Monthly Archives: April 2013

DOL clarifies expansion of FMLA due to ADAAA

The DOL published Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2013-1, which clarifies the expansion of FMLA.  The DOL explained that the ADA Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) expanded more than just employer liability for disability claims, but also expanded the scope of FMLA coverage for children.

The DOL clarified the following.

  • The DOL adopted the ADA’s definition of disability to define “mental or physical disability” for purposes of defining a son or daughter 18 years or older.  See 58 Fed. Reg. 31794, 31799 (June 4, 1993).  The 2008 FMLA Final Rule explicitly adopts the ADAAA’s changes to the ADA’s definition of disability;
  • The definition of a “son or daughter” is defined by the definition of a disability under the ADAAA, which “shall be construed in favor of broad coverage;”
  • The determination of whether an adult son or daughter is incapable of self-care under the FMLA focuses on whether the individual currently needs active assistance or supervision in performing three or more activities of daily living (or ADLs) including “grooming, hygiene, bathing, dressing and eating;” or instrumental activities of daily living (or IADLs) including “cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking public transportation, paying bills, maintaining a residence, using telephones, and using a post-office, etc.;”
  • A serious health condition is an illness, injury impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider; and
  • For a parent to take FMLA leave to care for an adult son or daughter, the parent must be “needed to care” for that son or daughter due to the serious health condition.

In the Administrative opinion, the DOL provides examples.

via Department of Labor Clarifies When an Employee May Take FMLA Leave to Care for Adult Children | Orrick – Global Employment Law Group – JDSupra.

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Court upholds Handgun-Sales Age Requirement

This case again shows that regulating firearms is constitutional.

In NRA v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 11-10959 (5th Cir. Apr. 29, 2013), the court upheld 18 USC 922(b)(1) and (c)(1).  These laws prohibit federally licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns under the age of 21.

The NRA claimed that this federal statute was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.  The court disagreed.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals explained:

In a critical passafe, moreover, the Court emphasized that the ‘right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.’ [Dist. of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570, at 626].  As the [Supreme] Court explained:

From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose… [N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ills, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

Id. at 626-27 (emphasis added) (citations omitted).

Thus, the Circuit Court stated that “Congress designed its scheme to solve a particular problem: violent crimes associated with the trafficking of handguns from federal firearms to licensees to young adults.”  The court, further stated that Congress could have sought to prohibit all persons under 21 from possessing handguns or all guns.  Additionally, the court pointed that under the Census, 18-to-20-year-olds accounted for a disproportionately high percentage of arrests for violent crimes” in 2010.

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E-Discovery: Defendant not required to redo discovery

In this product liability case, the issue is when does a defendant meet its discovery obligations.  In other words, does defendant satisfy its duty by using a keyword search.

In this product’s liability case, In re: Biomet M2a Magnum Hip Implant Prods. Liab. Litig., NO. 3:12-MD-2391 (N.D. Ind. Apr. 18, 2013), the court held that the burden of the costs outweighed any benefits.  Here, the costs of starting over with 19.5 million documents outweighed the possibility of finding additional relevant documents.  The case is as follows.

Defendant (Biomet) relied on keyword searching in order to reduce the volume of information.  The documents to be searched were reduced from 19.5 million to 2.5 million.  Afterwards, Biomet used predictive coding.  Throughout this process, Biomet spent $1.07 million, and expects the e-discovery costs to total between $2 million and $3.25 million.

Plaintiffs asked the court to require Biomet to start all over again and only use predictive coding.  Plaintiffs wanted to be part of the process and give input as to the predictive coding language.  The court disagreed.

In explaining its decision, the court relied on proportionality.  The proposal to start all over again (utilizing the original 19.5 million documents) “[sat] uneasily with the proportionality standard in Rule 26(b)(2)(C).”  Further, starting again would “entail a cost in the low seven-figures” and that the “confidence tests” run by Biomet “suggest a comparatively modest number of documents would be found.”

