Friday, May 27, 2022

Taking away rights?

Since the Dobbs draft leaked, I have been trying to figure out what makes the apparent decision to overrule Roe illegitimate and some egregious act of judicial lawlessness.

It cannot be the result simpliciter--that my constitutional understanding differs from that of the apparent five-Justice majority does not make their views wrong in any objective sense, much less illegitimate. It cannot be that it overrules precedent, because the Court has overruled precedent. This is also why it cannot be that recent appointees pledged fealty to stare decisis--case are always subject to reconsideration and stare decisis has standards for overruling cases. It cannot be that the stare decisis analysis is wrong, for the same reason that disagreement with substantive constitutional analysis is not sufficient.

Orly captures where I had tentatively landed--overruling precedent to eliminate or limit individual rights (Orly describes them as "fundamental human rights") and to increase government power is different and something the Court has never done.

But I am not sure the distinction works. First, cases abrogating and overruling Lochner limited or eliminated the due process right to contract, which had been regarded as fundamental. Any potential distinction turns on substantive agreement or disagreement with the right recognized in Lochner compared with the right recognized in Roe. Second, crim pro scholars can correct me, but it seems that the Court has overruled precedent to narrow rights for criminal defendants. Third, at least as to abortion, the Dobbs majority might describe itself as vindicating a right to potential life that had been acknowledged but given undue weight in Roe. Thus the framing--eliminating a fundamental right--does not capture what the Court did (or believes it did). Again, I do not share this view. But the argument that Dobbs is an illegitimate action by an illegitimate Court must hinge on more than "I have a different view of the law."

To be clear, I am not calling out Orly; I had landed on a similar explanation. But I am less confident it works.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 27, 2022 at 12:16 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Judicial takings and alternatives to offemsive litigation

This Seventh Circuit case (Diane Wood for Manion and Scudder) is weird and I am trying to figure it out. I think it illustrates broader points about the problem of offensive-or-defensive litigation on constitutional issues.

A group of property owners brought a state-court quiet title action against Indiana, arguing that they owned Lake Michigan beach-front property to the low-tide mark, as reflected in their deeds; the Indiana Supreme Court (Gunderson) held that Indiana holds and retains submerged property up to the high-tide mark. The legislature then codifed the decision, declaring its ownership and declaring laekfront property owner's non-ownership below that mark. A different group of property owners (non-parties to Gunderson) brought this action against the governor, AG, against the governor, AG, and heads of the agencies on natural resources and state lands, alleging a judicial taking and seeking a DJ and injunction that they owned the property to the low-water mark.. The  panel dismissed the claim on standing grounds, finding no traceability or redressability to the state officials sued, since they do nothing to enforce Gunderson or the statute defining the property lines and can do nothing to grant the plaintiffs title to the challenged portion of the lakefront. The court also identified federalism-and-comity based caution (reflecting the ideals, if not applications, of Rooker-Feldman) in hearing a case raising a novel legal theory that requires a lower federal court to review the merits of a state supreme court decision. The court dismissed with leave to amend, although I am not sure what they can do to salvage this action.

The outcome is correct, but the case highlights some weird doctrinal interstices. It also shows how constitutional litigation occurs outside the ordinary pre-enforcement offensive action against a state executive. Assuming judicial takings can be a thing, what are plaintiffs such as these to do?

1) The appropriate course for a judicial-takings claim is to appeal the state-court decision effecting the taking to SCOTUS. That is not available to the federal plaintiffs, who were not party to the state decision. That also explains why the court did not dismiss on RF grounds--the federal plaintiffs were not state court losers.

2) One possibility is that non-parties cannot suffer a judicial taking, since the state-court judgment had no effect on their property rights. Thus Gunderson may have taken the property of the owners who sued in state court, but not of the different owners who sued in federal court. This has intuitive appeal. Judgments in non-class-actions do not bind non-parties. It makes no sense to give a judgment a broader effect as a taking than as a judgment. Any "taking" of the federal plaintiffs' property arises from Gunderson's precedential effect in future litigation, but any taking should not happen before then. This point should apply had the federal plaintiffs brought a claim for compensation for the taking rather than an injunction (the court suggests they would have had standing to do that, because these officials could provide compensation). These owners are not (yet) entitled to compensation because Gunderson did nothing to their property rights, beyond precedential

The district court rejected any judicial-takings claim here because Gunderson did not strip these owners of established ownership rights, as required by the Scalia plurality in Stop the Beach. At worst it resolved an ambiguity as to ownership; at best it declared, as a matter of state law, that they never owned this land at all and it has always been state property. My argument provides another basis for rejecting that claim--as non-parties to Gunderson, their property was not lost because that decision did nothing as to their property.

3) The plaintiffs made a strange concession: that their challenge to the statute turns on their judicial-takings claim. "If Gunderson stands, it follows that the Owners never held title to the land below the ordinary high-water mark, and the legislation therefore had no effect on their property rights." I do not understand this point. The legislature owns state property, subject to judicial review and interpretation. The state supreme court having declared the state owns to the high-water mark, I do not understand why the legislature could not enact legislation declaring state ownership, whether consistent with Gunderson or consistent with the owners' deeds. To the extent state declarations of ownership below the high-water mark constitute a taking, why does the statute alone not effect that taking? This does not resolve the standing problem as the court sees it, since the defendant officials continue to lack power to grant ownership. But it makes the possible taking argument clearer.

4) Traceability and redressability fail because the court cannot order any of the defendants to grant the plaintiffs title to the contested land. How, then, can they assert whatever rights they might have? The court imagines how this comes up for the owners:

Gunderson recognized that members of the public have a right to walk on the beach in front of the Pavlocks’ house as long as they stay lakeward of the high-water mark; an injunction requiring the State to refrain from any action would not grant the Pavlocks the right to exclude. If Cahnman wants to sell his beachfront property, he may convey land only from the high-water mark. The requested injunction would not give him title to submerged lands that Indiana law (confirmed by both the state’s highest court and its legislature) says belongs to the state. To the extent the Owners’ deeds conflict with Gunderson and HEA 1385, the latter two sources govern. And if, for example, the Pavlocks tried to sue people who walked on the section of beach between the high- and low-water marks for trespass, or Cahnman tried to hoodwink a buyer by representing that he held title down to the low-water mark, an injunction against state officials would not prevent Indiana’s Recorder’s Offices from correcting that error, or Indiana courts from applying Gunderson.

This hints at how this sort of takings claim, if it can exist, should come to court. The Pavlocks sue people walking on  the beach for trespass; the trespassers cite Gunderson and/or the statute as the source of their right to walk there; the Pavlocks argue that the decision in their case applying Gunderson and the statute effect a taking; and that argument provides a basis for § 1257 review of the state court. Cahnman hoodwinks a seller; the seller sues him for hoodwinking him, citing Gunderson and the statute; Cahnman defends on the ground that Gunderson and the statute effect a taking; and that defense provides a basis for § 1257 review of the state court.

The hypothetical suit against the trespassers should sound somewhat familiar to Fed Courts geeks--it is basically Mottley. This suggests that the Mottleys could not have sued the executive when Congress enacted the law prohibiting free passes--like the plaintiffs here, they would have lacked standing. They would have been forced to proceed, in state court, as they did--Mottleyssue the Railroad for breach; RR argues impossibility based on the statute; Mottleys argue statute violates the 5th Amendment; argument provides a basis for § 1257 review.

Again, consider this another example of asserting constitutional rights outside the typical offensive EPY action. Some of these claims are somewhat offensive in that the Pavlocks initiate the lawsuit, although the federal constitutional issue is not the main piece of the claim and arises downstream in the litigation. Nevertheless, we accept this as appropriate procedure, not some conspiracy to eliminate judicial review.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 26, 2022 at 12:40 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Property | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Judge Newsom in the news

Three weeks of grading and a round of edits have limited my writing here. Let me jump back in with a short ode to the recent work of Eleventh Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom.

Everyone is talking about Newsom's opinion for a unanimous panel declaring every significant provision of Florida' social-media law constitutionally invalid. Although a few disclosure provisions survive, the opinion is an overwhelming win for the web sites--content moderation is First Amendment-protected editorial decisionmaking; social-media sites are not common carriers (and slapping that label on them is meaningless, anyway); and the state has no legitimate, much less substantial or compelling, interest in telling the sites what speakers or speech it must keep on the site. The decision creates an interesting procedural bind. A district court declared Texas' similar law constitutionally invalid and enjoined enforcement, but the Fifth Circuit stayed the injunction without explanation following oral argument. The plaintiffs in that case have asked SCOTUS to lift the stay and reinstate the injunction; that is pending. We are left with this weird sort-of splitt--all reasoned opinions (one Eleventh Circuit and two district courts) declaring the laws invalid against tea leaves (the unexplained stay and the tenor of argument) hinting at the Fifth Circuit coming out the other way. Is that enough for the Court to take the case?

Equally interesting is two Newsom concurrences. U.S. v. Jimenez-Shimon, written by Newsom for a unanimous panel, declared valid a federal law criminalizing firearms possession by undocumented immigrants and affirmed a conviction. He then concurred in his opinion to question the use of tiers of scrutiny for the Second Amendment (which should be based on text and history) and generally, with a nice thumbnail sketch of the many pieces of First Amendment doctrine that he calls "exhausting," "judge-empowering," and "freedom-diluting." Resnick v. KrunchKash reversed a jurisdictional dismissal, finding that a § 1983 action against a creditor for using state garnishment proceeding was not wholly insubstantial and frivolous. Newsom concurred for the panel to reject Bell v. Hood and the idea that a case is so frivolous as to deprive the court of jurisdiction; calling it an issue that had bothered him since law school, Newsom argued that a claim that pleads a federal issue on its face gives the court jurisdiction, even if the claim is an obvious loser. These are of a piece with his concurrence from last year adopting the Fletcher view that standing is merits, wrongly mischaracterized, and arguing that any limits on Congress' power to create new private rights comes from Article II rather than Article III.

I unsurprisingly agree with Newsom on standing and Bell and have written as much. It is interesting to wonder about Newsom's broader agenda. He is young (49) and conservative. Is this a way to position himself as potential SCOTUS pick? He does it not through outward insanity in destroying the administrative state and Commerce Clause, as with the Fifth Circuit folks. Instead, he is thoughtful and scholarly, pondering important-but-not-hot-button issues that have "bothered" him since he sat in Fed Courts as a law student and that he is trying to work out 25 years later.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 24, 2022 at 10:41 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 12, 2022

More overlapping jurisdictional doctrines

Another example of overlapping "jurisdictional" doctrines, in which courts take the same fact--whether an executive official has a present or future intent to enforce an invalid law--going to ripeness, standing, and EPY. The Eighth Circuit held that sovereign immunity bars a challenge to a Minnesota law prohibiting certain false statements in campaign materials, because the four defendant prosecutors, while responsible for enforcement, had no present intent to enforce the law. The court discusses precedent in which the court found standing and ripeness but held the executive had sovereign immunity because, while the responsible executive, he had no intent to enforce.

