The whole list is available at the inestimable SCOTUSblog, but there were a few grants of certiorari from Monday’s annual “long conference” that readers of this blog will find particularly interesting:
The first one is Smith v. Bayer Corp., No. 09-1205. The issue accepted by the Court is:
Whether, under the re-litigation exception of the Anti-Injunction Act, a district court can enjoin parties from seeking class certification in state court under state procedural rules when the district court had previously denied certification of a similar class under federal procedural rules but neither the parties sought to be estopped nor the issues to be presented in state court are identical as those presented to the district court.
This is the same issue first decided in the pre-CAFA decision, In re BridgeStone/Firestone, Inc. Tires Products Liability Litigation, 333 F.3d 763 (7th Cir. 2003), that Bexis amicused for PLAC. Back then the problem was plaintiffs taking second (and third, and fourth….) bites at certifying identical national class actions in different jurisdictions after losing the first time around. CAFA makes that problem less serious for nationwide class actions, but as Smith demonstrates, plaintiffs still try this sort of funny business with identical statewide class actions before different courts of the same state.
The defendants succeeded in convincing the lower court that plaintiffs were collaterally estopped from relitigating class issues they had previously lost on appeal in another jurisdiction, so this grant comes at the request of the other side.
SCOTUSblog has the relevant documents: lower court opinion; cert. petition, opposition to the petition, and the petitioner’s reply, so we’re not going to upload them ourselves.
The second one is Astra USA, Inc. v. Santa Clara County, No. 09-1273 (Justice Kagan recused). The issue accepted by the Court is:
Whether, in the absence of a private right of action to enforce a statute, federal courts have the federal common law authority to confer a private right of action simply because the statutory requirement sought to be enforced is embodied in a contract.
The statute in question is the Public Health Service Act because the case involves Medicare drug pricing issues. But to us, the case fairly screams out “Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act.” The issue boils down to whether private plaintiffs can use “federal common law” as a way to get around the fact that certain statutes (such as the FDCA) don’t allow private enforcement. The Ninth Circuit let the plaintiffs get away with this, so the cert. grant was sought by the defense side.
Here are the SCOTUSblog links to the documents: lower court opinion; cert. petition, opposition to the petition, and the petitioner’s reply.
Numbers three and four we present together. They are J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro, No. 09-1343, and Goodyear v. Brown, No. 10-76. They both deal with “stream of commerce” personal jurisdiction
The issue in Nicastro is phrased as:
Whether, consistent with the Due Process Clause and pursuant to the stream-of-commerce theory, a state may exercise in personam jurisdiction over a foreign manufacturer when the manufacturer targets the U.S. market for the sale of its product and that product is purchased by a forum state consumer.
The issue in Brown is phrased as:
Whether a foreign corporation is subject to general personal jurisdiction, on causes of action not arising out of or related to any contacts between it and the forum state, merely because other entities distribute in the forum state products placed in the stream of commerce by the defendant.
“Stream of commerce” personal jurisdiction, if recognized, would allow any state to assume jurisdiction over any product manufacturer whose product found its way into the state, no matter how many independent middlemen’s hands the product had passed. It would essentially eliminate any requirement of intentional state-specific activity by the defendant. The Supreme Court took a look at “stream of commerce” jurisdiction over 20 years ago, and split so badly there was no majority decision. But a plurality rejected the “stream of consciousness” concept as contrary to the Worldwide Volkswagen intentional targeting standard. See Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court of California, 480 U.S. 102 (1987). Well, it’s baaaaack.
Our side lost both of the cases below, so the cert. grant is an improvement over the current state of affairs.
Here are the SCOTUSblog document links: Nicastro: lower court opinion; cert. petition, opposition to the petition, and the petitioner’s reply; Brown: lower court opinion; cert. petition, opposition to the petition, and the petitioner’s reply.
It looks like it could be another interesting term.