Update: Colorado Sues Boulder County Over Divergent Oil and Gas Regulation

coloradoagA February 8 post, Kudos to Colorado AG for Rebuking Boulder County on Its Fracking Moratorium, discussed a letter Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman sent to the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners warning that the state would file suit if the county did not end its moratorium on new oil and gas development permits by February 10.

After giving the Board four extra days to comply, Attorney General Coffman filed suit against Boulder on February 14. The suit alleges that the moratorium conflicts with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act. The state supreme court held in a 2016 decision that the Act preempted anti-fracking rules adopted by two other Colorado localities.

The complaint can be viewed here. Upon filing suit, Attorney General Coffman stated:

The Boulder County Commissioners responded [to the Attorney General’s letter] that they needed yet more time to draft regulations and prepare to accept new applications for oil or gas development.  Because five years is more than reasonable time to complete such a project, and because Boulder County continues to operate in clear violation of Colorado law, the Attorney General today is filing suit in Boulder County District Court to compel compliance.  It is not the job of industry to enforce Colorado law; that is the role of the Attorney General on behalf of the People of Colorado.  Regrettably, Boulder County’s open defiance of State law has made legal action the final recourse available to the State.

A Q&A with Federal Regulation Scholar Susan Dudley on Reconsidering Regulations

dudleysusan-2015_crop_webSusan E. Dudley is Director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, which she founded in 2009, and a distinguished professor of practice in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. From 2007 to 2009, she served as the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

WLF Legal Pulse: As promised, Congress and the Administration have quickly gotten to work reconsidering and removing a host of federal regulations while also setting the stage for a much different approach to regulation.  Let’s first talk about what Congress is doing.

Professor Dudley: Under the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA), Congress has 60 legislative days after a regulation is published to vote to disapprove it.  The procedures for disapproval are streamlined (including requiring a simple majority in the Senate) and if a rule is disapproved, the agency cannot issue something substantially similar. Continue reading

Third Circuit Hears Oral Argument in ‘In re Zoloft Products Liability Litigation’

Featured Expert Column –Judicial Gatekeeping of Expert Evidence

Tager_09181Evan M. Tager, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Mayer Brown LLP, with Carl J. Summers, an Associate with Mayer Brown LLP.

A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Judges Chagares, Restrepo, and Roth) recently heard oral argument (audio recording here) in an important products-liability case that raises significant questions about the scope of Daubert.

In In re Zoloft Products Liability Litigation, plaintiffs allege that Zoloft—a prescription drug manufactured by Pfizer that is used to treat depression and anxiety—causes cardiovascular birth defects when used by a mother in the early stages of pregnancy. Because ethical concerns prohibit double-blind, randomized studies on pregnant women, research on birth defects must rely on less rigorous observational studies. Common scientific practice dictates that, even when a correlation has been found to be statistically significant within a narrow confidence interval, a single study remains insufficient to establish causation given the potential for random error, bias, confounding variables, or some other flaw with the study. Accordingly, scientists look to whether an observational study’s results can be replicated to determine whether causation exists. Continue reading

Will Antitrust Class Action Involving Digital Store Dismantle ‘Illinois Brick’ Rule on Indirect Purchasers?

Antitrust & Competition — U.S. Department of Justice

swisherAnthony W. Swisher, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP, with Jody Boudreault, a Senior Associate with the firm.

In a departure from well-settled case law, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently handed down a decision that may undermine the longstanding Illinois Brick doctrine. The policy implications of the decision bear further watching, as courts grapple with the rationale underlying the doctrine in an ever-evolving technological landscape.

The Illinois Brick doctrine has long been a tool to limit attenuated antitrust lawsuits, and ensure that those directly harmed by an antitrust violation are the ones who can recover damages caused by the violation. Simply put, the doctrine—so-called because it flows from the Supreme Court’s holding in Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, 431 U.S. 720 (1977)—holds that the only parties who may recover damages for an antitrust violation are those who purchased directly from the offending firm. Indirect purchasers—i.e., the customers of the direct purchasers—are barred from recovery. Continue reading

‘Empirical SCOTUS’ Analysis Finds WLF Is Most Successful Certiorari-Stage Advocate in Supreme Court’s Current Term

stephensGuest Commentary

Jay B. Stephens, Of Counsel, Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Chairman, WLF Legal Policy Advisory Board

The US Supreme Court is one of America’s most selective governmental entities. Over the past century, Congress removed most direct-appeal rights to the Court, leaving the vast majority of litigants in a position of having to seek the votes of four justices through the discretionary certiorari process. With the Court currently accepting only between 70 and 80 cases per term, the odds of a grant of certiorari  for cases where an attorney submits the petition are now between 4% and 6%.

One factor that most appellate advocates believe increases the odds of the Court granting certiorari is the filing of high-quality, influential amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs urging the justices to vote for review. Over the past 40 years, Washington Legal Foundation has established itself as an extremely effective cert-stage advocate in cases that affect the free-enterprise system and economic liberties. A recently published analysis of lawyers’ and organizations’ success at the Supreme Court’s cert stage—both as Counsel of Record for a review-seeking party and as amicus—demonstrates that effectiveness. Continue reading

With Ninth Circuit Exacerbating Judicial Discord on “Ascertainability,” Time For SCOTUS to Resolve Split

sellingerdvannostrandaGuest Commentary

By David E. Sellinger and Aaron Van Nostrand, Greenberg Traurig LLP

In a closely watched appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has squarely weighed in on the “ascertainability” of class members in a class-action lawsuit. The three-judge panel further widened a rift among federal courts of appeal on the issue, holding that plaintiffs need not demonstrate an administratively feasible way to identify class members at the class-certification stage.

In an August, 2016 WLF Legal Backgrounder, we predicted that a trio of class actions then-pending in the Ninth Circuit could prompt the US Supreme Court to resolve the circuit split on the ascertainability issue. Although that issue was briefed in all three cases, it was not decided in Brazil v. Dole Packaged Foods, LLC (No. 14-17480), and a hold placed on Jones v. ConAgra Foods, Inc. (No. 14-16327) pending a Supreme Court decision in Microsoft v. Baker is still in effect. The Ninth Circuit did address ascertainability in the third case discussed in that Legal BackgrounderBriseno v. ConAgra Foods, Inc. The January 3 decision presents a view sharply in contrast with that of certain other circuits, most notably the Third Circuit. Continue reading

A Peak at What’s to Come? : Federal Judge Allows “Public Trust” Climate-Change Suit to Proceed

sboxermanFeatured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy

By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP

A new President will be inaugurated today.  Based on statements by President-Elect Trump and the views of many in Congress, changes are expected in how the federal government will address climate change, especially in the manner it regulates CO2 emissions.

However, at the same time that elected federal officials may navigate such a new path, a group of plaintiffs in a pending Oregon case urge the judiciary to dictate a far different approach to climate change.  Specifically, in Juliana, et al. v. United States, a group of plaintiffs have sued various federal agencies alleging that those agencies have willfully ignored the harm climate change causes them.  The plaintiffs claim that such inaction violates their constitutional due process rights, and runs afoul of a common-law theory known as the “public trust” doctrine.  They seek an order directing the federal defendants to develop a national remedial plan to reduce CO2 emissions. Continue reading