Tom Appeals Blog

News and Observations About Law and Society

"As long as I have any choice, I will stay only in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule." - Albert Einstein

US Supreme Court Adopts "Nerve Center" Test for Determining Diversity Jurisdiction

Posted: February 24, 2010 Filed under: Uncategorized

In Hertz Corporation v. Friend, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously agreed that a corporations “principal place of business,” for purposes of determining whether federal courts have diversity jurisdiction (that is, all parties on one side of the versus (“v”) sign are from states different from all parties on the opposite side) to hear a case.

Writing for the Court on February 23, 2010, Justice Breyer explained that “principal place of business” refers to the corporations “nerve center,” which is the place the corporation’s high level officers direct, control, and coordinate the corporation’s activities. Usually, Justice Breyer wrote, this will be the corporate headquarters, provided the headquarters are not simply an office where the corporation holds its board meetings.

The Court acknowledged that the nerve center test is not perfect, but it opted for practical outcomes over complex legal rules. “Accepting occasionally counterintuitive results is the price the legal system must pay to avoid overly complex jurisdictional administration while producing the benefits that accompany a more uniform legal system,” said the unified Court.

Litigants' Duty to Preserve Paper and Electronic Documents

Posted: February 24, 2010 Filed under: Uncategorized

This ARTICLE from the American Bar Association discusses a recent OPINION by U.S. District Judge Schira Scheindlin, which addresses the well-recognized duty to preserve documents and the severe sanctions that may be imposed on parties to litigation – including plaintiffs – who fail to meet the duty. According to the ABA, “[t]he new decision imposes monetary penalties on 13 plaintiffs for negligence that allowed relevant electronic documents to be lost or destroyed. The decision also found that six of the plaintiffs were grossly negligent, meriting an ‘adverse inference’ instruction to jurors that says the missing documents should be presumed to have harmed the plaintiffs’ case.”

Cases to Watch

Posted: February 20, 2010 Filed under: Uncategorized

Among the cases the Supreme Court of the United States will soon decide are the following cases with issues of public interest. Links to the briefs filed in each case are also provided below.

Skilling v. United States, No. 08-1394 (in a criminal case arising from the fall of Enron Corporation, one of the questions presented is whether the federal “honest services” fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1346, requires the government to prove that the defendant’s conduct was intended to achieve “private gain” rather than to advance the employer’s interests, and, if not, whether § 1346 is unconstitutionally vague.)

McDonald v. City of Chicago, No. 08-1521 (whether the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms applies to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment)

Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, Nos. 08-1498, 09-89 (whether the statutory ban against providing material support to a group designated by the government as “terrorist” is unconstitutionally vague).

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, No. 08-1371 (whether a public university law school may deny benefits to a religious student organization because the organization requires its officers and voting members to agree with the organization’s core religious viewpoints, thus exluding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students).

Magwood v. Culliver, No. 09-158 (whether a person can challenge a second sentence on a ground that could have been raised in a successful habeas corpus challenge to the first sentence).

Kiyemba v. Obama, 08-1234 (whether a federal court may release Guantanamo Bay prisoners into the United States through the exercise of its habeas corpus jurisdiction).

Graham v. Florida, No. 08-7412, and Sullivan v. Florida, No. 08-7621 (Whether the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments prohibits the imprisonment of a juvenile for life without the possibility of parole as punishment for the juvenile’s commission of a non-homicide).

Reminder to Trial Lawyers: Details Matter

Posted: February 13, 2010 Filed under: Uncategorized

In R.T. v. Department of Children and Families,a case decided by Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal on February 8, 2010, a trial court’s judgment permanently placing a child in the custody of his half-sibling was reversed even though “sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s ruling” existed. The court of appeals based its decision on the requirement found in Florida Statutes that the trial court “set forth written findings to support” its decision. The lesson to be learned from this case transcends juvenile cases, and the lesson is this: trial lawyers must take care not only in presenting evidence at trial but also in preparing and reviewing written orders following the close of evidence.

Admitted: Florida, Kansas, New Mexico (inactive)