Posts Tagged ‘Wal-Mart v. Dukes’

June 30 roundup

Is the Supreme Court too “individualist”?

Some academic critics say the Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision is the latest in a string of decisions in which the Court has insisted that litigants be accorded individual rather than group or batch consideration, even though “a more collectivist view,” as Connecticut lawprof Alexandra Lahav contends, would carry with it more “potential for social reform.” I take up this charge, and defend the Court, at Cato at Liberty. More: John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum, with a link to Samuel Issacharoff’s work.

Welcome Philadelphia Inquirer readers

I’ve got an op-ed in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer on the Supreme Court’s Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision. The headline (“Reining in Frivolous Class-Action Lawsuits”) is theirs; I wouldn’t use the term “frivolous” to describe the case, which after all did convince the Ninth Circuit, if not any of the Supreme nine. An excerpt:

…The misconceptions about this case begin with the identities of the real combatants. On NPR’s Marketplace this week, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick described the plaintiffs as “1.5 million female employees of Wal-Mart who are trying to file a class-action suit.” But, of course, most of those women are not “trying” to do anything of the sort.

Rather, a relative handful of them have hired lawyers, and those lawyers daringly sought to get themselves declared the legal representatives of the other 1.496 million (or however many), who have expressed no inclination whatsoever to sue. …

The message of this ruling is simple: Employees have to prove that they have been legally wronged, not just cash in because somebody else was.

More about Wal-Mart v. Dukes here, here, and here (& welcome readers from Ira Stoll/Future of Capitalism, Jonathan Adler/Volokh Conspiracy, State Bar of Michigan blog, Omaha World Herald (editorial), Real Clear Politics, and, on the headline issue, Elie Mystal/Above the Law).

Wal-Mart v. Dukes: some early analysis

Yesterday’s decision was the most momentous Supreme Court pronouncement on class actions in many years, addressing issues that go far beyond the case at hand. A sampling of early analysis:

* Some consideration of merits okay at certification stage. Paul Karlsgodt:

For more than 30 years, plaintiffs’ counsel and many courts have cited the Court’s opinion in Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156 (1974) as prohibiting any examination of the plaintiffs’ claims on the merits at the class certification phase. Consistent with the majority trend in the lower federal courts, the Supreme Court’s decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. confirms that a court should consider and resolve any issues of fact that are necessary to determine whether one or more elements of Rule 23 are satisfied, regardless of whether those issues may overlap or be identical to one or more issues to be decided in ruling on the merits of the plaintiff’s claims.

In its day the Eisen case was a milestone in the 1960s-1970s liberalization of class action procedure, and seemed at the time to authorize the plaintiff’s side to dream up all the actions it wanted while the defense side could not block the actions at the certification stage by pointing out that they were bogus on the merits. Russell Jackson bluntly assesses the case’s fate: “Stick a fork in Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin. It’s done!”

* Statistical proofs can’t be used to bypass individualized defenses. At least in the context of back pay discrimination claims, all nine justices agreed that the company had a right to assert individualized defenses based on the details of particular cases rather than simply hand over a giant damage check based on some formula derived from statistical testimony. In particular, the Court said:

Because the Rules Enabling Act forbids interpreting Rule 23 to “abridge, enlarge, or modify any substantive right,” a class cannot be certified on the premise that Wal-Mart will not be entitled to litigate its statutory defenses to individual claims.

Russell Jackson draws out implications for actions far removed from the employment context:

This means that third-party-payor claims and consumer fraud class actions will not be able to prove causation or reliance using statistical proof like that proposed and rejected in McLaughlin v. American Tobacco Co., 522 F.3d 215 (2d Cir. 2008) in order to facilitate class certification. This is BIG NEWS!!!

