Gibbons Law Alert Blog

Permits to Be Extended Under Permit Extension Act of 2020 Must Be Registered by October 8, 2020

We previously reported on the adoption of the Permit Extension Act of 2020, which provided a mechanism for tolling or extension of permits and approvals during the public health emergency associated with COVID-19, and extending those approvals for “at least six months beyond the conclusion” of the associated extension period. Under the Permit Extension Act of 2020, all approvals that are subject to tolling or extension were required to be registered “with the department” within 30 days of the publication of a notice in the New Jersey Register. That registration deadline has now been established as October 8, 2020. Regardless of whether your permit or approval expires in the next few months or late next year, it may be prudent to register now, particularly given the differences between the prior iterations of the Permit Extension Act and the present statutory language, and the lack of a clear end of the present public health emergency. The Department of Environmental Protection published a notice in the New Jersey Register on September 8, 2020, announcing that the registration period for approvals has begun. Notably, the notice provides that “[t]his registration requirement applies to specified permits, approvals, and deadlines from a broad range of State and local entities – not just the Department.” It is not clear under the...

(State) Settlors Beware, Too: In Reversal, Third Circuit Declares that State Settlement Does Not Protect Against Federal Claims under CERCLA

Previously, the District of New Jersey ruled that a polluting party’s settlement agreement with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) provided contribution protection from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) claims based on costs incurred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) at the same site, even though USEPA was not a party to the settlement. In a prior blog post discussing that decision, we noted that the District Court’s decision was likely to be appealed. It was. On appeal, the Third Circuit considered the inquiry of “[w]hether a polluting party’s settlement with the State of New Jersey protects it from lawsuits seeking contributions toward expenditures made by the Federal Government on the same site,” and determined in a precedential opinion that, “the answer here is no.” CERCLA section 113(f)(2) provides that “[a] person who has resolved its liability to the United States or a State in an administrative or judicially approved settlement shall not be liable for claims for contribution regarding matters addressed in the settlement.” The District Court applied the analysis commonly adopted by other federal courts to determine the “matters addressed” of the previous settlement where the scope is not made explicit by the agreement itself. This analysis includes factors such as the location, time frame,...

DOJ Updates Merger Remedies Manual

On September 3, 2020, two months after releasing the long-awaited Vertical Merger Guidelines, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice issued an update to its 2004 Policy Guide to Merger Remedies. The focus of the updated (and newly titled) Merger Remedies Manual is on structuring and enforcing remedies, short of full-stop injunctions, designed to cure competitive harms caused by mergers – both horizontal and vertical – that would lessen competition if left unchecked. The Manual begins with a set of guiding principles, among them that remedies should preserve premerger competition, but not create ongoing government regulation of the market; temporary relief should not be used to redress persistent competitive harm; the merging entities, not consumers, should bear the risk of a failed remedy; and a remedy must be enforceable to be effective. From these first principles flow two basic tenets of remedies in merger cases: first, that divestitures (so-called structural remedies) are preferable to conduct remedies aimed at regulating the merged firm’s post-merger operations, which are rarely appropriate, and, second, that settlements designed to rectify competitive harm (so-called consent decrees) must be clear, fully implemented, and strictly complied with. To this end, entire sections of the Manual address various aspects of divestitures: from the characteristics of an acceptable third-party buyer, to the ideal...

End of the Road: GN Netcom Inc. and Plantronics Settle Eight-Year Litigation Saga Beset by E-Discovery Sanctions

On July 12, 2020, United States District Judge Leonard P. Stark of the District Court for the District of Delaware (“District Court”) approved a joint stipulation of settlement filed by GN Netcom Inc., parent of Jabra headphones, and Plantronics. This settlement will end the eight-year old litigation saga between GN Netcom and Plantronics involving allegations that Plantronics had monopolized the relevant market via exclusive distribution deals which required its distributors to only sells Plantronics’ headsets and not those of its rivals. This case is noteworthy as to e-discovery because of the severe sanctions of $3,000,000 and an adverse inference jury instruction entered by the District Court against Plantronics in 2016 pursuant to then recently amended Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e). This blog post will not recount the full panoply of discovery abuses addressed in the District Court’s July 12, 2016 Order, but, in broad strokes, Plantronics was found to have acted in bad faith in failing to take reasonable steps to preserve ESI which could not be restored or replaced. The District Court’s sanctions order was entered because Don Houston, a former executive of the company, “double-deleted” thousands of his own relevant emails despite the existence of a legal hold. Mr. Houston also directed other employees of the company to delete relevant emails. While...

New Jersey Files Six Lawsuits as Part of Its Environmental Justice Initiative

Last week, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced jointly the state’s filing of six environmental enforcement actions against alleged polluters in minority and low-income communities in various locations throughout the state. The filings are this administration’s latest action in its environmental justice initiative, as Gibbons has previously covered on this blog. The six lawsuits involve sites in Newark, East Orange, Camden, and two sites in Trenton. In these suits, the state brings claims under various New Jersey environmental statutes, including the Spill Compensation and Control Act, the Water Pollution Control Act, the Air Pollution Control Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Industrial Site Recovery Act, and the Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act. Per the joint press release, the lawsuits in Newark and Trenton “involve companies that released hazardous substances at their properties and refused to clean them up.” In Newark, the state seeks to require the defendants to investigate the extent of the contamination, to clean up the site, and to reimburse the state for over $500,000. For one of the Trenton sites, the state similarly seeks to compel the defendants to clean up the site and to reimburse the state for over $400,000. At the other Trenton site, the state...

