Volume 92, Number 4


Symposium Articles

Ad Hoc Procedure

Pamela K. Bookman & David L. Noll

“Ad hoc procedure” seems like an oxymoron. A traditional model of the civil justice system depicts courts deciding cases using impartial procedures that are defined in advance of specific disputes. This model reflects a process-based account of the rule of law in which the process through which laws are made helps to ensure that lawmakers act in the public interest. Judgments produced using procedures promulgated in advance of specific disputes are legitimate because they are the product of fair rules of play designed in a manner that is the opposite of ad hoc.

Actual litigation frequently reveals the inadequacy of procedures created according to this traditional model. To fix the procedural problems that arise in such cases, litigants, judges, lawyers, and legislatures can design procedure on the fly, changing the “rules of the road” as the case proceeds. Ad hoc procedure-making allows the civil justice system to function when ordinary procedure fails, but it challenges the rule-of-law values reflected in the traditional model of procedural design. Instead of being created by lawmakers who operate behind a veil of ignorance, ad hoc procedure is made by actors seeking specific outcomes in pending cases. The circumstances in which ad hoc procedure is created raise concerns about lawmakers’ motivations, the transaction costs of one-off procedural interventions, the wisdom and fairness of those interventions, and the separation of powers.

This Article introduces the phenomenon of ad hoc procedure and considers its place in a world where much procedure continues to be made through the traditional model. Focusing on ad hoc procedural statutes, the Article contends that such statutes’ legitimacy—or lack thereof—depends on different factors than ordinary civil procedure. Unable to claim legitimacy from the circumstances in which it is crafted, ad hoc procedural legislation must instead derive legitimacy from the need to address a procedural problem and the effort to produce substantively just outcomes.

The Participatory Class Action

Elizabeth J. Cabraser & Samuel Issacharoff

The class action has emerged as the settlement instrument of choice in mass harm cases such as the Volkswagen emissions scandal or the Deepwater Horizon aftermath. But the class action has also reemerged in the mass tort context, most notably in the NFL Concussion litigation. After seemingly collapsing following the Amchem and Ortiz Supreme Court decisions of the 1990s, the class action device is getting an important second life in courts today.

This Article argues that the new class action has a feature that should increase its doctrinal acceptability: forms of active class member participation. What we term the “participatory class action” emerges from two developments. The first is the technological transformation in the means of communication with class members, and among the class members themselves. The second is that the current class action almost invariably arises from the initial aggregation and centralization of large numbers of individual suits and putative class actions in the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) process. As a result, classes are comprised not simply of lawyers and absent class members, but of hundreds or even thousands of individual claims, with individuals capable of monitoring the class and represented by independent counsel.

With over forty percent of the actively litigated civil cases in federal courts now in the MDL dockets, the transformation in mass resolution is well underway. In these new consolidations, the assumptions of older law about absent class member passivity break down. In the popular typology in academic examination of class actions, class action law should insist on the loyalty of agents and the importance of individual ability to exit as guarantors of systemic legitimacy. In the participatory class action, voice emerges as a critical element, with the capacity of the normally silent class members to assert their interests and their views. As with the need for class action law to move from first-class mail to Twitter, so too must the law embrace the implications of real participation by those represented in the assessment of representational propriety.

Class Actions and Executive Power

Zachary D. Clopton

Decisions about class certification and arbitration have depressed private enforcement class actions, reducing deterrence and enforcement of important substantive rights. Until now, the consequences of these procedural decisions for the separation of powers have not been well explored. An aggressive Supreme Court and an inactive Congress have increased the importance of federal administrative law—for example, administrative attempts to regulate arbitration. Moreover, a reduction in private enforcement compounds the importance of public enforcement. State and federal enforcers may piggyback on (successful or unsuccessful) private suits, and they may employ new tactics to maintain deterrence. While proponents of a robust regulatory state may take solace in these executive rejoinders, they are not without costs. Specifically, executive action may be less transparent, less durable, and more susceptible to political pressures than its alternatives.

Class Actions Part II: A Respite from the Decline

Robert H. Klonoff

In a 2013 article, I explained that the Supreme Court and federal circuits had cut back significantly on plaintiffs’ ability to bring class actions. As I explain in this article, that trend has subsided. First, the Supreme Court has denied certiorari in several high-profile cases. Second, the Court’s most recent class action rulings have been narrow and fact specific. Third, the federal circuits have generally rejected defendants’ broad interpretations of Supreme Court precedents and arguments for further restrictions on class certification. One explanation for this new trend is that defendants have been overly aggressive in their arguments, losing credibility and causing courts to push back. Another is that courts are retreating from the view that pressure on defendants to settle is itself a reason to curtail class actions. It remains to be seen, however, whether this trend is the new normal, or merely a respite from the decline of class actions.

Reorienting the Process Due: Using Jurisdiction to Forge Post-Settlement Relationships Among Litigants, Courts, and the Public in Class and Other Aggregate Litigation

Judith Resnik

The 1966 revision of Rule 23 has shaped our political and legal imagination. Building on the 1950 ruling of Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank and Trust Company, which approved the possibility of binding absentees nationwide through representative litigation, Rule 23 expanded the groups eligible for class treatment. Aggregation responded to felt social needs—for banks to pool trusts, school students to enforce school desegregation injunctions, and consumers to pursue monetary claims too small to bring individually.

