burden of proof

Loughrin v. United States

Issues: 

To convict someone under the federal bank fraud statute, does the government need to prove that a defendant intended to defraud a bank directly and expose the bank to risk of loss?

A federal district convicted Kevin Loughrin of bank fraud for using stolen, altered checks to purchase goods from a local Target store and returning them for cash. On appeal, Loughrin claimed he did not violate the bank fraud statute because the statute only criminalizes conduct intended to defraud a financial institution and that poses a risk of harm to that institution. Although he used fraudulent checks, Loughrin claims the target of his scheme was, in fact, Target, and not a bank. The United States argues that a scheme need not target a financial institution, nor expose that institution to risk, to constitute bank fraud. The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case will affect how broadly Congress can criminalize fraudulent financial actions and how expansively federal criminal jurisdiction can stretch.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

Whether the government must prove that the defendant intended to defraud a bank and expose it to risk of loss in every prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 1344?

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Facts

Kevin Loughrin and his codefendant, Theresa Thongsarn, devised a scheme to make money that led to federal criminal charges. See United States v. Loughrin, 710 F.3d 1111, 1114 (10th Cir. 2013). The two defendants stole checks from people’s mail.

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Medtronic, Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corp.

Issues: 

Does the burden of proving patent infringement in a declaratory judgment action fall upon the licensee or licensor?

In a traditional patent infringement suit, the patent owner has the burden of proving infringement. In MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., the Supreme Court held that a patent licensee could bring a declaratory judgment action against a licensor without violating the agreement. Here, Petitioner Medtronic entered a license agreement with Respondent Mirowski Family Ventures (“MFV”) that allowed Medtronic to challenge the validity, enforceability, and scope of a medical device patent in a declaratory judgment action. The Supreme Court will decide who—the patent owner or the licensee—has the burden of proving infringement in such an action. Medtronic argues that the traditional burden of proof (i.e., burden on the owner) should apply in the declaratory judgment context, as this would promote fairness and consistency in judgments, further the public interest in determining the scope of a patent, and avoid reaching issues of substantive law in declaratory judgment actions. MFV argues that the burden of proving noninfringement should be on the licensee because it is the party seeking relief and because this would incentivize patent owners to enter into license agreements. The Court’s ruling in this case will reshape the incentives for entering into and litigating license agreements, and thereby impact the litigation practices in declaratory judgment actions involving patent licenses.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

In MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 137 (2007), this Court ruled that a patent licensee that believes that its products do not infringe the patent and accordingly are not subject to royalty payments is "not required ... to break or terminate its ... license agreement before seeking a declaratory judgment in federal court that the underlying patent is ... not infringed."

The question presented is whether, in such a declaratory judgment action brought by a licensee under MedImmune, the licensee has the burden to prove that its products do not infringe the patent, or whether (as is the case in all other patent litigation, including other declaratory judgment actions), the patentee must prove infringement.

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Facts

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Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. United States District Court for the Western District of Texas

Issues: 
  1. Can forum-selection clauses render statutorily proper venue improper?
  2. How much weight should courts give forum-selection clauses under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)?

Petitioner, Atlantic, and Respondent, J-Crew, entered into a contract that included a forum-selection clause limiting venue to two courts in Virginia, including a federal court. Contrary to that provision, J-Crew filed suit in the Western District of Texas alleging breach of contract for nonpayment for contracted services. Atlantic asks the Supreme Court to reverse the lower courts and transfer the case to the venue specified by the contract. Atlantic argues that a valid forum-selection clause renders improper any venue not specified in the contract. In opposition, J-Crew contends that proper venue is defined by statute and that a forum-selection clause does not render improper a statutorily permissible forum. This case will resolve the circuit split regarding the enforceability of forum-selection clauses. Specifically, the Supreme Court will determine whether a § 1404(a) transfer is appropriate when a lawsuit is filed in violation of a valid forum-selection clause. This implicates the ability of private parties to contract around federal statutes, raising questions about the limits on the freedom of contract, the ability of plaintiffs to forum-shop, and the capacity for parties to secure a favorable choice-of-law by filing their case first.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

Following the Court's decision in M/S Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1 (1972), the majority of federal circuit courts hold that a valid forum-selection clause renders venue “improper” in a forum other than the one designated by contract. In those circuits, forum-selection clauses are routinely enforced through motions to dismiss or transfer venue under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406. The Third, Fifth, and Sixth Circuits, however, follow a contrary rule. This Petition presents the following issues for review:

  1. Did the Court’s decision in Stewart Organization, Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22 (1988), change the standard for enforcement of clauses that designate an alternative federal forum, limiting review of such clauses to a discretionary, balancing-of-conveniences analysis under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)?
  2. If so, how should district courts allocate the burdens of proof among parties seeking to enforce or to avoid a forum-selection clause?

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Facts

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Acknowledgments: 

The authors would like to thank Professor Kevin Clermont of Cornell Law School for his insight into the issues in this case.

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Smith, et al., v. United States

Petitioner Calvin Smith was involved in a criminal drug distribution organization and imprisoned for a related murder in 1994. In 2000, a grand jury brought indictments against him. Smith defended his two conspiracy charges on the grounds that the statute of limitations barred his conviction because he had withdrawn from the conspiracy more than five years ago. The trial court directed the jury that the burden of proof was on Smith as defendant to prove withdrawal by a preponderance of the evidence. Smith claims his participation in the conspiracy during the statutory period is a necessary element of his crime that the government must prove. Additionally, since withdrawal and participation are mutually exclusive, his withdrawal would negate an essential element of the government's case against him. The United States argues that withdrawal is an affirmative defense, and the burden of proof lies with the defendant. This case will define the boundaries of Due Process Protection in conspiracy cases and similar cases involving amorphous and on-going criminal activity.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

Whether withdrawing from a conspiracy prior to the statute of limitations period negates an element of a conspiracy charge such that, once a defendant meets his burden of production that he did so withdraw, the burden of persuasion rests with the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was a member of the conspiracy during the relevant period -- a fundamental due process question that is the subject of a well-developed circuit split.

Issue(s)

Whether requiring the defendant to bear the burden of proving withdrawal from a conspiracy as an affirmative defense violates Due Process.

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