Texas Deputies and S.B. 8

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Public, Student Contributor1 Comment on Texas Deputies and S.B. 8

If you’re like the rest of the United States, then you are aware of the recent attempts to restrict the right to abortion pre-viability — a right affirmed by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v Casey., 505 U.S. 833. Despite the holding in Planned Parenthood, States continue to pass legislation restricting abortion. In some States, these attempts are no more than a brazen attempt to ban nontherapeutic pre-viability abortions.

By the end of 2021, some fifteen States had passed legislation that banned non-therapeutic pre-viability abortions, commonly referred to as “Heartbeat bills.” (As of this writing, the states are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.) Though neither the progenitor nor the ultimate occurrence, S.B. 8, passed by Texas’s legislature and signed into law by Governor Abbott, has created rather significant waves in the legal landscape. Perhaps predictably, other States have emulated Texas’s approach, an approach that some commentators call the most restrictive abortion legislation to be passed post-Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113). A quick perusal of one’s favorite internet search engine will reveal the myriad commentary discussing the ways in which Texas and other States have been ingeniously skirting the dictates of the Supreme Court.

So, what is it that makes Texas’s legislation so newsworthy? Truly, it is not the restrictions that Texas has imposed that makes this law exceptional. After all, States have been passing restrictions on abortion long before the right was recognized by the Supreme Court. It is, also, not the fact that Texas is attempting to make it impossible for women, other than victims of rape and incest, to obtain an abortion once a heartbeat is detected; Texas is hardly novel in its endeavors in this area. What makes Senate Bill 8 so exceptional is its novel enforcement scheme. Continue reading “Texas Deputies and S.B. 8”

Foxconn Deal Tips the Scales of Justice

Posted on Categories Business Regulation, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Corporate Law, Public, Wisconsin Law & Legal System, Wisconsin Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Foxconn Deal Tips the Scales of Justice

Photo of the front of the building that houses the U.S. Supreme Court, with an inscription above th doorway that reads "equal justice under the law."

The following opinion piece appears in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Our system of justice rests upon two pillars: equal treatment and independent judgment.  Every person who appears before our state courts expects to be treated equally to every other litigant.  In addition, every party to a lawsuit expects to have his case heard by a judge who is free to exercise their own independent judgment.  Recently, the state legislature in Madison and Governor Walker approved legislation – a $3 billion package luring Foxconn Technology Group to build a flat-screen TV factory in Racine County — that seriously undermines these two fundamental principles.

The principle of equal treatment commands that the same rules should apply to all parties appearing before the court.  No one should receive special status.  It is true that the two sides in a case might not be evenly matched, and that one might have more financial resources or a more skilled legal team.  But, even then, both parties in the case should be subject to the same set of laws and procedures, and have the same opportunity to argue that the law supports their claim.

The Foxconn legislation creates special treatment for Foxconn whenever that corporation is sued in Wisconsin courts.  The law forces the Wisconsin Supreme Court to directly take appeals involving “Electronics and Information Technology Manufacturing Zones” (EITM) from the circuit courts. By law there is only one such zone, and that zone is home to Foxconn. Typically, the high court would hear appeals at their discretion, and then only after the case was heard by an intermediate court.  The reason for placing cases involving Foxconn on a “fast-track” to the Wisconsin Supreme Court should be obvious.  That Court currently boasts a majority of Justices who were elected with the financial support of Wisconsin’s largest trade and manufacturing lobbyists.  The drafters of the legislation expect these Justices to be sympathetic to the concerns of manufacturers like Foxconn.

We expect our state court judges to be free to exercise their independent judgment when deciding the merits of a case.  It is the trial judge that hears the facts and the evidence, and who determines the appropriate remedy should the plaintiff prevail.  It is not the state legislature’s job to decide which party in a case should win, or what remedy should be imposed in an individual case. Continue reading “Foxconn Deal Tips the Scales of Justice”

From Immigration to Executive Orders to Judicial Review: Miracle or Not?

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Judges & Judicial Process, Political Processes & Rhetoric, PublicLeave a comment» on From Immigration to Executive Orders to Judicial Review: Miracle or Not?

[The following guest post is from Jacques Condon, the alumni guest blogger for October 2016.] In the movie Die Hard, an enterprising police office played by Bruce Willis thwarts a large-scale robbery attempt (of, all things, bearer bonds). He does it barefoot, and clandestinely. But he also has aid from outside law enforcement which, unwittingly, is also used by the bad guys to their advantage. According to the lead bad guy, played by Alan Rickman, when asked what miracle will crack the safe to expose its riches, he responds: “You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the F.B.I.”

The Die Hard “miracle” is rolled out for full entertainment value, and, to be sure, even Hollywood miracles that can be traced to non-fiction are sometimes hidden by the misnomers of “Based on a True Story” or “Taken From Real Events,” which allow for artistic license.

