Friday, September 24, 2021

Easy First Amendment cases

I wrote last week about a Sixth Circuit decision holding that the First Amendment protects a group of anti-Israel protesters who have protested outside an Ann Arbor synagogue every Shabbat since 2003 from an intentional-infliction claim by two members of the congregation. My post focused on the stupidity of standing and how it got in the way of the case--the district court dismissed for lack of standing (emotional injury insufficiently concrete) and the concurring judge agreed with that conclusion, while the majority said there was standing (obviously) but the claim fails under the First Amendment.

I did not write about the First Amendment issues because the case was (or would have been, if the district court had not injected standing into the mix) so obvious and easy. The protesters are on the public sidewalk in front of and across the street from the synagogue, both traditional public forums. They do not block the entrance, nor do they attempt to approach people entering the synagogue (so this does not look like the activity outside clinics). Their signs and chants are obnoxious and hateful. Protesting Israel in front of a synagogue is anti-Semitic, the paradigm conflation of Israel with Judaism and Jews. But nothing described in the opinion comes close to falling outside First Amendment protections or the source of liability.

But this Jewish News Syndicate column by Nathan Lewin sees this case as the first step towards enactment of Nuremberg Laws and a program of organized murder. He likens this to spray-painting a swastika on a temple. And to the cross-burning in Virginia v. Black, ignoring that Black and his fellow defendants won because the state had not (and in Black's case could not) prove intent to intimidate. He insists that these messages in this location are not trying to persuade, so they must be trying to harass and intimidate. But speech can do a lot in the vast space between pure rational persuasion and unprotected intimidation. I doubt Paul Cohen (to keep it mischpacha) or Brandi Levi (who is not, but everyone thought she was) was trying to rationally persuade anyone.

Lewin insists "there are solid reasons in federal and Michigan law o sustain the Jewish worshippers’ claim that gatherings and placards designed to harass and intimidate Jewish worshippers are not shielded by the Constitution." He does not  identify those reasons; the best he has is that the majority acknowledged that the case is not frivolous (and thus not dismissable for lack of jurisdiction), which is not much to hang onto. He is right that placards designed to harass and intimidate are not protected. The problem is that no facts show an intent to harass or intimidate and likely cannot, given how intimidation is understood in Black. Nor does he mention Skokie, which would seem to defeat any suggestion that parading anti-Semitic messages in a space with a lot of Jews loses constitutional protection.

Lewin is a well-known First Amendment attorney who litigated several significant religious-liberty cases. (He does not seem to like Judge Sutton, who wrote the majority, taking the time to point out that Sutton argued City of Boerne, as if to suggest Sutton is opposed to religious liberty). But this screed disregards basic free-speech principles, although I am not sure towards what end.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 24, 2021 at 01:31 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Florida sinks to Texas' level

Florida Rep. Webster Barnaby (besides vying for most Southern name imaginable) has introduced the Florida Heartbeat Act, a carbon copy of SB8--ban on post-heartbeat abortions, no public enforcement, private civil action by "a person" against providers. No surprise, either that there is a copycat or that Florida would be the first copycat. Given how quickly this is going to fall apart, one wonders if it is worth the bother. But Ron DeSantis needs something else to run on. And maybe a few months of stopped abortions, until the wheels fall off, is sufficient.

It will pass next year, take effect in July 1, 2022, and we will be back where we are. My guess is that rather than wasting time on offensive litigation, providers will be quicker to set-up the defensive test case: Perform the abortion on July 2, find a friendly plaintiff on July 3, and off we go.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 22, 2021 at 07:06 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

The truth of SB8

The Times reports on the two SB8 lawsuits, including a quotation from Supreme Court litigator Paul Smith that defensive litigation is the "nicest, cleanest way" to get to SCOTUS, which is what we have been arguing from the start. This is not speedy or comprehensive. But no litigation is, in fact, comprehensive in the sense of one case prohibiting all enforcement. And defensive litigation avoids having to endure the Fed Courts seminar that offensive litigation requires.

I was struck by this bit of honesty from anti-choice activists in Texas:

These out-of-state suits are not what the bill is intended for,” said Chelsey Youman, the Texas state director and national legislative adviser for Human Coalition, an anti-abortion group that said it had no plans to file a lawsuit against the physician, Dr. Alan Braid, or to encourage others to do so.

“The goal is to save as many lives as possible, and the law is working,” Ms. Youman said, adding that the notion behind the law was that the mere threat of liability would be so intimidating that providers would simply comply.

The complaints about the lawsuits being "plants" or about Braid inviting the lawsuits is nonsense. Activists do not get to control who avails themselves of a legal right they advocated for. They drafted the statute to allow "any person," without limiting "any person" to those that share their policy goals or positions.

I do wonder what to make of the idea of enacting a law with no intention of enforcing it, hoping that the chilling effect of the risk of enforcement will be sufficient to stop the disfavored conduct, without actual enforcement. Is that a legitimate use to make of law? On the other hand, it suggests that the fears of crippling litigation and judgments might have been overblown. There was no real threat of overwhelming liability because no one wanted to enforce. But the possibility of a lawsuit by "friendly" plaintiff who will bring the claim and allow for litigation means the law does not, in fact, insulate the law or thwart judicial review.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 22, 2021 at 03:04 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

These are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand

Operation Rescue has asked the Texas Medical Board to investigate Dr. Braid and to suspend and permanently revoke his license, based on his admitted performance of a post-heartbeat abortion. (H/T: David Cohen of Drexel). The letter is a sight to behold, explaining that Dr. Braid wants to be sued for his "defiant attitude and unlawful act," so OE went to the Board to seek a sanction without giving him what he wants. It also is stupid, if the goal of this and other anti-choice activists is to make it difficult to get a judicial ruling on the constitutional validity of the heartbeat ban.

The lone viable theory to get into federal district court is an action by medical providers (doctors, nurses, clinics) against the regulatory boards to stop "indirect enforcement"--licensed professionals must adhere to health laws, including SB8, so the licensing bodies can be enjoined from using an SB8 violation as the predicate for a licensure action because SB8 is constitutionally invalid. The original WWH complaint (the one sitting in the Fifth Circuit and in which SCOTUS refused to enjoin enforcement pending review) included claims against the medical, nursing, and pharmacy boards on this theory. In denying the motion to dismiss the appeal and staying the district court proceedings, the Fifth Circuit stated that SB8’s prohibition on public enforcement includes this sort of indirect enforcement.

Operation Rescue’s letter argues the opposite of that position. If the medical board moves on this, it is going to have a harder time arguing in the ongoing WWH suit that it does not and will not yield indirect enforcement authority. That means WWH has at least one claim against one defendant for which there is standing and no sovereign immunity and that can move forward in federal court and allow for resolution of the law’s constitutional validity. Alternatively, Braid has a state actor against whom to bring a new lawsuit in federal court. There is standing and no sovereign immunity, because possible enforcement is imminent based on the complaint, unless the Board again conclusively disclaims this enforcement authority. Any injunction will not stop any private individuals from pursuing claims and will not protect advocates from aiding-and-abetting claims; it would protect only providers from licensure actions. But this creates a path to (limited) federal litigation and quicker path to SCOTUS and binding precedent that the heartbeat ban is invalid, which will govern future private actions.

If the Board moves forward on this complaint, it creates some tricky abstention issues. The now-pending state administrative proceeding may require the federal court to abstain under Younger, at least as to any claims Braid brings himself or in the WWH case. Braid then has the same anti-abstention arguments that could lie against private SB8 plaintiffs--no adequate opportunity to raise the constitutional issue in the state proceeding, bad faith, flagrantly unconstitutional law. Also, the question of indirect enforcement is a state-law issue that might require certification or Pullman abstention. As I said, this law is a Fed Courts/Civil Rights class.

But here is a larger point. SB8 was drafted by a smart lawyer and legal scholar with a particular understanding of constitutional law and litigation (that I happen to share). The law contains moving pieces and requires collective patience to achieve its desired result--stopping abortion through actual or threatened civil liability while eliminating any governmental targets for immediate offensive litigation in federal court. But operatives on the ground seem to lack that sophisticated understanding or patience and, without realizing it, may undermine the law's complex scheme. OE's letter illustrates that impatience and apparent lack of understanding of what the law is designed to do. Whether it undermines the grand plan depends on what happens next.

Update: An additional thought. As Mary Ziegler has argued, this is not the first time states have attempted to use private civil litigation. In the 1990s, activists tried to sue providers for medical malpractice, failure to give informed consent, and other misdeeds. But interest in this slow, bel0w-the radar process died out in favor of direct and high-profile attacks on Roe itself. The OE letter reflects that.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 21, 2021 at 01:46 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 20, 2021

We have our SB8 test case (Udpated)

We have our SB8 test case(s). On Saturday, Texas doctor Alan Braid wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post announcing/confessing to performing a first-trimester-post-heartbeat abortion. On Monday, Oscar Stilley filed suit in state court in Bexar County. Stilley is a disbarred lawyer and tax protester, under home confinement serving a 15-year sentence on tax charges. Expect to read a lot more about his brand of insanity, some of which appears in the complaint--he alleges that he called Braid and asked him to "repent of his ideology as well as his deeds" and filed suit only when "such respectful efforts" failed to secure an agreement.

Update: A second suit was filed by a "pro choice plaintiff" from Illinois, also in Bexar County. Further Update: This plaintiff also is a lawyer who has encountered some disciplinary problems.

I agree with the comment someone made on the ConLawProf listserv: This is the plaintiff Texas deserves for enacting this nonsense. I would be curious about what the anti-choice community thinks of this suit. This is not who they want as the face of the movement nor is he likely to offer the best defense of the law. In the same way the reproductive-rights community wants an appealing person to violate the law, those seeking to defend the law want an appealing plaintiff. I imagine activists were happy with the current state of affairs--no lawsuits, no abortions in the state, running out the clock until (they hope) a favorable decision in Dobbs. (Further Update: The head of Texas right to life is not happy, calling the suits "self-serving legal stunts, abusing the cause of action created in the Texas Heartbeat Act for their own purposes." This is a long way of saying "Fuck, we have been hoisted on our own petards.")

Braid's first move in state court should be a motion to dismiss on constitutional grounds and a request for expedited briefing. The more interesting question is whether Braid brings a § 1983 action against Stilley on a public-function theory (in enforcing state law under an exclusive delegation, Stilley is performing a traditional-and-exclusive public function) and seeks to enjoin him from pursuing the state-court litigation. This might be the path into federal court. We are off and running.

The second, "pro choice plaintiff" complaint is its own form of nonsense that undermines its own strategy. One paragraph moves the court to declare the act unconstitutional and another alleges that Braid did not violate Roe (whatever that means) and that the act is unlawful. This is not the way to do this. There is room for what Rocky labels "arranged" litigation, in which a plaintiff who supports reproductive freedom brings the lawsuit and is willing to lose, giving the doctor the opportunity to challenge SB8's constitutional validity, including on appeal. The statute allows "any person" to sue, so there is no basis for the court to look for either injury or adverseness; a person can say he is suing because he needs the money. But the sympathetic plaintiff must act like a plaintiff by alleging that the defendant violated the law; it is on the defendant to make the arguments against the law. But given the pervasive misunderstanding of procedure in this mess, it should not be surprising that the first moves come from people who cannot get the procedure right.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 20, 2021 at 07:46 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOTWELL: Steinman on Bayefsky on respect and Article III

The new Courts Law essay comes from Adam Steinman (Alabama) reviewing Rachel Bayefsky, Remedies and Respect: Rethinking the Role of Federal Judicial Relief, 109 Geo. L.J. 1263 (2021). This is a great article (and great review), although I unsurprisingly do not believe the model, however valid, gets us to universal injunctions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 20, 2021 at 12:27 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shorter Chronicle of Higher Education

Some members of the Stanford College Republicans are immature assholes who do immature asshole things and other members realize both of those facts. But nothing described in this story comes close to falling outside of First Amendment protections. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 20, 2021 at 12:22 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 17, 2021

Jurisdiction, merits, and the First Amendment

From the Sixth Circuit, reaching the correct result for confused and convoluted reasons.

