criminal acts--breaking and entering, assault, and destruction of property. It is only for dramatic purposes (more below) that the show had to go beyond this provision. (Not so different than in Season One, when a legal-research request included pulling every case on every provisions of RICO).

Second, I do not understand why the tape was admissible and played during the hearing. Jimmy was not charged with tampering with the bank documents, which is what he confessed to on the tape. And the whole premise of Chuck's elaborate plan to get Jimmy to break into the house and destroy the tape, rather than using the tape as evidence of misconduct in altering the documents, was that the tape was not admissible.

So why did the tape come in? The theory, it appears, was that it was necessary for the Bar to prove that the tape was evidence of misconduct to prove that Jimmy destroyed or intended to destroy something with potential evidentiary value. If the tape did not contain a confession of wrongdoing, it did not have potential evidentiary value, thus destroying it would not violate § 16-302(a). And that explains why Kim made what amounted to a 403 objection, arguing that the tape's probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice--the tape's relevance to show that the thing destroyed had evidentiary value is outweighed by the risk that the committee would use it to conclude that Jimmy committed the uncharged, but arguably more serious, act of altering legal documents.

But (putting aside whether § 16-302(a) reaches this sort of destruction of someone else's evidence outside of relations with opposing counsel) if the tape is not admissible in any proceeding, is it still "potential evidence" that can be destroyed? Can something be "potential" evidence if it is obviously not admissible in any formal proceeding? Is it enough that the respondent "reasonably believes" what he destroyed was potential evidence and that this is why he destroyed it? Does it matter that there is no ongoing proceeding in which the tape could have been submitted (even if it would have been admissible when that proceeding began)?

Third, Chuck's mental state should not matter. It does not change that Jimmy did everything the Bar accused him of doing--he did break into the house, he did destroy personal property (potential evidentiary value or otherwise), and he did assault Chuck. I am not sure why Chuck's mental illness, Chuck's resentment of Jimmy, or the overall state of their relationship matters. If those are Bar-punishable offenses (whether by disbarment or some lesser sanction), they remain so.

The theory must be something like this: If Chuck is mentally ill and/or convinced of Jimmy's wrongdoing, Jimmy was (out of love) telling his ill brother what he wanted to hear in a moment of crisis, rather than confessing to actual misconduct. Chuck was so distraught in his delusion that Jimmy altered the documents that Jimmy admitted doing so only to help Chuck feel better. And if not a confession to actual misconduct but a white lie to ease his brother's troubled mind, the tape is not evidence. But, again, why does it matter that Chuck is mentally ill?  Jimmy could make the "telling him what he wanted to hear" argument even if Chuck was healthy but having a crisis of confidence in his legal abilities or even if his physical condition were real--Jimmy might falsely confess to ease his brother's discomfort, regardless of the cause of that discomfort.

This point seems a victim of plot. To create a narrative of the brothers working elaborate cons on one another, the legal theory in the story also had to be convoluted.

Fourth, Jimmy should still be in trouble. He did break-and-enter and he did commit assault and those do reflect adversely on his fitness. And that does not change because Chuck is mentally ill or vengeful. Both actions could warrant bar discipline, although perhaps not disbarment. Of course, I am not convinced that destroying potential evidence (even if it is admissible) would warrant disbarment, the ultimate sanction that seems reserved for the most extreme and repeated conduct.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 10, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Television | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

A new definition of chutzpah?

In The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten offers the classic definition of chutzpah: The man who, having killed his parents, begs the court for mercy on the ground that he is an orphan.

But might we have a new definition: Donald Trump--who spent months insisting that Hillary Clinton's handling of emails constitutes a jailable offense (if not treason), spent part of the election criticizing FBI Director James Comey for coddling Clinton, and was elected president at least somewhat (studies are unclear how much) with the help of Comey's three public announcements about the FBI investigation (two in the final weeks of the campaign)--has fired Comey [ed: purportedly] for his disclosures about the email investigation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 9, 2017 at 06:33 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, May 08, 2017

JOTWELL: Mulligan on Subrin & Main on state procedural rules

The new Courts Law essay comes from Lumen Mulligan (Kansas), reviewing Stephen N. Subrin & Thomas O. Main, Braking the Rules: Why State Courts Should Not Replicate Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Case Western Reserve L. Rev), which argues against "reflective" state emulation of the Federal Rules.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 8, 2017 at 11:12 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Opening up broadcast indecency

At the end of the day, the minor controversy over the FCC's "inquiry" into Stephen Colbert's "cock-holster"* joke is going to be a lot like people in the administration talking about "opening up the libel laws"--a lot of noise that will never be put into any legal effect and cannot be taken seriously.