I continue to have several problems with this. First, it makes no sense for three doctrines to turn on one fact. Second, it makes less sense for a fact to point different ways for different doctrines--if there is sufficient threat of enforcement to establish standing, there should be sufficient threat of enforcement to establish an ongoing violation for EPY. Third, this is all merits and it would be nice if we treated it as such.

Finally, note that the court cited the SB8 case for the basics of EPY and the absence of an enforcing executive.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 12, 2022 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Random reactions to some items in the news

My response to some random news items.

Leah Litman and Steve Vladeck argue discuss the constitutional rights that could be on the chopping block if the Dobbs draft becomes the Court's opinion, with the provocative headline "The Biggest Lie Conservative Defenders of Alito's Leaked Opinion Are Telling." Conservative commentators and others have taken umbrage, especially to the headline and to the implication, pointing to Alito's efforts to distinguish abortion from other unenumerated rights and the supposed "popularity" of these other rights. As Leah and Steve argue, there are distinct pieces to this: 1) What GOP legislatures and executives might try to do and 2) How SCOTUS will respond to litigation over such efforts.

The lens of judicial departmentalism sharpens what is happening here. Legislative and executive officials have never been bound by SCOTUS precedent; they have been free to enact and enforce/threaten to enforce laws that run afoul of Roe/Casey, Griswold, Obergefell, etc. Those efforts fail in the lower courts, which are bound by SCOTUS precedent, and likely fail in SCOTUS in the absence of willingness to overrule precedent. If the Alito draft becomes the Opinion of the Court, it does not authorize previously unauthorized conduct in the political branches. It emboldens them to pursue these laws, believing that these efforts will be less pointless (because having a better chance of success) and less costly (because defeat in court means attorney's fees). One commentator (not sure who) argued that Roe is unique because it never gained broad acceptance, unlike Brown. Describing Brown as widely accepted is so ahistorical that whoever said it should no longer be taken seriously. But Brown illustrates how judicial departmentalism operates. The Southern Manifesto and pieces of "Massive Resistance" exemplified how political branches can continue to follow their own course.

The issue always comes returns to SCOTUS and how ready it is to overrule precedent. Massive Resistance failed when courts smacked them down (as happened in Cooper and elsewhere), except courts did not do that often enough. Similarly, if a majority of SCOTUS does not follow Alito where his opinion leads, fears from the left are unfounded. But it is disingenuous, as Litman/Vladeck critics do, to say that GOP politicians cannot and will not attempt to push the envelope--they always have been able to do so and always have done so. Just as it is disingenuous to argue that the Dobbs draft does not lay the rhetorical and precedential groundwork to overrule other cases because the Justices may choose not to do so.

Vice tells the story of Romana Didulo, a Candian Q-Anon person who convinced followers (who believe she is Queen and running Canada behind the scene) to stop paying their utility bills because water and electricity are free. The consequences to her followers, many of whom are financially vulnerable, should be obvious. This is a consequence (ironic? unfortunate? inevitable) of our approach to free speech. Because it is almost always impossible to stop or punish the bad speaker, consequences fall on those who listen to the bad speaker and engage in criminal (1/6 insurrectionists) or unwise (the people who stop paying their utility bills) activities. We hope the negative consequences prompt listeners to turn away from the speaker, who, deprived of an audience, stops speaking. But that is a long process and one that often harms those who cannot afford it, while the powerful remain insulated.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 11, 2022 at 04:49 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Academic Muppets

FSWTRWUXIAI-MCs

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 10, 2022 at 08:55 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

More confusion on legislative immunity

I wrote a few weeks ago about a Ninth Circuit case allowing a state legislator to pursue a First Amendment retaliation claim against legislative leaders who restricted his access to the capitol, wondering how this was not governed by legislative immunity. Further confusing matters, the Sixth Circuit holds that legislative immunity bars a First Amendment retaliation claim against the heads of a party caucus for expelling a member from the caucus (and denying her party resources). Unless there is a meaningful distinction in the legislative nature of "you no longer get to hang out with us in the legislative process" and "you must notify us before enter the chamber," both decisions cannot be correct.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 10, 2022 at 08:44 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Who assigned this and why? (Update)

Who assigned Dobbs to Alito--the Chief or Thomas?

Assume the following at conference: Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett want to overrule Roe, declare the MS law valid, and enter judgment for the state; the Chief wants to declare the MS law valid as not imposing an undue burden  and enter judgment for the state. Who is the senior-most Justice in the majority? What is the "majority" when in Conference and before any opinions have been written--is it a majority for the judgment ("the law is constitutionally valid, plaintiffs lose, state wins") or is it majority for a rationale or an answer to a QP (Roe/Casey are overruled)? If the former, the Chief keeps the assignment; if the latter, Thomas gets the assignment.

I raised this question (without a satisfactory answer) over the now-meaningless June Medical, where four Justices (Breyer for Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) declared the law invalid by balancing burdens and benefits under Casey and the Chief agreed the law was invalid but on the logic of WWH and considering only the burdens; did the Chief assign or did Ginsburg? Does the assignment work differently when there is a majority for a result but not for a rationale, as in June, as opposed to where there is a majority for a rationale plus extra votes for the result?

My best guess is Thomas assigned it. If so, I am impressed (and a bit curious) that he chose not to keep it for himself. Casey was decided during Thomas's first Term, meaning he has been waiting his entire time on the Court for this opportunity.

If Roberts assigned it, the choice of Alito creates all sorts of Kremlinology. If Roberts  (presumably) wanted to make the least noise, he would not have assigned it to Alito, knowing the likely tenor of the opinion. Or he assigned it to Alito intentionally, knowing he might draft an opinion (what my colleague called a "nuclear bomb overruling") that might scare off Kavanaugh or Barrett. In which case the "conservative leaker" theory makes sense as a counterpunch to that. Anyway, I doubt anyone thinks this way, which is why I believe the relevant majority was to overrule Roe and Thomas gave the opinion to Alito.

Update: This question was raised on the Con Law Prof listserv. No one knew for sure, although one former clerk says his understanding is that the majority is for the bottom-line disposition. This make some sense, the person argued, because some justices only have identified a conclusion but not a reason at conference. Alternatively, many cases may have a bottom-line majority but competing reasons, none garnering the initial support of any 5; the only way to identify a seniormost-in-the-majority is to go by majority for the judgment, meaning the Chief assigned Dobbs. It also would follow that the Chief, rather than Ginsburg, gave Breyer June Medical.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 3, 2022 at 11:37 AM in Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Of leaks and legitimacy

I am not as outraged by the leak as Paul is, although I agree it suggests something about the elevation of individual personalities over the institution. I want to weigh in on a couple points. (Update: Mark Graber argues that leaks, especially from the Court to the executive but also to the press, were common during the 19th century).

• Regardless of the source--Justice, clerk, court personnel--there are plausible arguments for the source coming from either side of the divide over reproductive freedom. A critic of the decision might leak hoping that public outrage might sway someone off the Alito opinion or, seeing that as a lost cause, to get an early start on generating political activism to prompt Senate action (a law codifying the right to reproductive freedom passed the House but is stuck behind the Senate filibuster*) or to get Democrats to the polls. A supporter of the decision might hope publicity surrounding the prospective opinion would shore-up Alito's majority; soften the public outrage when the opinion issues (closer to the election), so that the anger has dissipated by November; and distract from the story of the Court eliminating reproductive freedom (and perhaps other rights, more on that below) by offering the story of the leak, failed processes, and the Court-as-institution as a competing narrative. As a couple people have put it, the leak is a story, but not the story; the source might have hoped to make it the story, especially in the right-wing noise machine (which will suggest the source is from the other side). One person on the ConLawProf Listserv suggested Alito might be the source--knowing he will be forced to soften the language in the published opinion, he gets his raw thoughts into the world and becomes a Fed Soc rock star.

[*] Putting aside whether such a law is valid under the Commerce Clause or § 5, a question that the same five-Justice majority would likely answer in the negative two years from now.

• I do not understand the insistence that the decision is "illegitimate." I think it is wrong, uses (typically) bad history, and written with the usual Alito arrogance and causticity that grates on me (even when I agree with him). But it does not say anything that Roe/Casey critics have not been saying for years; it reads as the opinion overruling Roe that we have feared for years, at least as written by Alito or Scalia. But that should not make it "illegitimate" any more than Roe/Casey are illegtimate, as Alito suggests throughout the opinion.

What makes it illegitimate as a judicial decision--as opposed to wrong as a matter of substantive constitutional law--for people who do not subscribe to Eric Segall's view that the entire SCOTUS enterprise is illegitimate?

    1) It overrules precedent. No, because the Court has overruled or changed precedent in the past. It has standards for doing so. And disagreeing with how Alito applies those principles is a critique on the merits.

    2) It eliminates an existing constitutional right. That has never been part of the stare decisis or constitutional analysis. While perhaps a worthwhile constitutional principle (a judicial presumption of liberty, if you will), that again goes to correctness on the merits rather than structural legitimacy.

    3) Everything that went into how the five-Justice majority was formed--GWB and Trump losing the popular vote (such that 4/5 of the majority was appointed by a President who, at least initially, was a minority President); McConnell holding Gorsuch's seat open for more than a year; Kavanaugh perhaps perjuring himself; McConnell ramming the Barrett nomination through, Susan Collins Susan Collinsing, etc. But it seems to me that proves to much, rendering "illegitimate" any decision from this Court for the foreseeable future. And many might agree with that conclusion. But we cannot ignore the role of politics, a less "clean" process than the judicial is supposed to be, in the appointment process. Other Presidents and Congresses have gained or sought to gain political advantage through the Court. What makes this uniquely illegitimate.

I am not trying to downplay how bad this opinion is. I am concerned that "illegitimacy" is the new "judicial activism"--an illegitimate decision is any decision I disagree with written by a justice I do not like. That is not helpful to the discourse or to the functioning of any institution. Or it is the new obscenity--I know an illegitimate or judicial activist opinion when I see it (usually because I disagree with it).

