News

CCL Files Amicus Brief in Climate Change Litigation for Six U.S. Senators

March 20th, 2019

     CCL filed an amicus brief today on behalf of six U.S. Senators in the climate change litigation brought by Oakland and San Francisco against a number of major oil companies. The case is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, after a federal district court dismissed the litigation based on a determination that the issue requires resolution in the U.S. Congress.

     Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) argue in the brief that the defendant companies' argument that climate change should be addressed but by the Congress or Executive Branch is disingenuous because the companies have a long history of opposing action by the legislature or by federal agencies and use their political clout against against action on the issue or candidates favoring action. The brief details the myriad ways that the defendants have impeded progress on this incredibly important issue and urges the court to treat the defendants' pleas for a different forum as pretextual and an attempt to assure that no forum confronts the issue.

     The brief also points out that federal courts have a "virtually unflagging obligation" to exercise the jurisdiction given them under a 1976 Supreme Court precedent, Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States. Moreover, the cities have claimed a real injury proximately caused by the defendants that will not be otherwise remedied without a court's willingness to hear their case.

     The Ninth Circuit is expected to hear oral argument in the dispute later this year.

     

NY Court Accepts CCL Amicus Brief over Defendant's Objection

February 25th, 2019

     The New York Court of Appeals today granted CCL's motion for leave to file an amicus brief on behalf of the American Association for Justice in Daniels v. Beemiller, Inc.

      The case involves a lawsuit by the estate of a man killed when he was mistaken for a gang member by a rival gang. The gun had been purchased at an Ohio gun show as part of a lot by an illegal gun dealer. The distributor selling the guns was licensed, but knew the purchaser was not and that the purchaser was taking the lot to New York for resale. The sale violated the 1968 Crime Control Act, which requires sellers to assure that the buyers are not taking the guns across state lines or are otherwise eligible to sell the guns in the destination state. The amicus brief argues that the federal statute supplies the state interest that justifies the exercise of jurisdiction, a requirement described by the U.S. Supreme Court in its most decision on personal jurisdiction, Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court.

     The distributor-dealer in the case objected to the AAJ amicus brief, arguing that it added nothing to the case and urging the court to deny leave. The court nonetheless granted leave. The case will be argued in Albany on March 20. 

CCL Waives Supreme Court Response

December 27th, 2018

   In a case in which CCL prevailed in the Seventh Circuit, Burmaster v. Herman, Brian Burmaster filed a pro se petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition argues that his case was not frivolous, as the magistrate judge found in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, but ignores the Seventh Circuit's affirmance on the alternative ground that there was no jurisdiction over the case.

    Burmaster's petition is one of several he has filed against various people and corporations. He further asserts that he has an international lawyer who is pursuing remedies in international judicial arenas.

    By waiving its right to file an immediate brief in opposition to cert, CCL can move the case forward more quickly and reach a final disposition.

 

CCL Files Writ on Behalf of Arkansas Supreme Court Justices

October 18th, 2018

    In a writ filed on behalf of five justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court, CCL asked that Court to order the dismissal of formal ethical charges filed by a panel of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission (JDDP) against all members of the Supreme Court. The writ, filed in the Supreme Court, which has supervisory responsibility over the Commission and all state courts, asserts that the Commission lacked jurisdiction over the decision by the Court to order Judge Wendell Griffen recused from all cases involving capital punishment. Because of their own conflict of interest, all members of the Supreme Court have recused themselves in this action. Temporary justices will be appointed by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.

    Judge Griffen filed the complaint against the justices, claiming that they violated his due process rights in issuing their recusal order and not providing him with sufficient time to respond. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had ordered Judge Griffen's federal case against the supreme court and its justices dismissed, holding that no due process rights were violated and that Judge Griffen does not have a right to preside over any particular case or category of cases. The JDDP charges come to a different conclusion, but fail to identify a rule of judicial conduct that the justices might have violated. The JDDP's own rules indicate that, absent fraud, corrupt motive, or bad faith, the JDDP has no jurisdiction over legal decisions made by a judge -- and the recusal order was made in response to a motion in a pending case.

Ninth Circuit Brief Opposes Removal

September 26th, 2018

     In Riggs v. Airbus Helicopter, Inc., a Ninth Circuit brief filed today that CCL worked on with the Robb & Robb law firm in Kansas City, Mo., argues that the U.S. District Court in Nevada correctly ordered remand of a case to state court after Airbus removed it, claiming to qualify as a federal officer. 

     The case involves the crash of an Airbus helicopter that killed a tourist passenger who was going to see the Grand Canyon. When the helicopter landed hard in an emergency, it burst into flames. The passenger later died from the burns. Airbus removed the case from Nevada state court, claiming that its designation by the Federal Aviation Administration to certify the design and airworthiness of its own aircraft rendered it a federal officer and entitled it to defend itself in federal court. The brief argues that mere certification does not entitle the aircraft manufacturer to federal-officer status, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held. 

