Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Republican voters alleged that Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District was gerrymandered in 2011 in retaliation for their political views. Six years after the General Assembly redrew the District, plaintiffs sought to enjoin election officials from holding congressional elections under the 2011 map. The district court denied the motion and stayed further proceedings pending the Supreme Court’s disposition of partisan gerrymandering claims in Gill v. Whitford. The Supreme Court affirmed. In granting a preliminary injunction a court must consider whether the movant has shown “that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.” Plaintiffs made no such showing. They did not move for a preliminary injunction until six years, and three general elections, after the 2011 map was adopted, and three years after their first complaint was filed. The delay largely arose from a circumstance within plaintiffs’ control. In considering the balance of equities, that unnecessary, years-long delay weighed against their request. The public interest in orderly elections also supported the decision. Plaintiffs represented to the court that any injunctive relief would have to be granted by August 18, 2017, to ensure the timely completion of a new districting scheme in advance of the 2018 election season. Despite the court’s undisputedly diligent efforts, that date had passed by the time the court ruled. There was also legal uncertainty surrounding any potential remedy for the asserted injury; the court reasonably could have concluded that a preliminary injunction would have been against the public interest and might have had a needlessly disruptive effect on the electoral process. View "Besinek v. Lamone" on Justia Law

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Purchasers of vitamin C filed suit, alleging that Chinese exporters had agreed to fix the price and quantity of vitamin C exported to the U.S., in violation of the Sherman Act. The exporters unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the complaint and later sought summary judgment, arguing that Chinese law required them to fix the price and quantity of exports, shielding them from liability under U.S. antitrust law. China’s Ministry of Commerce, the authority authorized to regulate foreign trade, asserted that the alleged conspiracy was actually a pricing regime mandated by the Chinese Government. The purchasers countered that the Ministry had identified no law or regulation requiring the agreement; highlighted a publication announcing that the sellers had agreed to control the quantity and rate of exports without government intervention; and noted China’s statement to the World Trade Organization that it ended its export administration of vitamin C in 2002. The Second Circuit reversed a verdict for the purchasers, stating that federal courts are “bound to defer” to the foreign government’s construction of its own law, whenever that construction is “reasonable.” The Supreme Court vacated. A federal court determining foreign law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 should accord respectful consideration to a foreign government’s submission, but is not bound to accord conclusive effect to such statements. Relevant considerations include the clarity, thoroughness, and support of the foreign government's statement; its context and purpose; the transparency of the foreign legal system; the role and authority of the entity or official offering the statement; and the statement’s consistency with the foreign government’s past positions. Determination of foreign law must be treated as a question of law; courts are not limited to materials submitted by the parties, but “may consider any relevant material or source.” View "Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co." on Justia Law

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Dean, an Agritech shareholder, filed a class-action complaint on February 11, 2011, alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which has a two-year statute of limitations and a five-year statute of repose, 28 U.S.C. 1658(b). The accrual date for the limitation period is February 3, 2011 and for the repose period, November 12, 2009. In May 2012, the district court denied class certification; the action settled and the suit was dismissed. On October 4, 2012, Dean’s counsel filed a new, timely, complaint (Smyth), with a new set of plaintiffs. Eight shareholders sought lead-plaintiff appointment but the district court again denied class certification. The Smyth plaintiffs settled their individual claims and dismissed their suit. Resh, who did not seek lead-plaintiff status in the earlier actions, filed a class action in 2014 after the statute of limitations expired. The Supreme Court’s 1974 “American Pipe” decision established that the timely filing of a class action tolls the statute of limitations for all persons encompassed by the class complaint and that members of a class that fails to gain certification can timely intervene as individual plaintiffs in the still-pending action and applies to putative class members who, after denial of class certification, “prefer to bring an individual suit rather than intervene.” The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and reinstated dismissal of Resh's suit. Upon denial of class certification, a putative class member may not, in lieu of promptly joining an existing suit or filing an individual action, commence a new class action after the limitations period. The “efficiency and economy of litigation” that support tolling of individual claims do not support maintenance of untimely successive class actions. View "China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh" on Justia Law

