Toobin: 'Very good day in court for Wal-Mart'
Activists supporting efforts to allow a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart hold signs in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
March 29th, 2011
07:52 PM ET

Toobin: 'Very good day in court for Wal-Mart'

The Supreme Court's conservative majority didn't appear impressed Tuesday with plaintiffs' arguments that more than 1 million female Wal-Mart workers, past and present, should be able to accuse the retailer of discrimination in one class-action lawsuit, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.

Though a ruling isn't expected until late June, the justices' reactions during oral arguments might portend a defeat for six plaintiffs who want to band with employees from across the country and make their accusations in a single, massive trial, Toobin said.

"I thought it was a very good day in court for Wal-Mart, and I would not be at all surprised if the whole case were thrown out after listening to the justices today,” Toobin said on "CNN Newsroom."

The Supreme Court is deciding whether the original lawsuit, in which six female Wal-Mart workers allege systemic discrimination in which the retailer paid women less than men and gave women fewer promotions, can be given class-action status.

A decision to allow such a large suit, with nearly 1.6 million potential plaintiffs, would represent an enormous litigation risk for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Should Wal-Mart lose such a suit, it could face tens of billions of dollars in damages.

But the Supreme Court's conservative justices appeared skeptical of arguments for allowing a class action, Toobin said.

Both sides concede that Wal-Mart has official policies barring discrimination against women and  listing diversity as an important value, Toobin said.

"What the plaintiffs' lawyers were saying (Tuesday) was that that policy was so vague that it gave local, individual store managers the opportunity to discriminate against women," Toobin said. "The more conservative justices on the court were saying, 'Well, if that’s the case, how can you try them all together? Because each store had a different set of circumstances. How can you do a class action when the policy is a fair one, a good one, and it’s only the individuals who were possibly discriminated against?'"

A decision to allow a class-action suit might lead Wal-Mart to try to settle the case to get the "enormous risk off its books," Toobin said.

"But after today, I think Wal-Mart will be a lot less willing to settle, because it looks like much or all of the case may be thrown out by what is an increasingly conservative Supreme Court," Toobin said.

- CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears and CNN's Randi Kaye contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Business • Courts • Justice • Lawsuit • Supreme Court
soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. Teen Age Mutant Rodent Bung Super/Fighters

    We love shoping there ! Thats where we buy our back packs for Rodent-Bung Super-Fighting !

    March 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • RAMBLE3144

      CNN's "fair article" starts out by saying the judges are conservative, implying that's why the case will go for Walmart. Would CNN start out by saying the judges are liberal in a mirror-image situation? No.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      the judges are conservative. just a fact.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • RAMBLE3144

      How about starting articles with this fact, "liberal president Barack Obama..."

      March 29, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • tpot

      toodbin is a left leaning frustrated lawyer and is rarely correct in his predictions or his stances

      March 30, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Paulus

      As if the women in the lawsuit will get anything anyway. They will each get a check for $0.85 and the lawyers will collect millions. For that reason alone I will take Wal-Mart's side.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • eldono

      The US has made a marked shift from liberal to conservative from 2008 to 2010 thanks to the Dems . Conservative isn't a bad word now. Most conservatives (especially in WI) are keeping quiet and approve of anything that gets back at the Liberals and their left leaning slide toward Socialism.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Eldono: if the conservatives in Wisconsin are happy with anything that hurts liberals, there aren't as many as you might think. Polls have consistently showed that Walker's policies are unpopular and continue to lose support. This is not wishful thinking by liberals - conservative polls show it, too. Even if conservative Wisconsinites like to attack liberals, they apparently have limits to what they will tolerate, and the republicans in government appear to be crossing that line for more and more of them.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Seer

      Gee, if you actually KNEW what socialism is, then someone might pay attention to your parroting of Faux News. Nothing about this case has anything to do with socialism, since the government is not involved in any transfer of value. Laws protecting workers exist equally in socialist and capitalist nations and have more to do with the morality of the people in the nation including their committment to equality (as the founders of our country were) than they have to do with a political system.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
    • marc mccarron

      Why shop at Walmart? They crap on everyone. The store is depressing anyway. White trash boutique.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      Paulus, you don't think WalMart's lawyers get millions too?