[*] As George Carlin reminded us, "cocksucker" is one of the words you cannot say on television. It is not clear that the word "cock," standing alone, falls in the same category.

The ban on indecent speech on broadcasting is 6 a.m.-10 p.m., so Colbert (at 11:30 p.m.) operated in a zone in which indecent speech is not legally prohibited. Colbert and CBS thus can be punished only if his joke was obscene under Miller. But we are past the point that written words alone can be held legally obscene, given how community values have evolved in understanding what is patently offensive. And that is before we get to the fact that the comment was a joke about the President of the United States, so it has serious political value. Frankly, I doubt this comment would be deemed punishable indecency, even if broadcast outside the safe harbor. If it could not be indecent, no way could it be obscene.

Still, I found this Fortune story by Aric Jenkins both wrong and problematic. The author objects to calling an FCC investigation "censorship," insisting that it is merely following standard operating procedure in logging and reviewing complaints. Plus, the author insists, any "penalty would be monetary — not any form of censorship." Again, I thought we long ago left behind the idea that post-publication punishment is not a form of censorship of speech. And I wonder if Mr. Jenkins would be so sanguine if the federal government established standard operating procedures for reviewing complaints about his articles and imposing a monetary penalty on them--would he insist that this is not censorship.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 7, 2017 at 05:21 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Should we explain bicameralism to President Trump?

And a question asked in all seriousness: When, if ever, has a President held a Rose Garden ceremony, surrounded by his party's house caucus, to celebrate one house approving a piece of legislation?

Update: A different question: What is the procedural equivalent of what Trump and the caucus did here in celebrating something that has no legal effect, but is a necessary step towards a conclusion that will have legal effect? Celebrating the denial of summary judgment or a motion to dismiss? Celebrating an indictment (this one is common in high-profile cases, but an indictment arguably has more legal meaning than passage in one house)? Celebrating (depending on which side you are on) the grant or denial of a motion to suppress evidence?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 4, 2017 at 06:20 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sport and speech, part 766

Two news stories, submitted largely without comment:

1) The Boston Red Sox banned a fan from Fenway Park for life for using a racial slur in a conversation with another fan, describing the Kenyan woman who had sung the national anthem. The fan who heard the slur complained to an usher, the speaker was removed from the park, and on Wednesday the team announced the ban.* The Red Sox are private and there is not even a whiff of public funding surrounding Fenway Park, so the First Amendment is nowhere in play. But let's suppose, just for sake of argument, that there were state action. How is this not protected speech? It is not incitement. It is not fighting words, because an insult about someone else is not likely to induce the listener to punch the speaker in the face. There is no general "harassment" exception to the First Amendment, and even if there were, I am not sure it would apply for the same reason this is not fighting words.

[*] Separate question: How do they enforce the ban? Tickets do not have names on them and we do not have to show ID to enter a ballpark. Will his picture be posted at every entrance? And will ticket-takers have the time or patience to look when 35,000 are streaming through the turnstiles?

2) LSU ordered its student-athletes to abide by certain guidelines when participating in any protests of the decision not to bring civil rights charges against the police officers involved in the shooting of Alton Sterling. Among the guidelines (although phrased as a request) is that they not where LSU gear or branding while engaging in these activities. To its credit, the Athletic Department expressed its "respect and support" for the players' right to speak. They just want to control what the athletes wear--itself a form of expression--when they speak.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 4, 2017 at 12:11 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (21)

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Infield fly rule is not in effect and it produces a triple play

The Baltimore Orioles turned a triple play against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday night (video in link) on an unintentionally uncaught fly ball into shallow left field. With first-and-second/none-out, the batter hit a fly ball into shallow left. O's shortstop J.J. Hardy moved onto the grass and signaled that he had the ball, then had it carry a few feet behind him. But the umpire never called infield fly, so Hardy threw to second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who tagged the runner standing near second, then stepped on second to force the runner on first, then threw to first to get the batter, who stopped running. According to the article linked above, the Orioles turned an identical triple play in 2000, where the shortstop intentionally did not catch the fly ball, as opposed to this one, where it seems Hardy misjudged the ball.

On one hand, this play shows why we have the Infield Fly Rule--without it, shortstops would intentionally do this constantly and double plays would multiply. Had the baserunners tried to advance when the ball landed, they would have been thrown out, given how shallow the ball was and how quickly Hardy recovered it.

