Sunday, November 29, 2015

Taylor v. Sturgell case brief summary

Taylor v. Sturgell case brief
2008 SCOTUS

Posture: District court for the defendant, the court of appeals affirmed and SCOTUS reversed. 
Facts: Plaintiff filed a lawsuit under Freedom of Information Act in the district court for District of Columbia for documents related to vintage airplane made by Fairchild. Herrick, a friend of the plaintiff, already filed an unsuccessful suit for same documents. Plaintiff and Herrick have no legal relationship nor is there any evidence that plaintiff knew of or participated in, Herrick’s claim. Defendants got summary judgment because the plaintiff already had his interest represented by Herrick. District court used the below 7 factors from the 8th circuit which is counter to the 4th circuit’s way of tests. 
1. close relationship between the present party and party to judgment 2. Participation in prior litigation by present party 3. Present party’s acquiescence to the preclusive effect of judgment 4. Present party’s deliberate maneuvering to avoid the preclusive effect 5. Adequate representation in prior suit 6. A suit raising public law issue and 7. Identify of interests between present party and a party to the judgment (only required factor) 
Court of appeals affirmed under its own five-factor tests for virtual representation. Identity of interests and adequate representation plus at least one of 1. A close relationship between present party and his rep, 2. Substantial participation by present party in first suit or 3. Tactical maneuvering on the part of the present party to avoid the preclusive effect.  
Reasoning: The rule against non-party preclusion (which states that it normally does not apply) has six exceptions which are grouped into 6 categories [1. Agreement by a nonparty to be bound 2. Certain substantive relationships 3. A nonparty can be bound if its interests are represented adequately such as a class action 4. A nonparty who assumed some sort of control in lawsuit 5. Colluding and 6. Special statutory exceptions]
Beyond this, a virtual representation exception to the rule was also developed. **Court said that their precedent established that representation is “adequate” only if 1. Special procedures by the court are used to protect nonparties interest or 2. An understanding that suit was brought in a representative capacity (class action)

The only question in this suit is if Taylor is acting as Herrick’s agent, and if he is, Taylor loses. However, if he is not, Taylor can continue with his FOIA suit. **A mere whiff of tactical maneuvering will not suffice but only if there is control.

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