Anti-Israel protesters have picketed outside Beth Israel Synagogue in Ann Arbor every Shabbatt since 2003. Two congregants sued the protesters for intentional infliction and various civil rights claims and the city and various municipal officials for not stopping the protests. The district court dismissed the claims for lack of standing, finding that emotional distress is not a sufficient Article III injury. The Sixth Circuit majority held that the plaintiffs had standing, but that the claims fail on the merits because the protests are First Amendment protected activity. Judge Clay concurred, arguing that the plaintiffs lack standing and the district court lacks jurisdiction because the claims are so frivolous.

This is another example of standing and jurisdiction complicating and distracting straight-forward cases. Plaintiffs brought a long-established common law claim and the only question should have been whether the protesters expressive conduct was constitutionally protected and thus not a basis for liability. It makes no sense to erect, understand, and use threshold jurisdictional doctrines to complicate that issue. Would anyone have discussed standing or jurisdiction had this case been brought in state court? Then it should not be different in federal court.

Also, note, again, the defensive context in which the First Amendment was raised and judicially resolved. Paintiffs sued for damages, the protesters raised their First Amendment rights as a defense, and in agreeing with the protesters on the First Amendment question, the court dismissed the lawsuit. How is that not an "ordinary mechanism" or the "established process" of judicial review?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 17, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Devin Nunes wins a small victory, for now

To show I can write about something other than SB8: This terrible Eighth Circuit opinion. The court holds that Devin Nunes did not sufficiently plead actual malice against Esquire and Ryan Lizza over publication of an article about Nunes' family's farm, because he had not sufficiently pleaded actual malice. (Nunes acknowledged he had not done so--he asked the court to reconsider the standard, which it obviously cannot do). But the court reversed dismissal of a claim against Lizza for retweeting a link to the story two months Nunes filed his original complaint. Retweeting constitutes republication. And because Lizza retweeted after the lawsuit denied the story, it was "plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in 'the purposeful avoidance of the truth.'"

This cannot be right. The denial or contesting of allegations, without more, cannot plausibly establish knowledge or reckless disregard as to truth of the statements, presumably in the face of other reasons to believe the story (which is why they published it). The implication of this is that a defamation claim can survive 12(b)(6) by alleging that someone retweeted the disputed story knowing that the target of the story has sued or otherwise contested its truth. Or, one step further, a plaintiff could survive 12(b)(6) by pleading that the reporter published the story despite pre-publication denials of the content. Either of those puts the defendant on notice of the denial, which raises the same plausible inference the defendant "purposefully avoided" the truth.

I doubt Nunes survives summary judgment, because I doubt he can establish evidence beyond his denial for Lizza to disbelieve the article. That is not enough to establish actual malice by clear-and-convincing evidence, as required. Still, letting this get beyond 12(b)(6) is not good. It raises again whether plausibility should account for a higher standard of persuasion, as it does on summary judgment.

And just to tie this back to SB8, because that is my life right now: No one seems to believe that Lizza was denied judicial review of his First Amendment rights by having to defend a lawsuit.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 15, 2021 at 06:22 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

US seeks emergency TRO against SB8 (Updated)

Motion here. The piece I find interesting begins around p. 24, in which DOJ argues, in essence, that § 1983 and Ex parte Young preempt a law such as this. Section 1983 reflects a congressional choice to make federal civil rights litigation, including for injunctions, the preferred mechanism for litigating constitutional rights, thereby making offensive litigation the preferred posture for constitutional litigation.

I am not sure that is true. As I have been arguing here, many contexts force rights-holders into a defensive posture, outside of federal court. Sometimes those contexts come from Congress, such as the Anti-Injunction Act, or the courts, such as Younger. Sometimes that comes from states, such as in the creation of tort and contract law. The brief relies on Patsy v. Board of Regents, which held that a state cannot impose an admnistrative-exhaustion requirement on a public employee as a precondition to bringing a § 1983 action. But four years later the Court held that Younger applied to state administrative enforcement proceedings--that is, a rights0holder must defend the state administrative proceeding and appeal through the state system to SCOTUS, not run to district court. So federal court is not always paramount.

The brief repeats the refrain that SB8 thwarts "ordinary mechanisms of judicial review" or the "established process of judicial review." When did state courts, with SCOTUS review, cease to be an ordinary mechanism of judicial review? And is DOJ willing to follow that idea where it leads, so that an offensive option must be available in all cases, except perhaps where Congress creates the limits on § 1983? Must there be some mechanism for pre-enforcement challenges to constitutionally defective tort claims?

Finally, seems impossible to square this rhetoric with the limited scope of constitutional litigation. Imagine that SB8 followed California's prior consumer-protection law at issue in Nike v. Kasky, which allowed enforcement by "any person" regardless of injury as well as by governments and officials. A pre-enforcement EPY action would have been possible. But the injunction from that EPY action would have bound the executive, not the potential "any person." He would have been able to sue and perhaps win a state-court action, at least prior to the establishment of binding SCOTUS precedent. Same thing here. Some state-court actions would be possible and some providers would still have to defend in state court. They would have some precedent. But state courts are not bound by non-SCOTUS federal precedent unless they choose to be.

This is more complicated than the DOJ rhetoric acknowledges.

Update: The district court set a hearing for October 1. This fast-tracks the case. While framed as a motion for a TRO, the resulting order will be deemed a grant or denial preliminary injunction and immediately appealable.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 15, 2021 at 03:16 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (2)

SCOTUSBlog review of "Painting Constitutuional Law"

Amanda Frost (American) published a nice review on SCOTUSBlog of Painting Constitutional Law, my edited volume with M.C. Mirow on Xavier's Cortada's series May It Please the Court.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 15, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Books, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

SB8 op-ed

Rocky and I have an op-ed in California's Daily Journal on SB8, a mini version of our paper and my many posts here and at the VC.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 14, 2021 at 01:28 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Chronicle of Higher Ed reveals its biases

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on the rankings obsession among colleges. They begin the story with three examples--University of Houston, Washington State, and us. The top of the piece contains a photo with an array of pull-quotes from strategic plans--we are the only school mentioned by name. Also garnering mention in the story are Clemson, Oklahoma State,  and Oregon State. Apparently the only schools obsessing about rankings are non-flagship public universities, two of which are urban and some of which serve significant numbers of non-white students. My colleague Louis Schulze has some thoughts about the biases reflected in the editorial framing choice.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 14, 2021 at 01:25 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 13, 2021

Retroactive enforcement of zombie laws

Michael Dorf explores whether, if Roe and Casey are overruled, people can be sanctioned (criminally or civilly a la SB8) under reanimated zombie laws for abortions performed in violation of state law but while Roe and Casey rendered those laws unenforceable. Dorf discusses cases considering whether a person can be sanctioned for conduct performed while protected by a preliminary injunction and while litigation is ongoing.

I did not discuss this issue in my article, which focuses more on what a zombie is and how they work in the moment. I wish i had, because it is an important future consideration. I agree with Mike that it would be fundamentally unfair to punish someone for conduct that violated the statute but was taken under the cloak of judicial precedent authorizing the conduct. But the case law considering conduct taken during litigation and under the protection of a preliminary injunction does not provide the relevant guidance.

The problem is that injunctions do not create most zombie laws. Many zombie laws have never been the target of litigation; they are laws from Jurisdiction B rendered judicially unenforceable by a decision involving a similar or identical law from Jurisdiction A. (This is the case with the law in which Fifth Circuit Judge Gregg Costa coined the term). Or they are distinct laws, different from the ones declared invalid in prior litigation, but raising the same constitutional objections. Many constitutional opinions create zombies but do not issue an injunction--they arise from defensive litigation and the judgment dismisses the enforcement action. (For example, no court enjoined Texas from enforcing its flag-desecration law; SCOTUS dismissed a prosecution against Gregory Lee Johnson. The same with Connecticut's contraception ban and the prosecution of Estelle Griswold). If the zombie was established in a case enjoining enforcement, the injunction is (or should be) limited to stopping enforcement against the plaintiffs to that action. Non-enforcement beyond the parties is a product of precedent, not the injunction.

Jonathan Mitchell in Writ-of-Erasure Fallacy has a different take. Judicial precedent involves a policy of judicial non-enforcement, no different from an executive policy of non-enforcement. (I would expound to say that judicial departmentalism makes the latter into the former--the executive choice not to enforce out of knowledge that it will lose in court reflects a policy choice). An executive non-enforcement policy would not provide a reliance defense to a subsequent enforcement (as Griswold demonstrates). It follows, Mitchell argues, that neither should a judicial non-enforcement policy.

The answer to this question requires a theory of judicial precedent and its effects on the public. Under judicial departmentalism, it binds courts but does not bind executives. How does that affect the public, its choices, and its subsequent exposure for those choices? And how does that further fundamental fairness and due process?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 13, 2021 at 10:11 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sports nomenclature

Novak Djokovic lost in the finals of the U.S. Open today, ending his attempt to complete the first Grand Slam by a male player since Rod Laver in 1969 and by any player since Steffi Graf in 1988.

Much of the writing about this will describe Djokovic as missing the "Calendar-Year Grand Slam," a qualifier distinguishing what became known as a "Serena Slam" in which a player holds the four titles at the same time measured from some arbitrary point in time. For example, a player wins Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in Year One and the Australian and French Opens in Year Two; measured during the month between French and Wimbledon in Year Two, that player has won a "Slam" over the last 12 months.

This is stupid. Had Djokovic won, he would have captured a Grand Slam, unmodified and unqualified. The Serena Slam is not a thing and we should not mention it. A Serena Slam is equivalent to saying a baseball player who hit 37 home runs in the last 81 games of Year One and 37 home runs in the first 81 games of Year Two holds the record by hitting 74 homers in 162 games (the length of a season). Or a hockey player who scored 46 goals in the final 41 games of Year One and 47 goals in the first 41 games of Year Two holds the record by scoring 93 goals in in 82 games (the length of a season). Season records are measured in a season, not the number of games that comprise a season, measured from arbitrary points over multiple seasons.

Tennis has a season that follows a calendar year and contains four Grand Slam tournaments in order. It begins in January leading to the first Slam tournament in Australia in late January and ends in November with round-robin tournaments featuring the eight best men (played in Italy) and women (played in China), two months after the fourth and final Slam event in New York. If winning the four tournaments is a thing, it must be within that "season," meaning a calendar year. Anything else looks like an attempt to create a special achievement when the real achievement proved too rare.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 12, 2021 at 07:36 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Universal injunctions are back, baby

I predicted that, with the change of presidential administrations, Republicans and conservative activists would discover that universal injunctions are permissible and essential to the rule of law. I did not know what would trigger the new arguments. Now we do.

Litigation is on the horizon challenging the coming OSHA vaccine mandate. I can hear it now.: "It is not enough to stop the government from requiring the plaintiff to get vaccinated. The mandate applies to all employees across the country. If it is unconstitutional to make A get vaccinated, how can it be constitutional to make B get vaccinated. That violates the rule of law. Federal law must be uniform."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 11, 2021 at 11:02 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 10, 2021

5th Circuit allows appeal in SB8 case

The 5th Circuit denied motions to dismiss the appeals and stayed the district court proceedings in the WWH SB8 case. The court of appeals had jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine over the state officials'  claims because all were denied 11th Amendment immunity when the district court found that Ex Parte Young claims could proceed against them despite their not being proper defendants. The court had pendent appeallate jurisdiction over the appeal by Mark Lee Dickson, because the claims against him are inextricably intertwined with the claims against the judges and clerks. A stay was proper because the defendants were likely to succeed on their appeal, because they are not proper defendants under SB8.

