Commercial, Corporate, and Contracts

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?


Continue Reading A New Day in the Fifth Circuit?

imageUsing a fraction of a fraction instead of a percentage can cost an oil and gas fortune.

The lesson came in Hyshaw v. Dawkins, No. 14-0984 (Tex. Jan. 29, 2016), a fight over a 69 year-old will. It shows what a mess can result from the fondness of oil and gas people for a particular kind of fraction — the sort with an eight in the denominator.
Continue Reading Oil and Gas + Fractions Equal a Mess

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.
Continue Reading The Value of Forum-Choice Clauses

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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.
Continue Reading Lessons from an Epic Case — Trust

imageExposure

A U.S. appeals court judge told me a few years ago that private contracts between businesses should call for settling disputes through bench trials rather than by arbitration.

But neither the judge nor I thought to mention a factor that may matter more than the relative quality of justice in courts versus private arbitration. As a recent 2-1 ruling by the Ninth Circuit just reminded us, federal courts strongly favor public access to case records — even if the records include deeply embarrassing documents that a party produced in discovery.
Continue Reading Keeping Secrets