The court agreed that predictive coding would identify additional relevant documents.  However, the benefits would not outweigh the burdens.

 

via Citing Proportionality, Court Declines to Require Defendant to Redo Discovery Utilizing Only Predictive Coding : Electronic Discovery Law.

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Successor Liability does not cover federal claims

Teed v. Thomas & Betts Power Solutions, LLC (7th Cir. 2013) held that  a buyer of a company’s assets can’t rely on state law to keep  a seller’s violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from transferring to the buyer of the Seller company’s assets.  This standard has been previously applied to the LMRA, NLRA, Title VII, ADEA, and FMLA.

The Seventh Circuit explained that federal labor law claims are governed by federal common law, not state law.  Further, the court explained that employees do not have the power to stop an owner from selling the company.  Therefore, the buyer (successor) is stuck with the seller’s (prior owner) liability regardless of what the contract states.

To determine whether successor liability will apply, the Seventh Circuit considered the following multi-part balancing test:

  1. Whether the successor had notice of the pending law suit;
  2. Whether the predecessor would have been able to provide the relief sought in the lawsuit before the sale;
  3. Whether the predecessor could have provided relief after the sale;
  4. Whether the successor can provide the relief sought in the suit (if not successor liability is a phantom); and
  5. Whether there is continuity between the operations and work force of the predecessor and the successor – which favors successor liability because nothing really has changed.

via Buyer Beware of Successor Liability For FLSA Claims | Sands Anderson PC – JDSupra.

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Supreme Court and collective action dismissals

The Supreme Court has recently decided a collective action case that affects how the litigation process can be cut promptly by defendants.  In summary of the details below, a plaintiff loses its interest in a collective action when an offer completely satisfies the plaintiff’s claim.  Further, if the plaintiff does not move for certification, even though the lawsuit had already started, the plaintiff’s case ends if the claim is no longer alive.

What this might imply is that plaintiffs in a collective action would need to move promptly when seeking certification.  The question, however, is: would you have enough supporting evidence by then?

In Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 11-1059 (2013), the Supreme Court held that a collective action (FLSA) is moot when the named plaintiff has no continuing personal interest in the outcome of the lawsuit and no motion for conditional certification has been filed.

The District Court, finding that no other individuals had joined her suit and the Rule 68 offer that was ignored fully satisfied her claim, dismissed the lawsuit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed.  However, the Supreme Court agreed with the District Court, and thus reversed the Court of Appeals’ opinion.

The Supreme Court explained that Sosna v. Iowa, 419 US 393 (1975) and United States Parole Comm’n v. Geraghty, 445 US 388 (1980), held that a class action that was erroneously denied relates back to the time of the erroneous denial — as long as the named plaintiff’s claim remains live at the time of the denial of the class certification.

The Supreme Court, here, found that the named plaintiff had not moved for conditional certification and her claim became moot.  Consequently, the relate back provision did not apply in her case.

As to the Rule 68 offer, the Supreme Court held that the purposes of a collective action would not be frustrated by the offer.  The plaintiff alleged that the Rule 68 had the effect to “pick off” the named plaintiffs before the collection action’s process had run its course.  The Supreme Court explained that in Deposit Guaranty Nat. Bank v. Roper, 445 US 326 (1980), when the Rule 68 offer did not provide complete relief, the named plaintiffs could appeal because they retained an ongoing, personal economic stake in the lawsuit.

Here, however, the named plaintiff conceded that the Rule 68 offer offered complete relief, and plaintiff asserted no continuing interest in shifting attorney’s fees and costs.

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Major Possible Changes to Federal Discovery Rules

Corporate Counsel reported about a very important and significant change that might occur next year.  Here are the highlights of the proposed amendments (starting on Page 91 of 322).

The e-discovery rules may change once again by next year.  The United States Court’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rules voted last week to send proposed amendments to the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure.  The Standing Committee will consider approving or rejecting the proposal in early June.

