Archive for the ‘Civil Procedure’ Category

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WHAT HAPPENED – XBOXs were created with (at least one) mechanical fallacy that ended breaking the system without warning.  Plaintiffs (*cough* NERDS) filed a class action lawsuit in California against XBOX because of this defect.  The California Court hearing this issue denied the Plaintiff’s right to proceed with a class action lawsuit on grounds that the class and case was not suitable for class action status.  As is common in California, the plaintiff’s stipulated to a dismissal of their suit, appealed the denial of class certification and won.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  The State of California is the Chekov’s gun on this case brief, as the practice of dismissing a class action suit and appealing it subsequent to that dismissal is a procedure that is only done in California, as the Federal Rules require a different procedure in order to appeal this decision.  The issue here is whether or not the Supreme Court is down with that procedure or not.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  Allowing this procedure to pass would create two possible scenarios, one being specific to this case, and the other being more general.  First, saying that this procedure is OK would allow an unwritten, contrary rule to be written in the Rules of Federal Procedure.  Considering that the Supreme Court usually does that on their own, good money says that they are not OK with goddamn liberal Californians making their own rules.  More broadly speaking, this case could allow individual jurisdictions to make their own rules all the time, which also is probably not what the Supreme Court wants to do either.

ROOT FOR MICROSOFT IF: you want that extra class action money going toward more HALO sequels.

ROOT FOR BAKER IF:  the Rules of Civil Procedure were made to be broken.

PREDICTION:  Microsoft 9-0

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WHAT HAPPENED:  To help convey this generally procedural issue, let’s treat this like a professional wrestling event.

(Best Jim Ross Impersonation)

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!  IN THIS CORNER, PLAINTIFF LAROE!  A MAN WHO WANTS TO DEVELOP HIS PROPERTY AND IS BEING STYMED BY GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS!  WHAT AN UNDERDOG! THIS FANCIES TO BE A REAL SLOBBERKNOCKER!

AND IN THIS CORNER!  TOWN OF CHESTER!  A MUNICIPALITY THAT DOESN’T LIKE LAROE AND HAS PASSED ZONING REGULATIONS TO GET IN HIS WAY!  WHAT AN EVIL CHAMPION THAT LOOKS TO RETAIN ITS DOMINANCE OVER LAND USE!  THE CROWD REALLY HATES THEM!

THE MATCH HAS STARTED AND WE ARE READY TO……WHAT A MINUTE, WHATS THAT SOUND???  THAT’S LAROE ESTATE’S MUSIC!  WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE?!?  LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE A THREE-WAY BATTLE!

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In legal speak, Laroe Estates wants to intervene in a lawsuit between the landowner and the township, which procedurally means you want to get involved in a case that is ongoing because you have an interest at stake.  Laroe was denied intervention because the Court held that Laroe lacked “standing”, which is the requirement that you are harmed in the underlying litigation and that the litigation will be able to solve that harm.  This is a weird ruling, because standing is usually presumed if you can meet the other requirements of intervention.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  Although one could argue that this case could help shape the requirements for intervention going forward, it seems more likely that the Court is just going to remand this decision back to the Lower Court so that they can come up with a clearer way to deny intervention that doesn’t require the Court to address a weird loophole in the rules.  Ultimately, this is not that common of a problem, as most people who meet the elements of intervention inherently have standing, so although this seems like a big deal, my guess is the Court will just be asking the Lower Court to use the elements to deny intervention, if denial is that important.

ROOT FOR TOWN OF CHESTER IF:  WE NEED TO SETTLE THIS CASE IN A STEEL CAGE, BROTHER!!

ROOT FOR LAROE ESTATES IF:  AND HERE COMES THE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!  LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE A ROYAL RUMBLE!!

PREDICTION:  Laroe Estates 7-1

 

 

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WHAT HAPPENED – Plaintiff was injured at work and sued the Defendant employer for damages under a Federal Workman’s Comp statute in the State of Montana.  Seems easy, right?

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT – The Employer argues that since the accident did not occur in Montana, and since the Employer is not based out of Montana, the case should have been filed elsewhere, which in legal speak is saying that the forum for the lawsuit does not have personal jurisdiction over the Employer.  Personal jurisdiction requires that any lawsuit against a party be filed in a State that is inherently “fair” for the defendant.  This commonly considers the defendant’s contacts with the State and the interests of the State in hearing the case.  This may all seem easy, but hold on to you butts because here comes the weird part.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – A few years ago the Supreme Court heard a case determining whether a car manufacturer could be sued in California for participating in wide-spread Argentinian government-sponsored torture (Actually downplaying this, not exaggerating).  Within that case, Ginsburg and Sotomayor had a judge fight (exchanging doomsday scenarios based on the other’s reasoning), in which the Court made a rule saying that a corporation had to “be at home” to be sued somewhere.  The issue here is whether or not (a) this Corporation is “at home” in the forum, and (b) whether or not a Federal Statute could override this contentious rule, which again was loosely based on the plot of a James Bond movie.

ROOT FOR BNSF RAILWAY IF: Fairness to corporations is high on your priorities list.

ROOT FOR TYRELL IF: You’re still mad about Hobby Lobby and want to screw all corporations.

PREDICTION:  Tyrell 8-1

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WHAT HAPPENED: The Plaintiffs are the parents of a Mexican teenager who was shot by a U.S. border guard standing on U.S. soil.  Plaintiffs are suing the Defendant (the guard) for Constitutional claims related to the shooting.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in the United States, and the Defendant has taken every action imaginable to dismiss the case, including arguing that the jurisdiction is wrong for a 4th amendment claim, that the Bivens analysis is incorrect, and that Defendant is immune because there is no precedent saying you can’t shoot non-citizens across the border (which is factually right, but it’s not like shooting people is ever OK).  Defendant has won at the lower level, so the case was dismissed.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – There is a legal axiom that says “bad cases make bad law”.  While it is easy to look at this case and say “you shouldn’t people” (which is most of the Plaintiff’s arguments), if you stretch the borders and the rules for this case, you end up complicating other issues where a strict application of border lines and qualified immunity make sense.  The balance here is whether it is better for the Court to try to craft a rule that best resolves this question, or whether it is better to just make an unfair ruling in this case and keep the rules as is.  Adding complication to this case is the fact that an amicus brief from Border Guards have advocated for liability in this case, as the dangerous environment surrounding the border needs more civil liability to keep things under control.  Not to say that is going to sway things, but it adds context to where the situation is and why the Plaintiffs’ arguments make more sense the more you hear about facts of the case.

ROOT FOR HERNANDEZ IF: shooting people isn’t OK.

ROOT FOR MESA IF: shooting people is OK if you have a bunch of dumb rules in place to protect you.

PREDICTION:  Mesa 6-2

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WHAT HAPPENED:  Appellant is a pastel-clad, humid municipality populated by hot women and Pitbull (or so I’m told). Appellee is a commercial full of less-aggressively good-looking suburbanites in their late twenties who are far too relaxed and self-aggrandizing during the process of buying a house (I watch too much TV).  The basis of Appellant’s claim is that Appellee caused gave predatory loans (OK) to minority homeowners (probably true) which caused the housing crisis (wait, what) and ruined Miami (arguable).

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Even if we assume that all of the propositions in that last sentence are true, there are three big technical issues Appellant has to get by to bring this claim.  First, the Court has to determine whether or not Miami has standing to bring this claim under the Fair Housing Act, because even though Miami asserts elements of racial discrimination, it is not quite the focus of the claim like other lawsuits under the Fair Housing Act.  Second, the Court has to determine whether or not proximate cause is proven, meaning whether or not a bank giving bad loans could somehow be traced to the complete collapse of the housing market.  Third, the Court has to determine whether or not Miami can prove damages that are not just “infinity dollars”.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS –  By way of background, wild cases like this are not entirely uncommon in the legal profession.  Whether it is by the government or private parties, creative lawsuits can often move the law forward and bring about institutional or social change that the Court is commonly known for.  For example, Roe v. Wade was a fairly wild shot in the dark when it happened, and that is probably the most famous case of the last century.  That being said (and this gets forgotten about often), most of these cases lose.  This is a rough comparison, but the success of these cases are probably at the same rate of being on American Idol, where some contestants have perfect pitch and look like Carrie Underwood, and others are tone-deaf weirdos who somehow did not have a friend throw their body in front of the idea of auditioning in front of a live televised audience.  Following this analogy to its naturally ridiculous conclusion, this is the kind of case where Randy Jackson would say “Gee, I don’t know, dog.  I just don’t’ think it’s your time”, and then the lawsuit sadly goes back to the lobby and has to tell its disappointed family members that no, we are not going to Hollywood.

ROOT FOR CITY OF MIAMI IF:  you’re down with creditors getting taken down a peg, even if the implications of said peg are completely unknown.

ROOT FOR WELLS FARGO IF:  you didn’t own a house in the late 2000s.

PREDICTION:  Wells Fargo 6-2

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WHAT HAPPENED:  Plaintiffs were detained at Guantanamo Bay following the September 11th terrorist attacks.  Plaintiffs assert that they were detained illegally and without sufficient evidence warranting their detention, and are suing the government officials they believe are responsible for their detention.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Well, for starters, the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay was a clusterfuck from the beginning.  In the years that followed 2001, George Bush and friends were routinely in front of the Supreme Court trying to justify detaining suspected terrorists without Due Process.  In every case, the Supreme Court found in favor of the detainees, stating that the foreign terrorists are not entitled to the full Due Process protections entitled to citizens, but they are entitled to something.  This case takes a different angle than those cases, as these Plaintiffs are not seeking criminal constitutional rights, but are instead looking for civil damages as a result of those actions, as the Plaintiffs argue that the government officials in question knew what they were doing was wrong and detained the Plaintiffs anyway.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – Suing the government is tough sledding, because the deck is stacked against you in the form of qualified and sovereign immunity.  In all cases, the government cannot be sued unless it consents to be sued, and as you can imagine, the government does not like to be sued that often.  For these defendants to be found civilly liable for their actions, the Plaintiffs have to prove a fairly high burden of showing that the Defendants knowingly violated their Constitutional rights and that the general rules relating to false arrest and imprisonment should apply to this fairly unique situation.  Should the Plaintiffs’ claims succeed, it could open the door for similar lawsuits against high government officials related to the War on Terror, or HYPOTHETICALLY, a certain order by the President that knowingly bent Constitutional rights and inconvenienced a large group of foreign citizens in the name of protecting Americans from terrorists.

ROOT FOR ASHCROFT IF:  you’re down with early 2000s nostalgia, like Brittany Spears, foam mesh trucker hats, and widespread paranoia about Middle East terrorism.

ROOT FOR ABASI IF:  you watched that one episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver about Guantanamo Bay and now you feel like an expert.

PREDICTION:  Ashcroft 4-2 (Kagan and Sotomayor are recused)

I don’t think they know about second Brexit either.

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via Brexit: Government rejects petition signed by 4.1 million calling for second EU referendum | UK Politics | News | The Independent

WHAT HAPPENED:  After a long trial about a topic that doesn’t matter for purposes of this summary, a civil jury returned with a verdict that was objectively wrong.  The judge, who is tasked with supervising these types of things, only realized the mistake after letting the jury leave the courtroom.  To avoid having to do the trial all over again, the judge brought the jury back in the room, corrected their mistake, made sure they didn’t talk to each other, and then asked them to amend their verdict.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Jurors are preserved in such a way that any nominal form of contamination of the jury process usually results in a mistrial.   Although this judge attempted to fix the problem, the appellant in this case feels like any dismissal should result in a new trial.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  The only thing this case will decide is whether or not a jury can be saved after jury dismissal.  One side feels like it should be a balancing test that considers actual prejudice, whereas the other feels like we should have a bright line rule.  The only people this really affects in a broad way is judges, who both cause this issue and would have to fix this issue.

ROOT FOR DIETZ IF:  you like burning money.

ROOT FOR BOULDIN IF:  you would rather do something wrong once rather than re-do something a second time to make sure its right.

WHAT HAPPENED:  Tom Brady (allegedly) cheated in the NFC Championship game.  The NFL (allegedly) gave him a fair punishment and then (allegedly) a fair opportunity to contest that punishment through (alleged) arbitration.   The (alleged) arbitration was led by Roger Goodell, the (allegedly) competent head of the NFL who also gave the punishment that was being reviewed through arbitration.

WHAT IS THIS BEFORE ANY COURT:  Brady argues that the arbitration proceedings were unfair because (1)  the NFL withheld evidence, (2)  Goodell was a biased arbitrator, and (3) the punishment after arbitration was not the same as the punishment before.  The NFL argues that even if you assume all those things are correct, the NFL players agreed to allow all of those things to happen under their arbitration agreement.

WHAT WAS THE RULING:  The Second Circuit reversed the District Court ruling in favor of Brady, thus reinstating Brady’s punishment under the collective bargaining act.  The Court held that even though the arbitration probably wasn’t the best example of Due Process in our Nation’s history, the Labor Relations Act gives employers/employees full discretion to craft their dispute-resolution programs.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  If you are a smarmy, handsome QB who plays for a team that historically bends the rules, you may not be given all the legal loopholes available to argue plausible deniability.

WILL THIS GET TO THE SUPREME COURT:  Probably not.  Even though the standard of review for this kind of case lends itself to two reasonable outcomes, as the Court gets higher, it is less inclined to overturn decisions based on how that Court would have ruled opposed to the original court.  The decision at this level was fairly well-reasoned, based on the law, and even though its patently unfair, makes sense in a vacuum.  Sorry Pats fans.  Consider this payback for cheating in Super Bowl XXXIX.

 

WHAT HAPPENED:  An intrepid young student from overseas made the insightful discovery that his textbooks were considerably cheaper back home than in America.  The student then made approximately one million dollars shipping the textbooks and keeping the profit.  The textbook provider who held the copyright on those textbooks was not happy about it and sued.  Unfortunately for the textbook provider, the Court is bound by the First Sale Doctrine, an exception to copyright law that allows the first purchaser of a product to sell at will.  The textbook provider lost the case, but not after considerable legal wrangling.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  The student, not satisfied by just making millions of dollars off the textbook, also wants the publisher to pay his attorney fees.  Generally, American Courts follow the “American Rule” on attorney fees, which says that everyone must pay their own way.  The Copyright Act allows the Court to award attorney fees, but only within the Court’s discretion.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  Presumably an award of attorney fees in this case could make it less likely that big corporations will sue little guys for using their copyright, which is a good thing.  On the other hand, this could embolden people to continue breaching copyright law, thus resulting in less compensation for artistic endeavors, which is a bad thing.

ROOT FOR KIRTSAENG IF:  If you’ve ever bought textbooks in higher education.

ROOT FOR JOHN WILEY & SONS IF:  You miss paying for artistic things like music and TV shows.