• I cannot tell how much mischief the opinion can do in the future--whether it also takes out marriage equality, freedom of intimate association, contraception. Alito tries in several places to distinguish those rights as not involving potential life, although query whether that holds true for contraception, given some religious views about what constitutes abortion and the misunderstanding of how some contraception works. The rigid historical approach to substantive due process does not bode well for rights and interests that have developed in a modern, more open, more technologically advanced, and more accepting society.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 3, 2022 at 10:29 AM in Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 02, 2022

Boston's flagpole program not government speech

A unanimous-in-the-judgment SCOTUS holds in Shurtleff v. City of Boston that Boston's program of flying private flags (on a pole usually reserved for the city flag) did not constitute government speech and denying permission to a group to fly a "Christian" flag violated the First Amendment. Breyer writes for six. Kavanaugh joins the majority but writes a short concurrence to argue that "religious persons, organizations, or speech" cannot be excluded from "public programs, benefits, facilities, and the like." Alito concurs in the judgment, joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, to offer a different approach to government speech. And Gorsuch, joined by Thomas, concurs in the judgment to complain about Lemon.

The meaningful dispute is over how to identify government speech. The majority relied on a multi-factor balancing test, considering the history of the expression, the public's likely perception or who is speaking, and the extent to which government shapes or controls the expression. The Court found that the first favored the city (with a lengthy discursive on how government communicates through flags, including the story of Boston flying the Montreal flag following a bet on a Bruins-Canadians playoff series) but the third favored the speaker, because the city exercised no meaningful involvement in selecting flags or crafting their messages. Labeling this  as private speech ended the case, as the decision to deny permission to the plaintiffs was unquestionably viewpoint discriminatory.

Alito continues relitigating Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans (the specialty license-plate case)--he includes a footnote explaining why the Court got that wrong. He rejects the balancing test, arguing that any of the factors can indicate government speech or government censorship. Instead he urges a clearer and more specific approach to government speech. First, the government must speak in the literal sense--a person acting within the scope of power to speak for the government must purposefully communicate a governmentally determined message. Second, government cannot express its message through a means that abridges private speech (citing, e.g., Wooley). As to the first point, government can deputize private persons as its agents who voluntarily agree to convey the government message or government can adopt private speech as its own, such as taking ownership of the private speech), but not by subsidizing, facilitating, or providing a forum for that speech.

Although Alito's approach is cleaner on paper, I am not sure it is clearer in application or produces more obvious results. Shurtleff did not involve government speech under any approach and Alito's first point (was the government communicating an intentional message) turned on the same control that drove the majority's third factor. Walker represents the point at which Alito and the majority will reach different conclusions. The question is where the different approaches go in the many cases in between.

A different issue--and possible future bomb--involves whether government has speech rights. Alito drops a footnote arguing the federal government does not have such a right, but that states might have free-speech rights against the federal government. The text of the First Amendment--prohibiting Congress from abridging--eliminates any free-speech right for the federal government against itself. But extending that restriction to state governments in the 14th Amendment as to private individuals does not answer the question of the speech rights of states as to the fed. So is the next line of lawsuit against anything policy from a Democratic administration going to be a claim that it violates Texas' free-speech rights?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 2, 2022 at 11:40 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why Mallory?

This is the second post on next Term's SCOTUS case on general personal jurisdiction by Rocky Rhodes (South Texas) and Cassandra Burke Robertson (Case).

As we mentioned in our last blog post, scholars and practitioners have been waiting a very long time for the Supreme Court to take up the question of the states’ power to require consent to personal jurisdiction as a condition of registration to do business. Another case, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company v. McCall, appeared to be a strong candidate for a cert grant. It attracted substantial cert-stage amicus support, and we predicted that the Court would be interested in it.

Instead, however, the Court granted certiorari in Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co. and appears to be holding Cooper Tire for the decision in Mallory.

Both the petitioner and respondent in Mallory argued that Mallory presents a cleaner legal issue. In some ways, the parties are right—but Mallory does have some quirks of its own.

What is cleaner in Mallory is the legal background. Pennsylvania’s long-arm statute is unique in that it explicitly provides that by registering to do business companies consent to general personal jurisdiction in the state. This transparency is important to the case in two ways.

First, in a case challenging the state’s power, it is helpful to have a clear statement of the state’s law. The Georgia law at issue in Cooper Tire was less clear; although the Georgia Supreme Court followed state precedent concluding that registration impliedly demonstrated all-purpose consent to personal jurisdiction, the court expressed some uncertainty as to whether that precedent reflected the legislature’s intent and recommended that the legislature clarify the long-arm statute.

Second, Pennsylvania’s clear statement is helpful in determining the scope of consent. That is, as Tanya Monestier has convincingly argued, implied consent is not consent at all—it is, instead, a trap for the unwary corporation that would have no reason to expect that business registration would give the courts of a state the authority to hear any and all claims against that business, including claims that have no connection at all to the forum.

Pennsylvania’s explicit statute, on the other hand, gives fair warning to corporations about the effect of their decision to register. In that sense, it makes registration-based consent mirror an arbitration clause in a contract of adhesion—not a term that the signing party necessarily wants, but one that the party is willing to accept to obtain the benefits of the contract. The Supreme Court, of course, has been highly deferential to contracts including arbitration and forum selection clauses, even in contracts of adhesion.

A clear long-arm statute and fair notice are helpful to enforcement. But are they enough? We have argued elsewhere that there is one more essential piece of the puzzle that makes state-required consent different from private agreements: a sovereign interest in the case. That is, the state can explicitly condition benefits on consent to jurisdiction—but only insofar as the state has a sovereign interest in the underlying case. Jack Preis and Jeff Rensberger have similarly separately argued that some state benefit or a state sovereign interest is required to satisfy constitutional limits on exacting consent through a registration statute.

On that point, Cooper Tire appears stronger than Mallory. The plaintiff in Cooper Tire was a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident in Florida. But the driver of the car, who was also a defendant in the suit, was a Georgia resident, as was the used-car dealer who sold the car and inspected the tire. Because the plaintiff wanted to sue the driver, the car dealer, and the tire manufacturer, it made sense to sue in Georgia. And Georgia has a clear sovereign interest in ensuring the safety of the cars sold in the forum as well as adjudicating the liability of state residents. Furthermore, it is not clear that any other forum would have had personal jurisdiction over all three parties—the used-car dealer, for example, seems to have no Florida contacts.

With Mallory, it is not evident that there is a sufficient state interest. The respondent has argued that there is no tie to Pennsylvania, but that is not entirely true—the plaintiff’s complaint notes that Mallory worked for Norfolk Southern in Pennsylvania for the last part of his career before retirement, although there was no allegation that any asbestos exposure took place in Pennsylvania. And by the time suit was filed, Mallory was living in Virginia, not Pennsylvania. Still, the employment connection may provide some basis for the state to have an interest in the outcome of the suit—the state would, after all, have at least some interest in the employment relationship within the state. But if the Supreme Court were to adopt our view of the importance of the underlying sovereign interest, it may need to remand the case for further fact-finding. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant has fleshed out the state connection.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 2, 2022 at 09:47 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Private enforcement and the state court option

Oklahoma enacted (although it awaits the governor's certain signature) an SB8 copycat. Reproductive-rights advocates have brought an original-jurisdiction action in the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. This is the other option for rights-holders, to the extent state procedures are more forgiving than federal.

On the other hand, the hell with Oklahoma AG John O'Connor, who said this:

Once again, the people of Oklahoma have spoken through their representatives in defense of the rights of unborn human beings, and once again abortion clinics have run immediately to the courts to attempt to trample on the people’s voice and the most innocent humans among us.

Indeed, with SB 1503 they have literally attempted to sue before the bill has even gone to the governor’s desk, even though the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed preliminary challenges to a similar law not six months ago.

As to the first, hasn't Oklahoma joined with the rest of the Republican states to ?\"run immediately to the courts to attempt to trample on the people's voice" as reflected in laws and regulations enacted and enforced by the Biden Administration? As to the second, what does SCOTUS have to do with a challenge under Oklahoma law; I thought the people in Washington should butt-out of Oklahoma's business.

And kind of the hell with Bloomberg for reporting such a dishonest statement and politically hypocritical statement. But that is par for the course.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 2, 2022 at 09:23 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Everything wrong with qualified immunity

in this Sixth Circuit decision granting qualified immunity to two police officers who arrested and commenced prosecution of a man for creating a Facebook account parodying the local police department. To wit:

• The court skips the merits, ignoring the obvious First Amendment concerns and doing nothing to establish or further the meaning of the First Amendment.But the panel does not want to be seen endorsing obvious overreach implicating the First Amendment, so they suggest "doubts"that what the government did was worth the time and effort And they urge police, quoting Bari Weiss (!) to "say 'No.'" This seems like the worst of all worlds. The court recognizes and calls out the wrongfulness of government conduct, but not in a way that has any effect on the next cop to pull this stun (and there will be a next one). Instead, the court does something that I would have expected Fed Soc judges to abjure--issuing lectures to other branches of government having no force or effect.

• This was not a fast-moving, emergency requiring snap judgments in a life-threatening situation that courts should not second-guess. These officers had time and space to think and consider what they did with respect to an obvious parody and knew why they did it. Whatever the need for qualified immunity in the former case, it should not apply in the latter. And, again, because the court skipped the merits, there remains no Sixth Circuit precedent on these facts to move the right towards being clearly established.

• The court also rejected municipal liability, again on a narrow conception of who is a policymaker and what qualifies as failed training. Municipal liability is unfortunately and unnecessarily narrow, so I am not sure the decision is wrong based on prevailing doctrine.

This case again illustrates the problem of defining what it means to vindicate one's rights. Is it enough to avoid liability for enforcement of a law in a constitutionally invalid way (as the plaintiff did here)? Or should there be some retroactive, substitutionary remedy such as damages for making an individual deal with that process? Section 1983 exists, in part, to ensure the latter. Limits such qualified immunity and narrow municipal liability render that a less-effective weapon for that purpose.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 30, 2022 at 01:24 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 24, 2022

HB7 lawsuit

Filed Friday. Plaintiffs are a history prof at Central Florida, two public-school teachers, a rising kindergartner, and the owner of a DEI consulting firm. The choice to file everything in one action has its drawbacks. Consider:

• The First Amendment analysis and likely conclusion varies among the four educational plaintiffs. The prof has the strongest free speech claim, given the scope of academic freedom and its incorporation into the First Amendment. The student has the weakest claim, because I do not believe students have a First Amendment right to learn or not learn anything or to receive (or not) any information as part of the public-school curriculum.* The public-school teachers are somewhere in the middle, claiming some mantle of academic freedom but generally treated like most public employees. Query whether it would have made strategic sense to bring separate suits, allowing the court to focus on the unique First Amendment analysis for each and to earn a strong victory on the one obvious winner.

