Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
il”) in Connecticut state court, alleging that Exxon Mobil had engaged in a decades-long campaign of deception to knowingly mislead and deceive Connecticut consumers about the negative climatological effects of the fossil fuels that Exxon Mobil was marketing to those consumers. Based on these allegations, Connecticut asserted eight claims against Exxon Mobil, all under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”). Exxon Mobil removed the case to federal district court, invoking subject-matter jurisdiction under the federal-question statute, the federal-officer removal statute, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (the “OCSLA”), as well as on other bases no longer pressed in this appeal. The district court rejected each of Exxon Mobil’s theories of federal subject-matter jurisdiction and thus remanded the case to state court. Exxon Mobil appealed. The Second Appellate affirmed the district court’s order. The court explained that there are only three exceptions to the “general rule” that “absent diversity jurisdiction, a case will not be removable if the complaint does not affirmatively allege a federal claim.” The court reasoned that Exxon Mobil cannot establish Grable jurisdiction simply by gesturing toward ways in which “this case” loosely “implicates” the same subject matter as “the federal common law of transboundary pollution.” The court wrote that because no federal issue is necessarily raised by any of Connecticut’s CUTPA claims, the Grable/Gunn exception from the well-pleaded complaint rule is inapplicable here. View "Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law
In re ALBA Petróleos de El Salvador S.E.M. de C.V.
This case involves a dispute between two law firms, each of which claims the right to represent a Salvadoran company in its efforts to stave off a transnational judgment-collection effort. Specifically, the two firms are vying to defend ALBA Petróleos de El Salvador S.E.M. de C.V. (“ALBA”) in district court from the enforcement of a $45 million default judgment obtained against Colombian narco-terrorist organizations. Marcos D. Jiménez appeared to represent ALBA. White & Case LLP moved to substitute itself as ALBA’s counsel. Both purport to represent ALBA. White & Case argued that the political-question doctrine, the act-of-state doctrine, and Venezuelan law required the district court to allow it to represent ALBA. Jiménez responded that he had the right to represent ALBA under Salvadoran law. The district court denied White & Case’s motion, holding that the issue was governed by Salvadoran law. White & Case filed an interlocutory appeal and, in the alternative, a petition for a writ of mandamus. The Second Circuit dismissed the appeal and denied the petition for a writ of mandamus. The court wrote that it lacks appellate jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal of the denial of a third-party motion to substitute counsel. The court explained that such an appeal fails to satisfy the requirements of the collateral order doctrine because the denial of a motion to substitute counsel is effectively reviewable after final judgment and does not implicate an important issue separate from the merits of the underlying action. White & Case also does not meet the demanding standard required to obtain a writ of mandamus. View "In re ALBA Petróleos de El Salvador S.E.M. de C.V." on Justia Law
Fuld v. Palestine Liberation Organization
Plaintiffs, several family members of a United States citizen killed in an overseas terrorist attack, appealed from the district court’s judgment dismissing their claims against the Palestine Liberation Organization (“PLO”) and the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Government, as intervenor in accordance with 28 U.S.C. Section 2403(a) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.1(c), also appealed from that judgment. On appeal, both Plaintiffs and the Government argued that the district court erred in finding unconstitutional the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019 (“PSJVTA”), the statute on which Plaintiffs relied to allege personal jurisdiction over Defendants. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the PSJVTA specifically provides that the PLO and the PA “shall be deemed to have consented to personal jurisdiction” in any civil action pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2333, irrespective of “the date of the occurrence of the act of international terrorism” at issue, upon engaging in certain forms of post-enactment conduct, namely (1) making payments, directly or indirectly, to the designees or families of incarcerated or deceased terrorists, respectively, whose acts of terror injured or killed a United States national, or (2) undertaking any activities within the United States, subject to a handful of exceptions. Thus, the court concluded that the PSJVTA’s “deemed consent” provision is inconsistent with the dictates of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. View "Fuld v. Palestine Liberation Organization" on Justia Law
Waldman v. Palestine Liberation Organization
