Monday, July 04, 2005

Supreme Southern District victories

Hope everyone had a great Fourth of July.

Since we're on the topic of the Supreme Court, let's celebrate two huge Supreme Court victories from the Southern District of Florida.

Paul Rashkind and the Federal Defender's Office for the Southern District of Florida won big in Gonzalez v. Crosby. This was an important issue to habeas practicioners and defendants around the country. Justice Scalia framed the issue this way: "The question presented is whether, in a habeas case, [Rule 60(b)] motions are subject to the additional restrictions that apply to second or successive habeas corpus petitions under the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) codified at 28 U. S. C. §2244(b)." Reversing the 11th Circuit, the Court answered the question in the negative. Here is the Court's opinion, Justice Breyer's concurring opinion and the dissenting opinion written by Justice Stevens. Big win for Rashkind and Richard Klugh.

Eugene Stearns of Stearns Weaver Miller in Exxon v. Allapattah Services. Stearns represents a class of Exxon dealers suing Exxon in litigation that has lasted well over a decade. The stakes were quite high as the jury verdict will mean over a billion dollars for the class. The issue was whether a federal court in a diversity action may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over additional plaintiffs whose claims do not satisfy the minimum amount-in-controversy requirement, provided the claims are part of the same case or controversy as the claims of plaintiffs who do allege a sufficient amount in controversy. Civil procedure nerds and class action lawyers have been waiting for this opinion for a long time. In an opinion written by Justice Kennedy, the Court ruled that, if one party satisfies the minimum jurisdictional amount, the claims of others in the case may be decided even if those are for less than $75,000. Here is the Court's opinion, Justice Ginsburg's dissenting opinion and the dissenting opinion written by Justice Stevens. Exxon hired Supreme Court litigators in Washington DC to combat Stearns and co. It didn't pay off. Congrats to Gene Stearns and the Allapattah team (Mark Dikeman and Mona Markus and countless others).

Some disclosures: I was the counsel of record for the NACDL's amicus brief which was principally written by Professors Aya Gruber and Howard Wasserman in Crosby and my wife is on the Allapattah team.

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