[*] if they do, consider the unintended consequences--a conservative student would have a viable First Amendment claim against a school board that prohibits, for example, teaching that Jim Crow was anything other than an unalloyed evil.

• The consultant brings a claim as an employer, alleging that the law infringes her right to present certain views in employee and organizational trainings by defining certain trainings (those that present certain viewpoints) as employment discrimination. But I am not sure this claim is appropriate for an offensive pre-enforcement claim. Any employment discrimination would be challenged by the employer filing an administrative or civil action. No defendant--the governor, the AG, members of the Board of Education, and members of the Board of Governors--is responsible for enforcing those provisions in that context. To the extent the consultant is concerned about what her employees might do, she may have to wait and defend on First Amendment grounds.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 24, 2022 at 01:26 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 23, 2022

FIRE on Florida's anti-woke law

Gov. DeSantis signed HB7 (the anti-woke law) that attempts to regulate what and how we can teach certain topics, including in higher ed. FIRE sent letters to every public college and university in the state (here is the letter to FIU) explaining how the law offends academic freedom and the First Amendment freedom to teach and write what we believe appropriate and urging schools to interpret the law narrowly or not to enforce. The letters argue much of what I discussed at a faculty meeting of another FIU unit last week.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 23, 2022 at 11:27 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Bad legal journalism

I (and most lawyers) regularly complain about how badly the media covers courts and law. I am particularly attuned to sloppy and inaccurate use of procedural terms (e.g., "enjoining a law"). I hope for better from a publication such as Bloomberg, which is dedicated to talking about law. No such luck, as shown in a story about efforts of Gov. DeSantis and his legislative lackeys to punish Disney's objections to "Don' Say Gay" by repealing its exclusion from the state's social-media law. The story begins "Florida’s governor may be able to impose swift retribution against Walt Disney Co. for publicly disagreeing with the state’s “don’t say gay” education law."

First, the author seems quite blase about the governor of a state seeking retribution against someone who disagrees with state policy and about legislators agreeing that "the governor’s anger was well placed, and we’re happy to take it up." So new legislation targets an entity when that entity takes a political position that angers the governor and legislators back the governor. The reporter describes it as "retribution," yet treats that as an ordinary thing that happens (and, implicitly, should happen) when members of the public disagree with government officials. As opposed to one of the core things the First Amendment is designed to prohibit.

Second, she misconstrues the likely First Amendment validity of the social-media law. She writes as if the Disney exclusion was key to district court's reasoning in declaring the law invalid, quoting another Republican calling this a "good bill" because it treats all providers evenly. She also calls reversal of the district court "a real possibility" simply because it is on review to the 11th Circuit. But the Disney exception was not central or even necessary to the district court's analysis, functioning more as an absurd cherry on the constitutionally invalid sundae of this law. The court found the law compels speech under Tornillo, making it invalid no matter how even-handed--government can neither compel some people nor all people to speak or to carry the speech of others. And the court identified three reasons the law is "as content-based as it gets" before mentioning Disney. DeSantis, et al live in a fantasy world if they believe expanding the scope of the law eases its constitutional problems, yet the reporter echoes their points as if they are legally plausible. There also is no way the 11th Circuit, as conservative as it may be, reverses on this; these laws are not valid without overruling multiple areas of precedent.

I wish writers and editors did better than this; I would expect it from those at a publication that specializes in law.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 21, 2022 at 09:28 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another SB8 funder suit

This one in federal court in Texas (HT: Josh Blackman). Plaintiffs are an abortion fund and individuals who work for and contribute to it; defendants are individuals who have initiated state proceedings or sent cease-and-desist letters; both should be enough to establish standing to stop future actions (and thus get a determination of SB8's validity). Two weird pieces. First, the complaint contains no allegations that the defendants act under color, despite being brought under § 1983; the lawyers dropped those allegations in favor of a lengthy description of SB8's legal scheme that should not be part of a complain. Second, it seeks a declaration that Texas' criminal abortion ban is invalid and unenforceable (as the law at issue in Roe), but did not sue anyone whose job is to enforce that ban; courts can be free-wheeling with DJs (which come close to advisory opinions anyway), but they at least demand a proper adverse party.

It's always something. This again shows that offensive, pre-enforcement litigation in federal court is possible and workable. It required more work and is more of a pain-in-the-neck. But it is available and consistent with ordinary rules of civ pro and civil rights litigation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 21, 2022 at 08:57 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

More universal injunctions

Sam Bray exposes the flaws in the district court's reasoning on issuing a universal injunction on enforcing the transportation mask mandate. I will add a couple points. First, the district judge committed every analytical error Judge Sutton identified as a problem with universality. Second, Sam's makes a point I have made and that is worth emphasizing: To the extent it may be difficult to identify who is protected by a particularized injunction, that is for the executive in its future enforcement decisions and the district court in enforcing its judgment; it should not be the predicate towards beginning with overbroad relief.

Finally, I co-sign Sam's conclusion:

[T]his is a deeply broken system.  * * * But it is a deeply broken system when the action and inaction of the various federal actors--House, Senate, President, agency reporting to the President--can be immediately swept aside by a single district court judge who chooses a remedy that is not only for the plaintiffs but for everyone.

* * * It doesn't have to be this way.

But it will stay this way if conservatives object to "nationwide" remedies only against Republican presidents, and liberals object to them only against Democratic presidents. Selective outrage and what-about-ism on the other side's inconsistency are a recipe for continued stalemate. If you object to these remedies on principle, stick to your principle, no matter who is President and no matter what you think of the merits.

Critics of universal injunctions are like free-speech absolutists--cursed with intellectual consistency.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 20, 2022 at 09:57 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Restricting tenure, but not understanding why

Florida has passed a law designed to limit tenure by requiring tenured faculty to be reviewed by the Board of Trustees every five years. Gov. DeSantis announced the law at a press conference Tuesday (between promises to investigate Twitter's efforts to resist Elon Musk's takeover bid). The law does not specify a review procedure, so the devil will be in the details of what each university's Board comes up with.

The whiplash over the law's justifications is fun to watch. If I thought DeSantis or his minions had shame or self-awareness or that anyone in this state cared, I would say they have undermined their own cause. Instead, it is just Tuesday.

On one hand, DeSantis properly identifies the purposes of tenure--"to protect people so that they could do ideas that may cause them to lose their job or whatever, academic freedom"--and the supposed reason for limiting it--that "once you’re tenured, your productivity really declines." (Bracket for the moment whether the latter is true). On the other, he and others give the game away by ranting about indoctrination, smuggling ideology and politics, creating intellectual orthodoxy, and pushing ideas like socialism and communism. If  the purpose of tenure is to allow people to express unpopular ideas inside and outside the classroom, that must include those ideas that DeSantis and his henchpeople do not like and over which they want to fire tenure professors. So while purporting to limit tenure so it does not become a sinecure, they acknowledge they would limit tenure to stop professors from saying things they do not like or that students do not like. The goal is to ensure professors whose speech is "in line with what the state’s priorities are and, frankly, the priorities of the parents throughout the state of Florida."

DeSantis says he wants to protect "dissenting" ideas. But dissenting from what? It appears to be from the views that he and the state and the state's parents want. The point of tenure is that the governor should not dictate what professors teach and write. Unless he is not concerned that orthodoxy exists, only that professors may not share and express his orthodoxy.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 19, 2022 at 04:28 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Abstention is down on its luck these days

(Thanks to Gerard for the title):

Another district court has declined to abstain from an action to enjoin a state proceeding to remove a 1/6 insurrectionist from the ballot under § 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. This time it is the Northern District of Georgia in a suit by Marjorie Taylor Greene. The court does a better job than the Eastern District of North Carolina in Cawthorn. In fact, I think the court got it right. The state  ballot-challenge proceeding is a private dispute--between a challenging voter and the candidate--in a state-run proceeding, rather than a state-initiated and state-enforced proceeding. That resembles the PUC proceeding at issue in Sprint and does not fit the second category of a quasi-criminal civil enforcement action. And it does not fit the third category of a uniquely important judicial order (akin to contempt or pre-trial sequestration or post-trial appellate bonds), lest all private proceedings and all orders within those proceedings fall within Younger. (The Georgia court reached the correct result on the merits and refused to enjoin the state proceeding).

A distinct question is whether some other abstention doctrine should be in play, to keep state defendants from running to federal district court just because, as the EDNC court held, really important federal interests are in play. One possibility is Colorado River, which allows abstention to avoid parallel litigation. A better candidate Burford, which requires abstention in deference to state proceedings that are part of an integrated state regulatory scheme. Do elections qualify? Are they the equivalent of Texas regulating oil drilling?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 19, 2022 at 11:13 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Judge Sutton on universal injunctions

Judge Sutton wrote a concurrence (begins at p.18) critiquing the power to issue universal injunctions, both from an Article III and remedial prospective. Along with Judge Manion's concurrence, this is the best judicial explanation for why universal injunctions are improper and why arguments for them collapse under their own logic. Sam Bray reprints the whole thing.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 17, 2022 at 12:42 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

An experiment

I was able to reach Erie for the first time since spring 2019 (i.e., pre-pandemic). My approach to that has been to teach Erie and Hanna, then present the Erie flowchart we all use, then work through a series of problems demonstrating each analytical path.

But I am pressed for time. In 2019, I spent four 70-minutes classes on Erie last time. This semester, I reached Erie with about 250 minutes of class time (two 105-minute sessions plus another 50-or-so minutes).

My attempted solution was to have them reach Erie and Hanna, but to lecture on them in class, which took about 60 minutes of class time. I now have 210 minutes to work through the problems.

We'll see how it goes.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 17, 2022 at 10:40 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Solving the Procedural Puzzles of the Texas Heartbeat Act, Part II

Our second SB8 article has been published in SMU Law Review. This focuses on the commonality of defensive litigation against constitutionally invalid law and how defensive litigation might play out.The third piece, on New York Times as historical analogue, will be published in Houston Law Review next fall.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 14, 2022 at 06:01 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 11, 2022

Civil Procedure in the Chief Justice's Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary

Published in Stetson Law Review, part of a SEALS symposium on the Roberts Court's renewed interest in civil procedure.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 11, 2022 at 09:38 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

A wild hypothetical

So something that proved more complicated than expected.

