Civil Procedure


Finishing a Friendly Argument: The Jury and the Historical Origins of Diversity Jurisdiction

Robert L. Jones

This Article argues that diversity jurisdiction was intended to funnel politically significant litigation into the federal courts principally because federal officials would have the power to dictate the composition of federal juries. All existing accounts for the origins of diversity jurisdiction ultimately rely upon putative differences between the state and federal benches for their explanations of the jurisdiction’s origin. This emphasis on the bench is anachronistic, however, because the jury possessed far more power than the bench to decide cases in eighteenth-century American courts. American juries during this period customarily had the right to decide issues of law as well as fact and were largely beyond the control of the bench. The Framers saw state court juries—independent bodies of citizens with almost unfettered power to resolve legal disputes—as one of the greatest dangers in allowing ordinary citizens too much control over the governance of the nation. By wresting adjudicative power out of the hands of state court juries and bestowing it upon federal juries whose compositions could be tightly controlled by federal officials, diversity jurisdiction accomplished the Constitution’s overarching purpose of checking the operation of “unrestrained” democracy in the states.

Once the federal courts were established, federal officials controlled the composition of federal juries in several ways. In most districts, federal marshals dictated the composition of federal juries by hand-selecting jurors of their choice. In addition, Congress ensured that the political, economic, and social characteristics of federal juries would differ dramatically from their state counterparts by providing that the federal courts would draw their juries overwhelmingly from the urban, commercial centers of the nation. The state courts, by contrast, drew their juries predominantly from the agrarian populations living outside those centers. It is highly unlikely that this pervasive control over the composition of federal juries was an unintended consequence of the Constitution. Instead, as this Article argues, the evidence strongly suggests that the federal officials’ control over the composition of federal juries constituted the single most important impetus behind the creation of diversity jurisdiction and a significant rationale for the establishment of the lower federal courts.

Finality in Class Action Litigation: Lessons from Habeas

William B. Rubenstein

A class action can only bind class members who are “adequately represented,” and thus a class action court necessarily determines representational adequacy. But should class members who were not an active part of that proceeding be able to relitigate adequacy in a collateral forum at a later date so as to evade the binding effect of the class judgment? Courts and scholars have generated a bipolar response to that question, with one side arguing that full relitigation is required by the constitutional nature of the question and the other insisting that no relitigation is permitted because of the issue-preclusive effect of the class court’s holding. Despite the richness of this debate, myriad specific questions about the availability, substance, and procedural details of the relitigation opportunity remain unexamined. In this Article, Professor Rubenstein expands the conversation outward by comparing class action law’s approach to relitigation of adequacy of representation with habeas corpus’s approach to relitigation of ineffective assistance of counsel claims in criminal cases. Using two recent, seemingly unconnected Supreme Court cases—one from each field—as case studies, Professor Rubenstein explains how these cases in fact raise remarkably similar questions. Specifically, the comparison reveals that habeas provides a relatively clear, rule-based system that specifies when—and according to what procedural rules—relitigation is available. Professor Rubenstein concludes by arguing that there are lessons for class action law in habeas’s approach: a method for considering when relitigation is appropriate that avoids the extremes of either “always” or “never”; a rule system that helps identify issues (such as substantive standards, degrees of deference, burdens of proof, and defaults) that have yet to be carefully examined in class action law; and a template for balancing the competing policy concerns at issue. Without defending current habeas doctrine, and without pretending that habeas and class actions are overtly similar, the Article nonetheless demonstrates that class action law’s relitigation problem can learn something through a close look at criminal law’s relitigation solutions.

Valuing the Federal Right: Reevaluating the Outer Limits of Supplemental Jurisdiction

Neel K. Chopra

The federal circuit courts are divided on the question of whether the federal courts’ supplemental jurisdiction power encompasses permissive state law counterclaims that lack an independent basis of federal jurisdiction. By analyzing the arguments set forth in various circuit court decisions, this Note develops a new approach for assessing the availability of supplemental jurisdiction over permissive state law counterclaims. It argues that the federal courts may assert jurisdiction over state law counterclaims only when the federal interest supports hearing those state law claims.

