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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imageThe Times’s Gretchen Morgenson asked in her “Fair Game” column whether making “financial executives personally liable for a portion of any . . . legal settlements” in class actions — regardless of personal fault — would cut down on bad conduct.

I bet it would.

But I have a better idea.

Promise to pay class action lawyers big bonuses for finding the actual bad guys and making them pay.
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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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imageOn December 8, 2003, the antitrust class action that lawyers know as Comcast Corp. v. Behrend started a 12-year odyssey through the federal courts. On December 15, 2015, the settlement that will end Behrend became final.

Today begins a five-part series on lessons that Behrend taught. This post will focus on a need that all plaintiffs share: the need for speed in getting to a final outcome, whether favorable or not. But it highlights a danger that exists especially in legally complex cases — the risk that the governing law will make reaching a favorable final resolution more costly, time-consuming, and risky. 
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imageRisky business

Patent infringement cases involve an immense amount of risk. Why?

Answers by people who know — especially plaintiffs-side attorneys who work on a contingent-fee basis — will cluster around three facts of life in patent disputes:

  1. high stakes,
  2. huge costs, and
  3. the propensity of the Federal Circuit to undo trial court rulings.

This post deals with the hazards awaiting you behind door number three.
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Banned ItemsIn 2016, despite contracts that mandate one-on-one arbitrations, consumers will likely gain the right to bring claims against banks, credit card issuers, and other lenders in class actions. The new rule, which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced on October 7, 2015 it will probably issue next year, will partially reverse a string of recent Supreme Court decisions that made class-banning arbitration clauses broadly enforceable.

The action by the Bureau will vastly raise the stakes for disputes involving practices affecting large numbers of consumer finance customers.
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