      March 30, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Unless the women have a lawyer that is working that he gets money only if they receive money.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Scottish Mama

    How about state by state? Starting with the six and whoever wants to support their claim in California.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • bnakka

      Why would yuo do that? An accusation is not enough to get a class action lawsuit. I think these 6 women were just bitter they didn't get the job they were expecting just from being there for a long time. Why don't all the non college grad employees sue because they were discriminated when their college grad employees make more than them?

      March 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • haremettle

      Women and minorities are only in the last 10-15 years getting to where white men have been all along, as far as promotions and vocational success is concerned. So now that they've gotten here, it seems they've discovered that it isn't as easy as it looks. Turns out, you still need talent and hard work to be successful. Quit whine-ing about what everyone else is doing to you, and make steps to change your own situation.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • stephen

      If the supreme court says that it can't recieve class action status I'm not sure they can go back state by state at that point since the supreme court usually has final say in these matters and will set a precedent if they rule it is a store by store issue. They my be able to get class action for female employees of a single store, but that is it.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      They are getting away with this because they argue they are too large for a class-action suit. They are too large for justice? This is not about the validity of the cases, but about not allowing a huge corporation to corrupt our court system. If you think this is all about women and thats all, then I have a bridge to sell you. This is indicative of a much, much larger problem. The concentration of power in the U.S. and its devastating effects on and the corruption of or government and judicial systems. This will have much larger implications...

      March 29, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      bnakka: these women are not just bitter - their cases are quite solid. CNN ran an article about their particular cases a little while back, and the details are available from many sources. I suggest you look them up before dismissing these women like Walmart did.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      They are not voting on the validity of the case, just if they can use a class action suit.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. ThomasD

    What did they expect? You cant fight corporate billions. If the judges hadn't chosen that reason, they'd have chosen another. Walmart has us by the short hairs. Even those in high places.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • anon

      You are an idiot.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Krystal

      well put anon

      March 30, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Seer

      Given that Thomas and Scalia regularly take "bribes" of fancy business trip from corporate sponsors who them "mysteriously" are the beneficiaries of their judgements (Citizens United being exhibit A), I'd have to say that the facts are on ThomasD's side, not "anon"s.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense

      Seriously! Have you even heard the main woman speak? She sounds like a retarded hoodrat. She's complaining that Wal-Mart isn't giving her an opportunity to move up in the company when, in reality, a door greeter is about all she's worth. If I were the manager, I would've fired her for acting too ghetto. When are we going to come to our senses and banish thug life from our society? Please answer me you liberals!!! When??? It's not cool. Now, we're having to pay taxes so that these thug life retards can sue Wal-Mart...forcing them to raise our prices? AHHHHHHHHH! Liberals frustrate me so bad!

      March 30, 2011 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mmmmm

    those 1 million women should boycott
    wal-mart!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      How about all women boycott Walmart in solidarity?

      March 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darth Vadik, CA

      I do it anyway, after the way they treat their employees...Target is my store and to heck with Wall Mart...

      March 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • G

      I shop Wally world as a store of last resort. I prefer to not support their "everything made in China" policy as well as their HR policies. This is in addition to the fact that they are wiping out small business' across America and the rest of the planet, where ever they go. Many, if not most, of their products are of low quality. You get what you pay for but I do understand that sometimes that is all you need or all you can afford.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      that is the problem with all the concentration of wealth – whether individual or corporate. It leaves less in the mid-level economy. Smaller businesses have a harder time generating wealth when there is less circulating at a local level. Just think a few years back before all these mega corps and the extreme concentration of wealth – mid sized businesses were thriving. The average person made more. More money circulated at the mid levels of our economy. Now wealth is concentrated leaving us with large employers and not much else...especially in rural areas.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      @darth vadik If you think target treats their people and better or differently than wal mart, you are an idiot

      March 29, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cathyycott myself.

      I agree and as one that was discriminated against i d join the boycott myself.

      April 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Scottish Mama

    Bad day for women.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • budha

      lol back to the kitchen

      March 29, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Not hardly, get back to work bread winners and bring that bacon home. I need my allowance to pay the maid in the kitchen!

