News

CCL Files Amicus Brief in Support of Hoboken's Climate-Change Lawsuit

December 19th, 2021

     The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities emphasized federalism considerations in an amicus brief filed in the Third Circuit in support of the City of Hoboken, New Jersey's climate-change lawsuit, seeking damages for infrastructure injuries due to oil companies' false claims about gasoline emissions. CCL filed the amicus brief along with Janet, Janet & Suggs.

      The defendant oil companies moved the case from state court to federal court and resisted the return of the case to New Jersey state court on claims that it constituted a federal cause of action. The amicus brief filed today explained that municipalities, like all other plaintiffs, are masters of their complaint and have a right to choose the court in which their state-based claims are heard. 

CCL Files Opposition to a Motion to Dismiss

November 26th, 2021

     In a challenge to the Texas statute that limits damages in medical malpractice cases brought in federal court, CCL filed its opposition to a motion to dismiss made by the Texas Attorney General on behalf of the state judicial defendants. The opposition also questioned the propriety of the Texas Attorney General filing a response in support of his own motion as both an attempt to evade the page limits on motions and improper because court rules only permit a response from those opposing the motion.

     The opposition noted that Section 1983 permits injunctions against enforcing state laws against state judges after a declaratory judgment was obtained. The current motions before the court seeks that declaratory judgment. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously permitted actions against judges who enforce unconstitutional laws.

     Subsequent to CCL's filing, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Texas judges could not be defendants in a Section 1983 preenforcement challenge to a statute in the high-profile S.B. 8 case, in which abortion providers sued over a new state vigilante bill that put a bounty on those who perform or assist in obtaining abortions. As a result, CCL will dismiss the judges in its case and proceed against the other defendants. 

Federal Court Holds Prep Act Does Not Apply to the Non-Use of Countermeasures, Remands Case to State Court

October 22nd, 2021

     In a case in which CCL assisted the Levin Perconti law firm, a federal judge in Illinois granted the plaintiffs' motion to remand the case to state court where the defendant nursing home had removed it to federal court. Martin v. Petersen Health was brought on behalf of a nursing home resident who died as a result of exposure to COVID-19. The defendant removed the case to federal court, claiming that it was acting on behalf of the federal government and that the federal PREP Act completely preempted the cause of action.

     In rejecting both claims, the federal court found that nursing homes were highly regulated but under Supreme Court precedent the homes cannot claim to be operating at the direction of a federal officer by complying with regulations. It further held that the PREP Act provides an exclusive remedy in federal court in Washington, DC for lawsuits based on the administration or use of approved countermeasures during a national health emergency. However, it does not provide a defense for the non-use of those countermeasures, as plaintiffs had pleaded. The court ordered the case returned to state court, where the defendant was free to assert any federal defenses it might have.

CCL Argues Personal Jurisdiction Issue Before En Banc Proceeding in the Fifth Circuit

September 21st, 2021

     CCL President Robert S. Peck told an en banc panel of 17 judges in the Fifth Circuit that the application of an "at-home" requirement as a matter of due process renders Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2) a nullity and unconstitutional in all its applications during oral argument in Douglass v. NYK Line. A federal district court in New Orleans had thrown the case out because it held that a 2016 precedent in that circuit had added the "at-home" requirement. After a panel upheld the ruling based on that precedent but urging the Court to rehear the case to reconsider the 2016 ruling, the court granted a petition to rehear en banc to do just that.

     The case arose after a larger container ship operated by a Japanese company struck a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Sea of Japan, resulting in the deaths of seven U.S. sailors and injuries to 40 others. Representing the injured parties, along with the Koonz McKinney law firm of Washington, DC, Peck explained that Rule 4(k)(2) was adopted, with the agreement of the Supreme Court and the Congress, to address precisely these situations. It provides federal personal jurisdiction over defendants in federal causes of action where no state court can assert jurisdiction over the parties. To satisfy due process, all that is required are sufficient continuous and substantial contacts on a national basis, Peck said. However, no defendant can be "at home" in the United States and still not be subject to state-court jurisdiction.

    Peck further argued that the rule has especially important application in admiralty cases, like this one, where U.S. courts have exercised jurisdiction over the course of more than two centuries as a function of international law applicable to maritime nations. 

    The case now is under advisement, awaiting decision by the 17-judge court.

CCL Amicus Brief for Local Government Groups Supports Baltimore in Fourth Circuit

September 14th, 2021

    CCL filed an amicus brief arguing that cities, no less than any other plaintiff, have a right to choose their causes of action and litigate in state court without being removed to federal court. The case, Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP, is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue is whether any of the remaining grounds asserted by the defendant oil companies constitute a federal cause of action that should be heard in federal, rather than state, court. The Fourth Circuit had previously held that one ground, that the oil companies were acting at the direction of the federal government when they allegedly created a public nuisance and deceived the public about the climate-changing properties of fossil fuels, did not justify removing the case from state court. It further held that the statute that permitted that appeal, restricted the appeal to that issue.

     Subsequently, the Supreme Court ruled that all grounds for removal were subject to appeal when an order covers both federal officer removal justifications and other ones. 

     In its brief on behalf of the National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and International Municipal Lawyers Association, CCL argued that the oil companies were wrong to claim that the state law causes of action were a disguised form of federal common law, that the federal Clean Air Act explicitly did away with federal common law in this field and opened the door to state lawsuits seeking to remedy localized harms, and that the lawsuit did not seek to remedy climate change, but instead sought compensation for distinct effects that Baltimore suffered.

    The defendant oil companies will have an opportunity to file a reply to Baltimore's brief and all amicus briefs supporting it before the case is scheduled for oral argument.

     

CCL Files Local Government Groups' Amicus Brief in First Circuit

September 3rd, 2021

     CCL President wrote and filed a brief arguing that no conception of federal common law justified removal of the State of Rhode Island's case against major oil producers for the in-state consequences of their misrepresentations about fossil fuels. The State had sued the companies on grounds of misrepresentations in state court on state causes of action, but the defendants had removed the case to federal court.

     In this second visit to the First Circuit, which originally held that the oil companies had no claim to federal jurisdiction by asserting that they had done what they were accused of at the direction of the federal government, the appellate court is reviewing other claimed bases for federal-court jurisdiction. This time around, the defendants rely heavily on a claim that because climate change is a global issue, it requires the courts to apply federal common law, rather than state law.

     The amicus brief filed today on behalf of the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association, argued that whatever federal common law may have once existed was displaced by the Clean Air Act, which gives the states a role in combating the local effects of air pollution. States, it further argues, have a right to bring state causes of action in state court, just as any other plaintiff does, subject to the defendants' claims of ordinary preemption, which provides no right to remove a case to federal court.

CCL Files Amicus Brief for Local Government Groups in Eighth Circuit Climate Change Case

August 25th, 2021

     Arguing that state and local governments have the same rights as other plaintiffs to choose state, rather than federal court, a CCL amicus brief asserted that there was no legitimate basis for oil companies to remove a climate-change lawsuit brought by the State of Minnesota to federal court. The brief, on behalf of the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association, focuses most heavily on the oil industries' argument that federal common law completely displaced the state causes of action asserted in the case. 

     In June, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a similar action brought by the City of Baltimore required lower courts to review all the claimed bases for federal-court jurisdiction when a defendant asserts that it was acting at the direction of a federal officer, even if that assertion fails as a matter of law. In the Minnesota case, the oil company defendants made that argument but did not seriously pursue it on appeal, emphasizing the other grounds that would permit it to be in federal, rather than state, court. 

     As for the "federal common law" argument, the amicus brief argued that the Clean Air Act displaced any federal common law and explicitly opened the door to state causes of action, such as the ones filed by Minnesota. The amicus brief was filed with the Law Offices of William Rossbach.

CCL Files En Banc Brief Arguing to Overturn 2016 Decision

August 2nd, 2021

     In a supplemental brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, CCL's Robert S. Peck asked the court to overturn a 2016 decision on personal jurisdiction that stands in the way of litigating seven deaths and 40 injuries to U.S. Navy personnel when a container ship struck the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, a U.S. Navy destroyer in 2017 in the Sea of Japan. 