Key to the legitimacy of doing so for Rule 23’s drafters was “the homogeneous character” of claims, permitting an identity of interests between the representative and absent members of the class. The 1966 Rule 23 put judges in charge twice: first, to determine the shape of the class and the adequacy of the representation and second, if a compromise was proposed, to assess again whether representative plaintiffs had proffered a fair and adequate resolution.

Rule 23 gave a limited role to absentees, many of whom were in mandatory classes from which no exit was possible. Added on late in the drafting was a mandate to provide notice at the outset that class actions were pending. That notice was required only for a subset of cases; individuals with monetary stakes were given formal opportunities to “opt-out”—even if, as a practical matter, individual lawsuits were not likely feasible.

While not producing a mass of opt-outs, notice requirements have pushed the processes of class actions into the public realm. Class actions gained a visibility not only because of the stakes and the judicial decisions on certification and settlement but also through mass mailings that brought the idea of class actions into the homes of millions of potential beneficiaries of lawsuits.

Aspirations and utility thus combined to reframe constitutional understandings of the “process due” by legitimating the authority of courts to deal in the aggregate without individuals affirmatively consenting to participate when cases began. But what fifty years of experience with class actions and related forms of aggregation— including multi-district litigation (MDL) and bankruptcy—have made plain is that an aggregate litigation’s life-span often continues after settlement or trial. New information can emerge about difficulties in effectuating relief, as can conflicts among claimants, whose “homogeneous character” may diminish after resolution. Thus, aggregate litigation in practice has come to have three phases—certification, resolution by settlement or trial, and implementation of remedies.

Critics of class actions, aiming to disable their use, rely on problems of implementation to argue against certification at the outset, and they invoke due process rights of both defendants and absent plaintiffs. A new law of due process is also emerging in the arena of personal jurisdiction—as the Supreme Court circumscribes the ability of courts to decide claims involving non-resident defendants. I bring that doctrine into discussions of class actions, first because the Supreme Court expanded the ability to aggregate litigants in 1950 through expanding jurisdiction and second because the Court’s decisions reflect unease with adjudicative authority not founded on relationships among the forum and those whose rights are decided. The concern about ensuring that defendants are “at home” parallels class action notice, as both seek forms of affiliation between litigants and the jurisdictions deciding their rights.

The Supreme Court has used its new personal jurisdiction law to circumscribe the scope of courts’ reach. Here I propose to borrow its concerns for the opposite purpose—to build affiliations so to expand the authority of courts during aggregation’s third phase. Aggregation’s pooling of resources has new importance today, as tens of thousands of civil litigants appear in state and federal courts without lawyers. Revising its practices is one way for democratic polities to help all classes of persons have access to court-based remedies.

In 1950 in Mullane, the Supreme Court approved what has been called “jurisdiction by necessity” to license state courts to determine the rights of all claimants when lawsuits had a nexus with the forum and notice was provided. In this century, the Court should likewise recognize the necessity of giving judges jurisdiction to oversee aggregation post-settlement so as to monitor implementation, respond to conflicts, and assess distributional equities. And, just as the 1966 Rule drafters turned to notice as a means of doing “something” to connect litigants with courts, notice can again be put to work during aggregation’s third phase to provide the “publicity” (to borrow from Jeremy Bentham) that makes connections possible and that forces the practices of courts, lawyers, and auxiliary personnel before the public.

Notes

Nationwide Injunctions Against the Federal Government: A Structural Approach

Getzel Berger

When a court invalidates a federal government policy, it must then decide the scope of the remedy. A common remedy is an injunction—a judicial order prohibiting enforcement of the policy. Traditionally, lower federal courts enjoined the government only from enforcing the invalidated policy against the victorious plaintiff, leaving it in place against other members of the public. A nationwide injunction, however, forbids the government from enforcing the policy against anyone in the country, effectively taking the policy out of circulation. This Note argues that nationwide injunctions contravene three core structural principles of the federal courts: (1) the regional design of the courts of appeals without intercircuit stare decisis, (2) the Supreme Court’s holding in United States v. Mendoza that the federal government is not subject to non-mutual issue preclusion, and (3) the doctrine of intercircuit nonacquiescence. It concludes that nationwide injunctions against the federal government should be disfavored and that such injunctions should not extend beyond the circuit of the enjoining court. Simply put, lower federal courts should not make nationwide law.