28 Days to Amend Contentions Following Disclosure of Preliminary Claim Constructions

In an interesting decision applying California’s Local Patent Rules, Northern District of California District Court Judge William Alsup held that “after receiving the other side’s preliminary claim construction disclosure under Rule 4-2, a party in a patent litigation must move promptly to disclose any back-up contentions it may wish (or eventually wish) to make for its infringement or invalidity case, in the event the other side’s claim construction is thereafter adopted or else any such back-up contentions will be deemed waived. Promptly means within 28 days at the latest.” Fluidigm Corp., et al. v. IONpath, Inc. at 4. Judge Alsup’s decision was his answer to “the question of the extent to which our patent local rules require infringement and invalidity contentions to set forth not only a party’s primary theory but also its backup theory in case its opponent’s claim construction prevails.” Id. at 1. In answering that question, Judge Alsup provided a brief exposition on California’s Local Patent Rules. “Before our local patent rules, parties struggled to determine the opposing party’s theory of liability via discovery requests, such as contentions interrogatories.” Id. at 6. The adoption of local patent rules “replaced the bone-crushing burden of scrutinizing and investigating discovery responses with the parties’ infringement and invalidity contentions.” In alleviating that burden, local patent rules...

A Look at the Nine-Month State Budget Proposed By Governor Murphy

Governor Murphy presented a nine-month budget on August 25, 2020, for the abbreviated State Fiscal Year starting October 1, 2020. Relying on a mix of borrowing, tax increase, and budget cuts, the Governor’s proposal for the nine-month fiscal year proposes $32.4 billion in spending, with a proposed budget surplus of $2.2 billion. Coupled with the temporary three-month budget effective July 1 to September 30, 2020, total spending over the twelve-month period would total slightly more than $40 billion. The Governor’s Budget Proposal estimates that roughly $6.2 billion of funding is required to offset anticipated lost revenues from COVID-19. To make up for that shortfall, the Governor is proposing to borrow $4.0 billion as authorized by the “COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act.” The New Jersey Supreme Court recently upheld the Act as constitutionally permissible under the Emergency Exception of the Debt Limitation Clause. An additional $1.0 billion in tax increases and $1.2 billion in programmatic cuts are also proposed. The two main tax increases proposed include a tax of 10.75 percent on income over $1.0 million and an extension of the Corporate Business Tax surcharge of 2.5 percent. The Budget Proposal does maintain some programmatic spending at levels equal to that of the prior fiscal year and proposes new spending. For example, there are no cuts to...

Government & Regulatory Affairs Department Co-Chair Named Best Lawyers Regional “Lawyer of the Year” for 2021

David J. Pascrell, Co-Chair of the Gibbons Government & Regulatory Affairs Department, has been named a regional “Lawyer of the Year” in the 2021 edition of Best Lawyers®, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. According to Best Lawyers, the “Lawyer of the Year” recognition is awarded to individual lawyers with the highest overall peer-feedback for a specific practice area and geographic region. Only one lawyer is recognized as the “Lawyer of the Year” for each specialty and location. Department Co-Chair Kevin G. Walsh and Department Directors Paul J. St. Onge and Christine A. Stearns were selected for individual inclusion on the Best Lawyers list, while Michael D. DeLoreto, an associate in the Department, was highlighted on the inaugural Best Lawyers “Ones to Watch” category, a new feature introduced for the 2021 edition of Best Lawyers. In total, 71 of the firm’s attorneys, representing all of its main practice areas and four metropolitan markets, were individually selected for inclusion. Of the 71 Gibbons attorneys ranked overall, 65 were selected for the main Best Lawyers list, while six were listed in the “Ones to Watch” category. For the full release, click here.

Do Not Treat Rule 26(g) Certifications as a Mere Formality: Southern District of Florida Cautions Against Client ‘Self-Collection’ of ESI Without Adequate Attorney Oversight

In a recent decision reprimanding defense counsel’s lack of oversight of a client’s collection of data during discovery, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued a cautionary opinion that should serve as yet another reminder to counsel of the perils associated with allowing a client to self-collect ESI. Similar to a recent decision we addressed from the District Court of the Northern District of California, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. M1 5100 Corp., d/b/a Jumbo Supermarket, Inc. is a strong reminder that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 should serve as a guide for the action and oversight required of counsel in the search, collection, and production of documents in response to discovery demands. In this age discrimination case, the District Court addressed plaintiff’s motion to compel. Plaintiff sought more specific discovery responses to two requests, attorney’s fees and costs in addition to the “opportunity to inspect Defendant’s ESI because, by Defendant’s counsel’s own admission, Defendant ‘self-collected’ responsive documents and information to the discovery requests without the oversight of counsel.” Cautioning against the “perils of self-collection of ESI by a party or interested person,” the District Court reminded counsel of its obligation to “have knowledge of, supervise, or counsel the client’s discovery search, collection and production” pursuant to Rule 26(g)(1). The District...

Supreme Court to Finally Decide Definition of Autodialer in TCPA Litigation

On July 9, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a long-pending petition for certiorari in Facebook Inc. v. Duguid, Noah, et al. to address a hotly debated question in Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) litigation: “whether the definition of [automated telephone dialing system] encompasses any device that can ‘store’ and ‘automatically dial’ telephone numbers, even if the device does not ‘us[e] a random or sequential number generator.’” The grant of certiorari comes on the heels of the Court’s sweeping decision in Barr v. American Ass’n of Political Consultants, severing the government debt collection exception to the TCPA’s “autodialer” prohibition as a content-based restriction on free speech. The TCPA broadly prohibits most calls using any ATDS or autodialer, defined by statute as “equipment which has the capacity – (A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers.” Given the lack of clarity in the statutory language, courts have grappled with whether “a random or sequential number generator” must be used to only “store” the numbers, or only to “produce” the numbers, or to “dial” the numbers after having “randomly or sequentially” generated or produced them. Further complicating court interpretations is the FCC’s interpretations stating that a dialing system known as a “predictive...