On the likelihood of success, there is some language in the order that will help with the paper. The court labeled the claims against judges as "specious," citing Ex Parte Young and cases from the Fifth Circuit and other courts to make the argument we have been making--judges acting in an adjudicatory capacity are not proper defendants in lawsuits challenging the constitutional validity of a law, as the judges (and the clerks who accept pleadings) are "disinterested neutrals" engaging in adjudication rather than enforcement. The court cast doubt on the "indirect enforcement" claims against executive officials. Rocky and I argue that this could work, although the remedy would be limited to providers and licensing proceedings, doing nothing to stop private lawsuits. But the court read SB8's no-enforcement provision to bar any enforcement based on any SB8 violations.

I think the court was wrong about the Dickson. Pendent appellate jurisdiction is supposed to be limited to situations in which resolution of the COD issue resolves the PAJ issue. For example, the first prong of qualified immunity (violation of a right) is inextricably intertwined with the violation prong of municipal liability. But that is not true of the claims against the judges/clerks and Dickson. The issue as to the judges is whether they are proper Ex Parte Young defendants; the issue as to Dickson is whether he intends to bring suit. I guess if the judges are proper defendants and can be enjoined then Dickson cannot pursue his claims. But the propriety of the injunction is not on this appeal, only whether they can be defendants. Pendent appellate jurisdiction is problematic in extending COD beyond a "narrow class of cases." This proves the point.

I know this is bad for abortion rights and for women needing reproductive-health services in Texas. And I accept Andy Koppelman's argument that it would be bad for constitutional rights if this type of law proliferates. But, for better or worse, procedurally the court is correct.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 10, 2021 at 09:57 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Guest stint at Volokh Conspiracy

Rocky and I will be guest-blogging about our SB8 article (now forthcoming in American University Law Review but very much a work in progress) at the Volokh Conspiracy over the next week. Our first post is here.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 10, 2021 at 01:53 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Demanding Ivermectin--what legal right?

Several state trial courts have entered TROs compelling hospitals to give patients Ivermectin, despite the view of the hospitals and staff doctors that it is in inappropriate treatment.

These suits have bothered me because I could not figure out the cause of action or legal right being asserted. What legal right did a patient have to a particular treatment from a doctor contrary to the doctor's best judgment, to say nothing of a right that would allow the court to compel that treatment. A doctor who refused a particular treatment, involving an unapproved use of a drug, could not be liable for malpractice so long as his treatment was otherwise within the ordinary standard of care. So how could the court order treatment that a doctor would not be liable for failing to provide. It turns out, none, according to an attorney at Reed Smith.

My guess is that something like the following happened: The court focused entirely on the irreparable harm to an ill patient who might die without what some regard (wrongly, but well . . .) as a life-saving treatment and the high burden on the plaintiff in the balance of equities. That overcame what should have been an incredibly small likelihood of success on the merits, since there was no legal right to enforce and thus no right on which to succeed.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 9, 2021 at 07:52 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

US v. Texas

Filed in the Western District of Texas. I have no idea whether this overcomes the problems that, in my mind, plague individual suits--no state official or person working for the state enforces this law. Therefore there is neither traceability nor redressability in standing terms and no constitutional violation in merits terms (since the law, apart from enforcement, does not violate rights). Paragraph 8 defines Texas as including "all of its officers, employees, and agents, including private parties who would bring suit under S.B. 8," contemplating every person who might sue, even if not imminent. Will that work?

There has been so much scrambling at the expense of the simple (if not ideal) solution--violate the law, get sued, defend in state court, appeal to SCOTUS. The prevailing theme is that this is insufficient. Paragraph 4 of the complaint insists that the law has thwarted "traditional mechanisms of federal judicial review," while ¶ 15 describes Texas attempting "to strip its own citizens of the ability to invoke the power of the federal courts to vindicate their rights," But how is defending in state court and appealing to SCOTUS not a traditional mechanism of federal judicial review According to a study by Arthur Hellman, prior to the mid-'70s most judicial review occurred this way; the shift to more offensive litigation happened towards the end of that decade. And if having to litigate federal issues in state court strips citizens of the ability to invoke federal courts, then the Well Pleaded Complaint Rule and Younger are constitutionally invalid. I don't think the government meant to say that.  My guess is that if this gambit fails, someone will violate the law and get sued, realizing that is the only way.

On the issue of whether the U.S. can, on behalf of its citizens, bring a broader lawsuit and obtain broader relief: I might be comfortable with that fact. The idea between having a combination of private and public enforcement of federal rights (especially civil rights) is that the federal government can pursue a broader suit (including by naming a sovereign) and get broader relief. But the inherent limits on government enforcement--resources, political will, competing demands--mean that the federal government will not and cannot puruse every case. They only go after the big ones--"more bang for the buck." And this is that singular huge issue that prompts government action.

Update: Will Baude offers a version of what my co-author calls a special standing solicitude for the United States. Unlike individuals, the U.S. can sue all of Texas and everyone who does anything with respect to a law--enacting, enforcing, adjudicating. So the U.S. can do more in that rare, big case it decides to pursue. I still believe this is a simple case in which simple defensive litigation is an option. But maybe this is the huge outlier case in which unusual government action is appropriate.

Another Update: I forgot to mention the strategic forum choice: This could have been filed in SCOTUS on original jurisdiction as a controversy between the United States and a state. At least Justices Thomas and Alito would have accepted the bill of complaint, as both are on record that SCOTUS' original jurisdiction is not discretionary. And like a suit challenging the validity of voting-age rules under the VRA, this would seem to be the type of uniquely huge national controversy involving state-law perogatives demanding speedy and original review by SCOTUS.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 9, 2021 at 04:29 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 05, 2021

The judicial departmentalism of SB8

On an emergency episode of the Divided Arguments podcast, Will Baude and Dan Epps discuss SB8 and SCOTUS's refusal to stop enforcement pending litigation. Dan attempted to distinguish a longstanding law whose constitutional validity was newly called into doubt by a change in Court personnel and constitutional doctrine from a new law enacted in the face of contrary precedent and designed to change precedent against long-protected rights-holders. The former includes the handgun restriction declared invalid in McDonald or the abortion law declared invalid in Roe; the latter includes SB8 and other new abortion restriction. Rights-holders should be protected and free to exercise their rights during litigation. But that problem arises in the latter class but not former class. In the former, rights-holders have not been exercising their rights (which had not existed), so they lose nothing having to wait for resolution of litigation. In the latter, rights-holders have been exercising recognized constitutional rights for years, so they bear a risk of losing long-recognized rights in the interim.

It is an interesting distinction, especially for how we understand zombie laws.

The problem is that--regardless of the source, timing, or nature of the law--constitutional decisionmaking must follow regular judicial processes. That need not and cannot always entail offensive pre-enforcement litigation in which a federal court preliminarily enjoins enforcement pending the completion of litigation. And such offensive litigation remains limited to the parties to the action--any further compliance is voluntary.

It may be, as Dan argues, that the Court would have responded differently to a law prohibiting gun ownership and allowing "any person" to sue a gun owner. But the Court's inconsistency (hypocrisy?) should not obscure the procedural rules. The answer is that the Court should act appropriately as to the guns law, not that we should urge the Court to act inappropriately as to the abortion law.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 5, 2021 at 02:14 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Stay (the SB8 judgment) just a little bit longer

My recurring argument around SB8 is that the statute does not eliminate judicial review of SB8's substantive provisions, it channels it into a defensive posture in state court (with SCOTUS review at the end). Providers and advocates reject that because it requires them to violate the law, get sued, and risk liability. But this reflects two distinct concerns: Incurring ultimate liability because SCOTUS rules against them at the end of the day and having to satisfy and comply with a judgment before they have an opportunity to fully litigate the issues.

But state procedures in the defensive action address that by allowing courts to stay judgments or orders pending appeal. That is, imagine the state court rules in favor of Billy Bob and against Whole Women's Health and awards statutory damages, attorney's fees, and enjoins WWH from future prohibited abortions. The state court can stay that judgment pending review, preventing the plaintiffs from collecting damages or enforcing the injunction until appellate review is complete. A stay seems appropriate here, given the constitutional uncertainty, the unique procedural posture of these cases, and the irreparable harm to the defendant if they must comply with this judgment immediately. One member of the ConLawProf listserv suggested that the SCOTUS majority could have alleviated some of the shouting over its refusal to stay or enjoin by including a sentence saying they expect state courts would issue such stays in any enforcement proceeding.

There is precedent for this. After the Alabama trial court issued a $ 500,000 judgment against The Times and four civil-rights leader defendants, all defendants moved for a new trial and The Times asked for and received a continuance (essentially, a stay of the judgment), so Sullivan never began collecting against them. The individuals never asked for that stay, so Sullivan went after Ralph Abernathy's assets. The point is that providers can avoid paying on any loss until litigation is complete. If the loss is affirmed because SCOTUS declares SB8 valid, the concern now is about the substantive right, not the process.

There is a third problem for providers--having to defend dozes or hundreds of such suits. But there is a possible solution to that. Given that every SB8 action involves the same conduct and raises the same issues (state standing and substantive invalidity), there is a good argument that the courts in cases 2-200 should, in their discretion, stay those cases awaiting the outcome of the one "test" case.

This is not perfect by any means. But it undermines the complaint that judicial review is impossible or that it requires providers or advocates to place themselves in irreparable jeopardy.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 4, 2021 at 10:32 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 03, 2021

Some responses to Somin on SB8

Ilya Somin offers some thoughts on SB8 and the Court's decision to allow enforcement pending litigation.

Somin argues rejecting current standing and injunction rules in favor of a "general injunction" precluding enforcement of that law by anyone who might otherwise be in a position to undertake that task. In an email, Somin clarifies that the target defendant in the lawsuit would be the government entity that created the law (a further rejection of current sovereign immunity rules). This is an intriguing idea. I favor simplifying constitutional litigation by making the government the target defendant. And I do not like standing rules as they exist as jurisdictional limitations. I am not quite ready to dissaggregate judicial review and remedy from actual or threatened enforcement of the law by someone, even if the government is ultimately "responsible." We still do not have that.

Somin rejects the criticism that SB8 unleashes "vigilantes," because many laws use private enforcement. "The troubling aspect of SB 8 is not the use of private enforcement, as such, but the resort to it as a mechanism for evading judicial review." But SB8 does not evade judicial review, as much as it channels judicial review into a defensive posture. That is unusual for most statutory regimes (e.g., environment and civil rights law), which combine public and private enforcement, leaving a government official to sue for injunctive relief. But it is not unusual for tort regimes (e.g., defamation), in which constitutional challenges to liability must be made on defense. Yes, that has a chilling effect in the interim. But the only way around that chilling effect is to say that pre-enforcement offensive litigation is constitutionally required--and I see no reason for that to be the case.

Somin's third issue is ingenious. He argues that leading pro-choice organizations should commit to providing legal representation and to cover any damages or fees awarded, thereby incentivizing providers  to continue providing services. The prospect of providers being able to defend themselves may deter Billy Bob from filing suit. And I would add that the legal representation could include suing Billy Bob in federal court, further deterring him from filing suit. This is a fascinating idea that we will try to work into the paper.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 3, 2021 at 12:22 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 02, 2021

SCOTUS denies interim relief in SB8 litigation (Updated)

SCOTUS denied interim relief in the SB8 litigation, emphasizing the uncertainty of whether there is a proper defendant in the case. The Chief, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented. I will have some thoughts once I get out of class.

