Perfunctory certification order reversed and sent back to the trial court in Myers v. Raley's

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The standard of review governing certification orders is effectively unique to class actions. As the Supreme Court explained in Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc. 59 Cal.4th 522 (2014): “We review the trial court’s actual reasons for granting or denying certification; if they are erroneous, we must reverse, whether or not other reasons not relied upon might have supported the ruling.” Id., at 530. In other words, only the stated reasons are reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. And if a stated reason includes a legally erroneous provision, that, by definition, constitutes and abuse of discretion. The record is not searched for an alternative basis to affirm.

In Myers v. Rayey’s (March 12, 2019), the Court of appeal (Third Appellate District) [Yolo!] concluded that one paragraph of substance was insufficient to permit review, since, without a statement of reasoning and analysis, there is no way to meaningfully review what is simply an ultimate conclusion:

To turn to the record to concoct some basis for the trial court’s denial of certification is to abolish the relevant standard of review, ignore the trial court’s reasoning, and apply ordinary appellate review contrary to the legion of cases that prohibit appellate revisionism. This we cannot do.

Slip op., at 15. As part of its discussion of the insufficiency of a “perfunctory” order, the Court explicitly disagreed with Dailey v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 214 Cal. App. 4th 974 (2013), which had affirmed an exceedingly terse certification denial order.

This hits close to home, as I was unsuccessful on an appeal of a certification order with about as much (or little) in the way of analysis. If I had been in front of this panel…. And if it weren’t for those meddling kids!

I also get the feeling when reading the statement of facts that the Court had a strong opinion about how things should turn out after round two but couldn’t actually say how things should turn out.

No tolling for the wicked, at least when it comes to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f) petitions

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In a move that surely caused money to change hands between law nerds gambling on federal rules interpretations through off-shore gambling sites, the United States Supreme Court held, in Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert (February 26, 2019), that Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f) — the portion of Rule 23 that permits parties to request permission for interlocutory review of class certification decisions within 14 days of the issuance of the decision — is a mandatory, but nonjurisdictional, claim-processing rule, and therefore not subject to tolling or other exceptions for reasons of equity or fairness. The decision was unanimous.

In Moorer v. Noble L.A. Events Inc., the Court of Appeal confirms that a PAGA plaintiff can't keep the aggrieved employee share for himself

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In Moorer v. Noble L.A. Events Inc. (February 27, 2019), the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Seven) definitively answered the question of whether the twenty-five percent share of a PAGA action that goes to “aggrieved employees” can be retained by the plaintiff bringing the action as a type of relator share. No, you can’t do that:

Moorer contends that because a PAGA action is a type of qui tam action, under which the private citizen enforces a statute on behalf of the government, the 25 percent of the civil penalties not allocated to the government should be distributed to the aggrieved employee who brings the PAGA action. Although Moorer asserts policy arguments for why this approach would serve the goals of PAGA, the Supreme Court in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, supra, 59Cal.4th 348 (Iskanian) held otherwise. As the Supreme Court explained, a PAGA representative action “conforms to the traditional criteria” for bringing a qui tam action, “except that a portion of the penalty goes not only to the citizen bringing the suit but to all employees affected by the Labor Code violation.” (Iskanian, at p.382;see Williams v. Superior Court (2017) 3Cal.5th 531, 545 (Williams) [PAGA “deputiz[es]employees harmed by labor violations to sue on behalf of the state and collect penalties, to be shared with the state and other affected employees”].)

Slip op., at 7-8.

A word to the (un)wise...

Work product gets reused by other attorneys all the time in the legal profession. No big deal, right? If someone crafts a good argument on an issue, and someone else is facing that same issue, it makes sense to present that good argument. I take no issue with that.

What I do take issue with, however, is false attribution of the original source of the argument. That treads into dangerous terrain. I note this distinction because it has come to my attention that an “enterprising” young lawyer out there copied a large number of very elaborately formatted and designed Microsoft Word templates and then began passing them off as his own to other employers. Re-using an argument I’ve created is fine. Who could blame you really? But to tell an employer that you bring value because of the hard work that went into creating the templates that you ripped? That’s just shady. I am providing this public service announcement while maintaining the anonymity of the little rapscallion in the hope that this friendly note will encourage more honest disclosures going forward. By the way, I have the very first versions of many of those templates (like the mediation brief format I devised to resemble an appellate brief, rather than a letter or a pleading), creation-date-stamped and all, so I could prove my point if I had no other option…

A word to the…wise.

Timbs v. Indiana to be cited in PAGA cases in 3...2...1...

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On Wednesday, February 20, 2019, the United States Supreme Court held, in Timbs v. Indiana, that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines applies to the states. You can find plenty of analysis about this decision out there as it applies to things like state asset forfeiture laws, so I won’t even try to duplicate all of that analysis here, But it occurs to me that we should expect to see this holding tossed into the mix in PAGA cases on the theory that a large PAGA penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. How well that works remains to be seen, since, just spitballing here, a large PAGA penalty is pretty much only going to arise when an employer has lots of employees and violates lots of wage and hour provisions lots of times. Of course, out at the fringe, this argument might have some traction. I’m sure we’ll see in the next few years.

