Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison - Oral Argument - January 14, 2014

Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison

Media for Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 09, 2014 in Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 2014 in Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument first this morning in Case 12-1200, Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison, the Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of Bellingham Insurance Agency.

Mr. Hallward-Driemeier.

Douglas Hallward-driemeier:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

The judgment enforced against EBIA in this case was entered by a non-Article 3 bankruptcy court pursuant to a statute that this Court has declared unconstitutional as violating the separation of powers.

The entry of a judgment of the United States is not nearly a matter of private interest to the litigants.

Rather, it carries the force of law that is binding on other courts, binding on the executive branch which must enforce the judgment, and even binding on the legislature which cannot reopen the judgment.

The entry of final judgment of the United States is the ultimate exercise of the judicial power under Article 3, just as the enactment of legislation is the ultimate exercise of the legislative power under Article I.--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Why should that matter given that, after the bankruptcy judge ruled, the U.S. District Court gave de novo review to this case and entered a final judgment that met all the requirements of Article 3?

Douglas Hallward-driemeier:

--The judgment that was entered by the district court was not an exercise of original jurisdiction but rather appellate jurisdiction.

In fact, Section 1334 is clear that it confers the district court original jurisdiction, but once a judgment has been entered by the bankruptcy court, the review by the district court is an exercise of appellate jurisdiction under Section 158.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

Here's something -- I'm sorry.

Here's something that happens every day.

A district judge refers to a magistrate judge a motion for summary judgment.

The magistrate judge issues a report and recommendation.

The district judge reviews it de novo and may agree or disagree.

If it agrees, the district court will enter summary judgment.

I don't see a difference other than a purely semantic difference between that situation and what happened here.

Douglas Hallward-driemeier:

Your Honor, the entry of judgment is the act of the judicial branch that carries the force of law.

The issuance of a report and recommendation by a magistrate does not.

It's only after the exercise of judgment and the entry of judgment that it has binding effect.

Binding on the other--

Sonia Sotomayor:

Are you talking about a mere formality?

Are you arguing that because it was the bankruptcy judge and not the district court judge who signed the final judgment, that that makes a difference?

Douglas Hallward-driemeier:

--It -- yes, Your Honor.

Sonia Sotomayor:

That's the essence of your argument.

Douglas Hallward-driemeier:

Yes, Your Honor.

Because the active entry of judgment--

Sonia Sotomayor:

So if we vacated and remanded, and the district court looked at this, because it's already seen it, and basically just signed below the line that the bankruptcy judge signed, you would be okay?

Douglas Hallward-driemeier:

--Yes, Your Honor.

But the act of entering judgment is, both as a legal matter and as a practical matter, different from the appellate -- exercise of appellate jurisdiction.