Supreme Court Review: Court Sets New Rules in Key Areas


Linda S Mullenix

National Law Journal


Commentary and analysis of five procedure decisions issued by the Supreme Court during the 1993-94 Term. The article discusses the holdings and implications of the Court’s decisions in J.E.B. v. Alabama; United Mine Workers v. Bagwell; Honda Motor Co. v. Oberg; Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Insurance Co.; and Ticor Title Co. v. Brown.

In J.E.B. v. Alabama, a Seventh Amendment right-to-jury trial case, the Court extended its holdings in Batson v. Kentucky to prohibit gender-based challenges during jury selection. The Court utilized equal protection analysis to reach this conclusion.

In United Mine Workers v. Bagwell, the Court that the UMW’s contempt of a state court injunction issued during a strike in Virginia, which resulted in fines against the union, constituted a criminal penalty that entitled the union to a jury trial before the imposition of this type of sanction.

In Honda Motor Co. v. Oberg, for the third time in four years, the Court revisited the problem of punitive damages. The Court, in a 7-2 decision, held that an Oregon law that prohibited the appellate review of punitive damages constituted a denial of due process. The Honda decision raises the question whether it may open the door to other procedural due process challenges to other states’ statutory punitive damage schemes.

In Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., a unanimous Court decided that if parties agree to settle and then subsequently come to grief, they should take their dispute to state courts and not bother federal courts unless their settlement agreement specifically provides for such action. Federal courts neither have inherent power nor ancillary jurisdiction to assume continuing supervisory authority over settlement agreements.

Finally, in Ticor Title Co. v. Brown, the Court declined to adjudicate the Shutts issue concerning the due process requirements for non-opt-out monetary damage classes. The Court concluded that certiorari had been improvidently granted, leaving the Shutts issue unresolved, and for some future case.

Full Citation

Linda S. Mullenix, Supreme Court Review: Court Sets New Rules in Key Areas, National Law Journal, Aug. 15, 1994, at C7.