Sprint Communications Co., L.P. v. APCC Services, Inc. - Oral Argument - April 21, 2008

Sprint Communications Co., L.P. v. APCC Services, Inc.

Media for Sprint Communications Co., L.P. v. APCC Services, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 23, 2008 in Sprint Communications Co., L.P. v. APCC Services, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 21, 2008 in Sprint Communications Co., L.P. v. APCC Services, Inc.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument first today in Case 07-552, Sprint Communications Company v. APCC Services, Inc..

Mr. Phillips.

Carter G. Phillips:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: Chief Judge Sentelle observed in his dissent below that there are assignments and there are assignments, and that's essentially going to be the theme of my presentation this morning.

It is I think common ground between the parties in this litigation that if you have an assignment which represents the grant of the entirety of both the right and the remedy, that is the complete assignment of the chosen action, then under those circumstances there's no question that the assignee has standing under Article III.

By parity of receiving, if all that the assignee receives is a power of attorney, a mere collection agency role, under those circumstances I think it's common ground between the parties that Article III is not satisfied.

Two of the data points come from--

Antonin Scalia:

Say it again?

What is the common ground?

Carter G. Phillips:

--I think the second part of the common ground is that if all that the assignee receives is the power of attorney, that is to serve as the lawyer for the assignor, under those circumstances the assignee doesn't... cannot... has no common stake than I or my clients do in these particular cases, any more than I do in my client's interest in these particular cases, and there I don't think anybody disputes that Article III is not satisfied.

Now, the Court in Vermont Agency sort of identified two additional data points.

First of all, it made clear that a 10 percent bounty by itself unattached to anything else is not sufficient, largely I think for the same reasons why the lawyer's claim is insufficient, because that's not tied to the particular right at stake and therefore is inadequate to allow Article III to the satisfied.

The second half of it is, though, that if that bounty is coupled with an assignment of the rights and even if that's a partial assignment of the rights, then there is Article III jurisdiction under those circumstances.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

So that if these contracts provided that the aggregators will turn over all of the proceeds of the litigation except for one penny, then you'd be satisfied?

Carter G. Phillips:

Well, I'm not sure I'd be satisfied.

I think there's a different... I think the answer is that might satisfy Article III.

The only reason I'm reluctant to say that that's the line that ought to be drawn is because this Court's taxpayer standing cases seems to recognize that there are situations where there is a sufficiently de minimis amount of at stake that under those circumstances Article III won't be satisfied.

But clearly the cleanest line to draw is in circumstances where have you no stake in the outcome that clearly is beyond what Article III would ultimately do.

Antonin Scalia:

Well then, this is not really a very significant case, is it?

Because I presume that these enterprises that agglomerate claims and bring suit as a collection agency, they could simply get their compensation, instead of by way of, of a flat fee, by, you know, claiming entitlement to 2 percent of the rewards.

So it's no big deal, I mean, really.

Carter G. Phillips:

But it is a big deal, not necessarily because of the importance of the article.

I think the Article III part of it is still a big deal.

I think requiring as a separation of powers matter that there has to be a concrete stake in the party bringing the litigation, that's an important principle and the Court shouldn't abandon it, and that's posed directly in this case.

But more fundamentally in terms of the importance of the underlying process, remember here we're talking about an assignee who takes on 1400 different assignor claims involving 400,000 pay phones.

And that's the problem, is that when you break this down and you allow just simple assignments to satisfy Article III in its prudential standing concerns, then what you end up with is this mass tort litigation.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

But it would be just the same, Mr. Phillips, would it not, if the arrangement was that the aggregator gets a piece of the action?

Let's take out the de minimis one cent.

A significant stake, like the qui tam plaintiff has.

So you would have the same problems that you're complaining about with regard to discovery from the individual PSPs, the same problem with respect to counterclaim.

That's... so it seems to me that, as Justice Scalia suggested, this isn't about a whole lot if just by the device of giving the aggregator part of the, a piece of the action, this suit would be okay because the prudential objections that you are making here would apply just as well.