56 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2016 Last revised: 31 Dec 2017
Date Written: March 17, 2017
One of the most dramatic exercises of a court’s equitable authority is the nationwide injunction. Although this phenomenon has become more prominent in recent years, it is a routine fixture of the jurisprudence of federal courts. Despite the frequency with which these cases arise, there has been no systematic scholarly or judicial analysis of when courts issue nationwide injunctions and little discussion of when they should issue such relief.
This Article presents the first comprehensive account of when nationwide injunctions issue. Earlier attempts to answer this question have focused exclusively on challenges to federal regulatory action and have concluded that the domain is one of unconstrained judicial discretion. By contrast, this Article considers not only cases involving the federal government but also those exclusively between private parties. The conclusion from this expanded focus is that courts determining the geographic scope of injunctions in disputes between private parties are largely guided by a single principle: The injunction should be no broader than “necessary to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs.” While the “complete relief” idea has echoes throughout equitable jurisprudence, it proves particularly robust at organizing the conditions under which nationwide injunctions issue. The Article then examines the body of cases involving the federal government to test the explanatory power of the complete relief principle. Although there is more variation, here too complete relief provides a useful tool for categorizing seemingly disparate cases under a common classification scheme. The Article concludes by arguing not only that the complete relief principle is descriptively useful for focusing debates about nationwide injunctions but also that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 should be amended to codify the principle as a formal limit on the appropriate geographic scope of an injunction.
Keywords: nationwide injunctions, injunction, equity, equitable relief, remedy, remedies, nationwide, injunctions, constitution, complete relief
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By Orin S. Kerr