CCL President Attends ABA Amicus Committee Meeting

April 30th, 2018

  As a member of the committee, CCL President Robert S. Peck attended a rare meeting of the ABA Amicus Curiae Committee in Washington, DC, where the Committee discussed plans to streamline its process and continue to assure quality briefing. ABA President Hillary Bass attended the meeting and was joined at the committee dinner by ABA President-elect Robert Carlson.

CCL Files Brief in Eleventh Circuit Arguing Proximate Cause Standard in Fair Housing Act Cases

April 30th, 2018

     CCL argued that a but-for standard is the appropriate requirement for proximate cause under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in a brief filed in the Eleventh Circuit in the consolidated cases of City of Miami v. Bank of America Corp. and City of Miami v. Wells Fargo & Co. CCL represents Miami in this remand from the U.S. Supreme Court in a case argued by CCL President Robert S. Peck and decided a year ago.

     The Supreme Court held, 5-3, that Miami had standing to bring a private enforcement action under the Fair Housing Act, affirming the Eleventh Circuit's unanimous decision. However, it held that the Eleventh Circuit had relied upon too lenient a standard -- foreseeability alone -- in deciding whether Miami's injuries were legally caused by the Banks' discriminatory lending practices. It sent that issue back to the lower courts for a determination of the "contours" of the proximate cause requirement and what side of the line the City's injuries fell.

      The Eleventh Circuit ordered simultaneous briefing by the parties. CCL's brief on behalf of Miami argued that an Eleventh Circuit decision, as well as decisions under other federal statutes, supported the but-for approach, which holds causation to exist as long as the violation is a substantial or significant contributor to the injuries. It further argued that Congress had ratified the types of injuries that Miami claimed in its 1988 amendments to the FHA by endorsing the "broad holdings" of two cases that claimed damages indistinguishable from Miami's.

      The Eleventh Circuit will now decide whether to entertain oral argument on the issue.

CCL Files Writ of Mandamus in Eighth Circuit, Defending Judicial Independenc

April 24th, 2018

      Today, CCL filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, asking the court to throw out the remaining aspects of a state trial judge's challenge to the recusal order of the Arkansas Supreme Court. The federal appeals court has discretion about whether to take up the writ.

      The case began when Judge Wendell Griffen sued the Arkansas Supreme Court and each of its justices after that court ordered the judge permanently recused after he had participated in political protests and written blog posts related to a case before him. When a party to that action, the State of Arkansas, filed an emergency motion to vacate the temporary restraining order Judge Griffen ordered and sought his recusal, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted the motion.

      Judge Griffen filed a Section 1983 action, asserting a violation of his civil rights, in federal court, relying on freedom of speech, the free exercise of religion, due process, and equal protection. CCL represented the Arkansas Supreme Court, its chief justice, and two other justices. The remaining justices were represented by other counsel. All defendants moved to dismiss. The U.S. District Court dismissed claims against the Arkansas Supreme Court, but found claims against the justices in their official capacities sufficiently plausible that those claims were permitted to move forward. Immediately after the District Court's order, Judge Griffen sought discovery related to the justices' internal deliberations on the recusal motion.

     CCL, on behalf of all defendants, filed the Petition to review the partial denial of the motion to dismiss. It argues that mandamus is an appropriate remedy to prevent disruption of the Arkansas Supreme Court's functions through an intrusive set of discovery inquiries and depositions that are privileged. At the same time, because Judge Griffen has no right to preside over any particular case, his claims fail to state a cause of action.

CCL President Attends AAJ Meetings

April 21st, 2018

      CCL President Robert S. Peck participated in the Spring meetings of the American Association for Justice (AAJ). As a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, Peck heard reports about AAJ's activities to support access to the courts and the right to trial by jury. He gave his own report on some of the litigation developments of particular interest to AAJ members. Among items in his report were recent victories about limiting the use of discovery to litigation and not lobbying purposes, a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that reversed the dismissal of a complaint in a medical device case on preemption grounds, and a trial court ruling that New Mexico's medical malpractice cap violates jury-trial rights.

      Peck also attended the AAJ Board of Governors meeting as a guest.

Federal Court Dismisses LawsuitAgainst Arkansas Supreme Court

April 12th, 2018

      Federal Judge James Moody Jr. today dismissed a lawsuit filed by a state trial judge against the Arkansas Supreme Court. Declaring that the Eleventh Amendment barred lawsuits against an arm of the state, like the state supreme court, without its consent, the judge dismissed the state high court from the lawsuit. He further held that a state statute intended to protect religious liberty did not constitute a waiver of sovereign immunity to permit other claims against the court to go forward in the case.

     The case was brought by Arkansas Judge Wendell Griffen after the Supreme Court ordered him recused from cases involving the death penalty after he had participated in a public protest on the death penalty and had blogged about capital punishment. At the time of the order, Judge Griffen was presiding over a case in which the death penalty was at issue. The state attorney general made an emergency motion to the Supreme Court, seeking Judge Griffen's recusal.

     Judge Griffen also sued each of the seven justices of the court in their official capacity. The federal judge declined to dismiss the claims brought under federal civil rights law against the justices, stating that he would not consider facts outside the four corners of the complaint at this early stage of the case.

     CCL represents the Arkansas Supreme Court, its chief justice, and two of the other justices, while the remaining justices are represented by other counsel.

CCL President Speaks at Civil Justice Research Symposium

April 9th, 2018

     CCL President Robert S. Peck spoke twice at a research symposium focused on federal court in Berkeley, California. Sponsored by the Civil Justice Research Institute, a joint project of the law schools of the University of California at Berkeley ant Irvine, the one-day event explored "What's Happening in Federal Court: Recent Findings and Research Findings for the Future."

    Peck served as a moderator and commentator on the first panel, which examined a paper by University of Connecticut law professors Alexandra Lahav and Peter Siegelman that found a profound decline in plaintiff win rates since 1985 and sought to test various hypotheses to explain the development.

    Peck also served on a panel at the end of the day, where he discussed both research techniques that should be employed more frequently and substantive topics for future research. Peck is a member of the advisory board for the Civil Justice Research Institute. 

Federal Court Stays Discovery in Case Against Arkansas Supreme Court

April 9th, 2018

     In a case in which CCL President Robert S. Peck represents the Arkansas Supreme Court, its chief justice and two of its other members, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas granted Peck's motion to stay discovery pending a resolution of his client's and the other justices' motion to dismiss the case. 

     The case was brought by an Arkansas state trial judge, Judge Wendell Griffen, asserting a violation of his civil rights when the state's highest court ordered him recused after he had participated in a political protest concerning a matter he was then presiding over. Federal Judge James Moody ordered the stay in response to a motion Peck filed. Judge Moody indicated that he expected to rule on the motions to dismiss filed by all the Arkansas Supreme Court justices in seven to ten days.

Federal Court Denies Wells Fargo Motion to Certify

April 5th, 2018

     U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody today denied a motion made by Wells Fargo to amend her previous denial of the bank's motion to dismiss and denied its request that she certify her ruling on proximate cause for immediate review to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. CCL President Robert S. Peck wrote the brief in opposition to Wells Fargo's motion in the case, City of Philadelphia v. Wells Fargo & Co.

     Last year, in a case Peck argued on behalf of the City of Miami against Wells Fargo and Bank of America, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Miami's right to bring a case for damages over the banks' Fair Housing Act violations, but asked lower courts to determine the contours of the proximate cause standard to be applied. Judge Brody became the first federal judge to rule on that issue, holding that Philadelphia had at least met the proper standard with respect to its claims of noneconomic damages. Wells Fargo's Supreme Court Counsel Neal Katyal asked the Philadelphia-based court reconsider or certify the question for consideration at the appellate level. Peck's brief argued that the Wells Fargo motion did not meet the statutory criteria. In an order that contained no explanation, Judge Brody denied the motion.

     The case now moves forward with discovery.