Commercial, Corporate, and Contracts

How many trial lawyers sit on the U.S. Supreme Court?
How many trial lawyers sit on the U.S. Supreme Court?

In the last quarter-century and more, no current member of the Supreme Court tried a lawsuit of any kind to a judge or jury. Almost none of the justices has ever tried a civil case to verdict. And before their honors became appellate judges, only one of their number served as a full-time trial judge.

Does the justices’ nearly total lack of trial-lawyer chops matter? Has the almost utter absence of actual trial experience in fact degraded the quality of civil justice? And will confirming the nomination of a former trial lawyer like Neil Gorsuch make a difference?

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497417651327Possible shift

In 2014, the ABA Journal called the Fifth Circuit the “nation’s most divisive, controversial and conservative appeals court”. Liberal blog Jezebel deemed it “exceedingly conservative”. Even The Wall Street Journal described the court this year as “conservative-leaning”.

But in a recent case over limits on voting rights, the court ruled for the left-leaning opponents of the restrictions. And last week, the court sitting en banc voted 11-5 to revive a $250+ million class action. Torres v. S.G.E. Management, L.L.C., No. 14-20128 (5th Cir. Sept. 30, 2016) (en banc).

Has the court’s center of gravity shifted?


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imageA tough clause to beat

A little over two years ago, the Supreme Court held that judges must enforce forum-choice clauses in the absence of “extraordinary” reasons “unrelated to the convenience of the parties”. Atlantic Marine Construction Co., Inc. v. United States District  Court for the Western District of Texas, 134 S. Ct. 568, 580 (2013).

On the day that  the 9-0 Court handed down Atlantic MarineI wrote that it “will bring joy to firms that put [the] clauses in their contracts in hopes of making lawsuits too costly to pursue.”

Has the case borne out my forecast of joy?

Yes. Yes indeed.
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12+ years

In its more than 12 years of life, the case of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend has offered dozens of chances for the lawyers to persuade — or not.

Although class counsel suffered a tough 5-4 defeat in the U.S. Supreme Court, we convinced judges often enough to eke out $35 million in cash, bill credits, and services for the Philadelphia-area class.

Class plaintiffs prevailed mostly because we had the better side of the issues. But we also did a better job of earning the trust of the decision-makers we appeared before — the district judges in Boston and Philadelphia, appellate judges on the First and Third Circuits, and even justices of the Supreme Court.

Let me give you a few reasons for my view.
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