Campbell-Ewald Company v Gomez

Gomez filed suit against Campbell alleging violations of federal law by Campbell when it sent text messages to Gomez without consent. Campbell made a Rule of Civil Procedure 68 offer to settle Gomez’s individual claim which Gomez allowed to lapse. Campbell moved to dismiss arguing the rejected offer mooted the case and for judgment on sovereign immunity grounds as the text messages were sent on behalf of the United States Navy. The 9th Circuit ultimately rejected both arguments. Resolving a circuit a split on the effect of a rejected Rule 68 offer to settle, the Court, 6(5 justice majority plus Thomas concurring in judgement)-3, affirmed. The majority held that the Rule 68 offer, like all contract offers, did not create any rights or settle the case as Gomez did not accept it, Campbell denied liability and the parties wee thus in the same situation as before the offer. The majority noted Rule 68 itself has a consequence for not accepting the offer namely liability for costs incurred by the offering party after the offer lapses. The majority left open the question of whether depositing the amount offered with the district court would change the analysis. As to immunity, the majority held that derivative sovereign immunity was not available to Campbell at this stage of the case as the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to Gomez, showed the navy instructed Campbell to only send text messages to those who agreed to receive unsolicited texts and Gomez did not consent. Justice Thomas concurred in judgment arguing that common law of tender provides the correct rule of analysis and here Campbell’s Rule 68 offer did not strip the district court of jurisdiction as money to pay the amount claimed by Gomez was never actually tendered and Campbell did not admit liability. Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Scalia and Alito, dissented arguing that the offer to pay Gomez all he was entitled to under the statute mooted the case as there is no live dispute between the parties. Justice Alito added a dissent arguing that Campbell is able and willing to pay what it offered to pay and thus the case is moot.

Kansas v Carr

Kansas appealed the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision vacating Carr’s and two other death sentences for failure to inform the sentencing jury that mitigating circumstances do not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and that Carr and his brother should have received separate sentencing hearings. . The Court, 8-1, reversed. The majority held that the Kansas Supreme Court decision was based on the 8th Amendment and thus the Court had jurisdiction to decide the case. It held that precedent established there is no duty to inform juries of any burden of proof about mitigating circumstances and in any event the system is set up for the jury to extend or deny mercy and in any event the jury was told they merely needed to find mitigating circumstances exist while aggravating circumstances need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and further told mitigation need only be accepted by juror individually. Turning to the joint sentencing issue, the majority held that the joint hearing did not require vacation of the death sentences as joint hearings are preferable to limit the possibility of arbitrary sentencing, the introduction of some evidence that would have been barred in a separate hearing did not infect the sentencing to the point where due process was violated particularly in light of the cruel and depraved acts recounted by the sole survivor of the killing spree and the limiting instructions to the jury to consider the evidence as to each defendant separately. Justice Sotomayor dissented arguing the Kansas Supreme Court decision was based on state law and thus unreviewable and the majority here limits the ability of states to experiment with procedures to best guarantee fair trials including capital sentencing hearings.

Montanile v. Board of Trustees of Nat. Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan

Montanile appealed the 11th Circuit’s decision that Board could recover medical expenses from his general assets under 29 USC 1132(a)(3). Resolving a circuit split, the Court, 8-1, reversed. The majority held that while Board’s lien under the plan on Montanile’s recovery from the third party wrongdoer was equitable, it did not extend to general assets if the recovery was dissipated because spending the recovery on nontraceable items destroyed the lien under equitable principles as understood in 1938 when equity and law merged into one federal system. The majority held the result did not change under Board’s arguments because liens by agreement do not extend to nontraceable items, recovery under the stolen assets doctrine is not available on these facts as Bard seeks general assets not items traceable to the recovery and whether or not recovery here would serve ERISA’s objectives recovery against general assets is not available in equity which is the specific issue here (Alioto did not join this last point). The case was remanded to analyze what dissipation actually occurred. Ginsberg dissented arguing the Court’s precedent on 1132(a)(3) actions is erroneous.