The Supreme Court has not decided a seminal personal jurisdiction case in nearly 25 years, according to procedural scholars. The justices may fill that void this term in two key cases involving the authority of state courts to assert jurisdiction over foreign corporations in product liability cases.
The justices heard back-to-back arguments on Tuesday in those cases — J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro and Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations v. Brown.
The arguments probed the limits and appropriateness of various court tests for finding so-called specific and general jurisdiction. They also, however, revealed how thorny the issue of jurisdiction can become in today's global economy with the far-flung operations of many corporations as well as the potential impact of Internet business operations.
Collyn Peddie of the Law Office of Collyn Peddie in Houston, Texas, represents the families of two teenage boys from North Carolina who were killed in a bus accident in France. Tires manufactured by Goodyear Luxembourg allegedly caused the accident. Making her first Supreme Court appearance, Peddie argued that North Carolina has general jurisdiction over the foreign subsidiary of Goodyear.
Peddie, who specializes in appellate law, is no stranger to the high court. She successfully petitioned for review last summer in a childhood vaccine case involving federal preemption — Bruesewitz v. Wyeth — which was argued in October by David Frederick, partner in Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel. The case is pending decision.
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Few lawyers — including the nine lawyers who wear robes to work — know the Supreme Court's docket as well as Roy Englert Jr.
Englert has argued 18 cases before the justices, first during a stint at the solicitor general's office and then at Mayer Brown before breaking off with others from that venerable firm in 2001 to create Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber in D.C. More than once, he has been called into a case for argument at the eleventh hour, pulling it off with a low-key style that exudes confidence, a no-nonsense, non-ideological approach to the case. He'll argue his 19th in November.
Away from the lectern, in his clipped, efficient voice, Englert can rattle off cases and justices' votes with nuance and detail. He knows what the justices have written about an issue and therefore how to coax them into voting the same way — or changing their minds, as the case may be. He was an early expert in the appellate parlor game of prognosticating which justices might write which opinions based on how many other cases they've been assigned in the same time period, among other factors.
But Englert is not all about work. A lifelong aficionado of judo, he referees judo tournaments around the world.
On Sept. 22, Englert participated in the National Chamber Litigation Center's 23rd annual Supreme Court briefing for the media – it was Englert's fourth time at it – along with Latham & Watkins of counsel Maureen Mahoney. Afterward, Englert sat down at The National Law Journal's offices with Tony Mauro to answer questions about the upcoming term – and about judo.