How to Fix the Inconsistent Application of Forum Non Conveniens to Latin American Jurisdiction—and Why Consistency May Not Be Enough

Rajeev Muttreja

Though the jurisdiction of US courts is broad enough to give many foreign plaintiffs the ability to file suit here, the doctrine of forum non conveniens (FNC) enables a court to dismiss a case because another forum—typically the plaintiff’s home forum—would be more convenient for it. FNC dismissal is warranted only if the alternative forum is adequate, available, and more convenient for the case. Often, the alternative forum’s availability is a nonissue. However, many Latin American countries subscribe to a system of preemptive jurisdiction, which extinguishes their courts’ jurisdiction once a case is filed elsewhere. This system would seem to block the use of FNC by making the alternative forum unavailable, but U.S. courts have not treated this issue consistently. Some courts have reached divergent results using the same evidence, and some have avoided the inquiry altogether by making dismissals conditional. This Note analyzes and explains courts’ inconsistent treatment of Latin American rules of preemptive jurisdiction by illustrating certain subtle but crucial doctrinal missteps. The Note argues that FNC doctrine requires courts to analyze a foreign forum’s availability from that forum’s perspective while also paying heed to the movant’s burden of persuasion. Yet this doctrinally honest approach could preclude courts from using FNC to mediate between important policy concerns, as is usually possible. This Note identifies these competing concerns and proposes a possible solution.

Qualified Immunity in Limbo: Rights, Procedure, and the Social Costs of Damages Litigation Against Public Officials

David L. Noll

Damages litigation against public officials implicates social costs that ordinary civil litigation between private parties does not. Litigation against public officials costs taxpayers money, may inhibit officials in the performance of their duties, and has the potential to reveal privileged information and decisionmaking processes. The doctrine of qualified immunity—that public officials are generally immune from civil liability for their official actions unless they have unreasonably violated a clearly established federal right—is designed to address these risks. The doctrine, however, demands an application of law to facts that, as a practical matter, requires substantial pretrial discovery. Federal courts have responded with a variety of novel procedural devices. This Note critiques those devices and suggests that courts confronted with a claim of qualified immunity should view their principal task as narrowing the universe of the plaintiff’s claims, thus facilitating a discovery process structured around dispositive legal issues.

National Juries for National Cases: Preserving Citizen Participation in Large-Scale Litigation

Laura G. Dooley

Procedural evolution in complex litigation seems to have left the civil jury behind. Reliance on aggregating devices, such as multidistrict litigation and class actions, as well as settlement pressure created by “bellwether” cases, has resulted in cases of national scope being tried by local juries. Local juries thus have the potential to impose their values on the rest of the country. This trend motivates parties to forum-shop, and some commentators suggest eliminating jury trials in complex cases altogether. Yet the jury is at the heart of our uniquely American understanding of civil justice, and the Seventh Amendment mandates its use in federal cases. This Article makes a bold proposal to align the jury assembly mechanism with the scope of the litigation: In cases of national scope, juries would be assembled from a national pool. This proposal would eliminate incentives for parties to forum-shop, and it would make the decisionmaking body representative of the population that will feel the effects of its decision. The Article argues that we would see greater legitimacy for decisions rendered by a national jury in national cases. Moreover, it argues that geographic diversification of the jury would enhance the quality of decisionmaking. Finally, national juries would preserve the functional and constitutional values of citizen participation in the civil justice system.

The Choice-of-Law Problem(s) in the Class Action Context

Genevieve G. York-Erwin

Numerous scholars have noted that choice of law in the federal courts is a mess; this is particularly true in the damage class action context. Unfortunately, proposed solutions address only half of this “choice-of-law problem”: They focus either on removing the barriers choice of law creates for certification or on preserving choice of law’s traditional allocation of regulatory authority among the states, but no proposal has taken up both issues. The time has come to address this problem in full. Given the current climate of political and economic change, Congress should amend the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) to revitalize the class action as a meaningful regulatory mechanism while still deterring the state court excesses that spurred CAFA’s enactment. My two-pronged proposal would do exactly that—facilitate certification of meritorious consumer cases while ensuring fair and effective allocation of regulatory authority between interested states.

