class action litigation

  • January 4, 2011
    Later this year the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, involving the nation's largest class action worker discrimination lawsuit. The question before the justices involves whether the class action lawsuit can proceed against the retailing giant.

    In a recent appearance on CNN's "The Situation Room," Suzette Malveaux, a law professor at Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law, says the Wal-Mart case is one of the major ones to watch this year. At the 3:34 mark of the CNN video, Malveaux notes that 1.5 million women are alleging pay and promotion discrimination against Wal-Mart. Malveaux says the question before the high court may appear technical, but that "class action is really important."

    Sometimes, Professor Malveaux continues, the class action is the "only way you can challenge nationwide, company-wide misconduct." An individual might not be able to afford a lawyer or might be hesitant to take on an employer. "So there's strength in numbers, and the class action is sometimes the only way people have their day in court," she says.

    A recent Los Angeles Times editorial also touched upon the importance of class action lawsuits, saying they "are often the only way to achieve justice for workers who can't -and shouldn't have to - proceed with anti-discrimination claims individually. But whether such suits can go forward depends on a court's determination that there are questions of law and fact common to members of the class. This case is a bold attempt to persuade a conservative Supreme Court to dramatically narrow the criteria for determining what a class is. If Wal-Mart succeeds, victims of discrimination in future cases will find it much more difficult to pursue justice. There is currently no limit on the size of a class, nor should there be."

  • January 27, 2010

    A recent ACS panel discussion focused on a string of Supreme Court cases that some court observers and lawmakers say limit individual and class action lawsuits. The event, "Access to Justice in Federal Courts," included a keynote address from the ACLU's Anthony Romero and two panel discussions moderated by New York University School of Law Professor Arthur R. Miller.

    The first panel discussion focused on the recent Supreme Court decisions, Ashcroft v. Iqbal and Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, which have given federal district court judges greater discretion to quickly dismiss lawsuits. Those decisions have sparked concern among civil rights groups and spurred lawmakers to push legislation that would remove strictures on access to the courts.

    During the panel discussion on Iqbal and Twombly, Alexander A. Reiner, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law professor and counsel to Javaid Iqbal before the U.S. Supreme Court, said those decisions have given courts the ability to "get rid of cases they don't like." He added that civil rights cases, in particular, have been hindered by those decisions.

    The panel on class action litigation, also focused on recent Supreme Court decisions that have created restrictions and other limitations on class actions. Elizabeth J. Cabraser, a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP noted an activist bent of the current Supreme Court. "We have a court with a frequent majority that claims not to be in the business of judicial activism or making new law," Cabraser said. "But we have new law after new law after new law cooked up in the Supreme Court. It is a radical court."

    Video of the Romero's keynote address and both panel discussions are available here or by clicking picture below.