The most significant proposals would narrow the scope of discovery under Rule 26; impose or reduce numerical limits on written discovery and depositions under Rules 30, 31, 33, and 36; Rule 37 will adopt a uniform set of guidelines regarding sanctions when a party fails to preserve discoverable information; and Rule 34 will tighten the rules governing responses for production of documents.

Rule 26’s proposed amendments are as follows:

  • Rule 26(b)’s proposed amendment restricts the defined scope of discovery to information that is “proportional to the needs of the case.”  The language is as follows:

    “and proportional to the needs of the case considering the amount in controversy, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the parties’ resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

    These proportional considerations are currently listed in Rule(b)(2)(c)(iii).  This amendment would mandate adherence by the parties without court intervention.

  • Rule 26(b)’s proposed amendment would delete the following sentences:

    (1) “For good cause, the court order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action.  Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”

  • Note, that the proposed amendment for Rule 26(b) states that “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.
  • Rule 26(c) (protective orders) adds “or the allocation of expenses.”

Rules 30’s and 31’s proposed amendments are as follows:

  • The number of depositions (oral and written) would be reduced from 10 to 5.
  • The limit of an oral deposition is reduced to 6 hours.
  • The number of written interrogatories would change from 25 to 15.
  • The number of requests will be 25, except for requests relating to the genuineness of documents.
  • There will be a presumptive limit on the number of Requests for Admissions a party may serve.
  • A court order or a stipulation by the parties may increase the limits on any numerical discovery.

Rule 34’s proposed amendments (which govern the production of documents and electronically stored information) are as follows:

  • The objections to document requests must be stated with specificity.  This requirement has already been applied to interrogatory responses under Rule 33.
  • When the responding party must state that it will produce the requested documents (instead of permitting inspection), the production must be completed by the date for inspection stated in the request or by a later reasonable time stated in the response.
  • A party objecting to a document request must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of the objection.

Rule 37(e)’s proposed amendment (which concern sanctions for failure to preserve discoverable information) state:

  • A court may impose sanctions when it finds that a party failed to preserve information that should have been preserved for litigation.  The sanctions includes remedies and curative measures that are not considered “sanctions,” such as allowing additional discovery, requiring a party to recreate or obtain the information that it lost, or ordering a party to pay reasonable expenses resulting from the loss of information.
  • The court may also impose sanctions listed in Rule 37(b)(2)(A) when to address preservation failures.  These sanctions include issue or evidence preclusion, the striking of pleadings, the dismissal of the action in whole or in part, and an adverse inference.
  • The court may impose sanctions or order an adverse jury instruction only if it finds that the failure to preserve caused “substantial prejudice” in the litigation and was “willful or in bad faith.” or that the failure to preserve “irreparably deprived a party of any meaningful opportunity” to litigate the claims in the action.

 

via On the Cusp of Major Changes to E-Discovery Rules.

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Court orders legal representation for immigrants in deportation proceedings

I first came across this decision when I was listening to NPR.  In this case, which is a first of its kind, a federal judge ordered that states have to provide legal representation for immigrants with mental disabilities – when these immigrants are being detained and facing deportation.

This case is really surprising because immigrants generally do not have a right to an attorney.  The Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright, 371 US 335 (1963), decided that the right to counsel is a fundamental right in criminal cases.  In INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 US 1032 (1984), the Supreme Court reaffirmed that a deportation case is not a criminal case, but an administrative one.

Since deportation proceedings are not a criminal crime, there is no right to a lawyer.  The detainees not guaranteed counsel had presumably covered children, the mentally disabled, victims of sex trafficking, refugees, torture survivors and legal permanent residents.

Federal Judge Dolly M. Fee ordered immigration courts in three states to provide legal representation for immigrants with mental disabilities who are in detention and facing deportation, if they cannot represent themselves.  The immigrant in this case had severe mental retardation that prevented him from arguing for himself in court or even understanding his situation.

The NY Times reports that subsequently, “federal immigration officials issued a new policy that would expand the California ruling nationwide, making government-paid legal representation available to people with mental disabilities in courts in every state.”

Edited: To add other Supreme Court cases.

via Legal Aid Ordered for Mentally Disabled Immigrants – NYTimes.com.

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Non-Citizens and Deportation for Convicted Crimes

Moncrieffe v. Holder, 11-702 (2013) is an interesting Supreme Court decision.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 USC 1101, provides that a non-citizen who has been convicted of an aggravated felony may be deported from the US.  As way of background, ordinarily, a non-citizen when facing deportation, may ask for discretionary forms of relief and cancellation of the removal.  The exception is for aggravated felonies.

This case comes because among the crimes that are classified as aggravated felonies are illicit drug trafficking offenses.  The issue the Supreme Court addressed is whether this category includes state criminal statutes that extends to the social sharing of a small amount of marijuana.

In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s position. The court explained that if a state crime of marijuana distribution does not closely match the federal crime of distribution, in a direct comparison of what each covers, it is not an “aggravated felony.”

In this case, the non-citizen came to the US legally in 1984.  In a traffic stop, the police found 1.3 grams of marijuana.  The non-citizen pled guilty to the charge of possession with the intent to distribute.  Under Georgia statute, this violation may be punishable up to 5 years.  Given this, the government alleged this was an aggravated felony.

The Supreme Court rejected this argument because it held the generically defined federal crime is “any federal punishable under the Controlled Substances Act.” 18 USC 924(c)(2).  “[N]ot just any offense ‘under the CSA’.”

The Supreme Court further explained,

This is the third time in seven years that we have considered whether the Government has properly characterized a low-level drug offense as ‘illicit trafficking in a controlled substance,’ and thus an ‘aggravated felony.’  Once again we hold that the Government’s approach defies ‘the commonsense conception’ of these terms….

Sharing a small amount of marijuana for no remuneration, let alone possession with intent to do so, ‘does not fit easily into the ‘every day understanding’ of ‘trafficking,” which ordinarily… means some sort of commercial dealing.’…

Nor is it sensible that a state statute that criminalizes conducted that the CSA treats as a misdemeanor should be designated an ‘aggravated felony.’  We hold that it may not be.

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Jane Kelly confirmed for 8th Circuit bench

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Jane Kelly to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 96-0.  There were 4 non-voting votes.  If you can’t find the link, go here and find Vote 00108 (April 24th).

Jane Kelly will be the second woman and first public defender to serve in the history of the court since its establishment in 1891.

Jane Kelly received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1991.  After her graduation, Jane Kelly clerked for U.S. District Judge Donald J. Porter of South Dakota and Eighth Circuit Court Judge D. Hansen.

Jane Kelly has been an assistant public defender in the Northern District in Iowa since 1992, and the supervising attorney since 1999.

On the Senate floor, Senator Chuck Grassley stated, “She is a credit to all of use who have chosen public service.”

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Supreme Court refuses to hear 2nd Amendment case

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case that contended the Second Amendment protects the right to carry a gun in public.  The denial of this petition had no comments.  Because there were no comments to the denied petition, there is no way to know why the Supreme Court chose not to get involved in this controversy.

The case is Kachalsky v. Cacace.  The issues presented to the Supreme Court were:

  1. Whether the Second Amendment secures a right to carry handguns for self-defense outside the home; and
  2. Whether state officials violate the Second Amendment by denying handgun carry licenses to responsible, law-abiding adults for lack of “proper cause” to bear arms for self-defense.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals (Kachalsky v. County of Westchester, 701 F.3d 81 (2d. Cir. 2012)) affirmed the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment to the State.  The district court found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.  The district court concluded that carrying concealed weapons in public is “outside of the core of the Second Amendment concern.”  Alternatively, the district court also concluded that the “proper cause” requirement would survive the scrutiny under the Second Amendment.

The SCOTUS blog,

 

 

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