Civil Procedure


Simplified Pleading, Meaningful Days in Court, and Trials on the Merits: Reflections on the Deformation of Federal Procedure

Arthur R. Miller

When the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were promulgated in 1938, they reflected a policy of citizen access for civil disputes and sought to promote their resolution on the merits rather than on the basis of the technicalities that characterized earlier procedural systems.The federal courts applied that philosophy of procedure for many years. However, the last quarter century has seen a dramatic contrary shift in the way the federal courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, have interpreted and applied the Federal Rules and other procedural matters. This shift has produced the increasingly early procedural disposition of cases prior to trial. Indeed, civil trials, especially jury trials, are very few and far between today.

The author examines the significant manifestations of this dramatic change, and traces the shift in judicial attitude back to the three pro-summary judgment decisions by the Supreme Court in 1986. Furthermore, he goes on to discuss the judicial gatekeeping that has emerged regarding (1) expert testimony, (2) the constriction o class action certification, (3) the enforcement of arbitration clauses in an extraordinary array of contracts (many adhesive in character), (4) the Court’s abandonment of notice pleading in favor of plausibility pleading (which, in effect, is a return to fact pleading), (5) the intimations of a potential narrowing of the reach of in personam jurisdiction, and (6) a number of limitations on pretrial discovery that have resulted from Rule amendments during the last twenty-five years.

All of these changes restrict the ability of plaintiffs to reach a determination of their claims’ merits, which has resulted in a narrowing effect on citizen access to a meaningful day in court. Beyond that, these restrictive procedural developments work against the effectiveness of private litigation to enforce various public policies involving such matters as civil rights, antitrust, employment discrimination, and securities regulation.

Concerns about abusive and frivolous litigation, threats of extortionate settlements, and the high cost of today’s large-scale lawsuits motivate these deviations from the original philosophy of the Federal Rules, but these concerns fail to take proper account of other systemic values. The author argues that these assertions are speculative and not empirically justified, are overstated, and simply reflect the self-interest of various groups that seek to terminate claims asserted against them as early as possible to avoid both discovery and a trial. Indeed, they simply may reflect a strong pro-business and pro-government orientation of today’s federal judiciary. The author cautions that some restoration of the earlier underlying philosophy of the Federal Rules is necessary if we are to preserve the procedural principles that should underlie our civil justice system and maintain the viability of private litigation as an adjunct to government regulation for the enforcement of important societal policies and values.

Diversity Jurisdiction and Trusts

Jonathan J. Ossip

The federal courts are currently divided on how to determine the diversity citizenship of trusts. Several circuits hold that trusts take the citizenship of their trustees. Another circuit holds that trusts take the citizenship of the trust’s beneficiaries, and yet another considers the citizenships of both the trustees and the beneficiaries. But beyond this circuit split, a more significant problem plagues the law in this area: The courts of appeals have failed to recognize the distinction between traditional and business trusts. The former—what is most commonly thought of as a trust—is a gift and estate planning tool. The latter is an alternative to incorporation, and is designed to run a business and generate profit for investors.

In this Note, I examine the differences between traditional and business trusts in the context of federal diversity jurisdiction. After discussing the history of diversity jurisdiction and the nature of these two forms of trusts, I explore the current circuit split over the citizenship rules for trusts. I then propose a new rule that fits within the current Supreme Court case law in the field: Traditional trusts take the citizenship of their trustees, while business trusts take the citizenship of their members—the beneficiaries. Having proposed a rule that depends upon the type of trust at issue, I conclude by explaining that a trust can be classified by determining the primary purpose for which it was organized.

Rethinking Review of Foreign Court Jurisdiction in Light of the Hague Judgments Negotiations

Audrey Feldman

The United States is distinct among nations in its constitutionalization of personal jurisdiction. This Note explains the intertwined history of U.S. specific jurisdiction law and the so-called “Hague Judgments Project,” which is facilitating negotiations toward a treaty regulating recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. This Note argues that the constitutionality of any such proposed treaty will remain uncertain unless U.S. courts clarify existing personal jurisdictional doctrine, particularly regarding the “jurisdictional filters” question: May U.S. courts lawfully recognize and enforce a foreign judgment issued upon a jurisdictional basis that would have been unconstitutional in domestic litigation? This Note answers “yes,” at least when the foreign court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction is compatible with internationally accepted norms. By proposing a cogent response to this question, this Note hopes to facilitate the negotiation and adoption of a future judgments convention.

The Federal Arbitration Act as Procedural Reform

Hiro N. Aragaki

Recent Supreme Court decisions such as American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 133 S. Ct. 2304 (2013), and AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011), represent dramatic developments with implications that extend far beyond the arbitration context. These decisions are a product of what the author refers to as the “contract model” of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Heretofore largely unquestioned, the contract model posits the FAA’s original and dominant purpose as the promotion of private ordering in dispute resolution, as free as possible from state regulation. The model has, in turn, helped courts and commentators claim that the FAA requires arbitration agreements to be enforced strictly “according to their terms”—without regard to the way those agreements might compromise procedural values, such as when they preclude classwide relief.

This Article questions both the descriptive accuracy and normative persuasiveness of the contract model. It argues that when placed in their proper historical context, the FAA’s text and legislative history appear equally consistent (if not more so) with a purpose to improve upon the widely discussed procedural failings of the courts circa 1925. From this standpoint, the FAA can be understood as an offshoot of ongoing efforts at the time to reform procedure in the federal courts—efforts spearheaded by figures such as Roscoe Pound and Charles E. Clark, and that eventually culminated in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1938. The FAA, in short, was arguably a type of procedural reform.

