Ford Motor Co. v. McCauley - Oral Argument - October 07, 2002

Ford Motor Co. v. McCauley

Media for Ford Motor Co. v. McCauley

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - October 15, 2002 in Ford Motor Co. v. McCauley

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 07, 2002 in Ford Motor Co. v. McCauley

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 01-896, the Ford Motor Company and Citibank v. John B. McCauley.

Mr. Waxman.

The Court would appreciate hearing argument on, I'm sure, not just on the question presented in the petition for certiorari, but on the question posed in the supplemental briefing about whether there is appellate jurisdiction where a nominally prevailing party in the district court can... can appeal, and also about whether the question of... under 1447(d), if this was an order of remand, whether the... the thing was appealable to the Ninth Circuit at all.

Seth P. Waxman:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Perhaps with that observation, I would... it would behoove me to address the quest... the appellate jurisdiction of this Court first, as much as I would like to rush into why there clearly is subject matter jurisdiction in this case, regardless of whether the plaintiffs' claims for injunctive relief are viewed as separate and distinct or common and then divide it.

So let me first address why I think the Ninth Circuit and this Court had appellate jurisdiction, and it is straightforward.

That is, there is an appeal in this case from the dismissal with prejudice of a consolidated complaint which was filed voluntarily by the plaintiffs in this case seeking... as against plaintiffs that are different than any... than the constituent State court actions, including different plaintiffs seeking different causes of action and seeking a different form of relief, that is, specific performance of the Ford rebate program.

And it is very clear, both from the cont... the... the four corners of the consolidated complaint and from an express representation that my friend, Mr. Berman, made at the oral argument in the class certification stage, that the consolidated complaint was filed for the purpose of obtaining, in front of Judge Dwyer in the Northern Dis... the Western District of Washington, a judgment on the merits in the case.

That is, it was different than the treatment, the maximum treatment, that he would have been permitted to provide under the multi-district litigation panel's reference.

That is--

Antonin Scalia:

What's sort of unusual, though, is that you didn't suffer the dismissal.

I mean, yes, a dismissal is... is usually a final... a final action, and it's usually the person whose suit was dismissed who appeals--

Seth P. Waxman:

--That is--

Antonin Scalia:

--not... not the person who benefitted by the dismissal and that--

Seth P. Waxman:

--Indeed, and that, Justice Scalia, is the... is the question I believe, the specific question, that the Court directed the parties' attention to in its request for supplemental briefs.

Now, it is clear that a prevailing party normally cannot appeal, but the operative word that this Court has recognized, at least since the Electrical Fittings case, is normally.

And this Court and the lower courts have applied a rather particular test to determine when normally doesn't apply, and that is, is the nominally prevailing party sufficiently aggrieved by a decision in its favor that it retains a, quote, stake in the appeal?

And that's... that test was articulated by this Court in Guaranty Trust v. Roper--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

--Mr. Waxman.

Seth P. Waxman:

--and in Forney v. Apfel.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Mr. Waxman, a defendant who removes a case and then is remanded is surely aggrieved but, nonetheless, cannot appeal.

And the problem I have with an answer that you went by too fast for me is this case is in... was in the Washington district court for pretrial purposes only under 1407.

The transfer from the several district courts to which these cases were initially removed... that transfer under the statute was for pretrial purposes only, not for trial.

And after the pretrial, under the statute, the cases, unless all the parties consent, would go back to the district courts from whence they came.

So I don't understand how the Western District which is dealing with a complaint for pretrial purposes only... I mean, the... the request that a complaint... consolidated complaint be filed was for pretrial processing.

How do you get from that an action that displaces all of the other actions that had been removed from the State court?

Seth P. Waxman:

Justice Ginsburg, the appealability of the dismissal with prejudice of the consolidated complaint does not depend on whether the consolidated complaint, quote, did away with the other actions.

The reason... we would, of course, readily concede that under 1447(d), if all that had happened was a removal of the six State court actions, a transfer for pretrial purposes to a multi-district litigation court and a determination by that court that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the complaints, there would be no appeal because the remand of removed State court actions for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Congress has decided, is not a determination that may be reviewed by Federal appellate courts.

But here... and this, I think, is the salient point.

Here, the judge did not require the plaintiffs' lawyers in the six cases to file some sort of concordance or a consolidating document that often is ordered so as to facilitate pretrial proceedings.