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Doe, a minor was eight weeks pregnant when she unlawfully crossed the border into the U.S. She was detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), in a federally-funded Texas shelter. Doe requested an abortion. Absent “emergency medical situations,” ORR policy prohibits shelter personnel from “taking any action that facilitates an abortion without direction and approval from the Director.” A minor may leave government custody by seeking voluntary departure, or by working with the government to identify a suitable sponsor” in the U.S., 8 U.S.C. 1229c. Garza, Doe’s guardian ad litem, filed a putative class action on behalf of Doe and “all other pregnant unaccompanied minors in ORR custody.” The district court ruled in Doe’s favor, Doe attended preabortion counseling, required by Texas law to occur at least 24 hours in advance with the same doctor who performs the abortion. The clinic she visited typically rotated physicians weekly. The next day, the District of Columbia Circuit vacated portions of the order. Four days later, that court, en banc, vacated the panel order and remanded. Garza obtained an amended order, requiring the government to make Doe available to obtain the counseling and abortion. Believing the abortion would not take place until after Doe repeated the counseling with a new doctor, the government informed opposing counsel and the Supreme Court that it would file a stay application on October 25. The doctor who had performed Doe’s earlier counseling became available at 4:15 a.m. At 10 a.m., Garza’s lawyers informed the government that Doe “had the abortion this morning.” The Supreme Court vacated and remanded for dismissal. Doe’s individual claim for injunctive relief—the only claim addressed by the D. C. Circuit—became moot after the abortion but the unique circumstances and the balance of equities weigh in favor of vacatur. The Court considered but did not decide the government’s allegations that opposing counsel made misrepresentations to thwart review. View "Azar v. Garza" on Justia Law

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The Southern District of California adopted a districtwide policy permitting the use of full restraints—handcuffs connected to a waist chain, with legs shackled—on most in-custody defendants produced in court for non-jury proceedings by the U.S. Marshals Service. Before the Ninth Circuit could issue a decision on a challenge to the policy, the underlying criminal cases ended. That court—viewing the case as a “functional class action” seeking “class-like relief,” held that the case was not moot and the policy was unconstitutional. A unanimous Supreme Court vacated, finding the case moot. The federal judiciary may adjudicate only “actual and concrete disputes, the resolutions of which have direct consequences on the parties involved.”. Such a dispute “must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.” Precedent does not support a freestanding exception to mootness outside the Rule 23 class action context. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure establish for criminal cases no vehicle comparable to the civil class action, and the Supreme Court has never permitted criminal defendants to band together to seek prospective relief in their individual cases on behalf of a class. The “exception to the mootness doctrine for a controversy that is capable of repetition, yet evading review” does not apply, based only the possibility that some of the parties again will be prosecuted for violating valid criminal laws. View "United States v. Sanchez-Gomez" on Justia Law

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Oil States sued Greene's Energy for infringement of a patent relating to technology for protecting wellhead equipment used in hydraulic fracturing. Greene’s challenged the patent’s validity in court and petitioned the Patent Office for inter partes review, 35 U.S.C. 311-319. The district court issued a claim-construction order favoring Oil States; the Board concluded that Oil States’ claims were unpatentable. The Federal Circuit rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of inter partes review. The Supreme Court affirmed. Inter partes review does not violate Article III. Congress may assign adjudication of public rights to entities other than Article III courts. Inter partes review falls within the public-rights doctrine. Patents are “public franchises” and granting patents is a constitutional function that can be carried out by the executive or legislative departments without “judicial determination.’ Inter partes review involves the same basic matter as granting a patent. Patents remain “subject to [the Board’s] authority” to cancel outside of an Article III court. The similarities between the procedures used in inter partes review and judicial procedures does not suggest that inter partes review violates Article III. The Court noted that its decision “should not be misconstrued as suggesting that patents are not property for purposes of the Due Process Clause or the Takings Clause.” When Congress properly assigns a matter to adjudication in a non-Article III tribunal, “the Seventh Amendment poses no independent bar to the adjudication of that action by a nonjury factfinder.” View "Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene's Energy Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought compensation under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, 28 U.S.C. 1350, based on terrorist acts committed abroad. They alleged that those acts were in part facilitated by Arab Bank, a Jordanian institution with a New York branch. They claimed that the bank used that branch to clear dollar-denominated transactions that benefited terrorists through the Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS) and to launder money for a Texas-based charity allegedly affiliated with Hamas. The Second Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the case. Foreign corporations may not be defendants in suits brought under the ATS, which is "strictly jurisdictional” and does not provide or define a cause of action for international law violations. The Court noted that after the Second Circuit permitted plaintiffs to bring ATS actions based on human-rights laws, Congress enacted the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act, creating an express cause of action for victims of torture and extrajudicial killing. ATS suits then became more frequent but “the presumption against extraterritoriality applies to [ATS] claims.” Separation-of-powers concerns that counsel against courts creating private rights of action apply with particular force to the ATS, which implicates foreign-policy concerns. Courts must exercise “great caution” before recognizing new forms of liability under the ATS. In this case. the only alleged connections to the United States, the CHIPS transaction and a brief allegation about a Texas charity, are “relatively minor” and the litigation has caused diplomatic tensions with Jordan, a critical ally. View "Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC" on Justia Law