Yet this same point — the artistry of miracles — continually shows up in explaining and describing judicial rhetoric.

Nowhere has this been more than in the sound bites surrounding the President’s executive order on immigration. Continue reading “From Immigration to Executive Orders to Judicial Review: Miracle or Not?”

Deposition Weirdness

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Legal Practice, Legal Profession, PublicLeave a comment» on Deposition Weirdness


If you haven’t yet watched this reenactment of a deposition segment about the meaning of the word “photocopier” on the New York Times website, you should.  The New York Times summarizes the lawsuit in which the deposition was taken as follows:

In 2010, the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office in Ohio changed their policy about copying records. Digital files would no longer be available, and the public would have to make hard copies of documents for $2 per page.  This would prove to be prohibitively expensive for Data Trace Information Services and Property Insight, companies that collect hundreds of pages of this public information each week.  They sued the Recorder’s Office for access to digital versions of the documents on a CD.  In the middle of the case, a lawyer representing them questioned the IT administrator of the Recorder’s Office, which led to a 10-page argument over the semantics of photocopiers.

The deposition segment starts with a question about whether the Recorder’s Office used “photocopying machines – any photocopying machine?”  The deponent attempts to turn the table: “When you say photocopying machine, what do you mean?”  The ensuing dialogue would not be out of place in an absurdist play. Continue reading “Deposition Weirdness”

Thoughts on the Navy / Fukushima Litigation

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Federal Civil Litigation, International Law & Diplomacy, PublicTags , , , , Leave a comment» on Thoughts on the Navy / Fukushima Litigation

There’s an important lawsuit currently pending in federal court in San Diego. In this post, I’ll provide a brief summary and then highlight an intriguing legal question that the parties haven’t addressed.

First the summary: Two months ago, a class of U.S. Navy sailors filed an amended complaint against Tokyo Electric Power Company (“TEPCO”), the operator of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima that melted down after an earthquake-induced tsunami destroyed their power systems in March 2011. Within days of the earthquake, the U.S. Navy sent the USS Ronald Reagan to provide humanitarian aid to victims, but inadvertently exposed dozens of sailors to allegedly high levels of radiation in the process. Press reports suggest that the carrier sailed into a plume of radioactive steam a couple of miles off the coast, and that the crew drank and bathed in desalinated seawater that was irradiated. The claimed effects include reproductive problems, leukemia, ulcers, brain cancer, and thyroid illnesses, among others. Upon return from the mission, one sailor allegedly began to lose his eyesight. Another gave birth to a child with multiple birth defects. Some observers believe that the Ronald Reagan–a $6 billion vessel–is now too radioactive to keep in service. According to the complaint, TEPCO is responsible because the company knew about the high levels of radiation emitting from the reactors but nevertheless failed to inform the public, including the ship’s crew. Claims include negligence; strict liability for design defect, failure to warn, and ultra-hazardous activities; public and private nuisance; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. As remedies, the plaintiffs have demanded compensation for lost wages, punitive damages, and a $1 billion fund for medical care. Last month TEPCO filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of international comity, forum non conveniens, the political question doctrine, and various alleged deficiencies in the prima facie case. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Navy / Fukushima Litigation”

The Class Action Fairness Act: History, Uses, and Differences from Traditional Diversity Jurisdiction

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Federal Civil Litigation, PublicLeave a comment» on The Class Action Fairness Act: History, Uses, and Differences from Traditional Diversity Jurisdiction

In 2005, Congress passed the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) in order to grant class action litigants in diversity cases easier access to the federal courts. The re-formulated sections under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 created a lower threshold to gain access into the federal courts for both the plaintiff class members, and the perspective defendants wishing to remove to federal court. Congress passed these new provisions in order to “restore the intent of the framers of the United States Constitution by providing for Federal court consideration of interstate cases of national importance under diversity jurisdiction.” In its deliberations over the bill, Congress specifically found that certain litigants used the previous jurisdictional regime to create many situations whereby certain cases with national importance did not qualify for federal jurisdiction based upon diversity. Additionally, Congress sought to address the age old concern of discrimination against out-of-state litigants.

Congress also mentions in its findings and purposes prelude to CAFA that over the previous decade (1995 – 2005), abusive practices of the class action device caused numerous harms, thus justifying this remake of the class action jurisdictional regime. But why in 2005? Perhaps because Congress wished to respond to the vast amount of litigation against insurers stemming from Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in August of 2005. Perhaps because in 2005, Republicans held a majority in both the House and the Senate (and held the presidency), and as a general matter, the Republican Party, rightly or wrongly, is viewed as anti-plaintiff. In this view, Republicans wanted to allow insurance companies greater opportunities to remove to federal court (which is also seen, rightly or wrongly, as somewhat less pro-plaintiff than many state courts). Whatever the true reasoning, Congress did pass CAFA, and some of CAFA’s provisions are worth noting.