CCL Drafts Response to Airbus Motion for Emergency Stay

July 27th, 2018

     CCL drafted opposition to an emergency stay motion filed by Airbus Helicopter Corporation that sought to stave off remand of the case against it from federal to state court.

     The case, Riggs v. Airbus, arises from a helicopter crash that resulted in the death of a tourist on a trip to the Grand Canyon. The helicopter made an emergency landing, but lacking a crash resistant system, the aircraft burst into flames. The tourist died several days later. Suit was brought in Nevada state court, but Airbus removed the case to federal court on the allegation that Airbus was a designated federal agent. The plaintiff, administrator of the estate of the deceased passenger, moved to remand the matter to state court, challenging Airbus's claim of federal officer status. The federal district court agreed with the plaintiff. Before the remand order could take effect, however, Airbus, initiated an appeal and sought a stay of the order in district court.Perhaps fearing that the stay would be denied, Airbus then sought an emergency stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. CCL's opposition urged that court to deny the stay, in part, because the delay would harm the case and because Airbus's substantive argument was so thin.

CCL Responds to Stay Motion

July 18th, 2018

     After a federal district court agreed with CCL's arguments that Airbus had no authority to claim that it was a federal officer and remove a state court lawsuit against it to federal court, Airbus has sought a stay of the order remanding the case to its original state court while it appeals the decision to the Ninth Circuit.    

      In requesting the stay, Airbus claimed that it need only raise a substantial issue on appeal, rather than show it likely to prevail, the explicit standard for such stays. It also claimed that no one would be prejudiced by a brief detour to the Ninth Circuit. In response, CCL argued that the standard to support a stay was far more rigorous than raising a substantial issue and that, on average, the Ninth Circuit takes 22 months from the notice of appeal to final disposition of an appeal, according to official federal court statistics. That type of delay would deny the plaintiffs, mourning the death of their son in a helicopter crash, justice and create problems with evidence and witness accounts for a trial that would end up taking place more than two years from the time of this motion. Moreover, if Airbus was not interested in delaying tactics, it would have filed its notice of appeal immediately, rather than insist, as it did, on waiting the full 30 days it is allowed, which has yet to expire.

Federal Court Remands Case to State Court, Rejects Helicopter Manufacturer's Claim to be Federal Officer

July 16th, 2018

      A federal court in Nevada today sent a case growing out of a helicopter crash back to state court after it had been removed by the aircraft's manufacturer, Airbus. Airbus claimed that the Federal Aviation Administration had designated the company as a stand-in for the FAA for certain certifications and supplemental design changes. Under a federal statute that protects federal officers carrying out their duties from unfriendly state courts, Airbus had removed the lawsuit from state court to federal court.

      In briefs written by CCL, the Plaintiffs argued that mere compliance with federal regulations and the authority to "self-certify" does not qualify a private manufacturer as a federal officer for purposes of the removal statute. Philip Morris had unsuccessfully made the same argument in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, claiming that when it took over tar and nicotine testing from the Federal Trade Commission and used the same methodology to determine the levels of those chemicals in cigarettes that it qualified for federal officer removal. In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit applied the same reasoning that the Supreme Court did in Watson v. Philip Morris, to hold that Boeing was not a federal officer for removal purposes. 

      In today's decision, Riggs v. Hecker, the U.S. District Court found the Seventh Circuit's decision, Lu Junhong v. Boeing, persuasive and ordered the case returned to state court. 

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 Re-Joins RAND Institute for Civil Justice Board

March 17th, 2018

     CCL President Robert S. Peck re-joined the Board of Overseers of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) last week, attending its Spring meeting at RAND's headquarters in Santa Monica, California. Peck previously served on the Board from 2004 to 2016, the last three years as chair.

     The ICJ is a think tank that undertakes empirical research designed to make the civil justice system more efficient and more equitable. It is a part of the RAND Corportation, a noted policy research organization with a long history of assisting policymakers obtain the best information available to address issues they face.

     At the Board meeting, Peck suggested that the ICJ undertake new research based on recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on personal jurisdiction that reduce the ability of plaintiffs to bring all parties responsible for the injuries before a single court at once that could then assess liability and damages. In her dissent in Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S.Ct. 1773 (2017), Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed the fear that these decisions will "curtail -- and in some cases eliminate -- plaintiffs' ability to hold corporations fully accountable for their nationwide conduct." Defendant corporations have cited Justice Sotomayor's dissent to claim that that indeed is what the Supreme Court held and intended, and some courts have agreed, holding that plaintiffs must file multiple lawsuits in different states to seek full compensation for their injuries. Research documenting this shift could inform the due-process analysis that undergirds decisions on personal jurisdiction, he said.