These insights lead the author to propose a “procedural reform” model of the FAA, one that he contends is both more faithful to the statute’s history (legislative and otherwise) and more adept at answering the difficult questions that confront arbitration law in the age of “contract procedure.” The author considers two recent examples to illustrate.

Silly Jurist, Twiqbal’s for Claims: Pleading Jurisdiction After Twombly and Iqbal

Jacob J. Taber

Plaintiffs seeking to institute a civil action in federal court must plead the grounds for the court’s subject-matter jurisdiction over their claim; if they cannot adequately do so, their claim will be dismissed. Recently, courts have started to apply the plausibility rule announced in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal—which requires plaintiffs to plead facts plausibly showing their entitlement to relief—to the pleading of subject-matter jurisdiction. This Note argues that such a novel shift in how jurisdiction is pleaded is neither supported nor necessitated by Twombly and Iqbal and is fundamentally incompatible with long-settled jurisdictional doctrine. It therefore recommends that district court judges redouble their attention to the articulation of procedural rules of decision (eschewing reliance upon boilerplate) and desist from imposing heightened pleading of subject-matter jurisdiction without considering the question as a matter of first impression.

Unintended Side Effects: Arbitration and the Deterrence of Medical Error

David Shieh

As many as 98,000 people die each year as a result of medical error. According to law and economics scholars, the solution to this problem is straightforward: When calibrated correctly, medical malpractice liability will force healthcare providers to internalize the cost of their negligence, incentivizing improvements to patient safety that will reduce medical error. Debate has raged for decades over the coherence of deterrence theory, but little attention has been paid to the erosion of one of its bedrock assumptions: that the procedural mechanism through which claims are to be resolved is litigation. Arbitration has become pervasive in the healthcare context, but its effects on medical malpractice liability’s ability to deter medical error have been largely overlooked by public health and legal scholars. This Note argues that the adoption of arbitration will not, as law and economics scholars assume, improve the medical malpractice regime’s ability to deter error. In addition to drawing on existing law and economics and public health scholarship to advance this descriptive claim, this Note studies the experience of Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest integrated healthcare consortium, in using arbitration to resolve medical malpractice disputes with its seven million members in California.

44.1 Luftballons: The Communication Breakdown of Foreign Law in the Federal Courts

Matthew J. Ahn

Foreign law has become an increasingly important element of many cases brought before federal courts. Rule 44.1, which controls determinations of foreign law, is intended to make the process for determining foreign law as painless as possible, but like the regime that preceded it, it has become a procedural minefield for those wishing to rely on foreign law, as courts have declined to apply Rule 44.1 when it should be used, either deliberately or due to uncertainty as to its application. This is in large part due to the lack of concrete standards outlined in the rule. This Note examines the standards associated with the rule and their application in the years immediately after its promulgation and concludes that the reliant party’s burden of production with respect to foreign law should vary based on whether statutory text is provided. If a statute is available, the courts should be required to undertake a Rule 44.1 analysis, while if a statute is unavailable, the reliant party should bear the burden of producing substantial evidence of foreign law. This standard, elaborated in the text of Rule 44.1, should ensure that as many foreign law determinations as possible can be resolved on the merits.

“Not of Any Particular State”: J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro and Nonspecific Purposeful Availment

Robert M. Pollack

The Supreme Court recently revisited the doctrine of specific personal jurisdiction for the first time in decades in J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro, which resulted in a fractured opinion, a flurry of critical scholarship, and uncertainty on the lower courts. This Note argues that the principal significance of Nicastro lies in the sensitivity of the Breyer concurrence to the problems modernity poses for jurisdictional doctrine and its concomitant willingness to reevaluate the doctrine. Lower courts and litigants should see the case as an invitation to address such “modern concerns” in jurisdictional analysis within the bounds implied by Justice Breyer. This Note proposes that the jurisdictional problem of an interconnected globalized economy is the same as that posed by the Internet—the novel and increasingly pervasive fact of nonspecific purposeful availment of transjurisdictional contacts—and that such contemporary circumstances necessarily erode the utility of minimum contacts analysis as a consistent and fair limitation on personal jurisdiction, such that a more robust implementation of fairness balancing must become the engine of the doctrine.

Second-Order Choice of Law in Bankruptcy

Ankur Mandhania

This Note attempts to answer the question of which choice-of-law regime ought to apply to bankruptcy cases. Taking the facts of a recent Second Circuit case as my example, I argue that Congress should amend the Bankruptcy Code to include a blackletter second-order choice-of-law section for use in all bankruptcy cases. First, Part I examines the state of Second Circuit jurisprudence on the question before this case, probing the reasoning and basic justifications for the resulting rule. Second, Part II establishes a normative framework, drawing on both bankruptcy and choice-of-law theory, for evaluating any proposed answer to this dilemma. I show here that the Second Circuit solution does not meet this framework and thus must be discarded. Third, Part III articulates my proposed solution, showing that it is most consistent with this framework.

Designing Related-To Bankruptcy Jurisdiction

Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld

This Note offers a framework for analyzing related-to bankruptcy jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1334 that courts can implement immediately within the bounds of the statute and case law. It argues that that the current requirements for related-to jurisdiction should be better deployed in accordance with the relative merits of jurisdictional rules and standards, and proposes a broad threshold inquiry back-stopped by a robust abstention doctrine, which will allow courts to both define bright-line boundaries where possible and fulfill the policy objectives of bankruptcy jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis.