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On January 20, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Campbell-Ewald Company v. Gomez. This case concerns a complaint by Jose Gomez that Campbell-Ewald Company, a marketing consultant for the U.S. Navy, allowed a third-party vendor to send him unsolicited text messages in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The case presents two questions for the Supreme Court: (1) whether a case becomes moot when a plaintiff receives an offer of complete relief on his claim, including in a class action, and (2) whether the doctrine of derivative sovereign immunity for government contractors is limited to claims arising out of property damage caused by public works projects. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had held that Gomez’s individual and class claims were not mooted, and that Campbell-Ewald was not entitled to derivative sovereign immunity.
By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit, holding that (1) an unaccepted settlement offer or offer of judgment does not moot a plaintiff's case, so the district court retains jurisdiction to adjudicate the plaintiff’s complaint, and (2) a federal contractor is not entitled to immunity from suit for its violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act when it violates both federal law and the government's explicit instructions. Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgement. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Scalia and Alito joined. Justice Alito also filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the case, we have Mark Chenoweth, who is General Counsel at Washington Legal Foundation.