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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Different Take on Faculty Intervention in Law Journals

Jonathan Adler has an interesting post about a purported controversy involving Duke's Journal of Law and Contemporary Problems. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the details, since the source for his post is an item in Above the Law. As he notes, insofar as the apparent controversy involves student editors at the journal protesting the editorial decisions of a journal which is and describes itself as faculty-edited, it's not really much of a controversy. What interests me is Jonathan's take. He writes:

The ATL story certainly sounds bad, as most law journals are led and managed by students, with minimal faculty supervision (let alone control). Forcing student editors to publish an article would be quite a breach of journal norms....

Let me suggest another view. I do not disagree with him descriptively. It is true, if embarrassing, that most American law journals are student-run. (That is not true of most law journals elsewhere. In those places, a) most law journals are run by faculty, b) students may get involved in some capacity but doing so is not at all a key to future jobs or professional advancement, and c) law is more genuinely and seriously an academic discipline--and articles don't run for tens of thousands of unnecessary words or place marketing on an equal level with substance.) It is also true that direct faculty intervention would be contrary to the usual norms. But it's not so clear to me that those norms are always salutary or that we shouldn't take another, more positive look at the possibility of faculty intervention in the decisions of law journals. 

The Harvard Law Review is a formally independent entity. I'm not sure that's true for the overwhelming majority of law journals, which are student-run but substantially funded and operated by their law schools. Whatever their degree of formal dependence or independence, they exist to fill a function. That is, in theory, first and foremost to publish scholarship. If a journal's board decided to spend the year publishing MFA theses or recipes for moussaka or hot takes on contemporary politics, it would be derelict in its duties and any sensible faculty would intervene. And quite properly so, regardless of whether the decision to abandon its obligations was ratified by even a unanimous vote of the current editors or not.  

I take it as a given that academic disciplines are subject to change and internal debate, and that a reasonable range of reasonable disagreement about the boundaries and best practices of that discipline is always available, especially in an undisciplined academic discipline like law. But as the examples above suggest, there are limits, and in cases where the limits are exceeded it seems to me that a faculty and/or administration's obligations--to the discipline as a whole and to itself as an institution--require it to intervene.

I am inclined to think that they ought to do so more often than they currently do. I have already suggested in past posts that there seems to be a larger number of mainline journals engaging in questionable scholarly practices, including running symposia that are clearly unbalanced and clearly make no effort to be balanced, despite being mainline journals. (I leave aside secondary journals that espouse a particular point of view. One might question their very existence. But they are secondary journals, and they at least advertise their biases openly.) One may ask reasonable critical questions about the behavior of the Washington University Law Review last year. Two sets of questions might be raised about a recent symposium in the Roger Williams University Law Review, which both took funds from a group which takes a partisan position on a set of legal issues and advocates for those issues in court (and thus has every reason to support one-sided scholarship on those questions), and openly disclaimed any interest in seeking out contrary views. (I cannot say what influence the subsidization had on the symposium, because the conditions, if any, of that subsidy were not spelled out. But that is exactly why people are suspicious of subsidized scholarship. And nothing in any event prevents a journal from turning down offered money, or taking it and then doing what it wants to and what is right.)

I cannot say empirically that law journals have suddenly or dramatically become more one-sided, more opinionated, less driven by well-established norms of scholarship, less interested in norms of scholarship as such, more interested in issues that are orthogonal to their actual mission and responsibility. But that does seem to me the direction in which things are headed. In such cases, it seems to me the "minimal" faculty supervision or control should become less minimal. In such circumstances, faculty that persist in maintaining a hands-off position are actually disserving their own discipline and abandoning their own professional obligations.

Given the strange existing structure we have in our discipline in this country, a norm against faculty intervention is not a bad one. But it depends on a prior and more fundamental norm--that the law journal act as a law journal, acting according to academic norms and values for academic purposes. Where it fails in that, intervention is fully warranted. Perhaps we ought to be thinking about doing just that more often than we do. It's worth remembering that student editors of academic journals serve for one or two years. Some of them have a sense of institutional history and an inclination to think about their fiduciary responsibilities to the discipline over a longer time period. Some, understandably, will not. (If journal membership had nothing to do with jobs or prestige, I assure you from experience that the interests and commitments of those who still chose to participate in them would be very different.) As faculty and administrators, our commitment to and responsibility for the discipline is longer and deeper, and more important than the possibility of upsetting a subset of a given year's worth of editors. (Surely a subset; journal editors are no more unanimous than any other group of individuals.)

I cannot help but add, as something of a footnote but perhaps an important or telling one, that I suspect the reality is less hands-off than Jonathan's post suggests. How often do faculty or administrators lean on or use their influence with ostensibly independent law journals--to encourage the publication of a friend's tenure piece or their own, to steer the direction of a symposium for partisan or other non-scholarly purposes, or for some other non-scholarly and non-disinterested reason? Less often than gossips would have it, perhaps, but certainly far from "never." But that sort of behavior is more or less accepted as part of the system, in part precisely because it is tacit and quiet--a vice, but at least one that pays tribute to virtue. A direct, open faculty intervention--for the right reasons, to be sure--might be more of a seeming violation of existing norms and occasion more reaction. But it would be public, clear, deliberate, and properly justified. We might hope that the latter sort of intervention might never be necessary. But in many ways I think it's preferable to the former sort, and more virtuous in fact.

Posted by Paul Horwitz on June 30, 2021 at 11:03 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blogging Hiatus

Granted, it's odd to interrupt a de facto hiatus to declare a de jure hiatus. But a combination of family trips and the return of my Bushrod Washington draft for edits will keep me on the sidelines until the summer ends. 

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on June 30, 2021 at 08:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New CNN Survey of Presidents

Here. Top 10: Lincoln, Washington, FDR, TR, Ike, Truman, Jefferson, JFK, Reagan, Obama (this is unchanged from the prior survey in 2017 except for Obama, who moves up from 12). Bottom 5: William Henry Harrison, Trump, Pierce, Andrew Johnson, Buchanan.

How about monosyllabic presidents? They had a rough four years: Polk (18, down from 14), Grant (20, up from 22), Papa Bush (21, down from 20), Taft (23, up from 24), Ford (28, down from 25), W (29, up from 33), Hayes (33, down from 31), Trump (debuting at 41), Pierce (42, down from 41). I expected Grant to show improvement. I am shocked that three Presidents are deemed worse than Trump, given everything that has happened the past six months and everything we learn daily; could participants have over-corrected for recency bias?

Update: Jeremy Stahl at Slate argues that what it takes to be worse than Trump is to botch the run-up (Piece and Buchanan) or aftermath (Johnson) of the Civil War. Outside those three who failed to deal with extraordinary times, Trump is the worst. And the guy immediately ahead of Trump was in office for 31 days.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 30, 2021 at 06:02 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Understanding "cancel culture" and "offense"

It is obvious beyond peradventure (as Justice Brennan used to say) that conservative cries of "cancel culture," "liberal snowflakes," and "offended at everything" are bullshit projection. But nothing illustrates the point better than this Fifth Circuit case.

According to the complaint, a public-school teacher got pissed off that a student was excused from reciting the Pledge; he assigned the class to write the pledge (which the plaintiff refused to do); made in-class speeches offering to pay her to live in a better country and railing about Sharia law, sex offenders, etc.; and generally treated the plaintiff less favorably than her classmates. The district court denied summary judgment, finding issues of fact about the teacher's motive and actions (he insists that writing the pledge was a class assignment rather than a way to require a statement of loyalty). The teacher immediately appealed under the collateral order doctrine to challenge those findings but not to argue that the law was not clearly established. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction; only legal issues are immediately reviewable under the COD, not factual findings or the finding of factual disputes.

Judge Duncan dissented, with a strange conclusion that emphasized that "[w]e live in an easily offended age. Even Dr. Seuss is controversial," while imagining cases in which students are compelled to pledge written ideas contrary to their religious beliefs and students refuse to recite the words of the Declaration and King's "I Have a Dream" speech (or the one line from the speech Judge Duncan knows).

But Duncan's outrage is laughable for several reasons, showing the lack of real commitment to the First Amendment. First, it seems odd to complain about how easily offended everyone is in a case that alleges that a teacher was offended by a student's constitutionally protected right to refuse to salute the flag and retaliated against that student in a number of (unhinged, unprofessional, and arguably unconstitutional) ways. When one objects to Dr. Seuss or a Confederate monument or the Pledge, one is an easily offended snowflake; when one objects to Critical Race Theory or wokeness or other liberal-but-protected speech, it is standing up for principle or some other noble cause. Second, Duncan would be the first person to support the long-standing conservative project to allow students to opt-out of an assignment requiring a student to write "Praise be Quetzalcoatl." So it is odd to see that as a slippery-slope example while dissenting in a case allowing a student to opt-out of an assignment.

There is an interesting qualified immunity question that the teacher did not properly tee-up on appeal: Assuming he gave the written assignment as a form of pledge (the disputed fact in question), is it clearly established that this violates the First Amendment? The dissent says no, pointing out that no case has ever found a violation from a written pledge. The majority quotes Barnette: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." (emphasis in case). What wins out--the absence of a factually identical case or the clear statement of general principle in the controlling SCOTUS opinion?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 30, 2021 at 12:58 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hiring Announcement: Washington University School of Law

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW invites applications from entry-level or junior lateral candidates for tenure-track positions, to begin in the fall of 2022. We will consider candidates in all subject areas, but we are particularly interested in private law, including property, torts, and contracts, as well as evidence, civil procedure, and other areas of teaching need.

We are also searching for candidates at all levels whose scholarly agendas sit at the intersection of race, law, and social inequality, and who would be hired in connection with Washington University’s Race and Ethnicity Cluster Hire Initiative. More information about this initiative is available at https://provost.wustl.edu/programs-initiatives/faculty-diversity/race-and-ethnicity-cluster-hire-initiative/ and at https://source.wustl.edu/2021/06/first-race-and-ethnicity-cluster-hires-arrive-at-washington-university/.

Candidates must have at a minimum a JD, a PhD, or the equivalent in a related field. In addition, candidates should have strong scholarly potential and a commitment to excellence in teaching. Duties will include teaching assigned courses, researching and publishing scholarly work, advising students, and participating in law school and university service. The strong candidate will demonstrate the ability to create inclusive classrooms and environments in which all students can learn and thrive. The committee will be reviewing applications submitted through the AALS Faculty Appointments Register but we are also willing to consider materials submitted outside of the FAR process.

