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The patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. 1400(b), provides that “[a]ny civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.” In its 1957 “Fourco” decision, the Supreme Court concluded that for purposes of section 1400(b) a domestic corporation “resides” only in its state of incorporation, rejecting the argument that section 1400(b) incorporates the broader definition of corporate “residence” contained in the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. 1391(c). Congress has not amended section 1400(b) since Fourco. Kraft filed a patent infringement suit in the District of Delaware against TC, a competitor, organized under Indiana law and headquartered in Indiana. TC ships the allegedly infringing products into Delaware. Reversing the district court and Federal Circuit, the Supreme Court held that, ss applied to domestic corporations, “reside[nce]” in section 1400(b) refers only to the state of incorporation. Section 1400(b) was enacted as a "stand alone" statute. Amendments to section 1391 did not modify the meaning of 1400(b) as interpreted by Fourco. View "TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC" on Justia Law

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Water Splash sued Menon, a former employee, in Texas state court. Because Menon resided in Canada, Water Splash obtained permission to effect service by mail. Menon declined to answer or enter an appearance. The trial court issued a default judgment. Menon argued that service by mail was impermissible under the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention). Vacating a Texas Court of Appeals decision in Menon’s favor, the Supreme Court held that the Convention does not prohibit service of process by mail. Article 10(a) uses the term “judicial documents” and the ordinary meaning of the word “send” is broad enough to cover the transmission of any judicial documents. The Convention’s drafting history strongly suggests that the drafters understood that service by postal channels was permissible; in the half-century since the Convention was adopted, the Executive Branch has consistently maintained that it allows service by mail. Other Convention signatories have consistently adopted that view. That Article 10(a) encompasses service by mail does not mean that it affirmatively authorizes such service; service by mail is permissible if the receiving state has not objected to service by mail and if such service is authorized under other applicable laws. View "Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon" on Justia Law

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North Carolina redrew Congressional Districts 1 and 12 after the 2010 census. Previously, neither district had a majority black voting-age population (BVAP), but both consistently elected candidates preferred by most African-American voters. The state needed to add 100,000 people to District 1 to comply with the one-person-one-vote principle; it took most of them from heavily black areas of Durham—increasing the district’s BVAP from 48.6% to 52.7%. District 12’s BVAP increased from 43.8% to 50.7%. State courts upheld the redistricting. The district court found it unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed. Although the state court’s decision is relevant, the district court properly concluded that race furnished the predominant rationale for District 1’s redesign and that compliance with the Voting Rights Act could not justify that consideration of race, which subordinated other criteria. The redistricting cannot withstand strict scrutiny under the “Gingles” factors. For nearly 20 years, African-Americans made up less than a majority of District 1’s voters, but their preferred candidates scored victories. District 1 was a “crossover” district, in which members of the majority help a “large enough” minority to elect its candidate. History gave the state no reason to think that the Act required it to ramp up District 1’s BVAP. The evidence, even without an alternative map, adequately supported the conclusion that race, not politics, accounted for District 12’s reconfiguration. “By slimming the district and adding a couple of knobs to its snakelike body, North Carolina added 35,000 African-Americans and subtracted 50,000 whites, turning District 12 into a majority-minority district,” indicating a determination to concentrate black voters. View "Cooper v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Filing a bankruptcy proof of claim that is obviously time-barred is not a false, deceptive, misleading, unfair, or unconscionable practice under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Midland filed a proof of claim in Johnson’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, asserting a credit-card debt and noting that the last time any charge appeared on Johnson’s account was more than 10 years ago. The Alabama limitations period is six years. The Bankruptcy Court disallowed the claim. Johnson filed suit under the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. 1692. The Supreme Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit. The Bankruptcy Code defines “claim” as a “right to payment,” 11 U.S.C. 101(5)(A); state law usually determines whether a person has such a right. Alabama law provides that a creditor has the right to payment of a debt even after the limitations period has expired. The word “enforceable” does not appear in the Code’s definition. The law treats unenforceability of a claim due to the expiration of the limitations period as an affirmative defense. There is nothing misleading or deceptive in filing a proof of claim that follows the Code’s similar system. Concerns that a consumer might unwittingly repay a time-barred debt have diminished force in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, where: the consumer initiates the proceeding; a knowledgeable trustee is available; procedural rules guide evaluation of claims; and the claims resolution process is “less unnerving” than facing a collection lawsuit. View "Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Kentucky ruling that authority to bind a principal to arbitration must be explicitly stated in power of attorney violated the Federal Arbitration Act. When the patients moved into Kindred’s nursing home, their relatives used powers of attorney to complete necessary paperwork, including an agreement that any claims arising from the patient’s stay at Kindred would be resolved through binding arbitration. After the patients died, their estates filed suits alleging that Kindred’s substandard care had caused their deaths. The trial court denied Kindred’s motions to dismiss. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed, finding the arbitration agreements invalid because neither power of attorney specifically entitled the representative to enter into an arbitration agreement. Because the Kentucky Constitution declares the rights of access to the courts and trial by jury to be “sacred,” the court reasoned, an agent could deprive her principal of such rights only if expressly provided in the power of attorney. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. The Kentucky Supreme Court’s clear-statement rule violates the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 2, by singling out arbitration agreements for disfavored treatment. The Act preempts any state rule that discriminates on its face against arbitration or that covertly accomplishes the same objective by disfavoring contracts that have the defining features of arbitration agreements. The FAA is concerned with both the enforcement and initial validity of arbitration agreements. View "Kindred Nursing Centers, L. P. v. Clark" on Justia Law