CAFA grants federal jurisdiction (through diversity) to class action cases where: (1) the amount in controversy, in the aggregate of all of the class members, exceeds $5,000,000 and (2) in a controversy in which ANY member of the class of plaintiffs is diverse from the defendant. CAFA then defines class members as those persons, named or unnamed, who fall within the definition of the proposed or certified class in a class action. Based on these threshold rules, a defendant could rather easily assert diversity from one of the unnamed or proposed class members. The removing party need not identify the diverse class member, but merely show by a preponderance of the evidence, using the face of the complaint or summary judgment type evidence, that it is reasonable to believe at least one class member maintains diversity from the defendant. Hardly a high hurdle to clear. However, several important subsections to CAFA help to qualify these basic underlying tenets, and may impose at least some further obstacles to navigate as a removing party. Continue reading “The Class Action Fairness Act: History, Uses, and Differences from Traditional Diversity Jurisdiction”

Manipulation by the Media: Lessons to be Learned from Zimmerman v. NBC

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Criminal Law & Process, Media & Journalism, Public, Race & Law2 Comments on Manipulation by the Media: Lessons to be Learned from Zimmerman v. NBC

George ZimmermanNow more than ever, journalism appears to be no longer about reporting facts or the search for truth, but instead about manipulating facts to maximize ratings. A case in point is the complaint George Zimmerman filed last December against NBC. The complaint alleges NBC’s use of edited 911 audio, as part of its coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death, was defamatory and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The transcript of the 911 call, released by the City of Sanford, begins as follows:

Dispatcher: Sanford Police Department. . . .

Zimmerman: Hey we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy, uh, [near] Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy is he white, black, or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

Dispatcher: Did you see what he was wearing?

Zimmerman: Yeah. A dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He’s [unintelligible], he was just staring . . .

Dispatcher: OK, he’s just walking around the area . . .

Zimmerman: . . . looking at all the houses.

Dispatcher: OK . . .

Zimmerman: Now he’s just staring at me.

Dispatcher: OK – you said it’s 1111 Retreat View? Or 111?

Zimmerman: That’s the clubhouse . . .

Dispatcher: That’s the clubhouse, do you know what the – he’s near the clubhouse right now?

Zimmerman: Yeah, now he’s coming towards me.

Dispatcher: OK.

Zimmerman: He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male.

Zimmerman’s complaint alleges “NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain,” reported a “reprehensible series of imaginary and exaggerated racist claims,” and created a “false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the [911] recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made.” Continue reading “Manipulation by the Media: Lessons to be Learned from Zimmerman v. NBC”

New Supreme Court Ruling on the Alien Tort Statute

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, International Law & Diplomacy, Public, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on New Supreme Court Ruling on the Alien Tort Statute

For those interested in federal courts or U.S. foreign relations law, the Supreme Court just issued an important decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. The basic issue concerned the extent to which the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) confers jurisdiction upon district courts to recognize a federal cause of action for violations of customary international law. Here’s what happened: Nigerian nationals sued Royal Dutch Petroleum in federal court for aiding and abetting atrocities allegedly committed by the Nigerian military in the early 1990s, when the plaintiffs and many others were protesting the environmental effects of the oil company’s operations in the Niger River Delta. The district court dismissed some of the claims on the ground that the alleged conduct did not violate international law. On appeal, the Second Circuit dismissed the entire complaint on the view that the ATS does not recognize corporate liability. Many thought that the Supreme Court would affirm on similar reasoning, but the Court mostly sidestepped the issue of corporate liability to focus instead on whether the ATS confers jurisdiction over claims alleging violations of international law when the unlawful acts occurred within the territory of a foreign sovereign. Continue reading “New Supreme Court Ruling on the Alien Tort Statute”

Assumptions and Presumptions

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Evidence, Legal Practice, Public4 Comments on Assumptions and Presumptions

As most students at Eckstein are frantically and diligently studying to ensure we put forth our best efforts during this finals period, I can’t help but think about the certain “presumptions” built into our institution of law. Numerous assumptions and presumptions are used in many different areas of law, but they seem to be accentuated when looking at the Federal Rules of Evidence.

Let’s look at Federal Rule 801 2(b), for instance. Is it really true that a failure to respond makes for an adopted admission? Those who have had, or have, a significant other: have you ever been silent to an assertion made by your significant other? I’m assuming that, like me, you remained silent not because you wanted to tacitly give your approval of the assertion, but rather because you wanted to save the feelings of your significant other, or eliminate a needless argument. I am aware that most things that end up in court may not be so trivial, but nevertheless this example popped into my head rather quickly without much thought. I am sure that the same could be said for many others, and it is the basis of the presumption in general I find unreliable.

