Monday, December 29, 2014

A Federal Pair

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on two significant federal procedure cases. Although they don't directly involve procedure in California, they bear in it, so they are worth a read, even for mostly state court practitioners.

Warger v. Shauers, No. 13-517 (U.S. Dec. 9, 2014)

Although it’s outside the regular scope of my coverage, in this unanimous opinion by Justice Sotomayor, the U.S. Supreme Court interprets Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) to preclude the use of a juror’s affidavit on a motion for new trial on the grounds that a juror lied during voir dire. The rule limits juror evidence to “extraneous” matters and “outside influence[s].” A juror’s unrevealed bias is not either of those. Notably, this very sensible rule is contrary to the completely insane practice in California’s state courts, where jurors are regularly hounded to present affidavits in order to show “jury misconduct,” which seems to include deliberations that didn’t go down the way the losing party wanted them to.

Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, No. 13-719 (U.S. Dec. 15, 2014)

In another federal opinion of note, the Court holds that a notice of removal is a pleading, and thus that a case is not subject to remand for failure to include evidence in the notice that substantiates the amount in controversy for diversity purposes. The notice needs only contain a plausible allegation that the amount exceeds the jurisdictional threshold. In passing, the court notes that there is no presumption against removal when the defendant invokes federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.

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