In transitioning from Subject Matter Jurisdiction to Personal Jurisdiction, we discuss the underlying process of World Wide--Audi and VWA paid for WW and Seaway to successfully challenge PJ through state court and to SCOTUS, then removed when SCOTUS held there was no PJ and the state trial court dismissed the claims against them.

But then I posed the following to the CivPro ListServ and no one could figure out the answer: Suppose the trial court found lack of personal jurisdiction and dismissed the claims against WW and Seaway. The case is now removable. If Audi and VWA remove, how does Robinson appeal the dismissal of the other defendants? Can Robinson's intent to appeal render the case not removable, perhaps by filing a notice of appeal before the Audi and VWA can file the notice of removal? If the defendants get into federal court before Robinson can appeal, his options seem limited.

This hypo is limited because unlikely. The strategy Audi and VWA followed is unavailable in most cases because § 1446(c)(1) prohibits removal of a diversity action that becomes removable more than a year after filing; it takes more than a year to brief and argue a motion to dismiss and more than one layer of appellate review. That limitation did not exist in 1980, which is why Audi and VWA could remove more than 3 years after the suit was filed. So this scenario likely does not arise in either direction.

Still, it exposes an interesting gap in the statutory framework. And it forced some creative solutions. Robinson might ask the federal court to stay the proceedings so the state appeal can proceed (and to not attempt to enjoin the state court from proceeding with the case). Or Robinson might amend in federal court to re-add the dismissed defendants, then ask the federal court to certify the propriety of the PJ dismissal to the state supreme court.

I stumbled on a third possibility this morning--Audi and VWA remove, then Robinson seeks a writ of mandamus to the 1oth Circuit, asking for review of the PJ dismissal. That prior order is part of the removed case. Robinson can satisfy the requirements for mandamus. This is extraordinary case. He does not have other adequate means to obtain relief, because the PJ issue affects whether the case should be in federal court in the first place--if the state court erred, the case should not have been removed and Robinson should not have to litigate in federal court, something that cannot be adequately protected if he must await final judgment in federal court. Robinson also faces the risk that the court of appeals would affirm subject matter jurisdiction, even if it believes the state court erred on PJ, because there was jurisdiction at the time of trial.

However unlikely, a fun problem that might expose a weird hole in the statutory scheme.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 6, 2022 at 11:54 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 04, 2022

"Favorable termination" requires non-conviction and nothing more

Here is my SCOTUSBlog recap on Thompson v. Clark, decided Monday. Kavanaugh writes for six, holding that favorable termination for a Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim need only show that the proceedings ended without a conviction. Alito dissents for himself, Thomas, and Gorsuch, rejecting the idea of malicious prosecution as a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The result is not surprising given oral argument, down to Alito likening such a claim to mythological creatures--today it is the chimera, at argument it was a centaur).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2022 at 09:53 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOTWELL: Bartholomew on Borchers on tag jurisdiction

The new Courts Law essay comes from Christine Bartholomew (Buffalo) reviewing Patrick J. Borchers, Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and "Tag Jurisdiction" in the Pennoyer Era, 72 Case W. L. Rev. 45 (2021), considering Gorsuch's Ford opinion and arguing for corporate tag jurisdiction.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2022 at 03:00 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Working and playing on Shabbat

There Orthodox Jewish athletes have entered the Jews-in-sports conversation. Ryan Turrell was the star of some good Yeshiva basketball teams and has declared for the NBA draft; pitcher Jacob Steinmetz (coincidentally, the son of Yeshiva's basketball coach) plays in the Arizona Diamondbacks organizations; and pitcher-turned-catcher Elie Kligman plays at Wake Forest. Each hopes to make the top level of their sports as Shabbat-observant Jews.

What does having Orthodox Jews in The Show entail? According to reports, Steinmetz and Turrell plan to play on Shabbat, while avoiding driving to the game. One commentator sees this as a wise compromise and the evolution of full Jewish participation in American life, in which Jews need not choose between their identities as "Americans" and "Jews."

But how does this square the law of Shabbat, in which we can neither work nor play (barring the workaround they found for Hank Greenberg on Rosh Hashanah in 1934)? Do rabbis apply some sort of "necessity" principle--these players cannot pursue these activities, and thus use the gifts Hashem has bestowed upon them, without this workaround? An everyday baseball player who cannot play on Shabbat is guaranteed to miss about 35 games, almost 20 % of the season; no team could afford to miss a key player for that much of the season. And what might Steinmetz do on Yom Kippur, when (unlike Shabbat) most American Jews take at least a partial day off? It would be ironic if millions of less-observant Jews (and the occasional less-observant Jewish player) take the day off and attend synagogue on Yom Kippur, while a player who follows more of Jewish law and ritual in his daily life takes the mound. Not worried about being a role model for American Jews, he need only worry about the Koufax Curse.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 3, 2022 at 08:49 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 01, 2022

"Don't say gay suit" filed

Complaint here (my wife is friends with two of the plaintiffs). I am trying to figure out whether this runs into some standing/11th Amendment/EPY problems from not having the correct defendants.

The law prohibits schools and teachers from discussing certain topics in and out of class and requires schools to report LGBT+ students to their families; it subjects teaches, administrators, and school boards to suit by random objecting parents. Plaintiffs are a collection of advocacy organizations, students, parents, and one teacher; defendants are DeSantis, State Board of Ed, BoE members, Commissioner of Education, and several school boards.

Despite the similarity of the private-enforcement scheme Florida adopted, most plaintiffs do not have the SB8 problem. Their rights are violated because teachers, administrators, schools, and school boards--fearing private suit and liability under the law--follow this invalid law in allowing or not allowing certain speech and in doing or not doing certain things. In essence, the state legislature compels local governments to violate students' rights by siccing parents on those local governments for failing to violate students' rights. Although limiting speech and discriminating out of fear of suit rather than (necessarily) a desire to stifle expression or to discriminate, teachers and school boards in following this law in the classroom act under color of state law and violate students' and parents' rights. So I think a violation is sufficiently imminent if a student can allege "I have two mothers and it is clear that teachers will not allow any discussion of my parents in class because this law exists and they are worried about being sued."

The one plaintiff who might have a problem is the teacher, who is subject to enforcement only by a private suit by an as-yet unidentified parent, but no government sanction; that teacher is similarly situated to an abortion provider under SB8, in that he protected speech is chilled by the threat of suit by an unknown rando. The teacher's claim might depend on how the BoE or a local school board implements the law and whether they impose governmental sanction on a teacher apart from any private lawsuit. For example, does the school threaten to fire or sanction teachers who violate the law and gets sued? Or does the school threaten not to indemnify-and-defend a teacher who gets sued for violating this law? That would constitute further government action disadvantaging that teacher because of her constitutionally protected conduct and in furtherance of an invalid law.

That said, jurisdictional/procedural questions remain. Although DeSantis is the villain in the complaint's narrative (and really any narrative in this verkakte state), I doubt he is a proper defendant, because he plays no role in enforcement. I also wonder if a court might find some claims, although against a proper defendant, premature. Perhaps the necessary imminent harm to the plaintiffs depends on further action by someone  to put the statutory limits into action--a school or board imposing regulations with some penalties or a teacher actually silencing that student with two mothers who wants to draw a picture of her family.

I have focused on the procedure and jurisdiction rather than the substantive constitutional violations at this point. Some seem iffy. There is a First Amendment claim based on a right to receive information. But a student or parent does not have a First Amendment right to dictate the curriculum, so cannot base a violation from the school refusing to teach certain matters in the classroom. The question is whether equal protection adds something when that curricular decision is motivated by discriminatory animus (there are 14th Amendment and Title IX claim in the mix for that purpose). Or whether vagueness adds something because no one can figure out what the curriculum is.

The complaint makes noise (although does not base a claim) on the use of "diffuse" private enforcement as nefarious and invalid. I obviously reject the argument here for the same reasons I reject it as to SB8.

Update: And just like that: A parent in St. John's County complained about a teacher wearing a "Protect Trans Kids" t-shirt at school, and the school administration asked the teacher to change shirts (which she did). This is not directly about the new law; district policy prohibits teachers from wearing clothing or apparel with written messages. But I wonder if the regulation was honored more in the breach and that this (and other) teachers wore message-bearing clothing without incident. And if the new law empowered the parent to complain, where most parents let it go. The story illustrates a couple of things. First, it shows how we get state action from civil enforcement, unlike in SB8--legally empowered parent complains, school takes action, school's actions violate rights. Second, it shows what the legal arguments might look like. If teachers regularly wear message-bearing clothing but only the teacher with the pro-LGBTQ+ message is asked to change out of fear of suit under the new law, it helps plaintiffs establish standing by showing that having to change shirts was not caused by the neutral policy (which is ignored anyway) but by the school's actions in response to the new law.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 1, 2022 at 03:03 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 28, 2022

Cert denied in John Doe relation back

The Court denied cert (without noted dissent) in Herrera v. Cleveland. The Seventh Circuit held (consistent with every circuit to consider the issue) that John Doe claims do not relate back under FRCP 15(c)(1)(C), because intentionally pleading a Doe placeholder when the plaintiff does not know the defendant's name is not a mistake concerning the proper party's identity. Too bad. I thought this case had a chance to get to the Court. The approach to mistake is arguably inconsistent with the Court's broad take on relation back in Krupski and has adverse effects on civil rights plaintiffs. Civ Pro professors and civil-rights activists filed amicus in support of cert.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 28, 2022 at 04:36 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Double it

The Utah legislature overrode Governor Spencer Cox's veto and enacted a law banning trangender girls from participating in girls sports. Cox garnered national attention last week in vetoing the bill while pointing out statistics on mental health and suicidality in transgender youth compared with the one transgender girl seeking to play sports in the state. The legislature also passed a bill allocating $ 500,000 for schools to cover the costs of defending the ban.

But that amount misses by a half. If the bans are declared constitutionally invalid, the boards are going to be on the hook for the plaintiffs' reasonable attorney's fees in successfully challenging the law, beyond whatever they spent to defend it.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 26, 2022 at 11:46 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

More offensive SB8 actions

Abortion-funding organizations have filed lawsuits against the Thomas More Society (ND Ill) and the America First Legal Foundation (DDC), seeking to enjoin them from bringing actions to declare SB8 constitutionally invalid and to enjoin them from enforcing the aiding-and-abetting provisions of SB8. Both defendants have initiated pre-suit discovery proceedings in Texas court, seeking to gather information about the organizations' funding efforts; they use that as the basis for standing, arguing that it shows an intent to enforce.