Plaintiffs, a group of United States citizens injured during terror attacks in Israel and the estates or survivors of United States citizens killed in such attacks, brought an action against the Palestine Liberation Organization (“PLO”) and the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act (“ATA”), seeking damages. The Second Circuit concluded on appeal that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the PLO and the PA and vacated the judgment entered against Defendants. Plaintiffs later moved to recall the mandate based on a new statute, the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018. The Second Circuit denied that motion. Congress responded with the statute now at issue, the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019 (“PSJVTA”). The district court concluded that Defendants had engaged in jurisdiction-triggering conduct under the statute but that the PSJVTA violated constitutional due process requirements. Plaintiffs and the Government disputed the latter conclusion, and Plaintiffs argued generally that the PSJVTA justifies recalling the mandate. The Second Circuit denied Plaintiffs’ motion to call the mandate. The court explained that the PSJVTA provides that the PLO and the PA “shall be deemed to have consented to personal jurisdiction” in any civil ATA action if, after a specified time, those entities either (1) make payments, directly or indirectly, to the designees or families of incarcerated or deceased terrorists, respectively, whose acts of terror injured or killed a United States national, or (2) undertake any activities within the United States, subject to limited exceptions. The court concluded that the PSJVTA’s provision for “deemed consent” to personal jurisdiction is inconsistent with the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. View "Waldman v. Palestine Liberation Organization" on Justia Law
In re: Larisa Ivanovna Markus
Appellant, an attorney, represented debtor in proceedings before the United States Bankruptcy Court. After Appellant failed to comply with a series of discovery orders, the bankruptcy court imposed sanctions of $55,000 for 55 days of non-compliance and $36,600 in attorneys' fees. The orders were affirmed by the district court. Appellant appealed, arguing that, first, the bankruptcy court lacked inherent authority to issue civil contempt sanctions, and second, as a matter of due process, he was not provided with sufficient notice of the basis for the sanctions imposed against him. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the civil contempt sanctions imposed against Appellant were within the scope of the bankruptcy court's discretion and that he had ample notice of the basis and reasons for the imposition of sanctions. The court explained that it appears that Appellant could not have been sanctioned under any express authority; the bankruptcy court was right to consider its inherent contempt authority. Nor was the bankruptcy court's exercise of its inherent contempt authority contrary to any provision of the Bankruptcy Code, including Section 105(a). Further, the court reasoned that the bankruptcy court found all the necessary elements -- that is, a finding of bad faith and satisfaction of the King factors -- to order contempt sanctions in the circumstances here, where Appellant was acting as an advocate. View "In re: Larisa Ivanovna Markus" on Justia Law
Mirlis v. Greer
Defendant appealed the district court’s judgment awarding damages to Plaintiff to recover funds Defendant received as the result of various alleged fraudulent transfers. The district court entered a default against Defendant as a sanction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b) for her repeated failure to comply with discovery orders and ultimately entered a default judgment against Defendant for fraudulent transfers, awarding Plaintiff damages calculated based on three checks Defendant drew from bank accounts she held jointly with her debtor husband. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Defendant’s noncompliance during discovery warranted a default. The court explained that Defendant failed to respond to interrogatories and produce the documents Plaintiff requested, in violation of the district court’s many orders. This record supports the district court’s determination that Defendant acted willfully, that lesser sanctions would have been inadequate given Defendant’s continued noncompliance after multiple explicit warnings about the consequences of further noncompliance, that Defendant was given ample notice that her continued noncompliance would result in sanctions, including the entry of default judgment, and that her noncompliance spanned more than six months. The court also concluded that Defendant’s withdrawals from accounts she held jointly with her husband constitute fraudulent transfers under Connecticut law. View "Mirlis v. Greer" on Justia Law
Heim v. Daniel
Plaintiff, an adjunct professor of economics at SUNY Albany, alleged that his failure to advance within his department to his colleagues’ unfavorable view of the methodology he employs in his scholarship. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Defendants, two of Plaintiff’s colleagues who were involved in the hiring decisions at issue. Plaintiff asserted three causes of action: (1) a claim for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 ; (2) a claim pursuant to Section 1983 for injunctive relief against SUNY Albany President in the form of a court order to “prevent ongoing discrimination against Keynesian economists” in violation of the First Amendment; and (3) an age discrimination claim under New York State’s Human Rights Law. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that while it disagrees with much of the district court’s reasoning, it nonetheless agrees with its ultimate disposition. The court held that Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), does not apply to speech related to academic scholarship or teaching and that Plaintiff’s speech addressed matters of public concern, but that Plaintiff’s First Amendment claim nonetheless fails because under Pickering v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563 (1968), a public university’s interest in deciding for itself what skills, expertise, and academic perspectives it wishes to prioritize in its hiring and staffing decisions outweighs Plaintiff's asserted interest in competing for academic positions unencumbered by university decisionmakers’ assessment of his academic speech. View "Heim v. Daniel" on Justia Law
RSD Leasing, Inc. v. Navistar Int’l Corp.
Plaintiff RSD Leasing Inc., a company that leases and, eventually, resells trucks to other commercial entities, appealed from a district court decision, granting in relevant part summary judgment to Defendants Navistar International Corp. and Navistar, Inc., the manufacturer of several allegedly substandard trucks in RSD’s fleet. The sole question on appeal is whether, for purposes of its purchase of those trucks, RSD qualifies as a “consumer” under the Vermont Consumer Protection Act and therefore is eligible to invoke the Act’s protections. In the absence of any on-point Vermont caselaw signaling whether the statute extends “consumer” protections to a business that purchases a good intending exclusively to lease that good to a third party and then to resell it at the end of the lease term, the district court relied in substantial part on two brief passages from the Act’s legislative history, holding that RSD was not acting as a “consumer” when it purchased the trucks at issue. The Second Circuit wrote that it is unable to confidently predict how the Vermont Supreme Court would decide the matter. Therefore, the court certified to the Vermont Supreme Court the following question: Does a business that purchases goods intending first to lease those goods to end users and then to resell them at the termination of the lease term qualify as a ‘consumer’ under the VCPA? View "RSD Leasing, Inc. v. Navistar Int'l Corp." on Justia Law
United States v. Schiller
Defendants appealed from a judgment of the district court awarding the United States $112,324.18, plus statutory additions and interest, in connection with an unpaid tax assessment from 2007. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the government, notwithstanding the fact that the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) referred the assessment to the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) before formally rejecting Defendants’ proposed installment agreement. Defendants contended that this referral violated the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and the implementing Treasury Regulations that curb the IRS’s collection activities while a proposed installment agreement remains on the table. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that as their plain terms indicate, the suspension provisions of Section 6331(i) and (k) prohibit the commencement of a collection action in court during specified periods, not the IRS’s antecedent request that the DOJ file such an action. The court wrote that the Internal Revenue Code is silent on when the IRS may refer an action to the DOJ, and a Treasury Regulation that limits the IRS’s referral power cannot read into the statute something that is not there. Further, this conclusion is not altered because authorization from the Treasury Secretary is a prerequisite to commencing an in-court proceeding. Further, the court explained that Defendants have not claimed a violation of their constitutional rights and the regulatory limits on IRS referrals of collection actions are not statutorily derived. As a result, Defendants must demonstrate prejudice for the government’s regulatory violation to invalidate the instant collection action. The court found that Defendants have failed to do so. View "United States v. Schiller" on Justia Law
Pomavilla-Zaruma v. Garland
Petitioner applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. An immigration judge found Petitioner not credible and denied her application. Petitioner appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which affirmed the IJ’s credibility decision. In addition to challenging the adverse credibility finding, Petitioner claimed for the first time that the border interview record was improperly admitted into evidence at the IJ hearing. The BIA rejected that argument as waived and also rejected it on the merits. Petitioner petitioned the Second Circuit for review. The Second Circuit granted in part, denied in part, and vacated the BIA’s decision. The court explained that the immigration judge failed to consider various factors that may have affected the reliability of the border interview record. Petitioner claimed that she was frightened during the interview because a border patrol officer hit her and yelled at her upon her arrival to the United States. Petitioner may also have been reluctant to reveal information about persecution because authorities in her home country were allegedly unwilling to help her due to her indigenous status. Moreover, the questions asked during Petitioner’s border interview generally were not designed to elicit the details of an asylum claim. The court explained that in Ramsameachire v. Ashcroft, it cautioned immigration judges to consider these factors and others before relying on a border interview to find an asylum applicant not credible. Consistent with Ramsameachire and subsequent precedent, the court wrote that immigration judges are required to take such precautions. View "Pomavilla-Zaruma v. Garland" on Justia Law