News briefs are a collection of interesting news stories. This edition is all about SCOTUS…
If you think that the next presidential election is only about Obamacare and other Obama policies, please notice the narrow victories in the United States Supreme Court for centrist issues. The next judge could be a crucial swing vote.
Brief 1: Wal-Mart had to sweat out a Supreme Court appearance that never should have happened. Trail lawyers attempted to create the largest class action suit of all time against the giant retailer. Some estimates of the number of participants reached over 1.5 million women. In a rare 9-0 decision SCOTUS ruled against a lower courts decision to allow the unfettered class action lawsuit, however, they voted 5-4 against whether the women had grounds to proceed (Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented). Consider some of these quotes from the story as they illustrate the vehemence with which they hold Wal-Mart and the sick desire to stick it to a capitalist entity;
“It certainly strikes us that this decision makes it much harder for plaintiffs going forward to get class-certified in situations where there is not a specific, clearly identifiable practice that is responsible for the difference between men and women or black and white workers,”
“I don’t think (Wal-Mart) is too big to be sued. That culture is going to have to be attacked on a lot of different fronts one at a time. Sometimes, you can die just as effectively from a lot of small cuts as you can from one big wound.”
“They are gate-keeping decisions about the procedural rules that govern what it takes to get any case into federal court, but together, they tend to keep job discrimination plaintiffs out of the courthouse,”
…and a good quote,
“I think the court correctly noted that the case was unacceptably broad and was simply too expansive to be properly managed. This case was obviously cobbled together with the hopes of extracting a large settlement from a large employer,”
Brief 2: This decision seemed like bad news when part of the headline read “EPA’s power affirmed,” however, in this case EPA’s power is best affirmed and perhaps even controlled by congress. The case was brought by left-leaning states (Connecticut, California, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont – What was Iowa doing with this group?) as an attempt to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. This was another 9-0 decision by SCOTUS,
“Congress designated an expert agency, here, EPA, as best suited to serve as primary regulator of greenhouse gas emissions. The expert agency is surely better equipped to do the job than individual district judges issuing ad hoc, case-by-case injunctions.”
I was once described as vengeful by one of my children (not really mean, but willing to “return the favor or slight”) and if I were one of these power companies in one of those states, I might cut power in say January of 2012 and see how much their voters care about greenhouse gas emissions.
Brief 3: The last case was nearly a unanimous decision also when SCOTUS ruled regarding free speech of an officer who aired his personal grievances at public hearings.
“The right of a public employee under the Petition Clause is a right to participate as a citizen, through petitioning activity, in the democratic process. It is not a right to transform everyday employment disputes into matters for Constitutional litigation in the federal courts. It is precisely to avoid this intrusion into internal governmental affairs that this Court has held that, while the First Amendment invests public employees with certain rights, it does not empower them to ‘Constitutionalize’ the employee grievance.”
Some are trying to characterize the case as against “whistleblowers”, but that argument is just a lot of wind. It seems like this decision could come up again as many governors attempt to reign in public sector unions and teacher unions in particular. Images of union thugs taking over Wisconsin’s government buildings to air their grievances comes to mind.