Update: OK, done with class. I actually discussed this in Fed Courts, something I ordinarily don't do--we have not gotten to standing or EPY yet, although we were in the middle of SCOTUS review of state courts and I was about to talk a bit about the shadow docket. It was a pretty good discussion. I think I will use this law and this case as a case-study when we come back to later topics.

Thoughts on the order:

• Justice Sotomayor offers some judicial supremacy, calling the law "a breathtaking act of defiance--of the Constitution, of this Court's precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas." She is 1/3 right--it defies the Court's precedents. But I presume the Texas legislature believed the law was valid under its reading of the Constitution, under which women do not have a right to seek abortions. Agree or disagree with that position, but it is an interpretation of the Constitution that the Texas legislature is entitled to make, if it wants to live with the consequences of being wrong about what the Court will do.

• I think the procedural discussion reduces to this question: Is Ex Parte Young/pre-enforcement offensive litigation required by the Constitution. Breyer cites Marbury for the proposition that when a right in invaded, the law provides "'a legal remedy by suit or action at law." This is true when the right is invaded outside of court--defaming me, hitting me with a car, or not giving me my commission. But here the right is invaded inside court, when someone attempts to enforce a law against me. In that case, I have a legal remedy in the form of a defense. If that is not sufficient, then Younger, limitations on habeas, and other doctrines that channel certain federal issues into defensive state-court litigation are invalid. Maybe that is true, but I do not know that Breyer is going that far.

• The related problem is whether the existence of a law equals a constitutional violation. Again, I think Breyer assumes it does. Which explains his demand for offensive litigation--the "injury" is the existence of the law, so there must be an offensive remedy. But if the existence is not a violation until enforcement, it does not work.

• Breyer says a case could proceed against "those particularly likely to exercise the delegated powers." This is correct. The problem is no such person has been identified. When has has been, I think a § 1983 action can proceed, including enjoining any pending state proceeding. At the same time, that does not really help--even if WWH identified likely enforcers and got interim relief against them, that interim relief cannot stop anyone else from enforcing in the interim. Not sure Breyer recognized that.

Michael Dorf has a good post and discussion on some issues.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 2, 2021 at 06:53 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (15)

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

SB8 and New York Times v. Sullivan

Mary Ziegler (Florida State) describes SB8 as the culmination of a decades-long strategy, centered in Texas, to use civil litigation to end abortion.

Ziegler reinforces our argument that current events around abortion in Texas recall events around pro-civil-rights speech in Alabama in the early 1960s. Alabama officials developed a coordinated plan to use civil defamation litigation under wildly pro-plaintiff state law to silence pro-civil-rights speech by civil rights activists and the Northern press. By the early 1960s, the New York Times faced $ 300 million in defamation judgments, prompting it to pursue the case to SCOTUS and ultimately change the First Amendment.

The difference, of course, is that SCOTUS in 1964 would interpret the First Amendment to end that strategy. Reproductive-rights activists and providers fear, probably rightly, that SCOTUS will not interpret the Fourteenth Amendment to end that strategy. But that shows that the concerns and complaints about SB8 are substantive rather than procedural--the current Court believes that states can ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and so will allow enforcement of that law.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 1, 2021 at 09:14 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nomenclature

SB8 took effect at midnight. Neither SCOTUS nor the Fifth Circuit has moved on various motions to enjoin enforcement pending litigation, therefore the law is enforceable by everyone against everyone (except for the limited state TRO protecting three individuals from enforcement by an entity and two individuals). But the courts' failure to act is not why the law took effect. Had either court acted, the law would have "taken effect." But it would not be enforceable by some persons against some persons (although it may be enforceable by other persons against other persons) as a result of a court order.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 1, 2021 at 06:43 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Still more on SB8

Here are two stories on the state-court TRO. It protects three named plaintiffs--Dallas attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel, Allison Van Stean, and abortion fund The Bridge Collective--from having SB8 actions filed against them by Texas Right to Life, its legislative director, and other individuals affiliated with RTF. The judge emphasized the irreparable harm without the TRO. But I have no idea what cause of action the plaintiffs used to get into court. Both stories emphasized how narrow the order is and that it does not stop SB8 from going into effect. But, an attorney for Planned Parenthood complained, "it does not provide the full relief needed to ensure all Texans can access their constitutional right to an abortion."

The media coverage and the comments of lawyers and courts shows just how badly we talk about the process underlying constitutional litigation. So once more with feeling:

1) No court at any level can stop SB8 from taking effect tomorrow--not a state court, not the Fifth Circuit, and not SCOTUS. 2) The only thing any court can ever do in an order in any case is stop some individuals or entities from enforcing the law (here, by filing a lawsuit) against other individuals or entities. 3) No court order provides"full relief" to "all Texans" unless the suit was brought as a class action of all Texans (who are not subject to suit anyway). 4) Rather than decrying the limited scope of the victory, the plaintiffs should celebrate it as a step that gives them the relief they need as part of a larger process of litigation over the law's enforcement and constitutional validity.

The exception to this is if the Fifth Circuit or SCOTUS, however erroneously, enjoins the judges and clerks. But that works by virtue of procedure and the nature of judicial relief as to specific parties, not because federal courts have greater remedial power. Their order would not bind the individual would-be SB8 plaintiffs or prohibit them from filing suits. But no clerks could accept the complaints and no judge could adjudicate them. You end in the same place, but the process matters.

Finally, I have not heard anyone explain how SB8 differs from possibly invalid tort law or my hypothetical cause of action against racist speech. I expect we would not have this hand-wringing, even though the enforcement mechanisms are the same and the difference is only the substantive rights at issue.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 31, 2021 at 04:29 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mike Richards, Jeopardy, and humor

Because I am a mere fan while Paul is a multi-time champion, I have not commented on the Defenestration of Mike Richards as new host and (as of today) as executive producer.

This has all the hallmarks of a modern story--smarmy white guy; past offensive comments and behavior buried, ignored, and unearthed; the joust between "cancel culture" and "our First Amendment right to disassociate with you because of what you said;" and the never-ending quest to show that past statements and actions do not reflect "who I am" as a person. It is not certain what ultimately led to Richard's demise--the hostile atmosphere he allowed (and may have participated in) on past shows he ran; the blatant self-dealing to get the host gig and his dishonesty about that self-dealing; the problems he created within the Jeopardy workplace; or the seven-year-old podcast stupidity. The response to Claire McNear's reporting, and the speedy changes since that reporting, has focused on the fourth more than the first three. That affects how we think about this in the "cancel-culture" narrative. The first three were disqualifying; the problem emerges when we focus too much on the fourth.

This piece by Ken Levine (a TV writer  on shows such as Cheers, Frasier, and M*A*S*H* and a baseball announcer for the Orioles and Mariners) raises a great point that captures what got Richards in trouble:

People say stupid things when they try to be funny and they’re inherently not funny.  And that includes racist remarks and sexist remarks.  
They hear Howard Stern pull it off, or Don Rickles, or Richard Pryor and they think they can too.   But they can’t.  
And let’s be honest, sexist, racist jokes are easy.  Instead of displaying real wit they go after easy targets.  

***

Especially now, that we’re all so hyper sensitive, we all have to be careful and exhibit good judgement, and that could be a problem for unfunny people who think they’re funny because their judgement is already cloudy.   Leave the comedy to the pros. 

We can debate the hyper-sensitivity point. There is no debate that there are funny people and unfunny people. The few weeks I watched Mike Richards as guest host did not radiate "funny."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 31, 2021 at 03:26 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

First Amendment concerns on the other side of SB8

It appears that a Texas state court has issued a TRO prohibiting a named individual (not Mark Dickson) and Texas Right to Life from bringing SB8 actions. I do not know what their cause of action was, nor do I know the breadth of what the judge ruled. Obviously the order cannot stop anyone other than the named defendants from bringing suit. And I do not know that Texas Right to Life was contemplating a lawsuit as much as gathering and providing information to individuals who might bring suits. A court enjoining those informational activities, distinct from filing the lawsuit itself, raises serious First Amendment problems--the same First Amendment problems created by possible SB8 lawsuits against rights advocates who provide information about where and how to procure services.

This is getting messy, in part because the reproductive-rights community is scrambling and no one wants to grasp the procedural issues hanging over this.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 31, 2021 at 12:31 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Understanding cheering speech

From Will Leitch at New York Magazine, on Mets players "booing" fans (through a thumbs-down) following a good play in reaction to fans booing players for, well, being the Mets. Leitch makes an interesting point about the psychology of the three actors involved--fans, players, and management. Fans boo the team as opposed to individual players (sometimes, at least--I think a lot of booing is more directed than Will does). "The team" is players and the management that built the team (recall the old Seinfeld joke that sports fandom means rooting for the shirt a player wears). But management sides with the fans against the players, leaving the players to personally bear the brunt of negative fan expression. When fans  turn their speech to ownership and management, they often are removed or have signs confiscated (to stay in New York, numerous Knicks fans were removed or had signs confiscated for criticizing fail-son owner James Dolan).

Update: A different take from Michael Baumann at The Ringer. Baumann makes a point that ties back to politics. He writes: "[P]art and parcel of loving something is—or at least should be—criticizing it when it goes off the rails. Unceasing positivity in defiance of fact isn’t love or support, it’s Stockholm syndrome." While that is true in sports, it has ceased to be true in politics, as Tom Nichols argues to the point of exhaustion. Neither side will tolerate criticism or acknowledge mistakes by their "side" or their "guys." In part, this is because the other side can and does weaponize internal criticism. My thinking or saying that the Cubs suck does not affect how the Cubs perform. My thinking or saying that Biden screwed up the Afghanistan withdrawal or the eviction moratorium affects media coverage and the political narrative, which then affects whether my guy or my side wins the next election. It is not healthy, but it is explicable.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 31, 2021 at 11:29 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Buying time in constitutional litigation

The media coverage around the efforts by abortion-rights activists and providers to enjoin enforcement of SB8 pending litigation has reached panic mode, with stories about this case representing a test of whether the Fifth Circuit or SCOTUS continue to regard Roe and Casey as law and setting up the "Roe has been overruled" narrative if neither court stops enforcement.

That misconstrues what is going on here. This is a lousy suit for trying to stop enforcement. One group of defendants (the judges) are not proper targets of constitutional litigation, as federal courts typically do not stop judges from the opportunity to adjudicate cases before they have been filed. One defendant (Mark Dickson) is not a proper defendant now but could become one. And one group of defendants (agency and executive officials) are proper defendants for the limited purpose of preventing them from stripping occupational and medical licenses, not for the broader purpose of stopping primary enforcement of the substantive law. Meanwhile, the lawsuit and any temporary order cannot reach, and therefore enjoin, the many "any person[s]" authorized to file suit because they are not parties to the case--although if judges and clerks are enjoined from accepting or adjudicating those suits, remaining outside the injunction does not help these would-be state plaintiffs.

Texas lawmakers intended to create this situation. But it is important to highlight these procedural issues in describing the denial of any stay or injunction. It may have nothing to do with the substantive merits of SB8 and the continued vitality of Roe.  And these procedures--forcing providers to defend their rights in state court or to wait before filing in federal court--while burdensome, are  common in other contexts. The Constitution does not compel any particular framework for adjudicating constitutional rights.  Any stay or temporary injunction will be short-lived because this case is doomed to fail--not on the merits of SB8 but because this is the wrong litigation vehicle.

So why bother? At some level, the plaintiffs are buying time, putting off the procedurally inevitable and hoping to prepare and strategize for the next steps. And maybe there is nothing wrong with that, as I said in defending President Biden in issuing the new eviction moratorium despite likely judicial defeat. Litigation takes awhile, so there is merit to maintaining what you want (no risk of enforcement, no evictions) in the meantime.