Candidates who are not applying through the FAR process may submit applications directly to Professor Daniel Epps, Chair of the Appointments Committee, Washington University School of Law, by emailing them to [email protected]. Although there is no deadline, applications from candidates not participating in the FAR process will have the best chance of full consideration if they are received by August 18, 2021. Application materials should include a cover letter, a resume which includes at least three references, and a job-talk paper if available.

Washington University in St. Louis is committed to the principles and practices of equal employment opportunity. It is the University’s policy to recruit, hire, train, and promote without regard to race, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, protected veteran status, disability, or genetic information.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 30, 2021 at 12:12 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Zuckerberg and Facebook do not act under color

Nor surprising, but quite definitive.

Facebook cannot be sued because entities, as opposed to individuals, are not proper targets of Bivens actions. The stupidity of this case aside, this is problematic, because it creates another way in which Bivens is not parallel to § 1983--the company could be sued if a state or local government coerced or conspired with it to do something, but not if the federal government does that.

The claims against Zuckerberg failed in part because the complaint did not plead facts showing direct involvement by Zuckerberg with respect to the plaintiff organization's page, as opposed to running Facebook generally. The court refused to infer direct involvement from allegations of Zuckerberg being a "hands-on CEO" making it "highly likely" that he was. Any coercion or encouragement government officials gave Facebook to limit vaccine misinformation did not connect to any specific actions against the plaintiff. And § 230 immunity did not encourage or coerce this conduct, because that immunity does require Facebook or Zuckerberg to do anything and immunity does not hinge on Facebook doing anything.

The court dismissed without prejudice and denied leave to amend. The plaintiffs moved to "supplement" the controlling complaint with new information about the Biden Administration's efforts to stop online vaccine misinformation. The court treated this as a preview of what new allegations plaintiffs would put in a new pleading and concluded they would be insufficient for the same reason the current allegations are insufficient. So the case is over and the next stop is the Ninth Circuit.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 30, 2021 at 12:05 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Executive v. Legislative and Twitter blocking

Judge Domenico of the District of Colorado held that Rep. Broebert did not act under color and thus did not violate the First Amendment in blocking a viewer from her @laurenboebert account on January 6 (but not from her official @RepBoebert House account). According to the court, Broebert started this account before she was elected to Congress and uses this account to discuss political issues, her legislative agenda, and bills she has introduced. This case is analogous to a Tenth Circuit decision from January finding no state action in blocking people from an account started during an initial campaign and containing more campaign-related material than office-related.

The court did a few things I believe are incorrect and problematic along the way and may confound these cases going forward, even if the result is probably correct.

First, Domenico went on a brief discursive about why there might not be a cause of action, citing Ziglar v. Abbasi and noting the recent retrenchment of Bivens, although he does not resolve that issue because Boebert did not raise the issue. This is wrong. In shrinking Bivens actions for damages, the Court has never suggested that it also wished to shrink Ex Parte Young actions against federal officials. In fact, Ziglar recognized the availability of injunctive relief, despite the absence of an express cause of action authorizing injunctive relief, as a special factor counseling against recognizing the Bivens claim. He rejects the plaintiff's assumption that the court's equitable powers provide the cause of action because "equity follows the law." But that ignores SCOTUS' statement in Armstrong: "The ability to sue to enjoin unconstitutional actions by state and federal officers is the creation of courts of equity, and reflects a long history of judicial review of illegal executive action, tracing back to England." Not sure what Domenico is aiming at, but that is a pretty clear statement that equitable actions are not the same as Bivens actions and do not require an express right of action.

Second, Domenico adopts a very cribbed understanding of the official actions of legislators. As he puts it, "legislators legislate. Their state-created powers are to propose legislation and to voteand little else." Later he says that "Individual legislators do not have the constitutional power to either make law or abridge speech, and thus their individual actions are not within the First Amendment’s coverage." But legislators do a lot more as part of their jobs. One thing they do is communicate with their constituents. If an individual legislator held a press conference, gave a speech, or convened a constituent town hall and excluded certain people from the event because of their viewpoints, that legislator acts under color and could be subject to a First Amendment suit. I have never heard anyone question this. This is the social-media version of that. It may be, as the court later says, that it is impossible to distinguish a legislator's statement as legislator from her statements as candidate for reelection. But that is different from saying a legislator's public statements are never under color of law.

It seems to me Domenico conflates legislative functions (proposing and voting on legislation) and official functions performed by a legislator, such as public communications. The latter are covered by legislative, or Speech-or-Debate, immunity, while the former are not. But the under-color question is supposed to be whether the defendant's conduct was made possible by his public position and authority. Legislators can do a lot more than purely legislative functions as a result of their office, some of which could violate the First Amendment. Domenico tries to reframe the question as authority to act on behalf of the state, but that has never been the standard. Domenico relies on West v. Atkins, which was about when private individuals are under color, a different inquiry.

Third, Domenico argues that the First Amendment says "Congress" shall make no law, which means "Congress, not its individual members, commands the federal government, and it is that body that the First Amendment sought to constrain." But the First Amendment has not been limited to formal legislative enactments. This would mean that the First Amendment does not "constrain" an executive officer (e.g., an FBI agent) from arresting someone because he did not like the person's speech or because of his religious views. I presume Domenico did not mean to say that.

Fourth, Domenico's approach draws a sharp line between legislative and executive officials. Because the executive's actions have practical legal effects that an individual legislator's actions do not, the former act under color in running their Twitter feeds in ways the latter do not. The factors that governed in Trump and Davison (content, appearance to the public, ways of operating the feed) are irrelevant to legislators. Again, that works if the standard is whether an official's actions "bind" the government as policy; it does not work if the question is (as it should be) whether the actions are "made possible" by the official position, because legislators do a lot of things made possible by their positions.

Again, I am not sure Domenico did not reach the correct result, because the Davison/Trump factors make this look like a private rather than official feed. But his analysis misses the mark in many ways that would have bad and far-reaching effects on the First Amendment and constitutional litigation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 29, 2021 at 06:58 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 28, 2021

Faculty Hiring Announcement - Gonzaga

From Gonzaga University School of Law:

GONZAGA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW in Spokane, WA seeks applicants for up to three entry-level full-time tenure-track positions as Assistant Professor beginning in the Fall 2022. Our curricular needs include a variety of first-year, required, and elective courses, including Civil Procedure, Complex Litigation, and E-Discovery; Constitutional Law, Employment Discrimination, Federal Courts, Health Law, and Indian Law; Contracts, Antitrust, and other Business Law courses with an emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility; and academic support or bar preparation courses taught in conjunction with doctrinal courses.

Gonzaga Law embraces a unified faculty model, in which all faculty members are supported as scholars in all subject matter areas and have the opportunity to teach experiential, clinical, academic support, or bar preparation courses if desired. Candidates must demonstrate the ability to be an outstanding teacher, a commitment to service, and excellent scholarly potential, particularly in alignment with Gonzaga Law’s two academic Centers – the Center for Civil & Human Rights and the Center for Law, Ethics & Commerce. For Gonzaga University School of Law’s mission and diversity statements, please visit https://www.gonzaga.edu/school-of-law/about/mission-vision

To apply or view the complete position description, please visit our website at www.gonzaga.edu/jobs. To apply, please visit our website at www.gonzaga.edu/jobs. Applicants must complete an online application and electronically submit the following: (1) a cover letter, (2) a curriculum vitae, (3) a statement that includes evidence of teaching effectiveness and experience creating and maintaining an inclusive learning environment, and (4) a list of three references. Candidates may, at their option, also upload a research agenda and statement of teaching philosophy.  Additionally, finalists will be asked to provide names and contact information for three professional references to provide confidential letters of recommendation.  Inquiries about the position may be directed to the Chair of the Faculty Recruitment Committee, Professor Agnieszka McPeak, at [email protected]; however, the applicant must apply directly to Gonzaga University, Office of Human Resources. The position closes on September 1, 2021 at midnight, PST. However, for priority consideration, please apply by July 22, 2021 at midnight, PST. For assistance with your online application, please contact Human Resources at 509-313-5996.Fac

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on June 28, 2021 at 07:14 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 27, 2021

SCOTUS, standing, and HB8

SCOTUS decided two significant standing cases this Term, both with implications for challenges to Texas's HB8 fetal-heartbeat law.

California v. Texas (ACA) reaffirms that it will be impossible to bring a pre-enforcement suit against state officials. California held that individuals had no standing to challenge the zeroed-out mandate, because the government had nothing to enforce, there is "no one, and nothing, to enjoin." "[N]o unlawful Government action 'fairly traceable' to §5000A(a) caused the plaintiffs’ pocketbook harm. Here, there is no action—actual or threatened—whatsoever. There is only the statute’s textually unenforceable language." Similarly, "no unlawful government action is fairly traceable" to HB8 that injures the plaintiffs. The reason differs. In California, the provision of ACA was unenforceable. HB8 is enforceable--it provides for damages and injunctive relief against those who provide or facilitate abortions--but not by the government. The end point--no government enforcement and no government official to enjoin--is the same.

TransUnion v. Ramirez sparked some conversations about HB8, which accords a private statutory right to people who can point to no historically recognized "real" and "concrete" injury. Likely HB8 plaintiffs have suffered less of an actual or threatened injury than the class members in TransUnion. But TransUnion controls standing in federal court under Article III; it says nothing about standing in Texas courts under the Texas Constitution. So it has no direct effect on the validity of the procedures in HB8. The question is whether it could have indirect or persuasive effect. As I wrote (citing an expert on the Texas Constitution), Texas courts follow Article III but accord greater deference to legislative authorizations of suit. The defendant in the first HB8 suit will raise lack of standing and argue that Texas courts should (but are not required to) follow TransUnion and impose the same limits on the legislative power to create new rights. Stay tuned.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 27, 2021 at 03:10 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 25, 2021

Standing up to standing

SCOTUS held Friday in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez  that most of a class lacked standing to sue over inaccurate information under the Fair Credit Report Act. Justice Kavanaugh wrote for five; Justice Thomas dissented for Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan; and Kagan wrote a shorter dissent for Breyer and Sotomayor. This marks another case (the third, I believe) in which Barrett replacing Ginsburg presumably changed the outcome of the case.

The result is not surprising, given the direction of standing cases, but it is the most explicit the Court has been. The majority makes explicit that "under Article III, an injury in law is not an injury in fact," a violation of a statutory right is not sufficient for standing, and Congress cannot create new private statutory rights that provide a basis to sue unless they are the same or analogous to historically recognized legal rights (physical injury, monetary loss, or recognized intangible harms) as determined by the Court. Purely procedural rights, even for an individual, are not sufficient.