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A state court may not order a veteran to indemnify a divorced spouse for the loss in the spouse’s portion of the veteran’s retirement pay caused by the veteran’s waiver of retirement pay to receive service-related disability benefits. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act authorizes states to treat veterans’ “disposable retired pay” as community property divisible upon divorce, 10 U.S.C. 1408, excluding amounts deducted from that pay “as a result of a waiver . . . required by law in order to receive” disability benefits. In their divorce, Sandra was awarded 50% of John’s future Air Force retirement pay, which she began to receive when John retired. Years later, the Department of Veterans Affairs found that John was partially disabled due to an earlier service-related injury. To receive disability pay, John gave up an equivalent amount of retirement pay, 38 U.S.C. 5305. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed a family court order that Sandra receive her full 50% regardless of the waiver. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. John’s military pay was subject to a future contingency. State courts cannot “vest” that which they lack the authority to give. Family courts remain free to consider the contingency that some military retirement pay might be waived or consider reductions in value when calculating or recalculating the need for spousal support. View "Howell v. Howell" on Justia Law

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A case falls within the scope of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1604, “expropriation exception” and may be pursued against a foreign state in U.S. federal courts only if the property in which the party claims to hold rights was indeed “property taken in violation of international law.” The Supreme Court held that the exception should not be evaluated under the “nonfrivolous-argument standard” and remanded to the District of Columbia Circuit. The case was filed by a wholly-owned Venezuelan subsidiary and its American parent company that supplied oil rigs to entities that were part of the Venezuelan Government, claiming that Venezuela had unlawfully expropriated the subsidiary’s rigs by nationalizing them. A court should decide the foreign sovereign’s immunity defense at the threshold of the action, resolving any factual disputes as near to the outset of the case as is reasonably possible. The expropriation exception grants jurisdiction only where there is a legally valid claim that a certain kind of right is at issue (property rights) and that the relevant property was taken in a certain way (in violation of international law). Simply making a nonfrivolous argument to that effect is not sufficient. View "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne Int’l Drilling Co." on Justia Law

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A city is an “aggrieved person,” authorized to bring suit under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), according to the Supreme Court. The City of Miami sued Bank of America and Wells Fargo, alleging violations of the FHA prohibition of racial discrimination in connection with real-estate transactions, 42 U.S.C. 3604(b), 3605(a). The city claimed that the banks intentionally targeted predatory practices at African-American and Latino neighborhoods and residents, lending to minority borrowers on worse terms than equally creditworthy nonminority borrowers and inducing defaults by failing to extend refinancing and loan modifications to minority borrowers on fair terms, resulting in a disproportionate number of foreclosures and vacancies, impairing municipal effort to assure racial integration, diminishing property-tax revenue, and increasing demand for police, fire, and other municipal services. The Court reasoned that those claims of financial injury are “arguably within the zone of interests” the FHA protects. In remanding the case, the Court stated that the Eleventh Circuit erred in concluding that the complaints met the FHA’s proximate-cause requirement based solely on a finding that the alleged financial injuries were foreseeable results of the banks’ misconduct. Foreseeability alone does not ensure the required close connection to the prohibited conduct. Proximate cause under the FHA requires “some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged,” considering the “nature of the statutory cause of action,” and an assessment “of what is administratively possible and convenient.” View "Bank of America Corp. v. Miami" on Justia Law

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The Lewises, driving on a Connecticut interstate, were struck by a vehicle driven by Clarke, a Tribal Gaming Authority employee, who was transporting Mohegan Sun Casino patrons. The Lewises sued Clarke in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that tribal sovereign immunity barred the suit because Clarke was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred and did not consider whether Clarke should be entitled to sovereign immunity based on an indemnification statute. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. In a suit against a tribal employee in his individual capacity, the employee, not the tribe, is the real party in interest; tribal sovereign immunity is not implicated. The suit is based on Clarke's personal actions. Clarke, not the Gaming Authority, is the real party in interest. The Connecticut Supreme Court extended sovereign immunity for tribal employees beyond what common-law sovereign immunity principles would recognize for either state or federal employees. An indemnification provision cannot, as a matter of law, extend sovereign immunity to individual employees who would otherwise not fall under its protective cloak. Connecticut courts exercise no jurisdiction over the Tribe or Gaming Authority and indemnification is not a certainty, because Clarke will not be indemnified should the Gaming Authority determine that he engaged in “wanton, reckless, or malicious” activity. View "Lewis v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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After agents found child pornography on petitioner’s computer, he pleaded guilty to possessing a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct (18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(4)(B) and (b)(2)), an offense requiring restitution to the victim. The district court imposed a prison sentence and acknowledged that restitution was mandatory but deferred determination of the amount. Petitioner filed a notice of appeal. Months later, the court entered an amended judgment, ordering petitioner to pay restitution to one victim. Petitioner did not file a second notice of appeal, but challenged the restitution amount before the Eleventh Circuit, which held that he had forfeited any such challenge. The Supreme Court affirmed. A defendant wishing to appeal an order imposing restitution in a deferred restitution case must file a notice of appeal from that order. If he fails to do so and the government objects, he may not challenge the restitution order on appeal. Both 18 U.S.C. 3742(a), governing criminal appeals, and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(a)(1) contemplate that a defendant will file a notice of appeal after the court has decided the issue sought to be appealed. The requirement is a mandatory claim-processing rule, which is “unalterable” if raised properly by the party asserting its violation. Deferred restitution cases involve two appealable judgments, not one; the notice of appeal did not “spring forward” to become effective on the date the court entered its amended restitution judgment. Even if the court’s acknowledgment in the initial judgment that restitution was mandatory could qualify as a “sentence” that the court “announced” under Rule 4(b)(2), petitioner has never disputed that restitution is mandatory. A court of appeals may not overlook the failure to file a notice of appeal. View "Manrique v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law