At the same time, as I argued yesterday, providers and advocates have a viable prospect for offensive litigation that is not this case--sue "any person" once a state-court action is filed and get a TRO and PI stopping that person from pursuing the state litigation. And add a new "any person" to the case, and to the PI, whenever a new action is filed. It is neither easy nor efficient (and, again, that was the legislative goal). But it can work procedurally and providers/advocates would be well-served to be ready to implement that strategy. Maybe that is what they are buying time to do.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 31, 2021 at 09:57 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why playing baseball on Yom Kippur matters

My new essay in The Forward explores why we care about playing baseball on Yom Kippur more than we care about playing on other, arguably more important, days on the Hebrew Calendar. This began life as part of my empirical study of Jews playing on Yom Kippur; it was removed for length and I decided to break it out as stand-alone piece for a non-academic audience.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 31, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 30, 2021

SB8 Update

SB8, Texas' ban on abortions following detection of a fetal heartbeat, goes into effect on Wednesday. Following the district court's (partially erroneous) denial of motions to dismiss and the defendants' immediate appeal of that seemingly non-appealable order, the Fifth Circuit issued an administrative stay of proceedings in the district court, which canceled a preliminary-injunction hearing. Absent SCOTUS intervention, the law will be enforceable and "any person" can begin filing lawsuits. Briefing on an injunction pending appeal is due later this week. The plaintiffs in the WWH case have asked SCOTUS to enjoin enforcement pending appeal.*

[*] Please do not say, as so many media outlets continue to say, that this is about stopping the law from "taking effect." The law takes effect--becomes an enforceable part of Texas law--on September 1 because that is the effective date of the legislation, per Texas lawmakers. No court can stop that. A court can stop enforcement of the law.

Three things are true. SB8's substantive provision is constitutionally invalid and judicially unenforceable under current SCOTUS precedent. The threat of enforcement will cause serious harm to abortion-rights advocates, abortion providers, and the women of Texas. But  there is no basis for a federal court to enjoin the statutorily authorized lawsuits at this stage, given how the law is to be enforced. The substantive awfulness and bad effects of the law do not change that third point and the focus on the first two does not change the third.

The next big move for providers and advocates is two-pronged, triggered on "any person" bringing (or actually threatening to bring) an SB8 action. First, defend that suit in state court (including by challenging the constitutional validity of the heartbeat ban and the constitutional validity of the SB8 provisions purporting to limit those defenses.  Second, sue "any person" on a § 1983 action in federal court to enjoin him from pursuing the state-court action. The argument that the SB8 plaintiff acts under color, given the structure of SB8, is strong; the standing problem resolves once an actual plaintiff reveals himself and acts; and the scholars with whom we have discussed our paper agree that Younger does not apply here.

That is the litigation move now, rather than wrestling with the Fifth Circuit and SCOTUS over administrative stays over offensive litigation that cannot work.

Update: A reader points out that the district court declined to dismiss the claims against the judges on sovereign immunity grounds as well as standing grounds (another example of the identity of standing and sovereign immunity where the plaintiff sues the wrong defendant). Denial of 11th Amendment dismissal is subject to COD review, although that would not pull Mark Dickson or the executive officials with them. The executive officials may have asserted sovereign immunity, as well, although it is not clear if the court reached it.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 30, 2021 at 01:42 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Court with No Names: Anonymity and Celebrity on the "Kardashian Court"

My essay, A Court with No Names: Anonymity and Celebrity on the "Kardashian Court", has been published in Iowa Law Review Online. This is a response to Suzanna Sherry's Our Kardashian Court (And How to Fix It), which argues that the solution to judicial celebrity is to require the Court to issue one per curiam opinion with no separate opinions or vote counts. I consider some things lost or gained under Sherry's plan, why it may be too late for it, and how to expand the plan or combine it with other court-reform proposals.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 30, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 26, 2021

District court finds standing in SB8 litigation

Opinion here finding standing as to all defendants, contrary to much (but not all) of what Rocky and I argue. There is a joke in here somewhere about either judges or law professors not knowing the law, although obviously I think we are right and the court is wrong. The defendants filed a Notice of Appeal, which I presume they will argue, and the court will treat, as a petition for writ of mandamus since there is no basis for appeal (no finality, no collateral order, no certification of interlocutory review and no possibility of certification). This is a good case for mandamus because parts of this decision are clearly erroneous.

I will post some analysis of the opinion this weekend, as we begin editing the article to discuss and critique the opinion.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 26, 2021 at 04:38 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Chair

My wife and I work in academia, so we are the target audience for Netflix's The Chair. We plowed through the six half-hour episodes and found it an enjoyable story and funny--worth watching and worth a second season. But neither of us shared the conclusion that it was Neflix's best drama in years or that it gets academia right. Take what follows as one point of view. Neither of us works in English or the Humanities and neither is a person of color, although my wife is a woman and holds a non-tenure-earning position, a different prevalent inequity in the academy.

I think my not loving the show more than I did comes to this: The show skewers multiple foibles of academia, but those foibles are inconsistent, the narrative has continuity errors among those foibles, and the hero's solution misunderstands or conflates them. Spoilers after the jump.

Here are the problems thrown in the lap of Ji-Yoon Kim (Sandra Oh) in her first days as chair:

    • A very senior career-Associate Professor (the first tenured woman in the department) has her office moved to a box without wi-fi in the basement of the gym. She also began her career paid $ 12k less than the men hired at the same level and has lived a career of having extra service thrown on her. She goes to the Title IX office several times, but finds the office ineffectual. Here is one continuity problem--the office move gets blamed on Ji-Yoon, although the move occurred before she took over  and seems to have come from the dean's office.

    • The dean orders Ji-Yoon to convince the three most-senior faculty (the woman above and two men, all white) to retire. New lines and other funds come only if she succeeds. The targeted faculty teach to empty classrooms, get bad evaluations, and seem to have stopped caring about teaching well or about engaging with their students. The woman spends time having someone hack into a database to identify the source of a negative review, then confronts the student in public (with a passionate defense of Chaucer that, if she made it in the classroom, might make her a more-engaging teacher). Two have stopped writing.

    • The mid-career superstar (and Ji-Yoon's sort-of love interest) Bill Dobson (Jay Duplass) has been drinking and taking pills and phoning-in his teaching and everything else in since his wife died a year ago. Late for class and hung-over while lecturing on fascism and absurdism, he drops a passing "Heil Hitler" with a Nazi salute (I have not decided how inexcusable that was in context as a light aside). Students surreptitiously record it and the video becomes a meme with a Nazi hat and uniform superimposed on him. That triggers a campus uproar, with students calling for his head while chanting about "getting Nazis off campus." A "town hall" on the campus quad goes off the rails. Some have criticized this story line as a caricature of student protests cum cancel culture, but the scene does not look so different from the Nicholas Cristakis or Bret Weinstein encounters. This  threatens to pull Ji-Yoon under when the student paper reports (disingenuously) that she imposed a "gag order" on the department to cover for Dobson.

    • The department's lone African-American woman is up for tenure and the senior prof (one of the three on the chopping block) chairing her committee is out to get her, seemingly because he resents her "modern" teaching methods that attract students to packed classrooms. Ji-Yoon exerts what I think would be inappropriate influence on that professor and that process, although in what we are supposed to see as a just cause.

    • Led by the three aging faculty Ji-Yoon is supposed to push into retirement, the department holds a no-confidence vote with Ji-Yoon sitting in the room, in consultation with the dean; the vote succeeds, 6-5. When she ceases to be chair, Ji-Yoon pulls a parliamentary move in naming the new chair that perhaps sets-up a second season. This is the show's other continuity problem. At times, characters speak about Ji-Yoon being chair by virtue of a departmental selection, while other times she is described as being appointed by and serving at the pleasure of the dean (the latter being how life works). And, of course, no-confidence votes are advisory to the dean. It would not take effect immediately after the votes are counted. Nor would we expect the dean to take seriously a no-confidence effort led by the three faculty members he had ordered the challenged chair to get rid of.

    • The student outrage against Dobson leads to a kangaroo proceeding that could not work against anyone, least of all a professor with tenure, putting aside that nothing he did would be grounds for losing tenure.

And here is the big spoiler and what rang false for me: In the finale, Ji-Yoon defends Dobson at the proceeding by going off on the dean's and the university's obsession with money and the way they ignore what the students want and need. But what the students want and need is what the dean (and central administration figures) are pushing for and Kim opposes or refuses to do: Fire the "Nazi" prof. Get rid of  the deadwood profs who do not care about teaching or their students, which offers the additional benefit of clearing a departmental obstacle to the tenure grant of the popular teacher. Spend money on areas of study that students are interested in--not the undersubscribed humanities but those that lead them to lucrative careers. The show is trying to tell a story of Kim standing up to power--but the power structure is actually on the side she purports to stand for. I do not believe this is the message the show intended to send. But by conflating inconsistent stories, that is the resulting story logic.

Again, we enjoyed the show. But I think we were expecting/hoping for more.

Finally, a pitch for an often-forgotten show about academia: The Education of Max Bickford (2001-02), about the reluctant (old, white, male) chair of the History/American Studies department at a women's college. It aired during my first year in teaching and while my wife, who attended a women's college, was in grad school. It is a network show, so it is generally unambitious and has similar plot holes to The Chair. But it is worth a rewatch, if you can find it streaming.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 23, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Bray on universal injunctions

Sam Bray comments on the universal injunction against repeal of the remain-in-Mexico policy. Bray calls out the "baffling" nonsense of the judge enjoining paragraphs of an agency memorandum, because "[p]eople get enjoined. Injunctions protect people from people. Or require people to do things." He offers the following:

  1. injunctions should be used for protection: they should protect plaintiffs (or plaintiff classes) from the enforcement actions of government officers;
  2. when the problem is not with end-of-the-line enforcement, but rather is upstream, such as a failure in the process of creating a rule or policy, the proper remedy is not an injunction but mandamus, which has a different logic and is focused not on the protection of the plaintiff but on the officer's performance of a legal duty;
  3. the fact that mandamus has its own limiting principles, such as the need to show a clear violation of a legal duty, means that some close to the line violations will not be remedied;
  4. point three is a feature of this proposal.

Well said.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 21, 2021 at 08:16 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 20, 2021

It's good, even if not ideal, to be back

FIU began classes on Monday, so I taught my first in-person classes since March 2020. As a Florida institution, we cannot require vaccinations, masking, or contact tracing, although we can encourage it. I am masked and there is a big plastic shield in front of the podium (although old habits dying hard, I am still walking the front of the room). All but one or two students are masked, at least in the classroom, so most people are doing what is necessary to keep this going. One colleague put it to students in self-interested terms: The best approach for personal and public health is to continue remote learning, but in-person provides a better education. The implication is that masks are a low cost for a high educational benefit.

I  am not saying anything earth-shattering, but I had forgotten how much fun in-person teaching is. There is an energy level that comes with real human interaction of a classroom. The exchanges with and among students are sharper because in realer time; the conversation moves because people need not pause to unmute; and student reactions, such as laughter, are more immediate. Online provides a rough simulacrum, but does not come close to duplicating the experience. I did not appreciate how wide the gap is until I was able to experience a live class again.

Hopefully it will last.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 20, 2021 at 10:59 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Solving the Procedural Puzzles of Texas' Fetal-Heartbeat Law

Posted to SSRN (corrected version) and appearing in a law review submissions box near you. Charles (Rocky) Rhodes (South Texas Houston) joined me with his expertise on Texas law and procedure. The paper expands on my posts on the subject to game out what providers and advocates can (and cannot) do offensively in federal court and defensively in state court. Here is the abstract:

The Texas Fetal-Heartbeat Law enacted in 2021 as Senate Bill 8 prohibits abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat, a constitutionally invalid ban under current Supreme Court precedent. But the method of enforcement in the Texas law is unique—it prohibits enforcement by government officials in favor of private civil actions brought by “any person.” Texas employed this enforcement mechanism to impose potentially crippling financial liability on abortion providers and advocates and to stymie their ability to challenge the law’s constitutional validity through offensive litigation in federal court to enjoin enforcement of the law. Texas lawmakers sought to confine abortion providers and advocates to a defensive litigation posture in state court.

This article works through the procedural and jurisdictional obstacles that SB8 creates for abortion providers and abortion-rights advocates seeking to challenge the constitutional validity of the fetal-heartbeat ban. While Texas has created a jurisdictional and procedural morass, the law does not achieve the ultimate objectives. Providers and advocates can litigate in federal court, although it requires creativity as to timing and proper litigation targets. They also should find greater success defending in state court than legislators expected or hoped. Other avenues remain to vindicate the rights of abortion providers and advocates—and the pregnant patients they serve--that accord with the traditional operation of and limitations upon the federal and state judiciaries in adjudicating constitutional rights.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 18, 2021 at 04:15 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Misha and the Wolves

I watched Misha and the Wolves on Netflix over the weekend. I had not known this story. From the mid-'90s to 2008, Misha Defonseca told the world that she was  a Belgian-born Jew hidden with a Catholic family (and given a name change) when her parents were deported and that beginning in 1941 (at the age of 7) she walked across Germany and into Poland looking for her parents, killed a German soldier, escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto, and hid in the woods, taken care of by a pack of wolves. The story unraveled in 2008 when multiple investigations revealed that the story, including Defonseca's identity, were fabricated.

According to the movie, Defonseca's story fell apart following a falling out with the small publisher, Mt. Ivy Press, owned by Jill Daniel, that published the book (which did not sell in the U.S.) and sold overseas rights (where it was a huge bestseller in Europe, spawning a French-language film adaptation). Defonseca won a $ 22.5 million judgment against Daniel. Trying to figure out how to challenge that judgment, Daniel stumbled across a document that caused her to question Defonseca's story; she brought in outside experts to investigate and eventually get to the truth. In 2008, Defonseca acknowledged that she fabricated the story. Daniel successfully sued for vacatur of the Defonseca judgment.

The movie does a poor job covering the litigation. This is unsurprising. The movie is about Defonseca's story, not the litigation, so the details of what happened in court are unimportant, other than the outcome and how Daniel responded to the outcome. The film's theme is "Defonseca conned Daniel, then Daniel exposed the lies because she was looking to get out from under an unjust judgment." Defonseca's lawyer hints at serious wrongdoing. Daniel's description of the trial suggests the jury was swayed by the heartbreaking (and false) testimony of a purported Holocaust victim and Daniel was perceived as the monster who ripped her off despite having extensive records of making payments.

Three cases with several written opinions arose from this mess: 1) Trial and appellate opinions in the underlying royalties dispute; 2) two appellate opinions from Daniel's lawsuit to vacate the prior judgment; and 3) Daniel's bankruptcy proceeding. Reading through the published opinions offers a different story that is relevant to how we view Daniel and the entire thing. A more accurate and detailed discussion of the litigation might have produced a movie with a different tone.

First, the original dispute was not between Defonseca and Daniel/Mt. Ivy. Daniel brought in her then-friend Vera Lee to work with Defonseca (who is neither a writer nor a native English speaker), then pushed Lee off the book. Lee initiated the original litigation naming Mt. Ivy, Daniel, and Defonseca as defendants, as well as the company Daniel hired to sell the book in Europe. Lee won an $ 11 million+ judgment that stands--the court in the second action declined to vacate that judgment and the bankruptcy court in 2017 denied discharge. Lee receives little or no mention in the film, even though Daniel's fallout with Lee, not Defonseca, precipitated the proceedings that precipitated the unraveling of Defonseca's lies. Also, Defonseca's $ 22 million+ judgment  against Daniel and Mt. Ivy came on a cross claim, not an original dispute between Defonseca against Daniel. Civ Pro remains your friend.

Second, the state trial court described "the totality of the defendants' conduct as having been infused with a high enough level of rascality to have raised an eyebrow, even to those inured to the 'rough and tumble' of the marketplace." The findings of wrongdoing in the trial court opinion and the first court of appeals opinion are detailed. They include undisclosed side contracts, unmet promises about capacity, self-dealing, an offshore foreign subsidiary to which rights were assigned, agents exceeding the scope of their authority, and ceasing domestic marketing efforts within a few months of publication. The film makes a lot of Daniel's efforts to get the book into Oprah's book club; in the film, Daniel says Defonseca refused to go on Oprah when invited, while the court of appeals says Daniel canceled. Anyway, this sounds like more than  "Defonseca played to the jury's sympathies and the jury ignored all the evidence because I looked like a monster."

On a side note, the Oprah-appearnace-that-never-was gets a lot of play in the film. The show recorded a segment (which never aired, of course) of Defonseca at a nearby wolf preserve, and the movie spends a lot of time with the wolf-expert/owner of the preserve. The owner makes much of Defonseca's rapport with the wolves during that segment, I guess to suggest they had found one of their own, thereby verifying her story. Daniel expresses disbelief that Defonseca refsued to go on Oprah when it could have meant millions in sales. The suggestion is that this refusal undercut Daniel's marketing efforts and was a first red flag--Defonseca canceled because she knew the story could not stand up to scrutiny and did not want to expose herself to Oprah's withering interrogation. The latter point is belied by Defonseca making TV appearances in Europe, including to promote the film adaptation.

Third, in the opinion affirming vacatur of Defonseca's judgment, the court of appeals concluded:

This case has had a legal life of over fifteen years; All involved have been bloodied. Defonseca's story has been shown to be false. As for Daniel, she also has been shown to have acted highly inappropriately, as evidenced by the still valid multimillion dollar judgment against her in favor of Vera Lee, the one least blameworthy person in the entire affair. Hopefully the saga has now come to an end.

Again, this is a different message than what the film presents.

Finally, one film review questioned the motives of various actors in this drama. It argues that Defonseca's motives remain unknown but that Daniel was motivated by greed and a desire for publicity. From the movie alone, this criticism makes no sense. Daniel is a book publisher--her job is to find good stories, help tell them to the world, publicize them, and make money. Daniel did just that, or at least tried. The film mentions but downplays two things that give the greed point more resonance: the underlying business relationship before the fraud was exposed as found by the courts and Daniel's failure to investigate pre-publication suggestions that Defonseca's story did not seem credible. The film mentions the latter a few times in passing, but does not emphasize it in the way it comes out in the opinions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 17, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Culture, Film, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The distraction of standing

One problem with standing is that it is constitutionalized merits. A second problem, that derives from the first, is that it provides courts and defendants an easy way to dismiss cases at the threshold, to the exclusion of other issues.

Case in point is this Eighth Circuit challenge to Arkansas' ag-gag law, which creates a private right of action for unauthorized access to commercial property. Plaintiffs are animal-rights organizations that planned to send undercover testers onto two agriculture businesses and claimed they were chilled by the threat of suit. They sought a declaratory judgment that the ag-gag law violates the First Amendment and that the farms cannot sue them. The district court dismissed for lack of standing, then declined to address other issues. A divided Eighth Circuit reversed, concluding that the plaintiffs were chilled in their desire to send investigators by the threat of being sued. The dissent argued that any injury was speculative and dependent on a chain of uncertain events.

The standing analysis seems right to me. But there is much more wrong here. I cannot identify the plaintiffs' cause of action. Defendants raised this in the court of appeals, but the court said this is a merits issue for remand. It cannot be § 1983, because the defendants do not act under color in bringing or threatening to bring authorized private civil actions. It might be § 2201 itself, although this is supposed to be a remedy for an independent cause of action than a distinct cause of action. But  if § 2201 provides a cause of action, there is no subject matter jurisdiction. This is a Skelly Oil case--jurisdiction over the federal DJ action is determined by jurisdiction over the hypothetical enforcement action the DJ plaintiff wants to stop and whether it could have been brought in federal court. If the enforcement action would not arise under federal law, then the pre-enforcement DJ action does not arise under federal law; the hypothetical federal defense cannot be converted into a federal claim in the DJ action. Here, the enforcement action would be a claim by the business for violating the state statute, with the animal-rights organizations defending on First Amendment grounds. That enforcement action would not arise under, thus neither does the DJ action. There might be diversity jurisdiction, which would give federal jurisdiction, although the absence of a cause of action remains a problem); neither the district court nor court of appeals discussed any party's citizenship.

Allowing the case to make an up-and-down trip to the court of appeals focused on nothing but standing, when obvious defects in the case remain, seems like a waste of time.

This case is comparable to the potential cases under Texas' fetal-heartbeat law. State law gave private individuals a cause of action that might be constitutionally invalid, but rights-holders are unable to get into federal court in an offensive pre-enforcement posture. Instead, they must assert those rights in a defensive posture once the businesses have filed suit. They may not like it, but there is not a way around it.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 14, 2021 at 08:17 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 13, 2021

It's not the law, it's the enforcement

From the Eleventh Circuit in Support Working Animals v. Governor. Florida voters amended the Constitution to outlaw gambling on greyhound racing. At the time of the lawsuit by a racing business against the Attorney General, that was all there was. The court held that there was no standing, because the AG's lack of enforcement authority means the plaintiff's injury is not traceable to the AG and an injunction against the AG would not remedy the injury. (By resolving on standing, the court does not reach the "wrong-defendant" argument that Ex Parte Young does not overcome sovereign immunity). The court summarizes well the problem:

[T]heir  “immediate gripe” isn’t with the Florida Attorney General, who neither has the authority to enforce § 32 nor has done anything else to cause the plaintiffs’ harm. The plaintiffs’ real problem, as we understand their complaint, is with § 32 itself—its existence—and the economic consequences that its passage has visited or will  visit on their businesses. None of that, though, appears to be due to any past, present, or likely future conduct of the Attorney General.

Subsequent to the filing of the lawsuit, the Florida legislature created a gaming commission charged with regulating gambling beginning in 2022; gave the Department of Business and Professional Regulation civil-enforcement authority over the ban; and made it a crime to partake in gambling on greyhound racing effective in October. The court noted that the claims were dismissed without prejudice, so the plaintiff could refile "against the proper parties at the appropriate time." That last piece suggests the court will not allow a case to go forward pre-effective date because effectiveness is inevitable--the plaintiff must wait until October, when criminal penalties take effect, to proceed against the AG and until next year to proceed against the regulatory department.

That seems excessive, making the plaintiff wait longer than necessary when the shape of the controversy is now clear. But it well illustrates the point that the existence of a law, no matter its chilling effect, is not sufficient for pre-enforcement litigation. Enforcement of the law must be legally possible. Smart plaintiffs and attorneys must avoid wasting time.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 13, 2021 at 07:55 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 07, 2021

A parade of stupid over "Fuck Biden"

Not content to let Roselle Park, NJ be the epicenter of First Amendment stupidity, Blue Rapids, KS, a town of about 1000 people, has taken aim at a yard sign reading "Fuck Biden and Fuck You For Voting for Him" (a cute addendum that makes the political the personal). As in Roselle Park, the town has cited him for a violation of its obscenity ordinance, following a citizen petition objecting to the sign. This story mentions that Evansdale, IA managed to resist the urge to be equally stupid with the same sign.

This is becoming a recurring theme, so a primer for small-town mayors and their lawyers who should know better:

• Bad words such as "fuck" are not obscene as that word is understood in the First Amendment, therefore a municipal obscenity ordinance cannot be the basis for regulating such a sign. There is nothing about the message "fuck ____" that is erotic (to say nothing of prurient) or that depicts or describes sexual activity. And if the thing the sign wants to "fuck" is the President of the United States or his voters (or the draft or cheerleading or anything else), that sign has serious political value. It does not matter that people "think" the sign is obscene and a lot of people signing a petition expressing their view that it is obscene does not establish "community standard" (both of which feature in the Blue Rapids debate).

• "Fuck ____" as a non-sexual political message is constitutionally protected speech under Cohen, reiterated in Mahanoy. There is no community-standards piece to this. Community offense at a political message does not strip that message of protection. Quite the opposite--the message needs protection because of the community opposition.

"Think of the children" is of limited value where speech reaches a mixed audience of adults and children, especially for a person speaking to the world from the unique forum of her home. Government cannot limit adults to seeing what is fit for children. It follows that government cannot limit a speaker to uttering what is appropriate for children on the chance that some children might happen upon her message.

• Blue Rapids Mayor Jerry Zayas says "the matter belongs in the hands of the court" and "'Whatever the court decides, that is our justice system.'" This is an absurd statement from an elected official. The court decides only because Zayas lacks a rudimentary understanding of free speech and gets the courts involved by attempting to enforce this ordinance in a way at odds with the First Amendment. He could have followed the lead of the town in Evansdale, which, politics aside, recognized what the First Amendment commands. Of course, Zayas can be a good departmentalist and follow his (erroneous) constitutional understanding to enforce the law and force the court to rule.. But it would be nice if the public was aware that the mayor was costing it money it probably does not have on a cause that he (or the town lawyer) should will lose badly once the court does decide.

• The ACLU is involved, so, as in Roselle Park, this will be over quickly.

• How many cases like this will we see?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 7, 2021 at 10:47 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 06, 2021

A day in the year

One Year is a Slate podcast hosted by Josh Levin telling various stories from 1977. (I find it interesting because I turned 9 and it was in many ways the first year I was really aware of the world). This week's episode, Elvis, the Pledge, and Extraterrestrials, tells three stories tied to August 16, 1977. Two touch on interesting speech stuff.

The first is about the National Enquirer's coverage following Elvis Presley's death on August 16. The big focus is its practice of paying sources (such as Elvis' girlfriend and the paramedics who responded to the scene) for exclusive stories and to obtain photos of Elvis' body in the casket. Ian Calder, later of Calder v. Jones fame, features prominently. I remember that around this time People Magazine went on a TV advertising kick with the tagline "If it's in People, you know it's true," an effort to separate itself from the Enquirer.

The second (beginning around 16:30) is about Deborah Lipp, a New Jersey high-schooler who sued the school over the right not to stand for the Pledge (New Jersey law required students to stand at attention, even if not reciting the words). The district court ruled from the bench on August 16 that the law requiring students to stand was invalid. Levin notes that SCOTUS has never ruled on whether the First Amendment protects the right to remain seated, presenting that as an ongoing problem for students through clips of recent school efforts in Texas and Florida (of course) to compel student participation. Lipp tells the story of receiving a call from her daughter's teacher asking for her permission for the daughter to sit, telling the teacher that her daughter does not require parental permission, and the teacher taking that as an expression of permission.

The focus on whether SCOTUS has spkoen leaves out some things. First, less than a year later, the Third Circuit affirmed in Lipp in a short per curiam, agreeing that the state cannot "requir[e] a student to engage in what amounts to implicit expression by standing at respectful attention while the flag salute is being administered and being participated in by other students." So there is binding precedent in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania (as well as the Virgin Islands) that schools cannot compel any participation, verbal or non-verbal. Second, SCOTUS precedent does not matter much when most of these cases follow a similar pattern. The school tries to push the student around, a district court tells the school to cut the crap, and the school does not appeal or push further. Alternatively, the school backs off in the face of the threat (often in the form of a letter from the ACLU or FIRE) that a court will tell it to cut the crap. This is not to minimize the costs and burdens on students when school districts become over-officious; I wish they would do a better job at this. It is to say that a SCOTUS decision (which the school also can ignore if it wants to deal with the political, legal, and financial fallout) would not make a difference.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 6, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Culture, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Jack Phillips goes on defense and no one complains

I stumbled across this while doing research for my SB8 paper. I think it illustrates my point that the partisan valence of the rights and rights-holders at issue influence the complaints and hand-wringingabout SB8's procedural and jurisdictional rules.

In June 2017, the day SCOTUS granted cert in Masterpiece Cakeshop, a trans woman ordered a cake from Phillips to celebrate her birthday and her male-to-female transition--it would be pink on the inside and blue on the outside; Phillips refused and the woman filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found probable cause. In August 2018, a few months after SCOTUS' decision in Masterpiece, Phillips filed a federal action challenging the P/C finding and enforcement of state law as violating the First Amendment. In January 2019, the district court declined to abstain under Younger, applying the bad-faith exception. The Commission dismissed the administrative enforcement action, mooting the federal action. So the woman sued Phillips in state court for violating the state public-accommodations law. In June, following a bench trial, the state trial court rejected Phillips' First Amendment defense and found that he had violated the ordinance, imposing damages of $ 500. Phillips plans to appeal to the state court of appeals (and to the Colorado Supreme Court and then to SCOTUS).

The case illustrates that it is not unheard-of for rights-holders to be forced to assert federal constitutional rights in a defensive posture and in state court. Phillips is similarly situated to abortion providers and advocates who are the likely targets of SB8 suits, forced to defend private statutory actions for damages rather than government-initiated enforcement proceedings. Colorado courts likely are as hostile to the First Amendment rights Phillips asserts in defense as Texas courts are to the reproductive-freedom that providers and advocates will assert in defense in SB8 actions. The difference is that Phillips faces one action by one denied customer, whereas abortion providers face a tidal wave of lawsuits by random Texans across the state. But imagine that dozens or hundreds of LGBTQIA people order cakes, knowing they will be refused, then sue for damages; the similarity sharpens (although the amounts of money are very different). And both cases show why the well-pleaded complaint rule is such a bad idea--Phillips and Whole Women's Health should be able to gain that federal forum for their federal defenses.

Once again, many people complaining about abortion providers having to defend in state court would be happy to see Phillips sued into oblivion. But the procedural and jurisdictional propriety cannot turn on the rights involved.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 5, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Embrace the judicial departmentalism (Updated)

I do not know enough to say whether the CDC's new eviction moratorium is constitutionally valid, although if Steve believes it is at least an open question, I am inclined to think it must be.

I would have loved for Biden to own the judicial departmentalism underlying the new policy: "Most constitutional law professors believe the policy is constitutionally invalid, but we have found some who disagree. Lawyers within the executive branch disagree. The courts may rule against us, as is their power. But for the moment we believe the policy is valid and will pursue it. And if it turns out we are wrong, we have bought ourselves some time. And in this case, we are willing to risk the attorney's fees and political fallout." I have no problem with the executive taking that position, regardless of my sympathy for the policy at issue.

Update: Mark Tushnet makes a similar argument, framing it in terms of norms v. law v. constitutionalism. But he gets at the same point: Biden and the CDC are not not enjoined from stopping evictions and can continue to pursue what they view as the best course until such injunction comes. And they can balance the benefits of even temporary relief against the cost of being liked to Orval Faubus.

Another Update: This Washington Post op-ed shows how far into judicial supremacy much of the commentariat fallen. The unexplained votes of four Justices to vacate a stay of an injunction pending appeal plus the view of one Justice--announced without full briefing or argument--that the policy is unlawful means any effort by the administration disregards the courts, the rule of law, and the Constitution. The possibility that the one Justice whose views we know might change his mind is "unlikely," therefore the CDC is acting in a constitutionally violative manner in trying. This eliminates Holmes' bad person (which Tushnet references), who is no longer entitled to try to predict what the courts might do.

The piece ends on this note:

If the Trump administration had ignored a direct warning from the Supreme Court, Democrats would rightfully line up to condemn the president. Mr. Biden does not get a pass on the rule of law because his heart is in the right place.

Nothing like some uninformed both-siderism to complete the puzzle. But note how this moves the line. The problem here is not that the executive ignored an injuncti0on, which the cannot do. The problem here is not that the executive ignored binding precedent created by a Court majority, which he can do. The problem here is that the executive ignored a "direct warning" (is there any other kind?), which the Post regards as an equivalent affront to the courts and the Constitution.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 4, 2021 at 08:45 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Defamation procedure II

Devins Nunes is not the only new defamation action raising interesting procedural issues. Alan Dershowitz sued Netflix and others for defamation over the documentary Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich. Defendants answered yesterday; here is Netflix's Answer.

Netflix has good lawyers (the firm of Davis Wright Tremaine). But the Answer does many of the things that are inconsistent with the FRCP, that I try to teach students not to follow, but that are common in practice because no one--not plaintiffs, not defendants, and not judges (since Milton Shadur died)--cares about the content of the Answer. This would make a good final exam next spring.

Here are some problems:

    • Netflix responds to numerous allegations as it "lacks information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity of the
allegations and "on that basis, denies each and every allegation in" the paragraph. This is wrong. FRCP 8(b)(5) allows a party to "state" that it "lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief about the truth of an allegation," which has the "effect of a denial." That is, a defendant can respond to an allegation by saying "I don't know" and the court will treat that as a denial. But Netflix said "I don't know and therefore I deny." That is not logically possible and not what FRCP 8(b)(5) authorizes. This might reflect a disconnect between FRCP 8(b)(5) and FRCP 11(b)(4), which requires a defendant to certify that denials "specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information." But if 11(b)(4) allows a denial based on lack of knowledge, 8(b)(5) is superfluous.

    • This is one I had not seen before: After responding to 138 numbered paragraphs, the Answer has a subject-heading "General Denial" and states:

Each numbered paragraph in this Answer responds to the identically numbered paragraph in the Amended Complaint. Netflix denies all allegations, declarations, claims, or assertions in the Amended Complaint that are not specifically admitted in this Answer. To the extent the headings contained in the Amended Complaint constitute allegations, such allegations are denied.

        This is unnecessary. FRCP 8(b)(3) allows general denials of the entire complaint or a general denial of everything not admitted. But the Answer admitted and denied facts paragraph-by-paragraph. This blanket statement is unnecessary.

    • The Answer asserts 24 affirmative defenses. But most of these are not affirmative defenses--where the defendant admits the allegations in the complaint but raises new facts and law that cause those facts not to have their ordinary effect. These are expressly stated failure-of-proof defenses--defendant arguing that the plaintiff cannot prove the truth of the allegations in the complaint. For example, the sixth defense is that Dershowitz is a public figure and cannot prove actual malice by clear-and-convincing evidence. That is a failure-of-proof defense--Dershowitz will fail to prove his claim because he cannot carry his burden of persuasion on an element. The defendant is not required to plead the absence of malice. The twenty-third defense is that Dershowitz's reliance in his fraud claim was not reasonable. Again, this argues that Dershowitz cannot prevail on an element on which he bears the burden of proof--the reasonableness of any reliance. The defendant does not have to prove unreasonableness.

            Again, this is common. If the complaint alleges the plaintiff spoke with actual malice, denying the allegation is equivalent to saying  "we did not act with actual malice," which puts the plaintiff to the task of proving the disputed fact of the defendant's state of mind. If the complaint alleges the plaintiff reasonably relied on false statements, denying the allegation is equivalent to saying "his reliance was not reasonable," which puts the plaintiff to the task of proving the disputed fact of the reasonableness of his reliance. But defendants are afraid that will be lost to whomever reads the pleading. So they affirmatively state the failure of the element, even though that is not what the rules imagine.

    • The Answer includes a counterclaim under New York's new Anti-SLAPP law. I have written before about how the procedural defenses of anti-SLAPP laws should not apply in federal court. But New York's law creates a counterclaim that the claim is a SLAPP (as defined), allowing for recovery of attorney's fees and compensatory and punitive damages. It functions something like the tort of abuse of process, often raised as an affirmative defense to a questionable tort claim. This is a nice example of how one legal rule can be an affirmative defense and a counterclaim and the different roles each plays. The SLAPP issues will not defeat Dershowitz's claims (that will happen under New York Times), but they provide basis for Netflix to recover money apart from the resolution of the original claim. By establishing a new claim, New York found a way to allow federal defendants to pursue anti-SLAPP arguments and recover anti-SLAPP remedies, in a slightly different posture.