Thus, the 1800+ class members whose false information was disseminated (including the named plaintiff) and included information about being on a list of "specially designated nationals" who might be drug dealers or terrorists had standing to sue. The 6000+ remaining class members, whose reports contained false information but were not disseminated, did not have standing; although the false information in the report violated the statute, it was speculative whether or when the information would be disseminated. The entire class lacked standing to challenge the failure to provide them with accurate information and information on how to correct inaccurate information, because the information was provided but in the wrong manner (split into two incomplete mailings); while violative of the statute, it caused no concrete harm.

According to Thomas' dissent, the problem with today's decision is it fails to distinguish public and private rights. Standing limitations make sense when Congress creates a public right and allows for private enforcement; it makes sense to require the plaintiff to show a direct injury from the public statutory violation. This explains Lujan and Laidlaw, for example. It makes no sense when Congress creates a private right for an individual and allows that individual to sue, as in Spokeo and here; and that should include informational and procedural injuries.

Kagan's separate dissent emphasizes an analytical point I make in class: We must "rewrite" the story that standing is being about the "single idea" of separation of powers and limiting the judicial power when the Court can and does override congressional creation of a legal right and remedy. That is, if Congress decides that some conduct should be unlawful and the target of that unlawful conduct should be able to sue and recover for her injury, it is inconsistent with separation of powers and a limited judicial power for the Court to override that decision and require plaintiffs to show, in addition to the statutory violation, something extra that the Court demands. This decision impairs Congress' Article I power to regulate and stop conduct it deems harmful and aggrandizes the Court's power. This goes to the other aspect of the Fletcher argument--not only is standing a merits concern, but the Court should defer to Congress' choice as to statutory merits.

The case also exposes the fault lines around the role of common sense in standing analysis. According to the majority, the risk of disclosure for the 6000+ was speculative because there was no evidence of disclosure or attempted disclosure, and there was no harm from the inaccurate reports because people may not have opened the envelopes and may not have bothered to correct them. But "tap[ping] into common sense," it should not be speculative that a company in the business of selling credit reports will sell those credit reports or that someone who requests their credit report will open it and seek to correct erroneous information.

Interestingly, the Kagan trio departed from Thomas over whether a congressional cause of action is always sufficient. Thomas says it is, at least for private rights. Kagan says Congress is limiting to recognized rights that are "real" and "concrete" but that the Court should override a statutory right to sue " when but only when Congress could not reasonably have thought that a suit will contribute to compensating or preventing the harm at issue," which practically means never.

One final point: It seems to me that the Thomas and Kagan opinions should have been designated as "concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part." They agreed with the majority as to the result (standing existed) for the 1800+ class members whose information was disclosed.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 25, 2021 at 11:21 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thoughts on Mahanoy

SCOTUS decided Mahanoy Area Sch. Dist. v. B.L. on Wednesday. Justice Breyer wrote for eight, holding that the school violated the plaintiff's First Amendment rights in suspending her from the J.V. cheerleading team. Justice Alito concurred for Justice Gorsuch. Justice Thomas dissented, unsurprisingly. Some thoughts after the jump.

• Kudos to Justice Breyer for using the word "fuck" in describing B.L.'s messages rather than expurgating, saying "F-word," or using some stupid euphemism.

• The Court rejected the Third Circuit's approach creating a three-tier structure: 1) In-school speech subject to Tinker; 2) out-of-school speech potentially regulated by the school under ordinary First Amendment standards; 3) out-of-school speech beyond the school's regulatory power. Instead, it is two tiers: Tinker is the standard whenever schools have the authority to regulate speech, in or out of school, while some speech may be beyond the school's power to regulate.

Because of that rejection, the school district framed this as a victory, as "vindication of schools’ authority to protect students and staff and to fulfill schools’ educational missions." Sure, it owes Brandi Levy $ 1. But the school sees this decision as endorsing its power to regulate a good deal of student speech, perhaps more speech than Breyer believed he was allowing in writing the opinion. This framing shows that we can expect much litigation in the coming years over attempts to punish out-of-school speech, especially online. Many district courts adopted a more capacious understanding of disruption than Breyer suggests.

The school did not mention that it also owes the ACLU substantial (liekly upwards of $ 750,000, given three layers of review) in attorney's fees. Uzuegbunam, which held that a claim for nominal damages avoids mootness, may prove to be the most significant case of the Term. Brandi Levy just finished her freshman year of college; if nominal damages were not sufficient to keep a case alive, this whole thing would have been moot.

• The Court identified three principles off-campus speech that usually, but not always, place it beyond the school's regulatory power: 1) The school is not in loco parentis; 2) Schools have a heavy burden to justify regulating speech outside of school or a school program or activity, lest students be left with no opportunity to speak; 3) Schools should respect, rather than restrict, student's efforts to express unpopular ideas. As a result, "the leeway the First Amendment grants to schools in light of their special characteristics is diminished."

The Court emphasized that the speech was otherwise constitutionally protected and entirely outside of school, so the school was not I/L/P; that there was no evidence of disruption; and that negativity and undermining team morale are not sufficient disruptions. Breyer closes with an acknowledgement that this was a teen's snap of a profanity and a vulgar gesture, "but sometimes it is necessary to protect the super-fluous in order to preserve the necessary."

• Justice Alito's concurrence attempted to reframe the majority. It staked out a more speech-protective approach in several ways (surprising, given the source).

    • Alito said he could not see this applying to college students, given their age, independence, and living arrangements. Their has been a split about whether and when Tinker applies to colleges; the better answer is it should not apply. It was good to see someone make it explicit.

    • Alito attempted to create a taxonomy of student speech. On one end is off-campus extensions school programs and activities. At the other is speech "not expressly and specifically directed at the school, school administrators, teachers, or fellow students and that addresses matters of public concern;" this lies beyond the school's reach, even if offensive, because Tinker does not create a heckler's veto under which offensiveness equals disruption equals power to regulate. In the middle is off-campus speech that disrupts the school, such as threats, bullying, and harassment (however difficult to define). B.L.'s snap was about the school but did not criticize or deride individuals, and it did not disrupt the school beyond affecting team morale.

• Alito being Alito, it is hard not to look for an ulterior motive. He emphasizes the school's power being grounded on ILP and the limits on ILP from parents' primary control over the children. Might that be used to expand the right of parents to opt their children out from assignments and programs they deem objectionable?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 25, 2021 at 10:06 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Another bad universal injunction decision

A new exhibit in the MUIGA (Make Universal Injunctions Great Again) campaign: Judge Howard (a GWB appointee) of the Middle District of Florida universally enjoined (even though she says nationwide, because judges cannot get this right) the socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers provision of the American Rescue Plan Act. That provision sets money aside for loan forgiveness and other aide for farmers and ranchers from historically disadvantaged groups. The lawsuit was brought by one white farmer in Florida.

The scope portion followed the usual pattern: Hand-wringing about the "great caution" required before issuing a universal injunction, plus citations to Thomas and Gorsuch questioning the authority to do so. Then this is the complete analysis:

Plaintiff has shown a likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that Section 1005 is unconstitutional and, if implemented, would deprive him of his right to equal protection under the law. The implementation of Section 1005 will be swift and irreversible, meaning the only way to avoid Plaintiff’s irreparable harm is to enjoin the program.

Once again, the justifications offered for universality cover every case--what program, that appears to violate someone's equal protection rights, is not implemented in a "swift and irreversible" manner? This would mean that any program that would deprive a plaintiff of his rights must be universally enjoined, unless the program someone will not be swiftly implemented. Is there something uniquely swift and irreversible here, where other programs will be implemented slowly and reversibly? The court never explains.

The bigger problem is that there is an obvious non-universal remedy that would accord complete relief: Give the plaintiff--and only the plaintiff--access to the program. That remedies the constitutional violation of treating him differently because of his race and the injury of his exclusion from the program. Nothing more need be done to protect or vindicate the plaintiff's rights.

There might be an argument that universality is necessary because the pool of money is limited and affected by the number of applicants; there is $ X to be distributed, divided by the number of applicants, so universality is necessary until we can determine the number of constitutionally eligible applicants. If money continues to be distributed, that will reduce the amount plaintiff can recover. This was the theory behind universality in the sanctuary-cities cases: Requiring that San Francisco receive funds but allowing Chicago to continue to be denied funds does not allow a proper determination of amount and would mean that, upon final resolution, there might be no funds left for Chicago. But that does not appear to be the case here--the pool is not limited and funds are means-tested, so the amount recovered is determined by each applicant's circumstances, not the number of applicants. In any event, the court never discusses this or offers this as the explanation.

Compounding what appears to be the judge's misunderstanding of universality, she adds a footnote saying she "reaches this conclusion without regard to any incidental benefit to other similarly situated White farmers." This is nonsense. By making the injunction universal, she accords more than incidental benefit to other white farmers--she has made them direct beneficiaries of the injunction, on par with the plaintiff.

There is another way of looking at this case: The plaintiff does not seek the debt relief available under this section, but seeks to stop the government from giving that relief to anyone else. On that understanding, complete relief comes not from making the plaintiff eligible for the funds, but from stopping the award of funds to anyone.

But the plaintiff should not have standing to seek that remedy--he is not injured by some people receiving a benefit that he is not interested in receiving. The court cites Gratz  to identify the equal-protection injury as "the inability to compete on an equal footing." But if the plaintiff's injury here is the inability to compete for the funds on an equal footing, it can be remedied by allowing him to compete for funds; an injunction stopping everyone else from receiving funds is not commensurate with the violation. This case looks like a lawsuit by someone who has no interest in attending the University of Michigan seeking to enjoin the University of Michigan from considering race of people who are interested in attending the University of Michigan. Equal protection standing should not extend that far.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 24, 2021 at 09:46 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

JOTWELL: Wasserman on Crocker entity liablity

I have the new Courts Law essay reviewing two articles by Katherine Mims Crocker on establishing entity liability in constitutional litigation: Reconsidering Section 1983’s Nonabrogation of Sovereign Immunity, Fla. L. Rev. (forthcoming any day), and Qualified Immunity, Sovereign Immunity, and Systemic Reform, Duke L.J.  (forthcoming 2022). Too bad I was unable to include this disaster to illustrate why Crocker's proposals are important.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 23, 2021 at 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

CFP: AALS Sections on Remedies (with Fed Courts): Nominal Damages

The AALS Section on Remedies invites paper submissions for a panel on nominal damages at the January 5-9, 2022 Annual Meeting to be held virtually. This panel will be cosponsored by the AALS Section on Federal Courts. This call for papers is open to all full-time faculty members at AALS member or affiliate schools. Pre-tenured professors and junior scholars are strongly encouraged to submit papers. To be considered, please submit a title and abstract, and if available an introduction, to Samuel Bray ([email protected]) by July 15, 2021.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 23, 2021 at 09:07 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Real Jews in Baseball

The Forward on the Israeli Olympic Baseball Team, which competes in Tokyo next month.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 23, 2021 at 08:58 AM in Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Webinar: Teaching Tips for New Law Professors

Teaching Tips for New Law Professors Webinar

 

Join West Academic casebook authors for the upcoming Teaching Tips for New Law Professors panel on Thursday, June 24th from 2pm to 3:30pm CDT. The discussion will be centered around pedagogy across subject areas, course creation, promoting student engagement, traps to avoid, and more. The panel of award-winning law faculty will offer advice on building and teaching a law school course. There will be time at the end for participants to ask questions.

