Taylor v. Sturgell
Supreme Court of the United States
April 16, 2008, Argued.; June 12, 2008, Decided.
[*884] [**2166] Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.
"It is [****10] a principle of general application in Anglo-American jurisprudence that one is not bound by a judgment in personam [**2167] in a litigation in which he is not designated as a party or to which he has not been made a party by service of process." Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32, 40, 61 S. Ct. 115, 85 L. Ed. 22 (1940). Several exceptions, recognized in this Court's decisions, temper this basic rule. In a class action, for example, a person not named as a party may be bound by a judgment on the merits of the action, if she was adequately represented by a party who actively participated in the litigation. See id., at 41, 61 S. Ct. 115, 85 L. Ed. 22. In this case, we consider for the first time whether there is a "virtual representation" exception to the general rule against precluding nonparties. Adopted by a number of courts, including the courts below in the case now before us, the exception so styled is broader than any we have so far approved.
[*885] The virtual representation question we examine in this opinion arises in the following context. Petitioner Brent Taylor filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act seeking certain documents from the Federal Aviation Administration. Greg Herrick, Taylor's friend, had previously brought an unsuccessful suit [****11] seeking the same records. The two men have no legal relationship, and there is no evidence that Taylor controlled, financed, participated in, or even had notice of Herrick's earlier suit. Nevertheless, the D. C. Circuit held Taylor's suit precluded by the judgment against Herrick because, in that court's assessment, Herrick qualified as Taylor's "virtual representative."
We disapprove the doctrine of preclusion by "virtual representation," and hold, based on the record as it now stands, that the judgment against Herrick does not bar Taylor from maintaining this suit. Read The Full CaseNot a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.
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553 U.S. 880 *; 128 S. Ct. 2161 **; 171 L. Ed. 2d 155 ***; 2008 U.S. LEXIS 4885 ****; 76 U.S.L.W. 4453; 36 Media L. Rep. 1801; 21 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 323
BRENT TAYLOR, Petitioner v. ROBERT A. STURGELL, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, et al.
Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by Taylor v. Sturgell, 296 Fed. Appx. 85, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 20745 (D.C. Cir., Sept. 30, 2008)
Prior History: [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.
Taylor v. Blakey, 377 U.S. App. D.C. 12, 490 F.3d 965, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 14807 (2007)
Disposition: The Court vacated the judgment. The Court remanded to give the lower courts an opportunity to determine whether petitioner, in pursuing the instant FOIA suit, was acting as his friend's agent. Unanimous decision.
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