There should not be a Younger problem. The target of a pre-suit discovery proceeding cannot challenge the constitutional validity of the underlying law that might be the basis for the suit; the organizations therefore lack the adequate opportunity to raise their federal constitutional rights in that proceeding.

The complaints have several potential problems as pleaded. First, they lack allegations that the defendants act under color, which is necessary to state a constitutional claim. Second, I wonder if they may be subject to a § 1404 motion to transfer venue. Plaintiffs went to the defendants' "homes" to get out of Texas. But if the purpose of a suit is to challenge the validity of Texas law and to stop the initiation of suits in Texas courts under Texas law, it seems as if a district court within Texas would be a more proper forum. I had not considered this issue until now and I have to give it more thought. Third, the fourth claim alleges SB violates due process by expanding who can bring state-court suits beyond Article III; that is nonsense.

As an abortion-rights supporter, I am glad to see the community moving past the simple approach of WWH (which was bound to fail) and identifying real, if more complicated, ways to challenge the validity of the law.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 23, 2022 at 01:53 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, March 21, 2022

Legal Misunderstanding March Madness

Via Mike Masnick at TechDirt. Here is the Spreadsheet for downloading.

Have fun. And watch for Fire in a Theater, underseeded at a 6.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2022 at 09:44 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Exclusivity and personal rights in bounty litigation

Those insisting that SB8 is unprecedented and those warning of every new law "modeled" on SB8 ignore that we have been leaving in a similar world for some time. Two Ninth Circuit cases show the prevalence of such laws and the broader implications of the surrounding procedural arguments.

California law requires businesses to post signs when their produces contain certain carcinogens. "Any person in the public interest" may bring suit against a business that fails to post signs; the penalty is $ 2500 per violation per day, with "any person" keeping 25 % plus attorney's fees. Like California's former false-advertising laws, private enforcement is not exclusive and the AG and other public officials can initiate enforcement actions.

In B&G Foods, the target of a state enforcement action brought a § 1983 action against the "any person" state plaintiff (a serial enforcer). The court assumed the "any person" was a state actor, then held the lawsuit barred by Noerr-Pennington, under which a person cannot be liable under federal law (including a § 1983 constitutional action) for the petition activity of seeking relief in state court. In California Chamber of Commerce, the court declared the state law constitutionally invalid as violating business' First Amendment rights against compelled expression; it enjoined the AG and an intervenor environmental organization from future enforcement.

The federal plaintiff in B&G did what Rocky and I proposed--sued the "any person" state plaintiff as a state actor to enjoin that enforcement action and to establish precedent about the constitutional validity of state law. I think the court was correct in rejecting the claim, although for the wrong reason. I would say the state plaintiffs did not act under color because their enforcement authority is not exclusive and they do not keep the entire public-serving penalty. If these plaintiffs act under color, then every private A/G and qui tam plaintiff acts under color; it should not be that broad. At the same time, although seemingly consistent with Ninth Circuit precedent, this expands Noerr-Pennington by giving state and local governments petition rights. It thus protects private persons who act on behalf of the government, as opposed to petitioning on behalf of their personal/private interests, which was the original basis for NP. We may have to explore that more in-depth.

Chamber did not address whether the advocacy group acts under color, which should have been necessary to enjoining them from future enforcement. On the other hand, I credit the court with self-restraint in not enjoining non-party private persons from bringing new enforcement actions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2022 at 04:31 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOTWELL: Endo and Beerdsen on discovery as practice

The new Courts Law essay comes from Seth Katsuya Endo (Florida), reviewing Edith Beerdsen, Discovery Culture, 57 Georgia L. Rev. (forthcoming 2022). The article and the review are great. I used this idea of discovery as norms and practices in teaching that section last week.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2022 at 10:45 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 18, 2022

Maybe we have always been crazy as a nation

Long teaching story coming up.

I end the Discovery portion of Civ Pro by having the class argue the discovery issues in Coca Cola Bottling Co. v. Coca Cola. The case involved a contract dispute between a bottling company and Coca Cola following introduction of Diet Coke and New Coke; the bottler sought production of the formula for original Coca Cola, the court agreed and ordered production, and Coca Cola refused to comply with the order, resulting in sanctions. (Marcus, Redish, Sherman, Pfander included this as a note case--I repurposed it as an in-class hypo). I split the room in half, each representing one party. Many students highlight it as an especially fun class session.

Slate's Hang Up and Listen podcast ends each episode with the line "Remember Zelmo Beatty" (Beatty is a Hall of Fame professional basketball player from the '60s and '70s, the "remember" thing is a riff on an old interview in which David Letterman asked Shaq about old-time players and Shaq admitted to not knowing who Beaty was). I stole the idea end each Civ Pro class session by telling the students to "Remember" someone who is in some obvious or non-obvious way relevant to something we did in class that day. Sometimes it is clear--David Souter on the day of Twiqbal or Milton Shadur on the day of his quixotic effort to get defendants to follow the damn rules in their responsive pleadings. Sometimes it is more obscure--Raymond James Donovan on the day of relation back, Tennessee Williams on the day of International Shoe, or Preston and Charlotte Grace on the day of tag jurisdiction Sometimes it is about the day rather than the course materials--Robert Briscoe (the Jewish former Lord Mayor of Dublin) yesterday. (I leave it to readers to figure all of these out). Once students overcome the initial confusion of why they are supposed to remember some random person, they have fun with it; at least one person does an end-of-semester creative project with pictures or biographical information on everyone they are supposed to remember.

Today we did the Coca Cola problem and I told them to remember Roberto Goizueta Cantera, the CEO of Coca Cola during the New Coke fiasco. Goizueta was born in Cuba, educated in the U.S., and worked for Coca Cola in Cuba before defecting after Castro came to power. Nevertheless, in the public blowback to New Coke, some people pointed out that he was Cuban and suggested that New Coke was a communist plot.

Thus the title of this post.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 18, 2022 at 01:29 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 17, 2022

On permanent Daylight Savings Time

It is said that the fact that a law has bipartisan support proves it is a bad idea--if everyone agrees, there must be something wrong with it. I would add the same about any law that Marco Rubio proposes or supports.

Case in point is response to the bill--introduced by Rubio and passed in the Senate by unanimous consent--making Daylight Savings Time permanent. . Josh Barro takes down the idea (including a list of when sunrise might occur in major cities), which also was discussed on NPR's 1A. I have learned a few things.

    • As usual, bad understanding of public opinion has been used to support the law. Supporters insist an overwhelming majority wants the change. But what a majority wants is an end to twice-yearly time changes. There is no majority supporting permanent Daylight Savings as opposed to permanent Standard (I prefer the latter).

    • We tried this as a two-year experiment in winter 1974 (I do not remember it--I was 5); everyone hated it so much that Congress repealed the law that summer. Science supports permanent Standard time if anything--it is better for sleep cycles and energy levels to have light when waking up and starting the day than having light at the end of the day.

     • Some observant Jews are unhappy because it makes it difficult to attend morning prayers in synagogue before going to work or school in places where sunrise might be as late as 9 a.m. (although their bosses will be happy because they can work later on Fridays year-round, as Shabbat begins later).

Of course, the Senate did not debate any of this.

I cannot find the link, but one argument in favor of this change finds support in the habits of the pandemic experience. While working/schooling from home, people woke up later and went outside in the mid-to-late afternoon. Permanent DST conforms to those habits--no need for light at 7 a.m. if people are sleeping to 8 or 9, more need for light at 5 p.m. if that is when people venture out. Perhaps. But if the goal is to return to "normal" (i.e., pre-pandemic) life the disconnect between how we live and the light returns. My kid is back to  school at 8, which means leaving the house at 7, which means waking up at 6--all in the dark.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 17, 2022 at 10:11 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Younger analysis was not much better

Gerard explains why the district court in Cawthorn was wrong on the merits. Here is why the court was wrong in not abstaining under Younger.

    1) The court held that the federal proceedings had gone further and faster than the state proceedings, therefore the federal proceeding did not interfere with the state proceedings. This reverses the presumption that a state proceeding be allowed to continue and that the district court stay its hand. Courts consider the relative progress of the proceedings where the federal action is filed first; courts abstain if the federal action had not gone very far. (This is problematic, because it creates perverse incentives for prosecutors, but it is what we are stuck with). It does not work in reverse; if the state proceeding is filed first, the federal court cannot proceed, full stop.

    2) The court also said the relative progress and the multiple layers of state proceedings meant Cawthorn did not have an adequate opportunity to raise his constitutional arguments i. But adequate opportunity is about whether the party has an opportunity to raise and have resolved issues in the state proceeding, including on subsequent state judicial review of an administrative proceeding. Federal courts do not superintend (otherwise-constitutional) state processes and decline abstention if those state proceedings do not move to the liking of the district court.

    3) The court said this case iimplicates "federal interests in interpreting federal law and the U.S. Constitution." As stated, this swallows Younger. All Younger cases require interpretation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution; if the state proceeding involved only state law, the federal court would not have jurisdiction from which to abstain. So if interpretation of federal law is sufficient, no court would abstain. The whole point of Younger is that any "federal interest" in interpreting federal law is not exclusive or can be satisfied by SCOTUS review of the state proceedings.

The Fourth Circuit should not reach the merits, as Gerard suggests, because abstention, as defined, is warranted here.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 16, 2022 at 11:15 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, March 14, 2022

What is a SLAPP law?

The Southern District of New York denied Donald Trump's motion for leave to amend to add an affirmative defense and counterclaim under New York's amended (and-retroactive?) anti-SLAPP law. I will test on this case this year or next, because it discusses several elements of denying leave to amend--undue delay, dilatory motive, futility. The court called out Trump's incompetent newish attorney for insisting that leave should not be denied for futility because they should not have to defend every use of the SLAPP at this stage; that argument ignored (or did not understand) that futility applies a dismissal analysis at the amendment stage--the court explores whether an amendment can survive dismissal and if it cannot, the court denies leave. The case also raises a nice Erie question--Judge Rakoff in Palin held the SLAPP law is retroactive but an intermediate state court held it is not; what is a district court to do going forward?

For this post, I want to focus on the court's analysis of the SLAPP law as it affects the futility analysis, because I think people are confused as to what a SLAPP law is and does. Trump wanted to add an affirmative defense and a counterclaim under the SLAPP law. The court rejected both. I think it reached the right conclusion for the wrong reason as to the former and may have been wrong as to the latter.