The Reach of State Corporate Law Beyond State Borders: Reflections Upon Federalism

The Honorable Jack B. Jacobs

Brennan Lecture

In this speech, delivered for the annual Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice, the Honorable Jack B. Jacobs demonstrates that state corporate law sometimes acquires an extraterritorial reach. The federalist model of corporation law assumes that each state’s law only reaches to that state’s border, but reality has diverged from that model through state anti-takeover statutes, the internal affairs doctrine, and state “corporate outreach” statutes that impose internal governance requirements on companies incorporated in other states. Anti-takeover statutes are essentially grounded upon the internal affairs doctrine, which holds that such affairs are governed by a company’s state of incorporation. But the corporate outreach statutes attempt to supersede the law of the state of incorporation, exposing companies to conflicting internal governance requirements. The Supreme Court could resolve this conflict by deeming the internal affairs doctrine either a choice-of-law rule or a rule of constitutional law. The former choice could lead to economic disruption, while the latter would increase interstate competition for incorporation business and sustain the current diversity of legal choices available to corporations.

Myth of Mess? International Choice of Law in Action

Christopher A. Whytock

Choice of law is a mess—or so it is said. According to conventional wisdom, choice-of-law doctrine does not significantly influence judges’ choice-of-law decisions. Instead, these decisions are primarily motivated by biases in favor of domestic over foreign law, domestic over foreign litigants, and plaintiffs over defendants. They are also highly unpredictable.

This Article argues that these “mess” claims do not accurately describe at least one domain of choice of law—international choice of law—and it demonstrates what is at stake in this debate for global governance. Part I provides a brief overview of choice-of-law doctrine in the United States. Part II documents the mess claims. Part III then shows how the mess claims, if correct, would be bad news for global governance. Choice-of-law doctrine can increase or decrease global economic welfare, enhance or undermine transnational rule of law, and facilitate or hinder transnational bargaining. The extent of these effects, and whether they are beneficial or harmful, depends largely on the degree to which choice-of-law doctrine actually influences judges’ international choice-of-law decisions and the extent to which those decisions are biased and unpredictable. The mess claims thus imply that if choice of law has any systematic effects on global governance they are likely to be harmful.

Part IV uses statistical analysis of an original dataset of published international choice-of-law decisions by U.S. district courts in tort cases to present evidence that choice-of-law doctrine indeed influences these decisions; that these decisions are not biased in favor of domestic law, domestic litigants, or plaintiffs; and that they are actually quite predictable. The mess claims, it turns out, may be myths—at least in transnational tort cases.

Part V explores the broader implications of my analysis. In particular, it explains why these findings are encouraging from a global-governance perspective and why they might plausibly extend to unpublished international choice-of-law decisions and domestic choice-of-law decisions. Overall, the Article’s findings suggest that the conventional wisdom exaggerates what is wrong with choice of law and implicitly underestimates its contributions to global governance.

Toward Procedural Optionality: Private Ordering of Public Adjudication

Robert J. Rhee

Private resolution and public adjudication of disputes are commonly seen as discrete, antipodal processes. The essence of private dispute resolution is that the parties can arrange the disputed rights and entitlements per agreement and without judicial intervention. In public adjudication, however, the sovereign mandates the substantive and procedural laws to be applied, many of which cannot be changed by either a party’s unilateral decision or both parties’ mutual consent. Neither approach allows a party an option to unilaterally alter important aspects of the process, such as the attorney fee rules and standards of proof. This understanding is commonly accepted and rarely challenged, but it is curious nonetheless.

This Article proposes that we move toward procedural optionality, the idea that each party should have options to choose certain procedural laws in public adjudication. To show the potential efficacy of this concept, this Article proposes a scheme in which parties can unilaterally shift fees as long as they contractually bond their good faith by assuming a higher standard of proof. Allowing private choice to alter these rules can better address the problems of frivolous suits and nonprosecution of low value claims—two problematic bookends in the spectrum of litigation. By properly structuring party options, the law can create greater convergence of private incentives and social interest. More efficient dispute resolution results, as measured by increased enforcement of and compliance with the substantive laws, at lower cost. Lastly, this Article concludes by examining more broadly some policy implications of procedural optionality for substantive and procedural laws.