* Subjective managerial discretion under less suspicion. Returning to the employment context, a key issue in the case is whether plaintiffs could assert the requisite common question by challenging Wal-Mart’s delegation of decentralized discretion to store managers over many issues of pay and promotion. The Court majority refused to entertain such a challenge. Michael Fox:

The 5-4 opinion seems to pull the teeth from what I have always considered one of the more dangerous Supreme Court opinions, Watson v. Fort Worth Bank and Trust, a 1988 decision which seemed to permit a disparate impact case any time an employer’s promotion practices were subjective (which was every employer) and there was a disparate impact (almost every employer).

If Fox is right, this is a giant step in the right direction, and helps correct a pernicious tendency in modern employment law to pressure large employers into maintaining more centralized (and inevitably more bureaucratic) personnel policies.

Radio today: Fox stations, WBAL

I’ll be on the radio a lot today talking about the Supreme Court’s Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision. That includes a bunch of Fox Radio stations at various times between 7 and 11 a.m. EDT, and then the “C4” (Clarence Mitchell IV) show on Baltimore’s WBAL, scheduled for 1:35. More on the Dukes decision here and here.

P.S.: The station lineup includes: KURV (McAllen, TX), WHBC (Canton, OH), WSCC (Charleston, SC), WHAS (Louisville, KY), WERC (Birmingham, AL), WTRC (South Bend, IN), WGST (Atlanta, GA), WSJK (Champaign, IL), WOAI (San Antonio, TX), WSYR (Syracuse, NY), WLNI (Lynchburg, VA), KLIF (Dallas, TX), WTKS (Savannah, GA), WIND (Chicago, IL), KOGO (San Diego, CA), KCOL (Fort Collins, CO), and WAJR (Morgantown, WV).

Law, fairness, and Wal-Mart v. Dukes

I’ve got an instant analysis up at Cato at Liberty of the retailer’s big Supreme Court win today in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the class action certification case. The Court ruled unanimously that the Ninth Circuit had jumped the gun in certifying the case as a class action, and 5-to-4 (Scalia writing) that plaintiffs had failed to assemble the evidence needed for certification. (& welcome Real Clear Politics “Best of the Blogs”, Atlantic Wire, Nicole Neily/Daily Caller, Jon Hyman, SCOTUSBlog)

More: Josh Blackman (with a comment on the Court’s recognition of the work of the late Richard Nagareda), Hans Bader, Jim Copland, John Steele Gordon. Spot-the-errors dept.: Dahlia Lithwick. Briefs and other resources on the case at SCOTUSBlog.

Wal-Mart v. Dukes symposium at Point of Law

The distinguished panel includes Lester Brickman and Myriam Gilles (Cardozo), Richard Epstein (NYU), Jim Copland and Ted Frank (Manhattan Institute), R. Matthew Cairns (Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell and the 2011 president of the Defense Research Institute), Russell Jackson (Skadden), and Andrew Trask (McGuire Woods). You can follow the discussion here.

April 11 roundup

April 2 roundup

  • Schumer: ban gun ownership by persons arrested but not convicted of drug offenses [Jeff Winkler, Daily Caller]
  • Urban-farming pioneer in Oakland may come a cropper for selling produce without license [SFGate via Perry]
  • Harvard-trained Obamanauts’ revenge? Feds investigate Yale for alleged sexually harassive environment [Zincavage] Related: strings attached to federal money for university “sexual assault prevention” include mandatory student sensitivity-training attendance [TBD, more]
  • Trade dumping law as competitive shakedown mechanism [Tabarrok]
  • “Forwarding a Sentence-Long Message from a Listserv = Copyright Infringement?” [Volokh]
  • “Product Defect Case Over Ear Candle Cleared for Trial” [OnPoint News, McConnell/D&D, Abnormal Use]
  • Oh, Title IX, couldn’t you at least leave our booster club alone? [Saving Sports] Wrestling team axe is just the start for men’s sports cuts at Liberty U. [same]
  • “Wal-Mart v. Dukes [Lawyers] Ask Courts To Fix The World” [Dan Fisher, Forbes] Liptak/NYT on use of “social framework” evidence in case [Mass Tort Prof] Rhetoric about “day in court” tends to obscure actual stakes [Daniel Schwartz] More: Hans Bader, and Jon Hyman with many links.