Defense

The court rejected the affirmative defense as futile because the SLAPP does not create an affirmative defense. It does not involve new facts and does not "knock[] plaintiff out of court if all the allegations of her complaint are true." Instead, it provides for recovery of fees for success and changes procedures applied to state-law actions.

But this seems to hang on semantics. We typically think of two types of defenses--failure of proof (the plaintiff cannot prove her alleged, disputed facts) and affirmative (new facts preclude liability if the plaintiff proves her facts). The SLAPP law does require new facts--the speech sued on must have some "connection with an issue of public interest" to trigger special procedural protections or to make attorney's fees available; although it is not clear Trump's lawyer pleaded them in the proposed amended answer (a distinct basis for futility), they are additional facts. Without those new facts, the SLAPP law still provides some type of defense--a way to avoid liability for a claim.

If the court is correct that SLAPP is not an affirmative defense to be pleaded in an answer, how or when does a defendant raise an anti-SLAPP law? Perhaps the law comes into play by providing the legal standards and mechanisms when Trump moves to dismiss. It is not a distinct defense, but the legal standard governing dismissal. I am not sure that is right. A party can assert failure to state a claim as an affirmative defense in a pleading rather than via motion; the SLAPP law provides a different standard for deciding a plaintiff  fails to state a claim. We might think about it this way--would/could Trump have pleaded the SLAPP law as a defense in an original responsive pleading? If a defendant planned to ask for anti-SLAPP attorney's fees (which are available in federal court) should he prevail, would he include that among the defenses pleaded in the answer? If so, it is a defense that can be raised in an amended responsive pleading.

If the court is right, this decision does not hurt Trump. Without this new answer, he can move to dismiss the complaint (coming post-answer it would be a motion for judgment on the pleadings, but same difference for these purposes) and argue that SLAPP procedures apply to that motion. He will lose on that, as explained below; but he will be able to at least attempt to assert the law not as an affirmative defense but as the legal standard for attacking the validity of the claim.

If the court is wrong and the SLAPP law is a defense that can be raised in a pleading, the court correctly denied leave as futile for a different reason--the SLAPP law's procedural provisions (other than the fees provision) do not apply in federal court, where FRCP 12 and 56 provide the standards and mechanisms for pre-trial review and rejection of a state claim. The amendment would be futile because the new defense would not survive a Rule 12(f) motion to strike an insufficient defense.*

[*] Futility generally applies to new claims that cannot survive a motion to dismiss. But an affirmative defense, which involves new facts and new law in the same way as a claim, can be futile if it cannot survive a motion to strike (the counterpart to dismissal for a defense).

Counterclaim

The court held amendment was futile as to the counterclaim because the SLAPP law does not apply in federal court, so the counterclaim would not survive a motion to dismiss. This was wrong.

New York's amended SLAPP law allows a defamation defendant to recover compensatory and punitive damages on a showing of improper purpose in bringing the defamation action; it is analogous to the tort of abuse of process (which often is asserted as a counterclaim to a specious tort claim). A counterclaim cannot be swept aside on Erie/Hanna grounds. Used as a counterclaim, the SLAPP law does not dictate the manner and means for adjudicating substantive defamation rights in Carroll's claim (the manner and means derive from the FRCP); it provides a distinct set of state-law rights and remedies for Trump for a distinct injury. Regardless of the counterclaim's chance of success, it is different than ordinary procedural rules for defending the defamation claim and cannot be deemed categorically unavailable in federal court.

Again, I am criticizing the court's reasoning more than its conclusion to deny leave, which was probably correct. It might have found the amendment futile (and denied leave to amend) by focusing on other reasons  the counterclaim would not survive a motion to dismiss. Perhaps the SLAPP law is not retroactive; perhaps the proposed amended pleading did not allege facts showing improper purpose. Alternatively, the court may have rightly denied leave for reasons other than futility, such as undue delay--Trump waited more than 14 months before seeking leave without good explanation. But the court's reasoning in rejecting amendment is problematic.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 14, 2022 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 11, 2022

No offensive challenges to SB8 against licensing bodies

In Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson, an offensive challenge to SB8, eight Justices (all but Thomas) held that litigation could proceed against state licensing bodies (medical, nursing, pharmaceutical, etc.) to enjoin them from "indirectly" enforcing the heartbeat ban by using performance of a prohibited abortion as the predicate for an administrative sanction. The Court remanded to the Fifth Circuit, which certified to the Supreme Court of Texas whether state law allowed such indirect enforcement. The state court on Friday answered that certified question "no," holding that making private civil litigation the "exclusive" enforcement mechanism meant that no state body had any power to regulate or sanction any person for any SB8 violations in any way.

This is a setback, although a relatively minor one because the action against the medical board could have limited effect. An injunction would have stopped the boards from pursuing licensure actions against providers. It would not have protected those aiders-and-abetters (advocates, Uber drivers, etc.); the state does not license or regulate them or their behavior. And it would not have stopped private "any persons" from bringing civil suits. The suit and injunction would have provided federal precedent declaring SB8 constitutionally invalid and a speedier path to SCOTUS review of the merits. But it would not have stopped the main enforcement mechanisms or cleared the way for providers to return to medical practice as usual.

There may be a way to salvage this action and push federal litigation. One plaintiff, Alan Braid (the doctor who announced having performed a prohibited abortion in the Washington Post), is a defendant in two state-court actions over that abortion, one brought by the Texas Heartbeat Project and one by a disbarred Arkansas lawyer under house arrest. Braid could amend the complaint to name them as defendants acting under color and seeking to enjoin them from pursuing their civil actions. (Braid also has a § 1983 and interpleader action in federal court in Illinois against a third SB8 plaintiff who nonsuited).

Meanwhile, Braid can move to dismiss the pending state actions on the ground that SB8 is constitutionally invalid and proceed to litigate the constitutional issues defensively in state court.

In a bizarre way, this might help judicial challenges to SB8. As Rocky and I argue, this offensive challenge was dubious, given how SB8 was drafted and how it operates. Unable to pursue any "ordinary" mechanism, providers and advocates can focus on unusual-but-available mechanisms on which they are more likely to succeed.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 11, 2022 at 01:20 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 07, 2022

Disaggregating government and its employees

Civil rights doctrine suffers from strange and inconsistent disconnects between government and government officials, especially law enforcement. Municipal liability is difficult (and state liability impossible) because individual officers are the presumptive targets of litigation. Individual officers have qualified immunity because it is unfair to hold them individually liable for all but the most egregious mistakes (and even then . . .). But indemnification means the municipality pays any judgment and thus bears the costs, if not the liaiblity, for the rare non-immune constitutional misconduct. The government bears the burden (and costs) to handle misbehaving officers outside of constitutional liability.

But that disconnect leaders to this Second Circuit case holding that the New York Police Benevolent Association, the officers' union, could intervene in a lawsuit challenging New York and NYPD policies during the 2020 George Floyd protests. The PBA, on behalf of its members, had a distinct interest in defending police policies and practices against constitutional challenge, an interest the government of New York City could not adequately protect. It is true that an employer's interest may diverge from that of its employees. But the logic of this decision places the union, on behalf of its members, on an equal footing with the municipal government and the department (which has never shown itself hostile to or willing to do anything about misbehaving officers) in making public policy and in deciding what policies are constitutionally valid and wise.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 7, 2022 at 09:19 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 03, 2022

If only they could sue the state

SCOTUS holds that the (new) state AG should have been allowed to intervene when the (new) secretary of health services declined to continue litigating the offensive challenge to the constitutional validity of a 15-week abortion ban. Justice Alito writes for 6; Kagan writes for herself Breyer, agreeing that intervention should have been allowed but objecting to majority grounding its analysis in constitutional imperatives surrounding state power to defend its laws; and Sotomayor dissents.

Of course, all of this could be avoided by recognizing that the state enforces state law (through whichever individuals state law designates) and allowing rights holders to sue the state to stop enforcement of the law (by whichever individuals state law designates). Were the challenges to the abortion ban able to sue and litigate against Kentucky, there would be no need for the federal court to consider intervention; the question of who is deciding Kentucky's litigation choices and strategy could be resolved within the state executive.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 3, 2022 at 05:08 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Heckling, counter-speech, and heckler's vetoes (again)

UC-Hastings Fed Soc invited Ilya Shapiro to speak, but he was shouted down by the audience (several videos in links). FIRE labeled this a heckler's veto. The Hastings administration condemned the students because "the act of silencing a speaker is fundamentally contrary to the values of this school as an institution of higher learning; it is contrary to the pedagogical mission of training students for a profession in which they will prevail through the power of analysis and argument." And it is threatening to enforce conduct-code provisions for disrupting the event, while continuing "efforts to ensure that we equip all community members with the knowledge and skills to engage respectfully, thoughtfully, and sensitively with each other and with a wide array of theories, identities, political viewpoints, and perspectives."

I have discussed the uncertainty about the lines among counter-speech, heckling, unprotected counter-speech, and hecklers' vetoes. But what I wrote here bears repeating and elaborating. The protesting students were in the wrong, but for narrow reasons. And it cannot be resolve by invoking the dreaded heckler's veto.

The students did not engage in a heckler's veto. They engaged in heckling, a form of Bradneisian counter-speech. Were Shapiro speaking on an open campus sidewalk and the protesting students shouted back from an adjoining sidewalk, this should be the result. Same if the students remained outside the room or outside the building producing similar noise. There is nothing improper in heckling or attempting to "shout down" a speaker.

The protest crossed the line and lost its protection via the neutral rules of the classroom forum,. Those rules presumably granted Shapiro (and the student group that invited him and reserved the room) a greater expressive right than the dissenting audience members; those neutral rules made Shapiro and Fed Sco preferred first speakers. The source of the heckler's veto is not the protesting students or the attempt to shout Shapiro down and prevent him from being heard. The source lies in the administration failing to remove the disruptive students or otherwise control the situation; governmental inaction or failure to protect deprived him of the ability to speak. The government could have shut the protesting students up or removed from the room; it can sanction them after the fact. The removed students cannot claim their speech rights were violated; by heckling in that time and place, they engaged in civil disobedience, an unlawful act for which they must be willing to pay a price. The open question is whether post-event sanction of the (improperly) protesting students is sufficient to overcome the charge of a heckler's veto; I would say not, but this is a separate question.

