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A look ahead at the 2011 calendar for the Supremes

2011 Supreme Court

By Francis Rojas

The Supreme Court will hear a variety of cases in February and March, which range from the use of the confrontation clause to class actions.  Getting updates on these arguments, the legal briefs filed, and the discussion during the hearing can give you a real taste about what topics are contested and how they are adopted by different jurisdictions.

From an employment law practioner’s perspective, I am really interested in how the Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes et al. will be decided.  The Ninth Circuit upheld the class action certification of sex discrimination claims against Wal-Mart.  The class, 1.5 million women, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.  The main issue on appeal relates to the applicability and interpretation of Rule 23(b)(2).  In other words, does Rule 23(b)(2) allow the class to obtain monetary relief?  How is primarily monetary relief defined?  Also in play is the question of whether class certification was appropriate, generally.  So potentially, this case can severely limit class actions by taking out monetary relief that plaintiffs are otherwise entitled to, and make a determination of what discrimination cases appropriately follow Rule 23.  Can you obtain a class action under a sex discrimination disparate pay and promotion pattern and practice?  Are all the claims sufficiently related?

Other cases that will be heard in February and March are summarized here.  Petitions that are pending can be found here.  The petitions on the pipelines range from attorney fees in civil right cases, what is proper FMLA notice given to an employer, to immigration and criminal law.  I find that reviewing these cases can give you a quick and easy summary of what is going on in the legal world, and what changes might be coming to federal courts.

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