      The case was originally dismissed in federal district court in New Orleans because the judge ruled that the Japanese company operating the container ship was not subject to personal jurisdiction in the United States because it is not "at home" in this country. On appeal, Peck argued that the "at-home" requirement essentially rendered a federal rule of civil procedure unconstitutional as a product of due process, effectively saying that the Supreme Court and Congress got it wrong when Rule 4(k)(2) was promulgated. A panel of the Fifth Circuit agreed with him, but found that a 2016 precedent was an obstacle to ruling in the sailors' favor under the rule of orderliness. 

     Peck petitioned the Fifth Circuit to take up the matter en banc, where it would have the authority to overrule the errant precedent. The court agreed to do so, and today's filing was a supplemental brief in support of why the precedent should be overruled. Oral argument before the 17 members of the Court is scheduled for September 21. The case is Douglass v. Nippon Yusen Kabishiski Kusen.

Seventh Circuit Vacates Magnuson-Moss Decision, Opens Door to State Court Filing

July 29th, 2021

     In an opinion issued today, the Seventh Circuit held that both it and the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction in a putative class action that was filed against Best Buy's Geek Squad Protection Plan (GSPP). 

      The case began when a couple purchased an expensive television set from Best Buy that utilized the now-abandoned plasma technology. Best Buy urged them to purchase the GSPP as an extended warranty and offered a discount on the television set if they did. The couple purchased the GSPP. When the television set failed, Best Buy was unable to repair it, offering instead a refund of the depreciated value of the television or a much cheaper replacement, informing the couple that the GSPP is a service plan, not a warranty as their advertising states.

      The district court dismissed the action, holding that under federal regulations, a warranty cannot require extra payment, and the purchase of the GSPP prevented it from being considered a warranty under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. On appeal, CCL argued for the couple that the regulation had no basis in the statute and allowed Best Buy to misrepresent its service contract as a warranty, precisely the evil that the Magnuson-Moss Act was designed to prevent.

      The Seventh Circuit's decision in Ware v. Best Buy did not address the substance of the arguments, but found that subject-matter jurisdiction was lacking, even though neither party nor the lower court raised the issue. Under Magnuson-Moss, jurisdiction lies in federal court only if a purported class action actually names 100 individual plaintiffs. That was lacking in the complaint. Recognizing the possibility of dismissal on jurisdictional grounds, CCL filed a supplemental brief for the plaintiffs, suggesting both other ways that jurisdiction could be asserted, as well as a request that the adverse district court decision be vacated so the Wares could refile in state courts. The Seventh Circuit took the latter approach.

Fifth Circuit Grants CCL Petition for Rehearing En Banc in Important Personal Jurisdiction Case

July 2nd, 2021

     The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has granted a petition, filed by CCL, for rehearing en banc on the application of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2) to a foreign defendant in an admiralty case. 

     The survivors and family of U.S. Navy seamen had sued a Japanese corporation over a collision at sea that killed seven sailors on a the U.S.S. Fitzgerald and injured forty others. A federal court in New Orleans had thrown the case out, holding that personal jurisdiction was not available in the U.S. courts over the defendant because it is not "at home" in the U.S. On appeal, CCL's Robert S. Peck argued that the decision effectively rendered the rule, approved for precisely these situations, unconstitutional in all its applications because it also requires that any defendant subject to the rule not be within the personal jurisdictional reach of any state court. That provision cancels out the one imposed by the district court as a matter of due process, effectively voiding the rule, which was promulgated at the request of the U.S. Supreme Court.

     A panel of three judges in the Fifth Circuit agreed with Peck's argument, but said that their hands were tied because of a 2016 precedent in the circuit that they believed was wrongly decided. They urged the entire Fifth Circuit to take up the matter in order to overrule the precedent. Peck's petition for rehearing en banc provided the vehicle for that rehearing, while the Japanese defendant opposed rehearing and insisted that the prior precedent was correctly decided. Today's order vacated the panel's decision, set a new briefing schedule, and put the case on the September oral argument calendar.