Has the 11th Circuit Done Anything Interesting Lately?


Here I sit, half-watching Watchmen (hi Carla!) for the umpteenth time, as I reflect on the noble practice of law detailed in the NYT:

Collection law firms are able to handle such large volumes of cases because computer software automates much of their work. Typically, a debt buyer sends a law firm an electronic database that contains various data about consumers, including name, home address, the outstanding balance, the date of default and whether interest is still accruing on the account.

Once the data is obtained by a law firm, software like Collection-Master from a company called Commercial Legal Software can “take a file and run it through the entire legal system automatically,” including sending out collection letters, summonses and lawsuits, said Nicholas D. Arcaro, vice president for sales and marketing at the company.

No group has definitive statistics on debt collection lawsuits, but federal regulators, collection lawyers and judges say the numbers have increased and are straining the court system.

Does any part of that constitute the “practice of law”?

Indeed, if the entire lawsuit is automated, why even have judges?

Just let “Collection-Master” enter judgment and be done with it — the taxpayer savings would be huge!

Meanwhile you can’t find a file in the LA courthouse anymore because people like Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson have to do stupid things there (and then get caught):

With California $20 billion in debt, the Los Angeles court system has been forced to lay off more than 300 employees. These cutback come as the courtrooms are overflowing with celebrities. And many say our system of justice is being short changed.

“You’re seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, just for the security when a celebrity comes in to court,” Sax told ABC News

Dear LeBron: please don’t get in any legal trouble.

Oh well, whenever I get depressed about the state of our state legal system (the intrepid one’s interview with our Chief Justice is here), I always ask myself — has the 11th Circuit done anything interesting lately?

The issue this time around has something to do with claim preclusion, res judicata, whatever you want to call it.

In fact, that’s precisely the realpolitik formulation offered by Chief Judge Dubina:

In consideration of these goals, our circuit has used a variety of labels to describe the methods by which we judge the similarity of two causes of action. Compare NAACP v. Hunt, 891 F.2d 1555, 1561 (11th Cir. 1990) (noting that the “principle test” for comparing cases involves inquiry into the primary rights and duties implicated) with In re Atlanta Retail, Inc., 456 F.3d 1277, 1288 (11th Cir. 2006) (examining whether cases involve “the same nucleus of operative fact”) and In re Piper Aircraft, 244 F.3d at 1296–97 (noting that claims are the same “when they arise out of the same transaction or series of transactions”). Nothing in our jurisprudence suggests that any meaningful analytical difference derives from the label we affix to the method of comparison. See e.g., Ragsdale, 193 F.3d at 1239 & n.8 (concurrently reciting all three of the above labels in describing our comparative approach).

I love that, even though I think Judge Moreno was right — who are we kidding, these claims are identical (cue prosecutor from My Cousin Vinny).

I wonder how “Collection-Master” would have ruled?