I continue to reject the administration's command for respectful, thoughtful, and sensitive engagement with competing viewpoints and theories. Shapiro, like any first speaker, bore no such obligation--he could say whatever he wanted and need not listen to or respectively engage with any disagreeing audience member or what she had to say (I am not saying Shapiro would have approached it this way, only that he bore no obligation to hear and engage with any audience member). The administration was wrong to impose such an obligation on the heckling students. The students were in the (legal) wrong because of the forum rules, not because of some broader compelled commitment to respectful dialogue to which only they are subject.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 3, 2022 at 12:03 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Egbert v. Boule argument

My SCOTUSBlog recap and the transcript. A couple of moments of levity, which I used in the headline. The first involves Gorsuch saying the Smuggler's Inn "has been disparaged in its quality today" and Boule's counsel interjecting "unfairly." The second involves Alito, asking why Boule told Egbert about his arriving guest and wondering what he might do if "one of us was going to check in" and Kagan adding "suspicious characters," which made Alito laugh.

I do not predict these things because I always get them wrong. But the argument went better for Boule than I expected. Everyone pushed Egbert's counsel and the U.S. about how this case differs from an ordinary 4th Amendment Bivens claim and did not push back much on Boule's argument that the analysis ends when events occur near the border. I do not know if that means Boule wins. But they seemed to be wrestling with the mess they created in Abbassi.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 3, 2022 at 09:58 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

The future of Bivens

I am covering Egbert v. Boule for SCOTUSBlog; argument is tomorrow. My preview is here. The plaintiff is a character--he runs the "Smuggler's Inn" B&B near the Canadian border, has "SMUGLER" as his license plate, knew that some guests used his property to get into Canada (his land abuts a fenceless border), and was convicted of violating Canadian immigration law for helping people cross the border. The case arose from Boule trying to keep a Border Patrol agent from questioning a B&B guest and the agent getting pissed off and reporting him to the IRS and other agencies. Given the characters involved, the case resembles Wilkie v. Robbins--western iconoclast who does not trust or want to cooperate with the government and government officials responding by abusing legal apparatuses to make his life difficult.

The case will tell us what, if anything, remains of Bivens. The cert petition asked the Court to reconsider Bivens, but the Court did not grant on that QP. The agent (although not the U.S.) argues that Bivens extensions are categorically barred. The question is whether being a Border agent and/or being near an international border overcomes the many ways this case is closer to Bivens than to the Court's recent rejections.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 1, 2022 at 10:47 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 28, 2022

Quick thoughts on the Jackson nomination (Update)

1) The new attack appears to be "high reversal rate." Steve Vladeck shows some (noisy) numbers which suggest her reversal rate is lower than average. But why does this matter? Reversal means two or three randomly assigned court of appeals judges disagreed with her. It does not mean she was "wrong" or "incorrect" or "bad" in some platonic sense, so as to make her unqualified. This argument should run aground on the statement by (appropriately) Justice (Robert) Jackson--"we are not final because we are infallible, we are infallible because we are final." The court of appeals reversal is "right" because we have a hierarchical judiciary. It should not suggest anything about the wisdom or qualifications of either the trial judge reversed or the appellate judges reversing. I suppose someone could try to make a point about reversals suggesting someone outside the mainstream, whatever that means. But R. Jackson's comment works for mainstream as much as for correctness--the court of appeals defines the mainstream because it is final.

2) Jackson's trial-court experience will be a plus because the widest range of experiences among members of a multi-member body is a good thing. I am not sure of its broad doctrinal effects. I have been trying to think of recent major procedural decisions that made life difficult or easy for district courts and how having a former trial judge might have changed the Court's decision. Twiqbal was decided by a Court without trial experience (Sotomayor joined the Court a few months later), but but the Court has not done much with it in recent years. The 2015 discovery amendments empowered trial judges to manage cases, but those came about through the REA rather than through case resolution. Sotomayor was the lone dissenter on the narrowing of general jurisdiction, but I cannot tell how her judicial experience affected her position.

Jackson's trial experience may be less about forward-looking doctrine than about resolution of individual cases, especially those on the shadow docket. The increased activity in emergency relief and cert grants before judgment reflect a certain distrust of trial-court judges. SCOTUS gets to decide, not one district judge somewhere. Cares therefore should not remain in the trial court for long, the rhetoric of appellate deference disguises close review, and the trial court's decision (granting or denying relief) should not have real effect; the trial judge is a quick step for parties to clear before the real work begins on appeal, not owed real deference. Perhaps Jackson will push back on this trend and push her colleagues to show actual deference to trial courts.

3) The meaningful point is her experience as a public defender and defending Guantanamo detainees, about which Andy Koppelman writes.

4) Jackson will be confirmed, probably with 2-3 Republican votes (I read the over-under is 56; take the under). Everything around it will be noise, although with some "soft on crime" demagoguery to spice things up.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 28, 2022 at 04:29 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOTWELL: Erbsen on Bookman & Shanahan on lawyerless courts

The new Courts Law essay comes from Allan Erbsen (Minnesota), reviewing Pamela K. Bookman & Colleen F. Shanahan, A Tale of Two Civil Procedures, 122 Colum. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2022), which considers how procedure operates in the many courts dominated by pro se litigants. This is the latest in a run of articles and JOTWELL essays considering procedure on the ground outside of the federal courts we focus on in the classroom and in much scholarship.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 28, 2022 at 08:48 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Tenure

The latest Academic Freedom Podcast interviews Matthew Finkin (Illinois) about Dan Patrick's stupidity and the history of tenure. Finkin argues that academic tenure was modeled on Article III tenure (albeit with a lengthy initial probationary period) as a way of protecting the pursuit of "truth" in the face of hostile popular opinion. Finkin says that, from his litigation experience, state judges (who lack such protections in most states) struggle with the concept of tenure when it arises in litigation more than do federal judges (who enjoy similar protections).

So how should we think about academic tenure in a time when many people across the political spectrum have soured on life tenure for judges. If it does not work in the courts, does it work in the academy? Alternatively, why are they different? The obvious difference is power. Many object to one person exercising political power to affect millions (even if only as one of nine) for 35 years. Nothing academics say inside or outside the classroom affects so many people in so direct a way. Another difference is political valence. Those seeking to change Article III in some way come from across the spectrum; systemic attacks on academic tenure come exclusively from the right (although the left does not like and would like to strip tenure in individual cases). But the pushback to Article III reflects concerns about insulation, isolation, being out of touch with the evolution of law, politics, and society. Is that less of a concern for professors and why?

I have come around to the 18-year Carrington Plan (if Eric Segall's even Court cannot happen). At the same time, I am in my nineteenth year of teaching, my fourteenth with tenure. I started to really figure out what I am doing--as a writer and in the classroom--five or six years ago. I cannot imagine my career being over in four years.

One different point, intended more for humor: Someone floated a proposal to split offense and defense in baseball--nine players bat, a different nine players play the field. It is a dumb proposal, in part because we value both skills. We also sometimes trade one for the other--accepting the great-hitter/poor-fielding first baseman or the little-hit/great-glove middle infielder. Much as we might accept the great-scholar who is not a good teacher or the great teacher who does not write. So match the skills--does teaching align with fielding or hitting.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 26, 2022 at 08:59 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Solving the Procedural Puzzles of the Texas Heartbeat Act, Part I

The first of Rocky's and my (hopefully) three SB8 articles has been published in American University Law Review. This focuses on how providers cannot and can challenge SB8 through offensive litigation, including why WWH was correct and other offensive options the Court did not consider. AULR's editors were impressive in turning the piece around in less than three months after the Court's decision We are editing the second piece, forthcoming in SMU Law Review and focused on how defensive litigation may play out. The third piece, on New York Times as historical analogue, sits on a law review editorial desk near you.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 16, 2022 at 10:28 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 14, 2022

Weird procedure and Palin v. New York Times (Updated Several Times)

Jed Rakoff is an excellent judge. But his approach to Palin v. NYT has been procedurally bizarre.

First, he held an evidentiary hearing (testimony from James Bennett, the op-ed's primary author) in deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, without converting to summary judgment; the Second Circuit reversed. Second, Rajoff denied summary judgment, hinting that the evidence did not support actual malice by clear-and-convincing evidence but that it was not his job to weigh the evidence. This was proper, although unusual--most judges are not so forgiving of plaintiffs.

Today, Rakoff announced he would grant the Times's motion for judgment as a matter of law, although the jury is deliberating and he will allow the jury to reach a verdict. It is not unusual for a judge to let a case go the jury knowing he will grant JML. He gives the jury a chance to get it "right" and enters judgment on the verdict, insulating his opinion from appellate review. But he can resolve the case as he sees fit if the jury gets it "wrong." But it is unusual (and perhaps improper?) to announce that intention while the jury is deliberating. If any juror learns of Rakoff's announcement, that seems to provide a basis for reversal of a judgment on the verdict or at least a new trial--the deliberations become a sham if the jurors know how the case ends regardless of what they do. If there is a chance the jury learns of his announcement it presents at least a colorable new-trial or appellate issue that will make life tougher for the Times in defending the judgment. [Update: On further thought, Rakoff could grant a new trial, then grant summary judgment before the new trial begins or JML after the plaintiff's case n the second trial]

Further Update: Jury finds for NYT. This moots the above discussion, although it remains a weird process, unless we somehow learn that jurors learned about Rakoff's plan before the verdict. Watch out for news reports saying that NYT lives another day or that the Court or jury reaffirmed NYT, which reflect basic ignorance about what district courts do.

Further, further Update: It turns out the use of NYT and actual malice as the standard is based in part on New York's anti-SLAPP statutewhich codifies actual malice (likely as a hedge against SCOTUS overruling)* although in an amendment enacted after the op-ed was published. Judge Rakoff held, as a matter of New York law, that the law applied retroactively and the instructions to apply actual malice applied the statute and the First Amendment. Overruling New York Times as the constitutional standard would not change the standard under New York law, meaning the result would be the same. SCOTUS typically does not take cases that turn on state law.

[*] This presents the opposite of a zombie law--a statute that continues providing heightened protection of individual rights when the Constitution does not require that heightened protection. Like RFRA or RLUIPA. What do we call them? Super Laws, as they not only are no undead but enjoy extraordinary powers? I wish I had thought to include this opposite category in the paper.

Further, further, further update: The jury found out via push notifications on their phones. The jurors insist it did not affect their deliberations. Judge Rakoff notifed the parties and gave them the opportunity to seek any relief they believe appropriate based on this, while noting that no party objected to his plan to issue his FRCP 50 order while allowing the jury to continue deliberating. Everyone is scrambling to figure out what effect, if any, this will have.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 14, 2022 at 07:17 PM in Civil Procedure, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)