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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Handshake with TearLast Thursday, the Association for Corporate Growth hosted a talk in Dallas about deals that result in a lawsuit or arbitration. Several dozen deal-makers, mergers and acquisitions lawyers, and consultants attended. The Honorable Jeff Kaplan of JAMS, Elizabeth Brandon of Vinson & Elkins, and I gave the talk. Ladd Hirsch of Diamond McCarthy organized and moderated the event. In a little over an hour, we discussed the characteristics that commonly occur in transactions that produce formal claims, offered suggestions on how deal-makers can manage the risk of earl disputes, and answered several thoughtful questions from the audience. I enjoyed the session immensely. Please see my review of the lively discussion below.
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FundingBig dollars in business cases

Expenses in big-dollar lawsuits can run into the millions of dollars. An antitrust class action that I’ve handled since 2003, for instance, cost more than $8 million. The law firms representing the class fronted all that money, with no assurance we would ever get any of it back. Why would any sane person do such a thing?
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FundingSizable expenses

A big commercial case can cost millions in expenses — by which I mean out-of-pocket costs that the plaintiff or its counsel must pay net of attorneys’ fees. A portfolio of cases — for infringement of a patent or family of patents, say — can run many millions more. Who will bear that burden? And what will it cost?
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The Macondo spill also spawned securities fraud claims
The Macondo spill also spawned securities fraud claims

Modest decision

In Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013), a 5-4 majority — over an extraordinary joint dissent by Justices Ginsburg and Breyer — had to work hard to make a modest ruling. The Court held that plaintiffs seeking class treatment under Rule 23(b)(3) sometimes may have to plausibly link their theory of liability (the misconduct that caused damages) to the theory of class-wide damages (the estimate of the damages flowing from the misconduct) in order to obtain class certification.

I say emphatically that the Court did not hold that any plaintiff class seeking certification under Rule 23(b)(3) must prove damages on a class-wide basis. It said only that if a class cannot obtain class certification without establishing class-wide damages, then by golly it must show that it can establish class-wide damages.

I should know; I briefed and argued the case for the plaintiff class.
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Yes-No Signs

False opinions

Giving a knowingly false opinion about a public company can expose the company and its insiders to liability for securities fraud under federal law.

But what about an opinion that they truly believe but for which they have a flimsy basis?

The Supreme Court held today that the lack of rigor may indeed