    • Netflix alleged supplemental jurisdiction over the counterclaim because Dershowitz's claims arise from the same set of facts. This is a legal and strategic mistake, although another common one.

        Why not allege diversity jurisdiction? That is the basis for jurisdiction over Dershowitz's original claims (defamation, fraud, and other torts) over the defendants. If there is diversity over the claims Dershowitz and all defendants, there must be diversity over counterclaims between the same parties. The fees and damages sought almost certainly will exceed $ 75,000. So § 1332(a)(1) is satisfied. Supplemental jurisdiction is supposed to be limited to cases in which there is no "independent" basis for jurisdiction. My guess is this practice derives from habit established in the paradigm case--plaintiff brings federal claims against non-diverse defendants and the defendants assert state counterclaims; supplemental jurisdiction is necessary in those cases. But it is not necessary when the basis for original jurisdiction is diversity and the same parties are involved in claims and counterclaims.

        There is a second problem--there may not be supplemental jurisdiction here. The best conclusion is that the SLAPP counterclaim is permissive rather than compulsory, because it does not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as the claim. This case reflects a common posture--defendant does something to injure plaintiff, plaintiff seeks a remedy for the injury, defendant alleges that plaintiff's remedial efforts violate defendant's rights, defendant brings counterclaim based on those injuries. For example, courts generally hold that an abuse-of-process counterclaim is not compulsory to an original tort claim--the tort claim is based on the real-world events that caused the injury to the plaintiff, while the counterclaim is based on the action of filing the lawsuit. Or take Jones v. Ford Motor Credit. Plaintiffs believed the terms of their auto loans were racially discriminatory and brought ECOA claims while also stopping payment on the loans, prompting counterclaims to recover the money owed on the loans; the court said the counterclaims were permissive because the claims were based on the mark-ups in the loan agreement while the counterclaims were based on subsequent non-payment. Dershowitz's claims arise out of the documentary, while the counterclaim arises out of Dershowitz's subsequent lawsuit itself seeking a remedy for that injury; these are distinct real-world facts and events. There is a but-for connection--but-for the false statements in the doc, Dershowitz would not have sued, which would not have caused the alleged injury to Netflix. But such a but-for connection is generally insufficient.

        That matters because most courts treat "same transaction or occurrence" in FRCP 13(a)(1)(A) as meaning the same thing as "same case or controversy" (which courts interpret to mean "common nucleus of operative fact") in § 1367. That is, a counterclaim that is not sufficiently related to satisfy 13(a)(1)(A) is not sufficiently related to satisfy § 1367. That is why it makes sense for defendants to plead diversity jurisdiction when they can--it provides a basis for jurisdiction over the counterclaim independent of the original claim, jurisdiction that the district cannot decline to exercise. Some courts, including the Second Circuit in Jones, treat "same case or controversy" as broader than "same transaction or occurrence," allowing jurisdiction over a non-compulsory counterclaim where there is a "loose factual connection" among claims, including the sort of but-for connection we see here. At least to this point, however, the Eleventh Circuit has not treated them differently.

None of this matters, of course. Dershowitz is not going to push back on improper responses or bad affirmative defenses and I doubt he will both moving to dismiss the counterclaim for lack of SMJ (since Netflix can replead to establish diversity). Any errors  are harmless because the court and the parties treat them as such. The FRCP often is observed in the breach in the name of moving forward, for better or for worse.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 4, 2021 at 02:10 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Defamation procedure I

Yesterday saw developments in two stupid defamation lawsuits brought by two stupid people, but with some procedural fun thrown in.

First, Devin Nunes filed another defamation suit (how many is this?), this one against NBC Universal in the Eastern District of Texas over packages Nunes received from a Russian agent. This has the usual problems for a Nunes defamation suit--some of the challenged statements are opinion and rhetoric and there are no allegations showing actual malice. But as always, I am here for the procedure:

    • What the hell is the case doing in Texas? Nunes is from California and works in D.C; NBC Universal is a Delaware LLC with its PPB in New York. There is no connection between these statements and Texas, other than that they were heard in Texas along with every other place in the United States where MSNBC telecasts and Maddow tweets can be heard. The statements are not "about" Texas, Texas people, or Texas activities. Weird forum choice has been a common feature of Nunes' lawsuits; the first suit (against Twitter, Liz Mair, and Devin Nunes' Cow) went into state court in a remote spot of Virginia. But Virginia made some sense, since Mair lives there and it is close to D.C. Texas just seems random. Keeton v. Hustler is still out there (and the complaint, which for reasons of bad lawyering shifts into making legal arguments, cites it). But the recent jurisdictional trend in defamation cases is that there must be more of a connection between the statements and the forum, even for nationally distributed publications.

    • ¶ 10 states "MSNBC is at home in Texas and is subject to general personal jurisdiction in Texas," a statement which does not reflect the law as it has been for at least seven years and should be sanctionable. If that is the hook Nunes' lawyer plans to use, this should be over quickly.

    • Even if jurisdiction (and therefore venue) is proper, this case again seems ripe for transfer. No one and nothing central to this case occurred or is located in Texas. NBC has a good argument that its witnesses and evidence are located in New York, where it engaged in its reporting and broadcasting activities.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 4, 2021 at 01:46 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (1)

August Guests: Joseph Kearney and Thomas Merrill on "Lakefront"

We are pleased to welcome Joseph Kearney (Dean, Marquette) and Thomas Merrill (Columbia) to blog about their excellent new book Lakefront: Public Trust and Private Rights in Chicago (Cornell University Press).

This is their third stop on a blogging book tour.

Posts at Volokh Conspiracy here:

Posts at Faculty Lounger here:

They will begin posting on Thursday.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 4, 2021 at 12:31 PM in Books, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

FIFA as state actor and other bad arguments

Another entry in the "Bad § 1983 Takes" File: Siasia v. FIFA in the Southern District of New York. Samson Siasia is a U.S. citizen and international soccer coach who got caught up with a match-fixer while trying to land a coaching job in Australia; FIFA imposed a lifetime ban from coaching, which the Court for Arbitration of Sport in June reduced to five years, backdated to 2019. The Complaint alleges a due process violation in the FIFA proceedings and that FIFA acted under color by performing the traditional and exclusive government function of investigating and adjudicating bribery and imposing a sanction (the complain says "punishment" over and over).

This fails on so many levels.

First, FIFA is a Swiss association with its PPB in Switzerland, so it does not seem possible for it to act under color of the law of any state of the United States; it does not act in or as a replacement for any one state. The U.S. Soccer Federation is one of the 200+ national federations that comprise FIFA, providing a U.S. hook. But USSF is not a defendant (and was not involved in the Siasia case). Getting at FIFA through USSF runs afoul of Tarkanian v. NCAA, where SCOTUS said the NCAA did not act under color of law of any state when it was comprised of schools from multiple states.

Second, private entities can make internal decisions concerning the enforcement administration of internal rules, including by investigating alleged violations and rendering decisions through adjudicative processes. Sometimes the conduct violating those internal rules also violates a society's criminal laws. A private entity does not become a state actor when enforcing its internal rules and imposing internal sanctions, where it imposes no societal consequences (conviction and imprisonment). If it did, no private organization could maintain and enforce internal rules for conduct that also could be criminal. Under this theory, MLB is a state actor with respect to the investigation and suspension of Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer for sexual assault, because sexual assault is a crime.

The Complaint argues that FIFA should have followed the NCAA as to former basketball coach Lamont Evans. Having received information that Evans was accepting bribes to route players towards certain financial advisers, the NCAA turned the information to the federal government, which prosecuted Evans. The NCAA punished Evans with a 10-year ban after Evans had been convicted and sentenced in the federal criminal proceeding. But the distinction is incoherent, at least as it affects becoming a state actor. The NCAA cooperated with the government to allow it to prosecute and jail the person, something FIFA chose not to do. But the NCAA and FIFA otherwise engaged in identical conduct--imposing internal sanctions on someone for conduct that also violated a criminal law. The decision to also assist the government in having the person convicted and jailed should not affect the nature of the organization's internal proceedings and thus of the organization.

Alternatively, the argument means that a private entity cannot enforce internal rules and impose internal sanctions if the government declines to press criminal charges or if the person is acquitted. This has never been how the law requires private organizations to operate.

Third, I am not sure FIFA is subject to the 14th Amendment (or the 5th Amendment, as the complaint also cites for no reason) or to U.S. due process requirements for proceedings in Switzerland, even as they apply to a U.S. citizen. A U.S. citizen subject to foreign proceedings must abide by the rules of the foreign proceeding. At best, he might limit the domestic effects of those proceedings.

State action aside, there are some fun jurisdiction and venue issues here. Siasia is a Georgia citizen, while FIFA is a Swiss citizen. The Complaint alleges that venue is proper in the Southern District because FIFA is "an alien corporation and has significant contact in this District and is currently organizing the 2026 FIFA World Cup in this District." The Complaint does not cite the correct provision, but I believe it is basing venue on § 1391(b)(1) (where any defendant resides) as developed in (c)(2) (association resides where it is subject to personal jurisdiction) and (d) (in states with multiple districts, determine jurisdiction in the district as if it were a state).

Is FIFA subject to personal jurisdiction in the Southern District as if it were a state? The "significant contacts" language sounds in the pre-Daimler/pre-Good Year general jurisdiction, which no longer exists; FIFA is neither created in nor has its PPB in the Southern District, so is not subject to general jurisdiction there. Organizing the 2026 World Cup in the Southern District* and other contacts with the district have nothing to do with Siasia or his suspension, at least as indicated in the complaint; the complaint does not allege that anything related to Siasia occurred in New York or the Southern District. The Court of Arbitration for Sport has a location in New York City, so that might have been where Siasia appealed the FIFA decision; the complaint does not say. I doubt that is enough, since the alleged violation is the FIFA proceeding, not Siasia's partially successful appeal.

[*] A separate question is whether the 2026 World Cup will be in the Southern District as to be a contact. One of the eleven U.S. cities under consideration is "New York/New Jersey." Games would be played at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey (in a different district), although FIFA will pitch people to stay in and visit New York while in town for the games. What is the relevant place for jurisdiction based on FIFA's "organizing" activities--where the game is played or all the places that fans and teams will use?

Based on the complaint, there is specific jurisdiction in Georgia under Walden and Calder. The emails that formed the basis for the alleged bribery were sent to Siasia while he lived in Georgia. The emails notifying Siasia of the charges against him (which he alleges he never received, part of the due process violation) and of his sanctions were sent to his emails in Georgia. FIFA investigated a Georgia citizen about actions taken in Georgia, thereby directing its actions at Georgia. Because Siasia is an Atlanta citizen, venue is proper in the Northern District of Georgia.

Even if SDNY is proper, there is a good argument that NDGa is better and a § 1404(a) transfer is in order. Siasia does not reside in SDNY, so he cannot claim venue privilege. The relevant acts as to Siasia, to the extent they occurred in the United States, took place in NDGa, which is where the one relevant witness--Siasia--is located. Other than Siasia's lawyer being from Connecticut and barred in SDNY, I am not sure why the suit was filed there.

Alternatively, FIFA could try to get the case out of the U.S. and to Switzerland on forum non conveniens grounds. FIFA's actions in initiating and holding the proceedings and suspending Siasia's license occurred in Switzerland, so that would be the situs of the actions and location of witnesses and evidence concerning the propriety of the proceedings.

Fun stuff.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 3, 2021 at 12:19 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)