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In 2013, federal agents obtained an 18 U.S.C. 2703 warrant requiring Microsoft to disclose all e-mails and other information associated with a customer's account that was believed to be involved in illegal drug trafficking. Microsoft determined that the account’s e-mail contents were all stored in Microsoft’s Dublin, Ireland datacenter and moved, unsuccessfully, to quash the warrant with respect to that information. The court held Microsoft in civil contempt. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that requiring Microsoft to disclose the electronic communications in question would be an unauthorized extraterritorial application of section 2703. In March 2018, Congress enacted and the President signed the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act), Pub. L. 115–141, amending the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701, to add: “A [service provider] shall comply with the obligations of this chapter to preserve, backup, or disclose the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information pertaining to a customer or subscriber within such provider’s possession, custody, or control, regardless of whether such communication, record, or other information is located within or outside of the United States.” The Supreme Court vacated, finding the case moot. No live dispute remains between the parties over the issue with respect to which certiorari was granted; a new warrant replaced the original warrant. View "United States v. Microsoft Corp." on Justia Law

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Samuel served as legal advisor to his mother Ethlyn. After falling out with Samuel, Ethlyn transferred her property into a trust and designated her daughter, Elsa, as her successor trustee. Ethlyn sued Samuel and his law firm over the handling of her affairs (trust case). When Ethlyn died, Elsa took Ethlyn’s place as trustee and as plaintiff. Samuel filed a separate complaint against Elsa in her individual capacity. The district court consolidated the cases under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) and held a single trial. In the individual case, the jury returned a verdict for Samuel. The court granted Elsa a new trial. In the trust case, the jury returned a verdict against Elsa. The Third Circuit dismissed her appeal, finding the judgment not final because the individual claims against Elsa remained unresolved. A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. When one of several cases consolidated under Rule 42(a) is finally decided, that decision confers the immediate right to appeal, regardless of whether other consolidated cases remain pending. Under the consolidation statute, the predecessor of Rule 42(a), consolidation was understood not as completely merging the constituent cases into one, but as enabling more efficient case management while preserving the distinct identities of the cases and rights of the separate parties. Rule 42(a) was expressly modeled on that statute. The Court stated that its decision does not mean that district courts may not consolidate cases for all purposes in appropriate circumstances. View "Hall v. Hall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Samuel served as legal advisor to his mother Ethlyn. After falling out with Samuel, Ethlyn transferred her property into a trust and designated her daughter, Elsa, as her successor trustee. Ethlyn sued Samuel and his law firm over the handling of her affairs (trust case). When Ethlyn died, Elsa took Ethlyn’s place as trustee and as plaintiff. Samuel filed a separate complaint against Elsa in her individual capacity. The district court consolidated the cases under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) and held a single trial. In the individual case, the jury returned a verdict for Samuel. The court granted Elsa a new trial. In the trust case, the jury returned a verdict against Elsa. The Third Circuit dismissed her appeal, finding the judgment not final because the individual claims against Elsa remained unresolved. A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. When one of several cases consolidated under Rule 42(a) is finally decided, that decision confers the immediate right to appeal, regardless of whether other consolidated cases remain pending. Under the consolidation statute, the predecessor of Rule 42(a), consolidation was understood not as completely merging the constituent cases into one, but as enabling more efficient case management while preserving the distinct identities of the cases and rights of the separate parties. Rule 42(a) was expressly modeled on that statute. The Court stated that its decision does not mean that district courts may not consolidate cases for all purposes in appropriate circumstances. View "Hall v. Hall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure