Archive for the ‘SCOTUS’ Category

SCOTUS rejects extraterritorial application of ATS in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.

April 17, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court today released a significant decision on personal jurisdiction in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (No. 10–1491, slip opinion: link). (backgrounder here and here).

The Court unanimously denied the appeal. (more…)

Matthew Lafferman, “Do Facebook and Twitter Make You a Public Figure?: How to Apply the Gertz Public Figure Doctrine to Social Media”

March 13, 2013

Matthew Lafferman (JD Candidate, George Mason University – School of Law) has published “Do Facebook and Twitter Make You a Public Figure?: How to Apply the Gertz Public Figure Doctrine to Social Media”,  Santa Clara Computer and High Technology Law Journal, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2012. Here’s the abstract:

In Gertz v. Welch, the Supreme Court expanded First Amendment protections to defamation law by requiring a plaintiff who qualified as a public figure to prove a higher burden of proof to recover for damages under a defamation suit. The Court relied on two major rationales to delineate the Gertz doctrine: public figures “voluntarily exposed themselves to increased risk of injury” and had “significantly greater access to the channels of effective communication.” Applying this doctrine to online media poses challenges, specifically when applied to social media platforms. Many scholars have recognized that social media users have equal access to the same basic media features, rendering the Gertz Court’s access-to the-media rationale inapplicable when applied to social media. A 216% rise in defamation suits against Internet users in the last three years alone, due to the recent discovery that most homeowner’s insurance policies cover libel liability, signals an almost inevitable rise in defamation suits that will eventually force courts to face the challenge of applying the Gertz public figure doctrine to social media.

This Comment offers an approach that reconciles the problems of applying the public figure doctrine to social media. This Comment argues that courts should require defendants to overcome certain initial presumptions by clear and convincing evidence before designating a social media user an involuntary public figure or a general public figure. Moreover, when recommending an approach for courts to identify voluntary activity on a social network for limited-purpose public figures, courts should avoid defining mere access to social media as voluntary activity and instead conclude such access is an extension of an individual’s private life. This approach would allow courts to apply much of the currently existing public figure doctrine to social media and help courts avoid the negative legal and policy consequences of abolishing the doctrine altogether.

A pdf copy of the paper is available for download at SSRN here.

Henry S. Noyes, “The Rise of the Common Law of Federal Pleading: Iqbal, Twombly and the Application of Judicial Experience”

June 9, 2011

Henry S. Noyes (Chapman University – School of Law) has posted  “The Rise of the Common Law of Federal Pleading: Iqbal, Twombly and the Application of Judicial Experience”, Villanova Law Review, Forthcoming/ Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 11-20. The abstract reads:

With its decisions in Twombly and Iqbal, the Supreme Court established a new federal pleading standard: a complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. Many commentators have written about the meaning of plausibility. None has focused on the Court’s statement that “[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief…will be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” In this article, I make and support several claims about the meaning and application of judicial experience. First, in order to understand and define the plausibility standard, one must understand the meaning and application of judicial experience. The requirement that district courts apply judicial experience to resolve a motion to dismiss is a new part of the federal pleading regime, just like the new plausibility standard. Second, the application of judicial experience – as intended by the Supreme Court – requires district courts to consider information and evidence beyond that alleged in the complaint when resolving a motion to dismiss. Third, and contrary to conventional wisdom, the Supreme Court does not intend the application of judicial experience to involve a subjective analysis of the plausibility of a claim. Instead, the Supreme Court intends district courts to consider a larger, objective body of experience – beyond the subjective experience of any particular district court – with similar factual scenarios. Fourth, the Supreme Court anticipates that the application of judicial experience will require district courts to develop a common law of pleading standards that will vary with the type of claim, the type of claimant, the type of defendant and the alleged factual scenario. The Court has expressly denied that plausibility “require[s] heightened fact pleading of specifics,” but what plausibility means is informed by judicial experience. Sometimes plausibility requires more convincing facts (not more specific facts). Finally, I argue that this new pleading regime that requires the application of judicial experience at the pleading stage – even where it is based on objective information – is inappropriate and inconsistent with the adversarial nature of litigation.

A copy of the article is available for download at SSRN here.

Fox v. Vice: SCOTUS rules plaintiff must pay fees for frivolous claims only

June 6, 2011

I’ve written about the Anglo-Canadian “Loser Pays” Rule for costs indemnification here and here.

The American Rule is considered by Maureen Cosgrove at Jurist-Paper Chase who reports on “Supreme Court rules party must pay fees for frivolous claims alone”  discussing today’s decision in Fox v. Vice  , 563 U. S. ____ (2011) (U.S.S.C.).

Fox claimed that he was the victim of dirty tricks during his successful campaign to become the police chief of Vinton, La., and filed a state-court suit against Vice, the incumbent chief, and the town.  Fox’s suit asserted both state-law claims, including defamation, and federal civil rights claims under 42 U. S. C.§1983, including interference with Fox’s right to seek public office. Vice removed the case to federal court based on the §1983 claims. Following discovery, Vice moved for summary judgment on the federal claims, which Fox conceded were invalid.

The District Court dismissed the frivolous claims with prejudice and remanded the remaining claims to state court, noting that Vice’s attorneys’ work could be useful in the state-court proceedings. Vice then asked the federal court for attorney’s fees under §1988, submitting attorney billing records (dockets) estimating time spent on the entire suit, without distinguishing time spent between the dismissed federal claims and the remnant state claims. The court granted the motion on the ground that Fox’s federal claims were frivolous, awarding Fox all of his attorneys’ fees in the suit. Although the state-law allegations had not been found frivolous, the court did not require Vice to parse out the work the attorneys had done on both sets of claims and declined to reduce the fee award to account for the remaining state-law claims, noting that both sides had focused on the deemed frivolous §1983 claims.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Fox’s argument that each individual claim in a suit must be held to be frivolous for the defendant to recover any fees, and agreeing with the District Court that the litigation had focused on the frivolous federal claims.

Writing for the unanimous Court, Kagan, J.  notes,

Our legal system generally requires each party to bearhis own litigation expenses, including attorney’s fees, re-gardless whether he wins or loses. Indeed, this principle is so firmly entrenched that it is known as the “American Rule.” See Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society, 421 U. S. 240, 247 (1975). But Congress hasauthorized courts to deviate from this background rule incertain types of cases by shifting fees from one party toanother. See Burlington v. Dague, 505 U. S. 557, 562 (1992) (listing federal fee-shifting provisions). (at 5)

Justice Kagan adds,

” But the presence of these unsuccessful claims does not immunize a defendant against paying for the attorney’s fees that the plaintiff reasonably incurred in remedying a breach of his civil rights.

Analogous principles indicate that a defendant may deserve fees even if not all the plaintiff’s claims were frivolous. In this context, §1988 serves to relieve a defendant of expenses attributable to frivolous charges. The plaintiff acted wrongly in leveling such allegations, and the court may shift to him the reasonable costs that thoseclaims imposed on his adversary. See Christiansburg, 434 U. S., at 420–421. That remains true when the plaintiff’s suit also includes non-frivolous claims. The defendant, of course, is not entitled to any fees arising from these non-frivolous charges. See ibid. But the presence of reasonable allegations in a suit does not immunize the plaintiff against paying for the fees that his frivolous claims imposed. (at 7)

The District Court and Fifth Circuit decisions were reversed and remanded to the District court to apply the “but for” rule for fee-shifting.

Speaking of frivolous lawsuits, (albeit only involving state-law defamation, intentional infliction of emotional harm and intentional interference with contractual relations claims), Eric Turkewitz in his Affidavit  in the Rakofsky v. The Internet litigation has deposed that:

UPDATE: U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Hank Skinner’s Execution!

March 24, 2010

The New York Times reports that The Supreme Court of the United States has blocked Hank Skinner’s execution. SCOTUS Blog provides an excellent overview of the petition for certiorari and temporary stay, as well as a copy of the order.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion
And death shall have no dominion.
Dead mean naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

                                                                                                             -Dylan Thomas

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