An Indian by any Other Name: Cross-Border Affirmative Action

Raymond J. Fadel

While Indian tribes bordering the United States and Canada may share the same culture, the same ancestry, and even the same name, a descendant of common heritage may not be recognized as “Indian” in the United States, and thus not eligible to receive federal benefits. The federal government has the power to recognize an Indian tribe’s sovereignty and determine who is an “Indian” for tribal services, but limits such recognition to those tribes falling within the geographic limits of the United States. With respect to members of “border tribes” that historically traversed the U.S.-Canada border, “Indian” recognition can be denied to an individual because each federally recognized tribe is subsequently required to limit its membership to those whose lineage can be traced directly to that particular tribe’s location within the United States, regardless of tribal heritage predating the border. The result is a gap in recognition: Many descendants of border tribes are born and raised on one side of the border but only recognized as “Indian” on the other. In the United States, ineligibility for affirmative action—both public and private—is one symptom of this gap in recognition. This Note argues that non-recognition of American Indians for affirmative action purposes illustrates how the federal government’s failure to account for descendants of border tribes prevents the United States from wholly meeting its trust obligation, and proposes ways the government can permanently repair its trust relationship with Indian tribes in this narrow context. It discusses three methods for establishing cross-border affirmative action for American Indians: ratification of a bilateral agreement or enactment of domestic statutory reform within the United States, intertribal recognition of membership between U.S. and Canadian tribes, and a potential short-term solution calling upon private initiatives to embrace a broad cross-border definition of “Indian.” This Note concludes that intertribal recognition is impractical due to existing hostility— both on the part of tribes and their respective federal trustees—to the concept of dual tribal enrollment. Further, while private-sector mechanisms may provide a stopgap solution to the problem, they cannot adequately address the federal standards that perpetuate the gap in recognition. In order to fully cure this defect and fulfill the government’s enduring trust responsibility, Congress must take legislative action to close the gap in recognition and provide equal opportunity for affirmative action to all American Indians in the United States.

Excessive Pricing of Off-Patent Pharmaceuticals: Hatch It or Ratchet?

Jennifer L. Graber

There is growing concern over the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to set and raise drug prices as it sees fit. The price of a drug that has not been protected by a patent for decades can suddenly increase—or “ratchet”—as much as 10,000%. This Note identifies the problem of ratcheting drug prices and considers whether these abrupt changes in drug prices derive from a longstanding problem inherent in the United States’ pharmaceutical regulatory regime. It then considers the most commonly suggested mechanism for countering high drug prices—stimulating competition in the pharmaceutical market—but ultimately concludes that focusing solely on increasing competition constructs an overly simplistic view of ratcheting drug prices. In order to find an effective solution to unexpected increases in drug prices, this Note evaluates a small subset of pharmaceuticals that have recently undergone a sudden price increase and separates the ratcheting events into two categories: (1) those that occur as a result of natural deviations in the market, and (2) those that occur due to business tactics that take advantage of vulnerabilities in the drug market. It concludes that under this categorization, antitrust law may provide an effective solution specifically directed at ratcheting events of the second category— those driven by anticompetitive behavior.

Enough of this Manure: Why the EPA Needs to Define the Agricultural Stormwater Exemption to Limit the "Runoff" from the ALT Court

Emily Kenyon

This Note challenges the Alt court’s restriction of the EPA’s authority to regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and proposes that the EPA conduct a new rulemaking to address this issue. CAFOs pollute our nation’s waterways with contaminated manure, damaging our environment and injuring public health. Recognizing their potential to pollute, Congress included CAFOs within the statutory definition of a point source in the Clean Water Act in 1972. Fifteen years later, Congress amended the statute and exempted agricultural stormwater from the definition of a point source. Controversy surrounded the application of the agricultural stormwater exemption to CAFOs until 2003, when the EPA specified that the exemption only applied to precipitation-based discharges from the land application area of a CAFO when manure had been applied pursuant to prudent agricultural practices. Unfortunately, in Alt v. EPA, industry capitalized on the ambiguity in the Clean Water Act and secured a district court ruling expanding the agricultural stormwater exemption to include discharges outside the land application area, allowing CAFOs to further pollute our waterways. After providing the relevant history of CAFO regulation, this Note critiques the Alt decision—concluding that the court misinterpreted the agricultural stormwater exemption. Finally, it argues that the EPA should initiate a rulemaking and comprehensively define the agricultural stormwater exemption to prevent further environmental degradation and harm to human health.

Disproportionate Impact: An Impetus to Raise the Standard of Proof at Sentencing

Anthony LoMonaco

It is well-known that in a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove culpability beyond a reasonable doubt. But during the subsequent sentencing phase, the standard of proof is much lower: a preponderance of the evidence. This relatively low standard can lead to a problem known as “disproportionate impact.” Disproportionate impact occurs when evidence of additional criminal activity is introduced during the sentencing phase and becomes more determinative of the defendant’s punishment than the actual crime of conviction. Such evidence can subject criminal defendants to significantly more punishment without the safeguards available at a criminal trial, and it may include uncharged and acquitted crimes. In response to this issue, some circuit courts fashioned an exception to the preponderance rule, raising the standard of proof to the clear and convincing standard to protect the due process rights of criminal defendants. However, use of this exception was curtailed in all circuits but the Ninth when the Supreme Court rendered the Sentencing Guidelines advisory in 2005. This Note analyzes the lopsided circuit split surrounding the disproportionate impact exception and challenges the notion that the exception is no longer necessary because the Guidelines have become advisory.