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Federal Bar Update: Supreme Court takes rare steps on procedural decisions

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FedBarMaley-sigWith its limited docket, the U.S. Supreme Court rarely decides procedural issues, focusing instead on weighty constitutional issues or resolving split interpretations of federal statutes. This term, however, the Supreme Court has addressed several procedural issues.

Class actions – In Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Knowles, (March 19, 2013), plaintiff brought a class action in state court and stipulated not seeking more than $5 million. Defendant removed asserting diversity and that the amount in controversy met the $5 million threshold under the Class Action Fairness Act. The District Court remanded based on plaintiff’s stipulation as to damages.

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that plaintiffs bringing class actions cannot escape federal jurisdiction by promising to seek less than $5 million in damages. The court – in interpreting the Class Action Fairness Act – ruled that a plaintiff has no power to bind other class members.

In Amgen v. Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust, (Feb. 27, 2013), the court ruled in a securities 10(b)(5) action that while plaintiff “certainly must prove materiality to prevail on the merits, we hold that such proof is not a prerequisite to class certification.” The court explained, “Rule 23(b)(3) requires a showing that questions common to the class predominate, not that those questions will be answered, on the merits, in favor of the class.”

By contrast, in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, (March 27, 2013), the court ruled that class certification was improperly certified in the antitrust case. The lower court needed to decide whether the named plaintiffs’ proposed damages model could show damages on a class-wide basis. That this issue intertwined with the merits did not matter.

The court explained: “A party seeking to maintain a class action must be prepared to show that Rule 23(a)’s numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy-of-representation requirements have been met, and must satisfy through evidentiary proof at least one of Rule 23(b)’s provisions. Courts may have to ‘probe behind the pleadings before coming to rest on the certification question,’ and [a] certification is proper only if ‘the trial court is satisfied, after a rigorous analysis, that [Rule 23’s] prerequisites …have been satisfied.’”

Collective FLSA action – In Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, (April 16, 2013), the underlying case was an FLSA suit on behalf of plaintiff and other “similarly situated” employees. Defendant made an offer of judgment to plaintiff for the full amount of plaintiff’s claim. No other claimants had opted in.

The Supreme Court held that the District Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction when named plaintiff’s claim became moot by the full Rule 68 offer of judgment and no other claimant had opted in. The court noted that the plaintiff did not challenge mootness, and also noted differences between FLSA collective actions and class actions.

Increased filing fee Effective May 1, civil filing fees increased to $400 for filing a new civil action.

Updated benchbook for U.S. District judges – The 6th edition of this benchbook, published by the Federal Judicial Center, is publicly available as a pdf at: www.fjc.gov. Search in publications for “benchbook.”

Save the date – The annual Federal Civil Practice 3-hour CLE seminar will be Thursday, Dec. 19 from 1:30 – 4:45 p.m. in Indianapolis.

Run with other attorneysThe 5th annual Joseph Maley Foundation 5k Run, Walk, Roll is set for 9 a.m. July 13 at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. This event is well attended by area attorneys. To register or sponsor, see www.josephmaley.org.•

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John Maley – jmaley@btlaw.com – is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg LLP, practicing federal and state litigation, employment matters and appeals. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  2. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

  3. So this firebrand GOP Gov was set free by a "unanimous Supreme Court" , a court which is divided, even bitterly, on every culture war issue. WHAT A RESOUNDING SLAP in the Virginia Court's face! How bad must it have been. And all the journalists, lap dogs of the status quo they are, can do is howl that others cannot be railroaded like McDonald now??? Cannot reflect upon the ruining of Winston and Julia's life and love? (Oh I forget, the fiction at this Ministry of Truth is that courts can never err, and when they do, and do greatly, as here, why then it must be ignored, since it does not compute.)

  4. My daughter is a addict and my grandson was taken by DCS and while in hospital for overdose my daughter was told to sign papers from DCS giving up her parental rights of my grandson to the biological father's mom and step-dad. These people are not the best to care for him and I was never called or even given the chance to take him, but my daughter had given me guardianship but we never went to court to finalize the papers. Please I have lost my daughter and I dont want to lose my grandson as well. I hope and look forward to speaking with you God Bless and Thank You for all of your help

  5. To Bob- Goooooood, I'm glad you feel that way! He's alive and happy and thriving and out and I'm his woman and we live in West Palm Beach Florida, where his parents have a sprawling estate on an exclusive golf course......scum bag

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