 

Date: Thursday, June 24, 2021

Time: 2:00pm CDT

 

Moderator: Steve I. Friedland, Elon University School of Law

 

Panel:

Miriam A. Cherry, Saint Louis University School of Law

Martha M. Ertman, University of Maryland School of Law

Noah R. Feldman, Harvard University Law School

Deborah S. Gordon, Drexel University School of Law

Deborah Jones Merritt, Ohio State University College of Law

A. Benjamin Spencer, William and Mary Law School

 

Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_CBIc8juETTGVYW-RZ_XMnA

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 22, 2021 at 03:10 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sports and law in the news

Two items on sports in court:

• As Orly mentioned, SCOTUS on Monday unanimously held that the NCAA violated antitrust laws by restricting the "educational benefits" athletes can receive. The immediate judgment is narrow, because the plaintiffs did not cross-appeal on other compensation limits. But the case does appear as a shot across the NCAA's bow. Justice Gorsuch spent the first eight pages describing the enormous amounts of money the NCAA generates for coaches and administrators compared with the modest sums for athletes. Justice Kavanaugh concurred to all-but-hold ("serious questions" is code) that the NCAA is one giant antitrust violation. In particular, he describes as "circular and unpersuasive" the NCAA's main argument that "colleges may decline to pay student athletes because the defining feature of college sports, according to the NCAA, is that the student athletes are not paid." If four Justices agree with that premise, that is the ballgame on college athletics as they exist. The question will be what replaces it.

The Job Creators Network voluntarily dismissed its absurd lawsuit challenging MLB's decision to move the All Star Game from Georgia in protest of the state's new voting laws and seeking millions in damages and an injunctive compelling MLB to move the game back to Atlanta (and compel the players to participate in the game). JCN attorney Howard Kleinhendler (late of the Kraken Team) was raked over the coals in an oral argument last week before the court dismissed the action from the bench; dropping the suit rather than appealing seems a wise move. I did not write about the argument, but it included an argument that by moving the game in response to Georgia's voting laws, MLB violated Shelby County by stepping into the shoes of the federal government subjecting Georgia's laws to preclearance. JCN promised to continue the fight in and out of court. Good luck with that.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 22, 2021 at 09:54 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on Lafayette Square Lawsuits

The district court dismissed some, but not all, of the claims arising from the clearing of Lafayette Square in June 2020. Despite news reports, the case is not over.

The plaintiffs have standing to proceed against federal defendants for injunctive relief over continued restrictions on access to Lafayette Square. And their claims against local law enforcement officials for First Amendment violations were well-pleaded and not barred by qualified immunity. The latter point is surprising and perhaps not long for this world. The court defined the rights at issue (restriction on speech, retaliation for disfavored message) at a high level of generality, without demanding prior case law or a prior similar context. This contrasted with a demand for an identical prior case in according qualified immunity on Fourth Amendment claims.

The piece getting the most attention is the rejection of the Bivens claims against Donald Trump, Bill Barr, Mark Esper, and other high-level federal officials, in addition to the federal officers on the ground. But the outcome of those claims was obvious before the lawsuit was filed. Courts have read SCOTUS's recent cases to all-but preclude Bivens actions, especially for new rights (SCOTUS has never allowed a Bivens action in a First Amendment case) in a situation remotely touching on national security and presidential security, which has become a buzzword for rejecting Bivens. I look at this case less as a bad decision than as a decision faithfully applying impossible SCOTUS rules.

We are nearing the point that plaintiffs will be unable to seek damages for constitutional violations unless Congress acts. Unfortunately, Congress either cannot or will not act.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 22, 2021 at 09:52 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink

NCAA v. Alston ruling

Today, in a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the student-athletes and against the NCAA, upholding the lower courts’ finding that the restriction of education-related benefits violated antitrust law. The Court cited a professors' amicus brief (which I was part of) led by Michael Carrier and Chris Sagers.

Posted by Orly Lobel on June 22, 2021 at 05:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 21, 2021

A tough season for Jews in MLB

In my article on Jewish baseball players on Yom Kippur, I wrote that we were enjoying a new gilten alter (golden age) of Jews in baseball. Several Jewish players seemed on the verge of stardom or being solid contributors. Approaching the midpoint of the season, it has not played out as well as we hoped.

Jewish Baseball News has the basic stats for the six non-pitchers and five pitchers who have appeared in MLB this season. Alex Bregman has been solid but not at his 2019 near-MVP level, plus he is on the Injured List and no date is set for his return. Joc Pederson started the season slowly but has come around of late as the lead-off man for the Cubs. Kevin Pillar missed time after suffering a broken nose from a pitch to his face. Rowdy Tellez has been up and down to the minors and was removed from the starting line-up this weekend after going 0-for-8 with two strikeouts in his four prior appearances.

Life has been worse for pitchers. Max Fried, seemingly set to become the next great Jewish lefty, has an ERA in the mid-4.oo and has been inconsistent. Israel-born Dean Kremer, who made several promising starts for the Orioles as a late-season call-up, is 0-6, has an ERA over 6.00, and has surrendered 13 home runs in 49 innings. Fried and Kramer pitched well over the weekend, so hopefully they each can turn the corner. Richard Bleier continues to do well as an innings-eating reliever, a position in which Jewish pitchers have thrived. Ryan Sherriff, another innings-eater who pitched well for the Rays in the 2020 World Series, stepped away from the game for personal reasons in April; he is back in the Majors as of two weeks ago.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 21, 2021 at 11:21 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Universal injunctions are good again

So says a Trump-appointed judge on the Western District of Louisiana in a challenge by a red state (Louisiana) to a Biden Administration's pause in issuing new oil and gas leases. Here is the total analysis on scope: "This Court does not favor nationwide injunctions unless absolutely necessary. However, it is necessary here because of the need for uniformity. Texas, 809 F.3d at 18788. The Agency Defendants’ lease sales are located on public lands and in offshore waters across the nation. Uniformity is needed despite this Court’s reluctance to issue a nationwide injunction."

This is another example of why there is no meaningful limitation on universality, a judge's pearl-clutching "reluctance" not withstanding. All federal law applies "across the nation." If there is a need for uniformity, it is not limited to oil and gas leases, but applies to all challenges to all federal law. So all injunctions, at least as to enforcement of federal law, must be universal or there is no logical basis for making some universal and others not.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 16, 2021 at 02:22 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Jack Weinstein

Judge Weinstein passed away today at the age of 99. There will be many tributes to him, especially for his work on Brown. Let me just share a brief personal story about him.

I never met the Judge. But after my first book came out, I found in my mail one day a handwritten note from him saying that he read the book and enjoyed it. I was astonished because I'd never met him, never communicated with him, and my book wasn't exactly a best seller.

I sent him a thank-you note, and when my second book came out I sent him a copy. He read that too and wrote me about that. At that point I concluded that he might be a good luck charm of sorts, so I sent my third and fourth books to him as well. And he wrote back each time with some thoughts, though of course by now he was in his 90s. Alas, I cannot send him my next book. RIP

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on June 15, 2021 at 03:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Chair Search at Alabama Law

I'm delighted to pass this chair search along:

The University of Alabama School of Law announces a search for the D. Paul Jones, Jr. & Charlene Jones Chairholder of Law. We seek a person who is a nationally or internationally recognized scholar and teacher of business law, who will continue to make substantial and meaningful scholarly contributions, participate actively in the life of the Law School, and enhance the School of Law’s visibility and stature in law and regulation related to enterprise. The Chairholder will have the opportunity to establish and direct a new Program in Law and Business, which will include an endowed lecture series, an endowed professor of practice, and other innovative elements that will contribute to teaching and scholarship at the highest levels.

The School of Law has achieved a high level of excellence in the quality of its faculty, students, administration, and staff, and we seek to build on our standing as one of the leading public law schools in the United States. The Search Committee welcomes both applications and nominations. Candidates must have outstanding academic credentials, including a J.D. from an accredited law school or an equivalent degree (such as a Ph.D. in a related field). The search is open as to areas of specialization, but we encourage applications from candidates who have expertise in corporate transactions, mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, capital markets, or corporate finance. We welcome applications from candidates who approach scholarship from a variety of perspectives and methods.

The University of Alabama embraces and welcomes diversity in its faculty, student body, and staff; accordingly, the School of Law encourages applications from and nominations of persons who would add to the diversity of our academic community. The School of Law embraces EEO principles in our faculty recruiting efforts. Salary, benefits, and research support will be nationally competitive. The School of Law will treat all nominations and applications as strictly confidential, subject only to requirements of state and federal law.

Interested candidates should apply online at https://facultyjobs.ua.edu/postings/47608. Nominations, applications, and questions may also be transmitted by e-mail to Professor Julie Hill, Chair of the D. Paul Jones Chair Search Committee ([email protected]). Applications will be reviewed as received.

The University of Alabama is an Equal Employment/Equal Educational Opportunity Institution. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, age, genetic or family medical history information, disability, or protected veteran status, or any other legally protected basis, and will not be discriminated against because of their protected status. Applicants to and employees of this institution are protected under Federal law from discrimination on several bases. Follow the link below to find out more.
“EEO is the Law” http://www1.eeoc.gov/employers/upload/eeoc_self_print_poster.pdf
“EEO is the Law” Poster Supplement http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/posters/pdf/OFCCP_EEO_Supplement_Final_JRF_QA_508c.pdf
“EEO is the Law” http://www1.eeoc.gov/employers/upload/eeoc_self_print_poster.pdf
“EEO is the Law” Poster Supplement http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/posters/pdf/OFCCP_EEO_Supplement_Final_JRF_QA_508c.pdf

Posted by Paul Horwitz on June 15, 2021 at 02:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 14, 2021

Duly Noted

In a post on Balkinization, David Super writes about a forthcoming paper on making government more responsive. As a side note, he writes: "Because its goal genuinely is strengthening democracy rather than smuggling through the substantive progressive agenda, it will be interesting to see if the journal editors have any interest."

It's not a sentence that will shock anyone. I don't want to give it more weight than the author intended--one can't read tone very easily on the Internet and distinguish between light humor, sarcasm, plain truth-telling, lament, and so on--or to focus on its author in particular. But, apart from thinking the sentence is accurate, I would be inclined to suggest that its very matter-of-factness is noteworthy. It is unusual in that it is a moment of plain-spoken truth-telling in a public space by someone who is both rightly well-regarded and indisputably well-credentialed in the progressive realm, rather than someone writing outside and against it, who might thus be disregarded or discounted even if he or she wrote essentially the same sentence.

Law reviews, like law schools, are an institution. As I have suggested here and there, it seems to me that the true crisis of our time, across many spaces, is institutional--is, specifically, a loss of interest in and allegiance to specific institutional roles and the valuable but--or valuable because--limited and specific purposes they serve. Institutions are not static and are and should be subject to change and reform, but debates about change ought to take place primarily from within some degree of submission to that institution: its purpose, function, role--and limits. The function of a law review is to serve scholarship. It may (to use a decidedly overblown bit of language) change the world, for better or worse; but that is strictly incidental. Serving scholarship, with a proper sense of institutional role and limitations, is the function; anything else is just a by-product. Law reviews that lose this core sense of purpose lose their reason for existing. Law schools that let it happen fail in their own function. And legal academics that actively encourage it, go along with it for reasons of placement and advancement or avoiding friction, or simply ignore it are also complicit. Our discipline is already undisciplined enough as it is. I agree with Stanley Fish that the job of academics is to do the job of academics. Surely that includes insisting, and ensuring, that their institutions are functioning properly and doing their jobs.     

Posted by Paul Horwitz on June 14, 2021 at 10:36 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Attorney General on Voting Rights

I want to draw attention to Attorney General Garland's statement on Friday about voting rights. Leave aside what you think of his proposals or how they fit within the broader picture on voting rights. His account of the history of voting rights is splendid. Among the highlights:

1. "Representative John Bingham--the principal author of the Fourteenth Amendment--called the right to vote the source of all institutions of democratic government."

2. Garland explains that the DOJ was created in part to enforce the First Ku Klux Klan Act and singles out Attorney General Amos Akerman, who was a champion of voting rights enforcement his all-too-brief tenure in the early 1870s. 

3. Garland also singles out by name DOJ stalwarts like John Doar, Burke Marshall, and Drew Days in their work on behalf of voting rights as part of a discussion of the case law.

The speech is well worth your time.

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on June 14, 2021 at 08:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Myth of Black Robes

A common belief is that John Marshall initiated the practice of Supreme Court Justices wearing black robes. The story goes that the Justices wore scarlet robes before 1801, but Marshall chose to wear a simple black robe. This was an expression of his modesty and an exercise of leadership, as the other Justices soon followed his example.

A new article in the Journal of Supreme Court History debunks this claim. (I cannot link to the article.) Matthew Hofstedt, the Associate Curator of the Court, proves to my satisfaction that some of the Justices did wear black robes before Marshall's arrival. Hofstedt reaches no conclusion about why all of the Justices eventually adopted black robes, but what seems clear is that Marshall was not the cause.

This finding is consistent with my own research. In 1799, Elizabeth Powel told Bushrod Washington that she was buying him a "black satin robe" that he could use. (Washington was appointed to the Court in December 1798). I had wondered about that until I heard of Hofstedt's paper, but now Powel's letter makes sense. Some Justices did wear black robes before Marshall's arrival.

Just another John Marshall myth.

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on June 10, 2021 at 04:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Whatever "the immediate political moment" is, Ignore It

Allow me to register a mild dissent to part of Howard's post below, in which he complains that the sudden last-minute issuance of opinions threatens to "overwhelm[ ] those whose job it is to parse, understand, and critique the Court's work in the immediate political moment," and notes that "scholars also do and should provide immediate comment and critique and that is impossible when every day produces multiple major decisions." I disagree on a number of counts.

I can understand an argument that the Court, like the other branches of government, in some sense serves and in many senses should be aware of the public. And I can understand an argument that the Court, in doing so, is likely to deal with intermediaries, since most of the public neither reads nor necessarily understands or even cares about individual legal opinions. But neither of those things require the Court, or any court, to try to assist specifically in "understanding" any particular opinion's role or significance "in the immediate political moment."

I doubt, frankly, that one's understanding of a judicial ruling is generally assisted by focusing on "the immediate political moment," since it is precisely an obsession with the "immediate political moment" that has the almost inevitable tendency to wreck judgment, supercharge motivated reasoning and partisan interpretation, and turn the minds of even (or especially) the best and brightest to jelly. But even for those who enjoy thinking about judicial opinions and other events in the "immediate political moment"--and I do think "enjoy" is the right word, since it is as much a hobby as a sign of any real engagement--it is not the Court's job institutionally to facilitate such efforts. It is its job to facilitate the issuance of opinions and their distribution to the public, full stop. The fact that an industry has sprung up around trying to read and opine on opinions within minutes of their issuance is true and unfortunate. But it's not one the Court ought to pay much attention to.

Nor do I agree that scholars "should" provide immediate comment and critique. The second word, critique, certainly not. The more immediate it is, the less scholarly it is likely to be and the less likely it is to draw on anything like the actual skills or capacities of scholars. Even "comment" is dubious. (And both are highly dubious, if one means comment or critique in the context of "the immediate political moment," a matter on which legal scholars have no specific expertise and which is as likely to skew their thinking as it is anyone else's.) The job of the scholar qua scholar is to provide scholarship--which generally takes time, care, and attention. Legal scholars--like lawyers, bricklayers, or anyone else--can provide immediate comment and critique. They are often asked to do so. They have lots of individual incentives to do so: they get on TV, they get well-known, they get to push particular narratives, and, for those who are politically engaged, they get to maintain the feeling, however illusory or self-serving, that they have influence or importance or engagement on public issues. They are also aware that their institutions, from deans to law school PR offices to main campus, love it when their school's name gets publicity as a repository, not of experts as such, but of experts who delight in particular in speaking to the press. But none of this is their job as such.

I doubt they do it particularly well, and I doubt that the ones who do so most eagerly are the ones who do it best or in the most scholarly fashion. I would be happy if it were otherwise. It would be nice if the scholars who spoke most often to the press emphasized the most boring but crucial details, rejected stupid or overheated interview questions and simply refused to play along with those lines of questioning, pointed out when they had not finished reading various opinions or stated that it was too soon to have a useful opinion about a newly issued one, openly emphasized the role of their own political views in influencing their commentary and warned readers or viewers that this surely affects the reliability of their commentary, and foregrounded the utter unknowability of longer-term implications. But there is a label for such scholars: "people who don't get called a second time." The media environment, especially in the immediate political moment and given the brevity and immediacy of the news cycle and the economics of current journalism, is not well-suited for scholarly commentary on judicial opinions. On the whole, I would rather they either did it absolutely right or didn't do it at all. But whatever choice they may make on these matters, none of it is their job qua scholars.   

None of this, of course, is to say that the Supreme Court should issue tons of opinions on the last day or week of the Term, or that they should ignore the role of intermediary institutions in distributing their opinions to the public. On the latter point, a far more useful response would be something like that of the Supreme Court of Canada, which (at least during some portions of the post-1982 years; I have no idea what the current status or approach of the Court is) has an Executive Legal Officer, whose job it is to give a careful, no-spin explanation of rulings on the day they are issued. Such an approach, which allows the Court to explain rulings (off the record and on an embargoed basis) to journalists before they are issued, would be elitist, have a somewhat undemocratic air, and be preferable to the likes of reporters--or "scholars"--rushing out to announce something based on a sentence or two that they have glimpsed on the last page of a lengthy opinion.

On the first point, it seems to me that instead of focus on, if you will pardon the repetition, the immediate political moment, we might think in a longer-term and more institutional fashion. Basing the size of the Court on last Term's opinions or those of the last several Terms is a lousy way to think about Supreme Court reform, and I would say the same about this. Institutionally, the scramble to get out opinions before the end of Term is embarrassing--no more embarrassing than much of what the other two branches do, but embarrassing just the same. I would much rather see them adopt a strict policy of issuing no more than two or three opinions on a given day, and to see them do so every day of a week during the last month of a Term rather than cramming everything into a few issuance days. I would, for that matter, be perfectly happy if they sat from the first Monday in October through the following first Monday in October. I'm sure there are some good reasons that the Court's calendar year is the same as that of academics and other school-teachers. But there are many bad ones. If the institution would be better served by the justices sitting longer, issuing opinions throughout the year, and having to give a miss to Aspen or Runnymede or Salzburg, I for one am willing to accept that sacrifice. They are already well compensated in pay and honor for what they do. Surely they can do it all year. 

A last word: I agree with Howard that Justice Breyer ought to retire. There is an excellent reason for it: He is 82 years old, serves in a federal government that is already far too much of a gerontocracy, and has served what is already an ample--indeed, excessive--tenure on the Court. I see no convincing reason why any Justice of the Supreme Court should serve longer than 20 or 25 years or past the age of 70. On this score, however, the last Justice to show any good behavior was Justice Souter, who understood that there are other things in life besides serving on the Court. More of his former colleagues should emulate him, instead of engaging in the awful competition to break records for length of tenure. These are excellent reasons to retire from public office, and they apply to a number of recent and current Justices and elected officials. I think they are more important than the immediate political moment. But one may take that view with a grain of salt, since, like most of my colleagues in the legal academy, I have no special expertise on that--whatever it is.     

Posted by Paul Horwitz on June 10, 2021 at 03:45 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink | Comments (0)

Opinions and Assignments

Two thoughts as the Court again issued one opinion (from November)

1) Since May 17, the Court has issued twelve opinions in seven "opinion days," issuing two or more opinions three of those days and one opinion on each of the remaining four. The Court has issued one opinion on eleven of its opinion days this Term. They have 21 argued cases left and three weeks in the Term, so likely six opinion days and an average of three opinions per day. And those that remain are among the most controversial and most important. Obviously the Court can issue opinions only when they are ready and cases with more and longer opinions take more time. But it is hard to avoid the sense that the Court is doing the equivalent of a "document dump"--dumping out major opinions in a flood, overwhelming those whose job it is to parse, understand, and critique the Court's work in the immediate political moment. This is distinct from the longer scholarly term. Scholars can write articles about these cases whenever and the timing of their issuance does not matter. But scholars also do and should provide immediate comment and critique and that is impossible when every day produces multiple major decisions.

2) Thursday's decision in Borden was a 4-1-4 split. Kagan wrote for Breyer, Sotomayor, and Gorsuch; Thomas concurred in the judgment; Kavanaugh dissented for the Chief, Alito, and Barrett. So a question: Who assigned this opinion, Breyer or Thomas? The practice is senior-most associate justice in the majority. Is it the majority for the judgment/outcome? So at conference, Thomas, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch vote to reverse, the assignment goes to Thomas, and if the writer (Kagan, in this case) loses a majority in the course of drafting, oh well? Or if at conference it is obvious that Thomas' views (apart from the result) are different than Breyer, et al., Breyer assigns? The former would seem to be more administrable because one never knows if the write can get a majority until she tries. The same issue arose with June Medical last Term--did the Chief assign the opinion because he was in the majority to reverse or did Ginsburg assign because the Chief's reasoning was always different? Does anyone know for sure?

3) Rick Hasen gets it and it amazes me that Justice Breyer does not appear to. It is one thing for Breyer to continue to believe the Court is not nakedly political. It is another thing to have watch Mitch McConnell for the past decade and not recognize what would happen.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 10, 2021 at 11:52 AM in Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

JOTWELL: Malveaux on Spaulding on "actual" procedure

The new Courts Law essay comes from Suzette Malveaux (Colorado), reviewing Norman W. Spaulding, The Ideal and the Actual in Procedural Due Process, 48 Hastings Const. L.Q. 261 (2021) on how much of civil procedure occurs outside of federal court and the need for legal education to acknowledge and reflect that reality.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 9, 2021 at 09:39 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Speech and blame-shifting

There is a high burden to holding speakers liable for misconduct by others--absent some agreement or conspiracy, there must be intent that listeners engage in unlawful conduct and temporal imminence between the speech and the unlawful conduct. In part this is about freeing speakers to use rhetorical hyperbole and to be "vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp." It also frees speakers to speak without fearing liability because of the actions of the lowest-common-denominator listener. And it places the blame on those who engage in misconduct--where it belongs--and removes (or at least limits) the option of excusing action by blaming the speech one heard.

We saw this in efforts in the '80s and '90s to regulate pornography on the ground that it conveyed messagess about sex and women, signaled to viewers that it was ok to sexually assault women, and even planted ideas in viewers about whether and how to engage in sexual assault. The arguments against those efforts raised this LCD issue--we do not set legal rules for the LCD (even in those areas without the shadow of the First Amendment) and we should not give those who engage in unlawful actions an excuse for those actions. More recently, we saw this in litigation against activist DeRay Mckesson attempting to hold him liable for negligence arising from violent actions by an unknown person during an anti-police-violence demonstration that Mckesson organized.

I am reminded of this in stories about Capitol Insurrection defendants (here is the latest) attempting to excuse themselves from pre-trial confinement and (presumably) ultimate conviction by insisting they were duped or manipulated by the speech of Q-Anon, Donald Trump, NewsMax, and a host of other speakers and platforms spreading lies about the election and the opportunity to rise above "his ordinary life to an exalted status with an honorable goal." They were helpless against the onslaught of lies, but their eyes are now open, thus they no longer are a threat to the public and not bad people who did bad acts deserving of punishment.

"The devil made me do it" is too pat. Even if one accepts (as I do not) that Brandenburg's requirements are too high and that it should be easier to impose liability on speakers, I think we can agree that the person whose actions cause an injury is more culpable than the speaker and should not be able to use bad speech and bad speakers to excuse or reduce the consequences of his misdeeds.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 8, 2021 at 10:57 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Naomi Osaka and the ADA

The following post is by my FIU colleague Kerri Stone, who writes on employment discrimination. I solicited her thoughts on Naomi Osaka.

On May 26, 2021, 23-year-old tennis phenom Naomi Osaka stunned the world by proclaiming on social media that out of a desire to protect her mental health, she refused to partake in mandatory press conferences during her participation in the French Open. After incurring a $15,000 fine for this refusal and threats of further sanctions from organizers of the French Open and the other Grand Slam tournaments, she announced her withdrawal from the tournament.

Universally recognized as one of the most “marketable” athletes in the world, Osaka, who, in 2020, had earned the distinction of being the highest-earning female athlete of all time by annual income, announced that she has been struggling with depression. She decried "people [with] no regard for athletes' mental health,” noting that "We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me."

As many commentators have pointed out, Osaka’s exodus has thrust into the spotlight issues of mental health and self-care among everyone in workplaces from sports arenas to boardrooms to factory floors. Words of support and encouragement have poured in for Osaka from athletes and celebrities ranging from Serena Williams, to  Stephen Curry.

            Because the tournament at issue, at Roland-Garros, is not held in the United States, US law does not apply. Moreover, we know nothing about Osaka’s mental or emotional state, other than what she has shared. We do not know whether she would ever claim or be capable of being shown to be disabled so as to entitle her to protection under any law. But many now wonder what would happen if someone who did claim that depression, anxiety, or another mental impairment rendered them disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), were to be fired from a job or excluded from an event after they refused to participate in a requirement that they deemed too corrosive to their mental health. Under the ADA, an individual deemed disabled within the meaning of the Act (via a physical or mental disability) may not be discriminated against because of their disability and is entitled to an affirmative reasonable accommodation that may be needed.

            This hypothetical case immediately reminds me of a 2001 Supreme Court case that I analyzed over a decade ago, when discussing the varying amounts of deference that courts give defendants in ADA cases: PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin. In that case, the PGA refused to allow Casey Martin,  a pro golfer stricken with Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, a degenerative condition that impeded his ability to walk, to use a golf cart to get around during PGA Tour competition, as he had been permitted to do in other, lower-level tournaments. The Supreme Court held, over the PGA’s strident protestations, that walking the course was not an essential part of the game of golf and that no real disadvantage would be imposed upon Martin’s opponents due to the accommodation of a golf cart to transport him from hole to hole.

In a previous article, I noted that the case was somewhat remarkable, in that the PGA was charged with the administration and regulation of professional golf, a sport whose rules, by all accounts, are inherently arbitrary. Unlike a more objectifiable “essence” (such as of a pizza business to sell pizza) or “essential function” (such as of a fire department to fight fires, perform rescues, etc.), the rules/requirements of any sport are typically precisely what the regulatory body overseeing the sport and administering its competitions says they are. As dissenting Justice Scalia famously quipped, if the majority could answer the question “What is golf,” in a way that put it at variance with the PGA itself, then “One can envision the parents of a Little League player with attention deficit disorder trying to convince a judge that their son’s disability makes it at least 25% more difficult to hit a pitched ball. (If they are successful, the only thing that could prevent a court order giving the kid four strikes would be a judicial determination that, in baseball, three strikes are metaphysically necessary, which is quite absurd.)”

            In Martin, as would likely happen here, the plaintiff, though a professional athlete, was not considered an “employee” of the PGA  such that he could pursue a claim under Title I of the ADA; rather, he needed to use Title III, which covers public accommodations. Under title III, a plaintiff is entitled to a reasonable accommodation so long as it does not threaten safety or effectuate a fundamental alteration of the defendant entity or that which it purveys. The Supreme Court in Martin held that despite the PGA’s contention that as the arbiter of professional golf and its rules it could proclaim that walking was an essential element of the game, it would not effect a fundamental alteration of the PGA Tour’s highest-level tournaments if Martin were afforded the use of a golf cart.

What does this tell us about how our hypothetical might play out? There are several key points to keep in mind. In the first place, Martin is considered good authority for the proposition that even in the case of a sport or sports tournament whose purpose is leisure and recreation, the regulatory body of the sport is not entitled to the final word or even to high levels of deference when it comes to defining the rules of the sport or the essence of the defendant entity.

So where does that leave us? Assuming that our hypothetical plaintiff could establish that she is disabled within the meaning of the ADA and the issue was her entitlement to refuse  to comply with the tournament’s requirement that she make herself available to the press after competing, the issue would boil down to whether an exemption from the press conferences would be a reasonable accommodation or whether it would constitute a fundamental alteration of the tournament. Unlike in Martin, this requested accommodation could probably not, at first blush, be argued to confer a physical, athletic, competitive advantage (though the Martin Court did give this issue thorough consideration). It is an interesting question as to whether a defendant might try to argue that the press conferences are so draining and deleterious to an athlete’s psyche that avoiding them might amount to an advantage, or whether that might not be a thing that would be auspicious for the USTA to put out there.

However, a defendant that made participation contingent upon press availability would need to argue that the ability to face the press and answer even aggressive questioning is essential to making the tournament what it is. Selling tickets, procuring ratings, and keeping the tournament relevant and current is dependent upon permitting the public a window into the athletes’ reflections upon and reactions to their performances. Inasmuch as probing into these innermost thoughts may cause stress, embarrassment, or perseveration, the state of social media and the public’s increasingly handy access to and hunger for sports heroes’ and other celebrities’ thoughts and feelings necessitates the press conferences. They are as much a part of the essence of the tournament as the competition itself. Would a court buy this? Might a court be persuaded that in the age of social media and instantaneous access to celebrated public figures, fan access to athletes’ personas, including their most agony-filled defeats and regrets, is now necessary in a way that maybe it didn’t even used to be? To the extent that a reasonable accommodation could be argued to be an athlete’s furnishing this access through written statements or some other less immediate means of communication, could a court nonetheless be persuaded by a defendant that the buffer of time and space to prepare responses and the filter of the keyboard failed to yield sufficiently direct, raw access?

This is not to say that the defendant would necessarily win this case. Our hypothetical plaintiff might be, like Osaka, a personally and professionally compelling figure who is pushing back on not only the rules of this tournament, but on the idea of the public’s entitlement to this kind of access—especially when it causes and inflames harm and/or is deemed unnecessary. A court adjudicating the dispute would have wide latitude in determining the questions of the “essence” of the event and of the “fundamental alteration” or transformation that the requested accommodation could cause. Any number of considerations—including increasing societal recognition of the sanctity of the mental health of athletes (and all people trying to earn a living) at work, the evolving nature of what it means to be a public figure, the public’s insatiable hunger for access to athletes’ post-game thoughts and opinions, or even individual judges’ conceptions of “What is this tournament—to me”—could factor into the final determinations.

A case like our hypothetical would thrust the issue of workplace bullying into the spotlight. Only Puerto Rico and no U.S. state has passed comprehensive legislation that makes status-blind workplace bullying unlawful. This failure of legislatures to act has occurred despite high-profile stories about how celebrities and athletes have been driven from their workplaces and even from their careers by workplace bullying. Years ago, I pointed to the compelling case of Jonathan Martin, a talented, successful Stanford graduate who was driven from his career in professional football when Richie Incognito and other Miami Dolphins teammates tormented him. This torment took the form of both abhorrent race-based abuse as well as more generic bullying. Many scholars bemoaned the failure of the law and law makers to take not only bullying but the mental health of those at work seriously enough.  It should not be lost on anyone that Martin and Osaka are Black, and many of us have pointed to the impact and compounding effect of systemic racism and sexism on so-called “status-neutral” bullying.” Not only does “neutral bullying” often accompany race-based abuse as with Jonathan Martin, even when it doesn’t, it still befalls and, some studies say, affects, women and minorities more than it does others.

Last, but far from least, a comparison of the hypothetical case of an athlete who sought to avoid a contentious press conference for the sake of her mental health with the Martin case should also draw a comparison between the way we address and compel accommodation of physical disabilities and mental/emotional disabilities at work or in places of public accommodation. Michael Perlin has written extensively about sanism, "an irrational prejudice of the same quality and character of other prevailing prejudices such as racism, sexism, heterosexism and ethnic bigotry that have been reflected both in our legal system and in the ways that lawyers represent clients.” Would a case brought by someone with a disability that was not physical lay bare the differences in the ways in which the law and society regard and address mental disabilities?

I am working on an article that will seek to address these and other issues raised by this very compelling news story. I am interested in hearing others’ thoughts.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 8, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Employment and Labor Law, Law and Politics, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 07, 2021

On suing the wrong defendant

What happens if a constitutional plaintiff sues the wrong defendant and why does that happen? The answer is neither clear nor consistent, as two cases reveal.

Last week, the Northern District of Texas dismissed a challenge to a Lubbock ordinance prohibiting abortions in the city but providing no mechanism for municipal enforcement. Planned Parenthood sued the city, but the court recognized that the city is not responsible for enforcement of the law and does not control the private individuals who do enforce the law. The court therefore held that plaintiffs lacked standing. This decision presages the likely result when Planned Parenthood or another provider sues to challenge HR8.

Also last week, the Fifth Circuit ordered dismissal of a challenge to the rejection of online voter-registration applications using a photograph of a signed application form, under the "wet signature" requirement that applications have an actual ink signature. Acceptance or rejection of registration applications rests with country registrars. The Secretary of State had issued a press release reminding voters that online registration is not available, a press release that prompted several county registrars to change course and reject online applications. The Texas Democratic Party and others sued the Secretary. The court held that the Secretary had sovereign immunity, because she was not the responsible executive officer for a proper Ex Parte Young action.

The defect in both actions is the same--the plaintiff sued the wrong defendant, a person/entity not responsible for enforcing the challenge law and thus causing the challenged harm. It makes no sense to use distinct doctrines to get at the same idea. And a court could recast one as the other. The Fifth Circuit could have held that Planned Parenthood lacked standing to sue the Secretary, because the Secretary's press release did not cause the injury and an injunction against the Secretary would not remedy their harm. The Lubbock case could not be recast as sovereign immunity because a municipality is not a sovereign. But imagine when Planned Parenthood sues theTexas Commissioner of State Health Services. The court could say no standing, on the same grounds as in Lubbock. Or the court could follow Texas Democratic Party and say the Commissioner has sovereign immunity because he is not responsible for enforcing the heartbeat law and does not control those who do. Again, it is incoherent to fold the same idea into two doctrines.

Worse, to the extent the court wants to tie this to Ex Parte Young and sovereign immunity, it should be about the merits of the claim. The issue under § 1983 is not that states (and state officials sued in their official capacities) have sovereign immunity. The issue is that states (and state officials sued in their official capacities) are not "persons" for purposes of § 1983. So a state/state official should not claim sovereign immunity; it/he should claim that an element of § 1983--a person as defendant--is not satisfied. But that is a merits question that the court cannot resolved as a jurisdictional issue at the outset.

And all of this asks the § 1983 question--did the named defendant "subject or cause[] to be subjected" the plaintiff to a violation of her rights. If the defendant is not responsible for enforcing the challenged law, the answer is no. Which again reflects failure of an element of a § 1983 action, not competing jurisdictional ideas.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 7, 2021 at 12:16 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Tulane VAP 2021-2022 - Murphy Institute

From Tulane Law School:

Tulane Law School is currently accepting applications for a two-year position of visiting assistant professor.  The position is being supported by the Murphy Institute at Tulane (http://murphy.tulane.edu/home/), an interdisciplinary unit specializing in political economy and ethics that draws faculty from the university’s departments of economics, philosophy, history, and political science. The position is designed for scholars focusing on regulation of economic activity very broadly construed (including, for example, research with a methodological or analytical focus relevant to scholars of regulation).  It is also designed for individuals who plan to apply for tenure-track law school positions during the second year of the professorship.  The law school will provide significant informal support for such. Tulane is an equal opportunity employer and candidates who will enhance the diversity of the law faculty are especially invited to apply.  The position will start fall 2021; the precise start date is flexible.

Candidates should apply through Interfolio, at http://apply.interfolio.com/84001, providing a CV identifying at least three references, post-graduate transcripts, electronic copies of any scholarship completed or in-progress, and a letter explaining your teaching interests and your research agenda. If you have any questions, please contact Adam Feibelman at [email protected].

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on June 6, 2021 at 08:55 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 04, 2021

Mike Lindell sues Dominion

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's new lawsuit against Dominion is a rerun and expansion of the suit the company filed last month, throwing in a civil RICO claim along with more of the same absurd factual allegations about election fraud and nonsense constitutional arguments.

Lindell's state action arguments fail for the same reasons as MyPillow's state action arguments--Dominion does not "administer" elections beyond providing infrastructure (any more than the handcuff manufacturer uses excessive force) and, if it did, it does not become a state actor for all purposes beyond running those elections.

This is garbage on the merits. But there are procedural issues attached to both actions that are worth considering.

Both sets of claims could have been brought as counterclaims in Dominion's defamation action in the District of D.C. At bottom, both actions allege that Dominion's lawsuit is part of a campaign to silence Lindell/MyPillow about election fraud; both suits allege that the Dominion suit is an abuse of process and a First Amendment violation.

One question is whether they would be compulsory; the answer is probably not, because the MyPillow/Lindell claims do not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as Dominion's claims. This illustrates a common sequence: X does something to injure A, A files suit to remedy that injury, and X files a counterclaim alleging that those remedial efforts violate X's rights. Most courts say this is not STO because the real-world events giving rise to A's claims are based on whatever X did, while the event giving rise to X's counterclaims is A filing that lawsuit. There is a but-for relationship: But for X's actions, A would not have sought remedy; but for A seeking a remedy, X would not have a basis to sue. But that is not the necessary logical connection between the real-world events. Here, MyPillow/Lindell made false statements about Dominion, Dominion sought a remedy by suing, and MyPillow/Lindell argue that suit is tortious/violates the First Amemdment/violates RICO; that is the but-for relationship courts deem insufficient.

Nevertheless, they could have been brought as permissive counterclaims--there is diversity jurisdiction and/or some of the claims arise under federal law.

A second question is whether personal jurisdiction and venue is proper in Minnesota. The action that MyPillow and Lindell challenge is the filing of the lawsuit, which took place in D.C. The question is the same as one I considered about the Texas heartbeat law: Is suing a Minnesota citizen (and serving process on that Minnesota citizen in Minnesota) outside of Minnesota sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction? Again, this arises in the legal-malpractice and patent context and courts seem split on it.

A third question is whether the court should transfer venue to D.D.C. A court in Minnesota would be reluctant to adjudicate a lawsuit challenging the validity of a lawsuit in another court while that lawsuit is ongoing, as both turn on the same underlying facts (the truth of Lindell's original allegations against Dominion). The convenience of witnesses and evidence would seem to favor transfer--the validity of MyPillow/Lindell's claims depends on the validity of Dominion's defamation claim, which is occurring in D.C. The "situs" of the events in the counterclaim is the situs of the allegedly abusive defamation action, which is D.C. I would think both cases are better litigated in the same place, if not the same action, as the underlying lawsuit alleged to be violative.

Update: Commentators elsewhere point out a choice-of-law problem. Lindell points to Minnesota law on the abuse-of-process claim. But the prevailing view is that such claims are governed by the law of the place in which the allegedly abusive proceeding was filed. In other words, D.C. law. Which makes sense. A plaintiff who chooses to file a claim that is not abusive in one jurisdiction should not bear the risk that it might be abusive in a different jurisdiction. The choice-of-law issue also affects the transfer analysis, discussed above. What law applies is one of the public-interest factors that gets balanced--if D.C. law applies, that will favor the Minnesota court sending the case to D.C.

Further Update: The attorney from the firm Barns & Thornburg, who signed the complaint as local counsel, has been defenestrated. The firm says it did not know about the lawsuit.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 4, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Breyer's first (and last?) assignment

I am late on this, but thought I would mention: The Court decided Van Buren v. United States on Thursday, holding that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act did not reach a case in which the defendant lawfully accessed the computer for an improper purpose. The line-up was Barrett writing for Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, with the Chief, Thomas, and Alito in dissent.

That unusual line-up makes this (according to all-things empirical SCOTUS Adam Feldman) the first time Breyer has assigned a majority opinion. And since many on the left hope Breyer retires at the end of the Term and that line-up of Justices is unlikely to recur, perhaps his last.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 4, 2021 at 08:11 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 03, 2021

No standing when abortion law privately enforced

I mentioned the dry run for the standing/federal forum problems in challenging HB8 was a lawsuit over a Lubbock ordinance banning abortions within city limits and utilizing private enforcement.

The district court on Wednesday dismissed Planned Parenthood's challenge to the ordinance, finding PP lacked standing to sue the city. Because the city was not charged with enforcing the law and the city had no control over the private individuals who could bring private actions, there was neither causation nor redressability. The court (rightly) rejected the idea of a declaratory judgment or injunction against the non-responsible party as a way to persuade everyone else to comply. And the Fifth Circuit has precedent denying standing to plaintiffs in pre-enforcement challenges to laws that rely on private enforcement; apparently, Texas has attempted this in the past.

An alternative holding was Pullman abstention, as it is unclear whether a municipality has the power under state law to create private rights of action. The interesting piece there was over the source of the state-law ambiguity. The substantive provision challenged as violating the 14th Amendment--the ban on abortions--was not ambiguous; it was clear what the provision did. The ambiguity was over validity of the private enforcement mechanism. Both parties proceeded from the belief that any ambiguity must be "intertwined with" or directly related to the federal constitutional claim--that is, the ambiguity is in the substantive provision challenged on constitutional grounds. And in the mine run of cases it is--did the Railroad Commission have the power to enact the regulations or is the challenged law capable of a limiting construction. But the court did not find Pullman so limited. A state-law defect in any piece of the ordinance renders the entire statute invalid (or at least unenforceable), mooting the federal issue.

