September 25, 2020

Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Judge Barbara Lagoa, who served for more than a decade in Florida’s state courts before joining the Eleventh Circuit in 2019, have different approaches to class actions, torts and arbitration, according to a review of their decisions.

Two judges seen as leading contenders to be President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court have a limited record on class actions and mass torts, but their rulings on some class actions and arbitration give a glimpse into their approaches.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit for the past three years and the favorite among many in legal conservative circles, has been viewed as the leading contender for the nominee to replace the U.S. Supreme Court seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18.

Judge Barbara Lagoa, who served for more than a decade in Florida’s state courts before her appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 2019, was reported to receive an interview with Trump on Friday. A Cuban American, Lagoa is seen as appealing to a key constituency in a battleground state as the November election approaches.

Michael Dolce, a partner in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, who represents victims of sex crimes, said her ruling in John Doe v. Purdue University could have a “direct chilling effect” on the reporting of campus sexual assault.

“Almost half the appellate circuits in the United States have now followed this opinion,” he said. “It’s been very influential within the practice, one of the most influential Title IX decisions in years.”

In the unanimous decision, Barrett sided with a male student who had been accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend. She found an administrative process in which university officials did not interview John Doe’s girlfriend, Jane Doe, among other things, violated his 14th Amendment right to due process. She also sided with him on his Title IX claim, concluding it was “plausible” that university officials “chose to believe Jane because she is a woman and to disbelieve John because he is a man.” Barrett noted that a sexual awareness campaign on the Purdue campus featured an article in The Washington Post article titled “Alcohol isn’t the cause of campus sexual assault. Men are.”

But Dolce said the ruling was “offensive” to him in large part because Barrett found that Jane Doe’s failed suicide and depression were evidence against the truth of her story, not in favor.

“The driving force behind it was the complete misunderstanding of what the evidence reflects,” he said of the decision. “That’s astonishing to me.”

The complete article can be accessed here.