Wal-Mart v. Dukes

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Wal-Mart v. Dukes
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 29, 2011
Decided June 20, 2011
Full case name Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Petitioner v. Betty Dukes, et al.
Docket nos. 10-277
Citations 564 U.S. ___ (more)
131 S. Ct. 2541
Prior history District Court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification, 222 F.R.D. 137 (N.D. Cal. 2004); appeals court affirmed, 509 F.3d 1168 (9C 2007), and affirmed en banc, 603 F.3d 571 (9C 2010); cert granted, 2010 WL 3358931.
Holding
No right for class action.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Scalia, joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito; Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan (parts I, III)
Concur/dissent Ginsburg, joined by Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan

Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 564 U.S. ___ (2011), was a United States Supreme Court case. The case was an appeal from the Ninth Circuit's decision in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in which that court, eventually by a narrow 5-4 decision, reversed the district court's decision to certify a class action lawsuit in which the plaintiff class included 1.6 million women who currently work or have worked for Wal-Mart stores, including lead plaintiff Betty Dukes. Dukes, a current Wal-Mart employee, and others have alleged gender discrimination in pay and promotion policies and practices in Wal-Mart stores.[1]

The Court agreed to hear argument on whether a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 23(b)(2) that provides for class-actions where the defendant's actions make injunctive relief appropriate can also be used to file a class-action that demands monetary damages. The Court also asked the parties to argue whether the class meets the traditional requirements of numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation.[2]

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the class should not be certified in its current form, although they disagreed 5-4 on the reason and on allowing it to continue in a different form.

Background[edit]

In 2000 Betty Dukes, a 54-year-old Wal-Mart worker in California, claimed sex discrimination. Despite six years of work and positive performance reviews, she was denied the training she needed to advance to a higher salaried position. Wal-Mart argued Dukes clashed with a female Wal-Mart supervisor and was disciplined for admittedly returning late from lunch breaks.[3]

In June 2001, the lawsuit began in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The plaintiffs sought to represent 1.6 million women, including women who were currently working or who had previously worked in a Wal-Mart store since December 26, 1998.[4]

Judgment[edit]

Federal District Court[edit]

In June 2004, the federal district judge, Martin Jenkins, ruled in favor of class certification under FRCP 23(b)(2).[5] Wal-Mart appealed the decision.

Court of Appeals[edit]

On February 6, 2007, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's class certification. Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the majority, which also included Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, while Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld dissented, criticizing the majority's view of the class certification standards.[6] Wal-Mart promptly filed for a rehearing and a rehearing en banc, contending that the majority committed legal error with regard to whether the grounds for class action certification had been met.

On December 11, 2007, the same Ninth Circuit panel withdrew its initial opinion and issued a subsequent, superseding opinion that still permitted the class certification.[7] The panel dismissed the original petition for rehearing as moot in light of its superseding opinion, on the grounds that the revised opinion addresses the legal errors claimed in the petition, although Wal-Mart was permitted to re-file its petition. Among other changes to its original opinion, the Ninth Circuit altered its opinion with respect to the admissibility of expert testimony and the use of Daubert challenges during a motion for class certification. Wal-Mart again filed for a rehearing en banc.

On February 13, 2009, the Ninth Circuit granted Wal-Mart's petition for rehearing en banc on the class action certification.[8] As a result, the December 2007 Ninth Circuit opinion was no longer effective.[9]

On March 24, 2009 a panel of eleven Ninth Circuit judges, led by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, heard oral arguments for the En Banc appeal.[10] On April 26, 2010, the en banc court affirmed the district court's class certification on a 6-5 vote, with Judge Michael Daly Hawkins writing for the majority and Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta writing for the dissent.[11] Wal-Mart's lead appellate counsel, Theodore Boutrous, Jr., said in a statement that the decision violates "both due process and federal class action rules, contradicting numerous decisions of other federal appellate courts and the Supreme Court itself," and indicated that Wal-Mart would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.[12] Plaintiffs' counsel argue that "Wal-Mart is attempting to dismantle the Supreme Court's employment discrimination class action jurisprudence [that] would require the Court to overrule 45 years of civil rights and class action precedent."[13]

Supreme Court[edit]

On December 6, 2009, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Wal-Mart's appeal as Wal-Mart v. Dukes.[14] Oral argument for the case occurred on March 29, 2011.[15][16]

On June 20, 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in Wal-Mart's favor, saying the plaintiffs did not have enough in common to constitute a class.[17][18] The court ruled unanimously that because of the variability of plaintiffs' circumstances, the class action could not proceed as comprised and 5-4 that it could not proceed as any kind of class action suit.[19] Critics of the opinion allege that the decision makes it incredibly difficult to certify a class without a prohibitive amount of work on the part of plaintiff attorneys. The requirement to look through the class to the merits requires an immense amount of discovery that has not previously been required.


See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ AAUW Stands with the Women of Wal-Mart During U.S. Supreme Court Hearing, American Association of University Women.
  2. ^ 10-277 Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, Questions Presented, Supreme Court of the United States.
  3. ^ Malanga, Steven. "The Tort Plague Hits Wal-Mart". City Journal. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  4. ^ Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Form 10-Q for the Quarterly Period Ended October 31, 2005
  5. ^ https://walmart.walmartclass.com/staticdata/walmartclass/classcert.pdf
  6. ^ Original opinion, February 2007
  7. ^ Revised Opinion, December 2007
  8. ^ Karen Gullo & Margaret Cronin Fisk, Wal-Mart Wins Request in Bias Case, Washington Post, Feb. 14, 2009, p. D-2.
  9. ^ Order for Rehearing En Banc
  10. ^ (audio of the en banc hearing)
  11. ^ Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 603 F.3d 571 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc). Text.
  12. ^ Tresa Baldas (2010-04-26). "Wal-Mart yells 'Supreme Court' after 9th Circuit certifies largest civil class action ever". Law.com. Retrieved 2011-08-11. 
  13. ^ "Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination Class Action Plaintiffs Urge Supreme Court To Uphold Historic Civil Rights and Workers Laws in Brief Filed Today". District of Columbia: Prnewswire.com. 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2011-08-11. 
  14. ^ http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/10-277.htm
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ "10-277.exe" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-08-11. 
  17. ^ SCOTUS decision, June 20, 2011
  18. ^ Daniel Fisher (2011-06-20). "Supreme Court Dumps Wal-Mart Sex-Discrimination Class Action". Blogs.forbes.com. Retrieved 2011-08-11. 
  19. ^ http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2011/06/20/supreme_court_sides_with_wal_mart/

External links[edit]