I'm moving to an up-and-coming employment law firm...

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A awesome opportunity came my way quite recently, and I can now announce that I am joining Moon & Yang, effective February 25, 2019, where I will be focusing exclusively on employment class actions. I received quite a vote of confidence from the partners, for which I am very grateful. With a surging employment practice, this is a chance to great things.

In Gilberg v. Cal. Check Cashing, Ninth Circuit extends Syed, holding that FCRA precludes all surplussage in background check disclosures

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In Gilberg v. California Check Cashing Stores, LLC (9th Cir. Jan. 29, 2019), the Ninth Circuit confirmed that Syed v. M-I, LLC, 853 F.3d 492 (9th Cir. 2017) applied to any surplussge in employment background check disclosures required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

I did that. Weird flex, but okay.

Slip opinion available to download here.

Petition for Review of PAGA decision denied in Huff v. Securitas Security Services USA

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I previously mentioned the surprising appellate court opinion in Huff v. Securitas Security Services USA (May 23, 2018). When it was issued, I was certain that review would be requested, and I would not have been surprised if review had been granted. However, I missed the fairly quick denial of review and depublication. That denial issued on August 8, 2018. Sorry I missed that; this is a noteworthy opinion.

Check out the September 12, 2018 edition of the Daily Journal for a pithy comment on Troester

As in full of pith. With a young attorney in my firm, Lilit Ter-Astvatsatryan, we wrote an opinion column for the Daily Journal, published on September 12, 2018 and entitled Unaccounted Time: Reading the tea leaves of Troester. Wait, something is wrong with that. If Lilit is a young attorney, then I am old. So let’s start again…

With a colleague at my firm, Lilit Ter-Astvatsatryan, we wrote an opinion column for the Daily Journal, published on September 12, 2018 and entitled Unaccounted Time: Reading the tea leaves of Troester. Much better.

I congratulate Lilit on her first foray into craven and shameless self-promotion.

Central District of California Local Rule 23-3 finally addressed in published Ninth Circuit opinion

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For years I've heard grumbling about Civil Local Rule 23-3 of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.  I may have been been responsible for some of that grumbling myself.  If you haven't run into this rule, Local Rule 23-3 requires the filing of a class certification motion within 90 days of the commencement of the action.  While many judges would accept stipulations to waive the rule, some did not.  In ABS Entertainment Inc. v. CBS Corp. (9th Cir. Aug. 20, 2018), the Ninth Circuit finally addressed this Local Rule in a published opinion (I believe there was commentary in an unpublished opinion a number of years ago):

Central District of California Local Rule 23-3 sets a strict 90-day time frame from the filing of a complaint to the motion for class action certification. This bright line rule is in direct contrast to the flexibility of the Federal Rule, which calls for a determination on class certification “[a]t an early practicable time after a person sues or is sued as a class representative.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(1)(A). That flexible approach makes sense. The class action determination can only be decided after the district court undertakes a “rigorous analysis” of the prerequisites for certification. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 350–51 (2011) (quoting Gen. Tele. Co. of SW v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982)). To undertake that analysis may require discovery. Kamm v. Cal. City Dev. Co., 509 F.2d 205, 210 (9th Cir.1975) (“The propriety of a class action cannot be determined in some cases without discovery;” “To deny discovery in [such cases] would be an abuse of discretion.”).
The district court’s actions here demonstrate the impracticability of the 90-day limit, particularly in combination with the district court’s summary and unexplained denial of the parties’ joint stipulation to extend the 90-day deadline based on the need for pre-certification discovery. See Barbara J. Rothstein & Thomas E. Willging, Federal Judicial Center, Managing Class Action Litigation: A Pocket Guide for Judges 9 (3d ed. 2010) (“Considering [Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(1)], you should feel free to ignore local rules calling for specific time limits; such local rules appear to be inconsistent with the federal rules and, as such, obsolete.”); Federal Judicial Center, Manual for Complex Litigation, Fourth § 21.133 (“Some local rules specify a short period within which the plaintiff must file a motion to certify a class action. Such rules, however, may be inconsistent with Rule 23(c)(1)(A)’s emphasis on the parties’ obligation to present the court with sufficient information to support an informed decision on certification. Parties need sufficient time to develop an adequate record.”).
Although the district court’s application and interpretation of its Local Rules is entitled to “a large measure of discretion,” Lance, Inc. v. Dewco Servs., Inc., 422 F.2d 778, 784 (9th Cir. 1970), Local Rules cannot be incompatible with Federal Rules. Fed. R. Civ. P. 83(a)(1). We conclude that the bright-line of Local Rule 23-3 is incompatible with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.

Slip op., at 49-50.  I only wonder whether the inclusion of this discussion at the end of a massive copyright opinion will give it more attention -- perhaps enough to lead to a repeal of Local Rule 23-3 entirely -- or less because it will get lost at the end of this unusually long opinion.