At the same, it shows a problem with the Rule--everything depends on the umpire invoking. And failing to invoke may create its own problems. Here, the Sox players all assumed the Rule had been invoked, so the baserunners retreated to their current bases and the batter, assuming he was out on the call, stopped running to first.  It is a close question whether infield fly should have been called on this play. Hardy misjudged the ball, so he was not actually "settled comfortably underneath it." But he acted as if he was and umpires ordinarily use the fielder as their guide. Plus, in watching every infield-fly call for six seasons, I have seen it invoked on numerous similar balls that carried just over the the head or away from the settled fielder. At the very least, this was a play on which the umpire could not determine whether to invoke until the end of the play, because it was not clear the ball was not playable until it carried over Hardy's head at the last instant. And that hung the runners up, because once the non-call was clear, it was too late for them.

So I must consider a new issue that I had not considered before, at least in these terms: There needs to be a bias in favor of invoking the rule in uncertain or close cases. The presumptive move for the baserunners in a close case is to retreat and wait, as the Sox runners did here. But retreating leads to the double play on the close case, because the runners will not be able to reach the next bases when the ball lands. I have discussed this in terms of false positives and false negatives. But this goes further--there may almost be a presumption of infield fly, so the rule should not be invoked except the obvious cases in which no double play would be possible.

Of course, my interlocutor on the Rule, Judge Andrew Guilford of the Central District of California Central district of Florida, would say this is just proof that we should dump the rule, let the players figure it out for themselves, and not have everyone standing around looking confused while four guys in blue jackets confer.

Update: There is a debate in the umpiring community over when an umpire should invoke the Rule. One school says the call should be made when the ball is at its apex, the other says to wait longer until it is clear the infielder could catch the ball with ordinary effort, even waiting until the ball is almost in the glove. Those who urge invoking when the ball is at its apex point to plays such as this one as the justification--waiting longer than that does not leave the baserunners sufficient time to react and run on the non-call.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 3, 2017 at 01:57 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (12)

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Two steps back on jurisdictionality

On Monday, SCOTUS unanimously (through Justice Breyer) held that plaintiffs must prove, not merely make non-frivolous allegations of, the elements of the exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for cases where "rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue." The plaintiff must prove and the court must find that the case involves property rights and that the property was taken in violation of international law--if the claim fails on either point, the court lacks jurisdiction. This must be the approach even if the findings overlap with the merits of the claim and even if the findings are not made until later in the case (although the Court also said resolution should be made "as near to the outset of the case as is reasonable possible").

This is the first time in a while the Court has declined to draw a sharp separation between jurisdiction and everything else and to adopt the narrower conception of jurisdiction. The Court was swayed by the foreign-relations and international-comity implications of the contrary result, under which sovereigns would have had to litigate the merits, which may have caused litigation to continue for longer. The Court rejected the plaintiff's analogy to § 1331, emphasizing the different language and the textual import of consistency with international law as to FSIA but not to § 1331. The Court was unconcerned with merits-jurisdiction overlap, emphasizing that in most cases the jurisdictional facts (property and violation of international law) are not part of the merits.* These facts thus were more like the fact of citizenship in diversity cases than whether a claim is created by federal law.

[*] The court of appeals tried a middle ground--proof of jurisdictional fact was necessary where the merits did not overlap, while nonfrivolous allegations were sufficient where they did. SCOTUS said this approach was contrary to the text of FSIA.

I am not convinced by the distinctions with arising-under jurisdiction, although that is informed by two conclusions: 1) Jurisdiction and merits never can overlap, even by the accident of Congress slapping the label of "jurisdiction" on some issue; 2) Sovereign immunity, again regardless of label, is better understood as a merits defense, going to who can be sued and for what conduct. The Bolivarian Court at times plays loose with that jurisdictional nature, distinguishing § 1331 because it does not involve sovereign immunity--but if sovereign immunity is jurisdictional, then it is doing the same thing as § 1331 in limiting judicial authority.

Two of the Court's arguments as to § 1331 are, I believe, especially weak. First, the Court emphasized that the "arising under" language of § 1331 is unconcerned with consistency with international law. But the FSIA exception requires that rights in property taken in violation of international law be "in issue." Nonfrivolous allegations that property was taken in violation of international law should place those facts "in issue," just as a claim "arises under" when the nonfrivolous allegations suggest a right and right of action created by federal law. The Court never addresses the "in issue" language, what it might mean, or how it might be comparable to the § 1331 language.