The case is on to the Fifth Circuit, which I expect to affirm. Meanwhile, we have a good sense of what will happen to pre-enforcement challenges to HB8.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 3, 2021 at 08:27 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

More stupid lawsuits, ep. 81

Something called the "Job Creators Network" has sued MLB, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the MLBPA, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clar, and a bunch of John Does, claiming constitutional (equal protection and Dormant Commerce clause) and contract claims over MLB moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia's voter-suppression laws. Nothing new here; more bad lawyering by bad lawyers using the courts to make political noise. Some thoughts on where this goes wrong.

MLB Under Color:

The § 1983 claim depends on MLB acting under color. The complaint tries to get there two ways, neither of which works.

The first, passing argument, is that MLB is not covered by the antitrust laws, a substantial benefit. Receipt of governmental benefits, disconnected from the challenged conduct, is not sufficient to place a private actor under color. This is not a case in which government gave a private actor a benefit on condition of the private actor doing something constitutionally violative. Quite the opposite. MLB's decision to move the game pissed off some congressional demagogues, who threatened to strip MLB of its antitrust exemption.

Moreover, if the antitrust exemption were sufficient, the alleged benefit comes from the federal government, not the state or local government. MLB therefore would be color of federal law and this would be a Bivens claim (in a new context, so not going anywhere), not a § 1983 claim.

The primary argument is that MLB teams act under color by virtue of playing in publicly owned or publicly financed stadiums; thus MLB, as an association of those teams, acts under color. Two problems. First, while I agree that playing in public stadiums places teams under color for some purposes--namely running those ballparks during games--it does not make them under color for all purposes. The Yankees are perhaps bound by the First Amendment in regulating fans' cheering speech during games at the publicly owned stadium; they are not bound by equal protection in firing a ticket-office employee. So if the teams are not under color for all purposes, MLB is not under cover for all purposes. Second, and more conclusive, a private association of state actors located in multiple states does not act under color because it is not tied to the law of any state. The NCAA does not act under color despite having actual state entities--public universities--from multiple states as members. It follows that MLB, which stands in the same position to teams as the NCAA does to schools, does not act under color.

Diversity Jurisdiction:

This is minor and not outcome-determinative, but the Civ Pro geek in me remains amazed at how often lawyers get diversity wrong.

According to the complaint, the following is true: The JCN is a not-for-profit corporation, incorporated in DC with its PPB in Texas.  MLB is an unincorporated association whose members are the 30 teams; it is a New York entity with its PPB in New York. The MLBPA is the players' union, a New York entity with its PPB in New York. Manfred is a New York citizen and Clark a New Jersey citizen. The complaint does not say so, but I believe the plaintiffs see this as  JCN(TX/DC) v. MLB (NY), MLBPA (NY), Manfred (NY), and Clark (NJ).

But an unincorporated association's state of creation or PPB is irrelevant; what matters is the citizenship of its members. The complaint acknowledges that MLB's members are the 30 teams, all of which are corporations or unincorporated association; if the latter, we need further level(s) of inquiry as to the members/partners of each team and perhaps the members/partners of each member. MLB therefore is not a New York citizen (or not solely a New York citizen); it is a citizen of any state in which a member/partner in any team ownership group is a citizen. We do not know every state, I imagine at least one team has at least one member who is a citizen of Texas or DC. Similarly, a union's state of creation or PPB is irrelevant; it is a citizen of every state in which a union member is a citizen. Again, I imagine at least one current MLB player is a citizen of DC or Texas.

This does not matter to the outcome of the case, because the complaint alleges (and there is) supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims. But I become skeptical of any complaint when the attorney gets the basics so wrong.

Standing

JCN purports to be an association of small businesses injured by MLB moving the game. It asserts associational standing on behalf of its members and organizational standing for the time and money it has spent fighting MLB's actions.

The problem is that the claim seeks primarily damages as a remedy, whereas associational standing works in injunctive actions. One element of the Hunt test for associational standing is that "neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit." Damage are, by definition, individualized to each plaintiff and thus require the participation of each member. The complaint attempts to get around that by asking the court to order that the defendants pay damages into a common fund, from which moneys are distributed to each plaintiff. But that is not how damages are calculated or awarded. I cannot think of a major constitutional case in which an association has been able to pursue damages on behalf of its members.

Remedies

The complaint asks for compensatory damages of at least $ 10 million and punitive damages of at least $ 1 billion, as well as an injunction ordering MLB to move the game back to Atlanta. That injunction is not happening. The punitive damages request is interesting because a punitive-damages ration exceeding 10:1 presumptively violates due process.

The least-stupid contract claim might be promissory estoppel, although that still fails. But even if it worked, the damages on a P/E claim are limited to what was spent in reliance on the promises, not what they would have made had the defendants followed through on their promise. Did businesses spend $ 10 million+ on the expectation of the game coming to Atlanta?

Whither the First Amendment

At its core, the claim here is that by engaging in the First Amendment activity of protesting Georgia election policy through its business decisions, MLB, et al. interfered with the power of Georgia to enact policy and the equal protection rights of those who support those policies. The Complaint spends some time defending Georgia's new laws, as if the propriety (in the plaintiff's views) of the laws lessens the First Amendment rights of those who protest. I do not believe the level of First Amendment protection for expressive activities turns on the "correctness" of the position asserted. That would have some broad implications.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 2, 2021 at 08:58 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

When Is It Too Soon to Call a Catastrophe a “Genocide”?

The following post is by my FIU colleague Hannibal Travis.

At an interesting event held by the United Nations General Assembly, with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and delegates from many nations in attendance, the question of the “g-word” came up.  On the topic of “Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace,” the General Assembly president, Volkan Bozkir, responded to a question from an Armenian diplomat regarding denial and justification of past genocides being a “test of multilateralism” and the principles of the United Nations regarding the peaceful resolution of disputes.  Mr. Bozkir stated that in “order to describe an incident as genocide, a competent international tribunal must make a decision to that effect,” and that in April of this year, a spokesperson for Mr. Guterres had “reiterated that genocide needs to be determined by an appropriate judicial body, as far as the UN is concerned.”  By that standard, it may be too soon for the United Nations to label as “genocide” the Armenian catastrophe, or the great anti-Armenian crime (Meds Yeghern).   

For Michael Berenbaum, a project director for the emerging United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the first director of its Research Institute, the U.S. House and Senate resolutions of 2019 and presidential statement of 2021 recognizing the Armenian genocide did not come too soon.  The very word “genocide,” he argues, was used and invented by Raphael Lemkin “to speak of the Armenian genocide.”  

Advocates of Armenian genocide recognition point out that the UN does not often wait for an international tribunal to make a final decision on a genocide before the UN opines on whether one has occurred.  In 1985, a study prepared at the request of the UN Commission on Human Rights, for example, named the “massacre of the Armenians in 1915-1916” as a “genocide.”  At least 40 U.S. states and many national parliaments followed suit, as did the European Parliament in 2006 in a resolution that also referred to Assyrian and Greek victims.  (Incidentally, Lemkin wrote in 1948 not so much of an “Armenian genocide” as of a broader phenomenon – “the destruction of the Christians under the Ottoman Empire” – in promoting a genocide treaty; similarly, the House of Representatives in 2019 referred to a genocide against Armenians and “Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians,” whereas the presidential commemorative statement of 2021 referred only to Armenians even though it mentioned other Christian orphans and refugees as being affected by the same events.) 

In 1992, the General Assembly called the tragedy of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Herzegovina a “form of genocide,” after noting that human rights violations and mass refugee flight had happened.  The resolution also acknowledged that the Security Council had not even begun considering creating an international war crimes tribunal with jurisdiction over acts committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The UN’s own records also designated the extermination of the Jews in Germany and occupied Europe and North Africa as a “genocide” before a genocide treaty had been signed, let alone enforced in court.

Waiting for a tribunal to declare a genocide could involve substantial delays in the effort to salvage the victims’ lives by such means as providing a safe haven, an independent country, an arms embargo, a UN or regional force to restore order, housing and land restitution, psychosocial counseling, or medical treatment.  It can take about three years for the memorials to be filed and preliminary objections to be heard in an interstate case involving state responsibility for genocide, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro.  It can take even longer than that, or more than a decade, for significant movement to occur in a genocide prosecution at the International Court, such as the “Darfur situation.”  The first chance to begin to assess the guilt of a suspect in the Darfur genocide at the ICC came in March of 2021, involving events that took place starting in 2004.  The Genocide Convention states that genocide has occurred throughout history and that all parties to the convention have a duty to punish the crime; while it states that all trials should be before a competent domestic or international tribunal, it does not state that all punishments must be meted out to natural persons after a trial.

There remain very few survivors of the events of 1914-1918 in the Ottoman Empire, or even of the events of 1919-1925 which followed and involved further massacres and denials of a homeland.  In that respect, many of the considerations which might persuade a diplomat to seek genocide recognition in order to advance an ongoing agenda of civilian protection carry less weight in the Ottoman case.  Scholars who write on the Armenian genocide therefore emphasize the ongoing character of the events, including reduced populations, lower birth rates as a result of physical violence and impoverishment, impacts of trauma on lifespans, and compromised cultural and religious traditions due to “dispersion.”

Other reasons not to recognize a genocide with resolutions or statements such as those that the United States issues include the following: politicians should not be the arbiters of what happened in history, recognition of important human milestones both for good and evil should be balanced rather than selective, contemporary political and strategic relationships are more important than proclamations about the past, and congressional or White House procedures may be twisted towards biased ends.  While each of these reasons has some validity, politicians make a variety of factual and historical findings and commemorations in the course of shaping legislative or executive policy and proclamations.  There are more urgent matters to investigate from the standpoint of the present moment than how to conceptualize the Armenian catastrophe as a matter of U.S. policy, but there are also other far less significant statements that are made in the annals of Congress, in the halls of the White House, or on a U.S. website.  The selectivity of U.S. proclamations is also obvious, especially given the executive branch’s policy of opposing judicial inquiry into allegations of internationally wrongful acts by the United States or its allies (whether in the International Court of Justice, the federal courts - update, or in foreign courts).  Perhaps rather than giving up on commemorating events with legal concepts that capture some of their gravity, politicians could strive to be even-handed across nations and situations, including their own nation and situation.  Finally, while the strategic situation of the United States is beyond the scope of this post, it is not as if the period during which the presidency and the Congress denied the Armenian genocide (beginning in the late 1980s or thereabouts) was uniformly characterized by greater security and reduced Middle East tensions.  Nor was Turkey’s role always a benign one during this period.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 1, 2021 at 09:31 AM in International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)