      March 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Mmmmm Baked bread, smells good.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. ThomasD

    @ mama. I think thats a great idea. Problem is, doing your shopping elsewhere could see your grocery bill double. Few stores can compete and in this economy people have to get what they need as cheap as possible. Walmart knows this. I would love to see a huge boycott though.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Family dollar, general dollar, big lots, any thrift store...don't have to do wal-mart and throw in the coupons...kiss 'em goodbye!

      March 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      In other words, Thomas, you'd sell out your principles, like that woman on the street corner in a bad neighborhood, late at night? You'd buy the cheap Chinese junk from Walmart, because you worry more about your wallet than equality, honor and American values?

      March 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • MKIII

      When American Values and Integrity are an option to pay my bills with I will stop buying from Wal Mart until then no.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sunsandstars

      @Wzrd1 when your poor and living pay check to pay check, your more worried about eating and your wallet then equallity, its something you dont have time to worry about.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • jenart

      Newest study shows that Target gives Walmart a run for its money in terms of pricing. I'd rather shop at Target any day than Walmart. Some of the merchandise isn't worth the money. False economy purchasing stuff from Walmart.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Shannon

    Um. It's called Target. or the Dollar Store. WalMart is not the only option if you're a spendthrift.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Not disagreeing with you, but an FYI, spendthrift doesn't mean what you think it does.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      hahaha good call matt

      March 29, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Teen Age Mutant Ninja Rodent Bung Super/Fighters

    @blogers tell frenchy this mission is now under teen age ninja rodent-bung super-fighter-command !!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JOHN

    This Government is run by the rich now they are making the rules it's time to take our world back billions of us few of them.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Yeah, you let us know how that works out for you. All you need to do is defeat the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, FBI, Secret Service, BATF, DHS, NSA and about a dozen other federal agencies. Not counting the National Guard, State Troopers and local police.
      You MIGHT be a BIT outgunned there...

      March 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      I've got news for you, this Government and all other Governments around the world have always been run by the rich.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bryan

    Wal Mart too big? I say Too Bad !
    Wake Up America, Wal Mart is a cancer in our society.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomFoolery

      Actually, Wal Mart has probably done more to raise the standard of living of many Americans than most other companies. They cater to the middle class and poor, who are their primary customers. Those people go to Wal Mart, and vote in favor of that company, with their dollars, because they get good value for those dollars.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Aldi's stores are cheaper on canned goods and almost every other Item.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      Maybe Aldi's stores are, but I've never heard of them, so they're clearly not as far reaching as WalMart is. Though I do prefer Target.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. raven

    And so it begins ...even with a million women,they cant fight Wallys . Even if theyre in the wrong Wallys has the resources and time to fight and tie this up in court til the cows come home. Whenever THAT is...

    March 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • tonyS

      Well, maybe they – as a corporation, are simply NOT wrong here and that the class-action lawsuit would be unwarranted.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomFoolery

      It isn't the numbers, it is the validity of their complaint. They are suing for one reason, and one reason only, because Wal Mart has lots of money, and they hoped to get a huge shakedown settlement by creating this class action suit. Unfortunately, as mentioned in the story, they failed utterly to show a pattern of systematic (not "systemic") discrimination, admitting that official company policy forbids it, and that company policy encourages "diversity."

      March 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @Tomfoolry actually it is the numbers. Walmart is saying the numbers of the people are too large and it is different kinds of discrimination at different stores. The ruling is to see if other can join in the original 6 womens claim.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. bnjmn375

    I almost never shop at wal-mart unless I absolutely have to. They treat their employees badly, pay them poorly, do everything they can to drive small businesses out, while four of the memebers of the family are in the top 20 richest people in America. They are the poster child for corperate exploitation of workers in America.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      What I find interesting is, OUR local Walmart's shelves are mostly empty in the kitchen appliance department. It makes me wonder if they're on credit hold, like Kmart was before the Sears merger...

      March 29, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomFoolery

      It is hardly ever the actual employees of Wal Mart who do this complaining, it is nose in the air elites, who are far richer than those people, who arrogantly disparage the jobs and pay those people receive. Ask an employee of that company why they are there. It's because they believe that is their best option.