Second, the plaintiffs had argued that their approach would not burden sovereign litigants, who could move under 12(b)(6) or 56 on these issues and would not necessarily (or even likely) be forced to litigate to the "bitter end." Breyer responded that foreign sovereign immunity is immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine. If these were treated as merits facts, however, they would not be immediately appealable, because Cohen requires the issue be separate from and collateral to the merits. But several non-jurisdictional defenses (notably individual immunities in § 1983 actions) are subject to C/O/D review. And the Court's recent cases have focused on the effectively unreviewable prong and the effect on and importance of  the interests lost if immediate review is unavailable--considerations that should break in favor of  C/O/D applying even if these are treated as merits facts.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 2, 2017 at 08:42 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 01, 2017

Genuine dispute as to any basic fact

In response to my posts on the cert denial in Salazar-Limon, a civil procedure colleague blames Celotex, calling this decision a logical extension of the opening of summary judgment. The explanation was as follows: 1) Defendant can move by "pointing" to a lack of evidence, here of not reaching for the waistband; 2) plaintiff could not offer proof of his version, because he did not say at his deposition (because he was not asked) whether he reached for his waistband; 3) plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion, so defendant wins.

I do not find Celotex problematic--having the exchange of evidence on summary judgment resemble the exchange of evidence on judgment as a matter of law at trial makes sense. But I agree that the lower court was wrong in Salazar-Limon.

My explanation for those conclusions is something I suggested but did not fully elaborate on in my first post and the comments. Courts on summary judgment are insisting on contradictory direct evidence (i.e., contradictory testimony) on a basic fact. What courts are supposed to do is dive into the record, identify the material fact to be inferred from any basic facts, and determine whether all the evidence allows a reasonable jury to find that material fact in either direction. In other words, courts are asking if there is a genuine dispute as to a basic fact. Courts are supposed to look for a genuine dispute as to a material fact, a dispute that can arise because of a dispute over a basic fact or because of other evidence of the material fact that does not rely on the same basic fact.

So consider Salazar-Limon. The officer testified that he saw the the plaintiff reach for his waistband; the lower courts concluded that the absence of evidence contradicting that testimony meant there was no genuine dispute as to whether the plaintiff posed an imminent threat justifying deadly force.* But the plaintiff did testify to a different version of events--"I was walking away, he yelled 'stop', then shot me in the back a few seconds later, before I had a chance to do anything." That testimony should do two things: 1) Allow the reasonable inference that there was no imminent threat, if it believes the plaintiff that he was walking away and got shot before he could do anything; and 2) Allow the reasonable inference that he did not do any other things (including reach for his waistband, threaten the officer, recite Jabberwocky, whatever) that he did not mention doing in his testimony. But the courts ignored it.

[*] Put to one side whether the move from reaching for the waistband to imminent threat to deadly force is justified.

The lower courts' analysis here elevates the basic fact (waistband) over the material fact (imminent threat). The court did not examine all the evidence or all the reasonable inferences that could be drawn from all the evidence. It looked for a single basic fact the defendant identified, looked for contradictory evidence as to that basic fact, and, finding none, granted summary judgment. That is not how this should work. It may be, of course, that a jury will not believe the plaintiff's story that he was walking away and was shot before he could respond to the officer's commands. But the question on summary judgment is supposed to be whether the plaintiff could win. Whether the plaintiff will win is for a factfinder.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 1, 2017 at 04:59 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (9)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 27, 2017 at 07:32 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 26, 2017 at 12:01 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (12)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 26, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Television | Permalink | Comments (8)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 25, 2017 at 11:03 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (4)

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?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 25, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 24, 2017 at 03:47 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Justice Alito, funny man

Former GuestPrawf Jay Wexler (BU) has written extensively on who on SCOTUS gets laughs during argument, pointing out that there has been less laughter this Term without Justice Scalia.

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.

Hilarious.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 23, 2017 at 11:05 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 18, 2017 at 01:38 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 18, 2017 at 01:06 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 16, 2017 at 05:29 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (10)

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?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 13, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sponsored Announcements | Permalink | Comments (2)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 10, 2017 at 05:09 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (13)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 10, 2017 at 03:31 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 7, 2017 at 09:01 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

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.

3) Trump could have gotten to the same place, even more easily, by following Eric Segall's proposal and not nominating anyone to fill the seat and asking Congress to reduce the Court to eight.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 6, 2017 at 02:11 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (10)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 6, 2017 at 09:37 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (21)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 5, 2017 at 09:12 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (3)

Party control

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].

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 5, 2017 at 11:55 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2017 at 10:16 AM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Rotations

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).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 2, 2017 at 02:12 PM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

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."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 30, 2017 at 12:21 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (2)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 27, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (10)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 26, 2017 at 10:50 AM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 23, 2017 at 10:16 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2017 at 04:14 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

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?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2017 at 10:57 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)