Let’s turn to another presumption by looking at Federal Rule 804(b)(2), the “Dying Declaration.”   Continue reading “Assumptions and Presumptions”

The Proper Procedure for Facebook Discovery, Part I

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Computer Law, Privacy Rights, Public3 Comments on The Proper Procedure for Facebook Discovery, Part I

An individual is involved in a civil lawsuit against someone — a tort suit, an employment discrimination suit, a civil rights suit — and the opposing party requests production of everything in his or her Facebook account during discovery. The individual refuses, or produces some material but not others, and the requesting party moves to compel. How should the court respond?

This situation is coming up increasingly frequently, and it appears to be confounding in many cases for everyone involved — judges, attorneys, and the parties themselves. Many individual litigants are no doubt surprised by such requests; not being familiar with the ordinary rules of discovery, they may not have realized that suing someone, or being sued, means that all relevant documents must be turned over — which might include every half-witted Facebook post or photograph pertaining to some issue germane to the lawsuit (such as, e.g., the plaintiff’s emotional well-being). Businesses have lived for years with the knowledge that a single wayward email from the CEO can sink a lawsuit; now individuals are experiencing the litigation effects when every decision or even fleeting thought is permanently recorded and archived. And destroying relevant material after the prospect of litigation becomes clear just makes matters worse.

But individual parties are not the only ones surprised by the interaction between civil discovery rules and social networking materials. Judges and attorneys often seem not to know exactly how to categorize the materials on a site like Facebook: is it all one relevant document? Multiple documents? How should the material be produced? Can the material be sought directly from the site via subpoena? Is the material shielded from discovery in any way? This confusion has led in some instances to court orders I’ve criticized as requiring overly broad production of social networking materials, with parties unnecessarily compelled to turn over entire accounts or even, in some cases, passwords to those accounts so opposing counsel can peruse them at will.

By and large most of those cases have been state cases, but federal courts are starting to issue opinions on social networking discovery as well. Over at Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog, Venkat Balasubramani points to a recent decision from a magistrate judge in the District of Nevada, Thompson v. Autoliv ASP, Inc., No. 09-cv-01375, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85143 (D. Nev. June 20, 2012). In Thompson, the judge ordered production of 5 years’ worth of Facebook and MySpace posts, photographs, and other materials to opposing counsel for its review. On a quick read Thompson might appear to fit into the category of overbroad decisions, but, despite an insufficient number of caveats in the opinion for my taste, I don’t believe it is.

I want to spend this post detailing exactly what’s wrong with an order compelling production of an entire social networking account, and why I think courts issuing such orders are going off the rails. Continue reading “The Proper Procedure for Facebook Discovery, Part I”

A Jewel in Our Midst

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Legal Education, Marquette Law School, Mediation, Milwaukee, Negotiation, Public, Wisconsin Civil LitigationLeave a comment» on A Jewel in Our Midst

Throughout the history of legal education, there has been a consistent call for greater levels of experiential learning and especially clinical education in the law school curriculum. This call has received renewed strength in the Carnegie Report released in 2007. It reminds us again of the importance of building skills for lawyering, for serving as counselors to those who seek our assistance.

Marquette University Law School, for over thirteen years, has been polishing a gem that provides our students with a rich opportunity to some of the very skills required to be an effective lawyer (you might remember the list from the first blog…communication, listening, writing, negotiation and time management, to list only the top five survey responses). This gem is the Small Claims Mediation Clinic.

The Small Claims Mediation Clinic is housed in the Milwaukee County Courthouse and provides pro se litigants an opportunity to access student-led mediation services in an effort to resolve the disputes themselves. This program was the brainchild of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske and I have had the honor and privilege to work with Janine at the Clinic for several years and have served as the faculty member for a number of semesters. Continue reading “A Jewel in Our Midst”

Change in Wisconsin Venue Law

Posted on Categories Civil Procedure, Public, Wisconsin Civil LitigationLeave a comment» on Change in Wisconsin Venue Law

Wisconsin Act 61 changed the law in Wisconsin regarding where a lawsuit is venued. Adjunct Professor Erin O’Connor recently wrote this article on the change in the law and its implications for Wisconsin litigation.

The new law affects both where a case may initially be venued, as well as where an appeal may be brought. Professor O’Connor notes in her article that as a general matter, “a plaintiff can file its action against the state in any county – including counties having no connection to the defendant, the plaintiff, or the cause of action.”

With regard to appeals, under the new law, a party seeking an appeal may not file the appeal in the same court of appeals district where the case was originally venued at the circuit court. However, the party may choose among the remaining three Wisconsin court of appeals districts.


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