      Wal Mart is the largest employer in the world, with over 2 million employees. Most of those people are better off working there than in other opportunities, or they wouldn't be there. Like most employees, they might grouse about how unfairly they are treated, but what they don't do is vote with their feet, by leaving for other jobs.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • YepItsMe

      @Wzrd1

      Their appliances (along with all of housewares) is going through its semi-annual reset this week, which is likely why you see the empty shelves of the models they're no longer carrying. You should start to see them full again within the next week.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  13. Andrew

    The supreme court has made a lot of stupid decisions lately. For example, giving corporations power to spend at will on political campaigns, denying Troy Davis a retrial/stay of execution despite a clear and reasonable doubt of his guilt (7 of 9 recanted, one of them who didn't recant was a suspect in the case). Now of course this. The discrimination case is clearly worthy of a class action lawsuit since the problem has apparently been so widespread. It appears that the supreme court looks more at the credentials of the lawyers rather than the arguments made. More money buys better lawyers which win your case. It's sickening.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      You forgot the Westboro Baptist Church decision. Apparently, you no longer have a right to peace and privacy in this once great nation, Westboro's rights disparage yours.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomFoolery

      I don't see you offering anything other than a circular argument here, assuming the correctness of the claims, and then using that as your evidence, as opposed to putting forth any substantive refutation of the position of the court. To create this class action, it is not sufficient to claim that 6 women may have been discriminated against, and then extrapolate that to the whole company, especially given the undisputed company policies that forbid exactly this behavior.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. crisy

    I work at my local Wal-Mart and honestly, there is pay discrimination... but it seems they try to make it less noticeable by doing it by department, I work in the apparel area and I make less then everyone else in the store, yet I unload trucks, I answer and direct calls for the store phone, I work the fitting room, claim out damaged items, put out freight, help customers, work in other departments, and I'm still making less. But the hardware, paper goods and chemicals, electronics, TLE, garden center, are almost entirely male departments and they are making at least 40 cents more per hour than my department.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • kdude

      If you're happy with your pay, then, work, and be happy.. If you're not, quit... Its that simple!
      There is no reason you should ever know what your co-worker makes. Its none of your business.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      I work at my local wal-mart too. I work in the deli, of which I am the only male working in the entire department. it is a very heavily female department, yet we get paid more than any position in the store that is non-management. As well, there have been tons of recent promotions, most of them all females getting promoted to male jobs. And guess what, they do nothing but complain about the responsibility.

      It is very easy to say something is bad by leaving out the obvious fallacies.

      If you don't like your pay, leave the store, and find another job. Nobody is forcing you to work at wal-mart. And don't give me a line about not being able to just up and find another job, because McDonald's, I hear, is always looking for employees.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Britney

      kdude is right. Stop comparing your pay with others. If you do, and if you find you are being paid less, just quit. If you think you are worth more money, you will definitely find job elsewhere. Stop cribbing. I have learnt one thing, all we poor people do is find ways to blame the rich. They are rich for some reason, they are either hard working or lucky. Don't have either of them? Then stop blaming others but yourself.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Sams club and Walmart cross train you is what she is saying and alot of times they will put you in a low paying position and then work you in another position that they pay higher to a man.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. bobuddy

    i am happy that someone has the money and time to let the world know how they treat the women in there stores there lots of problems but people need there jobs please continue for us all at wal-mart

    March 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Boycott walmart until they put more women in leadership...we will be looking forward to the national commercial informing the american people how you are going to do that...

      March 29, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryan

      Yes people need their jobs, and did you know Wal Mart is the leader in causing jobs to go to China and elsewhere. Many good people have lost their jobs do to their greed.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • JThomas

      Brian, I guess it has nothing to do with the intelligence or education level of so many of those Wal-Mart employees? I mean, look at you defending the lawsuit and claiming Wal-Mart is bad (which I'm not denying) and you can barely put a cohesive, grammatically correct sentence together, much less spell.

      Ah yes, if you didn't study in school and never really cared to educate yourself, blame your woes on big, bad corporate America.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Col. Bat Guano

      JThomas, I bet you like the smell of your own farts. No, I guarantee that you do.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
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