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. Obelisk

    Nobody will reply to this, but I will give it a shot: Everything you buy (almost) is made somewhere else, no matter where you purchased it. Why doesn't Michael Moore make a movie blasting Nike, Adidas, Toshiba, Best Buy, Dell, Apple (gasp), Polo, the DVD/Video game industry, Hollywood, etc??? Name any store in America that sells american made goods.. None of you can. If you want to make a real difference then quit buying electronics or clothes. Lol hypocrite fools. Where was the computer/cell phone you're using made? My BlackBerry was made in Mexico, so now Obama and myself are unamerican right? Lol You're all so dumb. Go to school and get a good job. If you're ok with making less money then stay at a retail job and hope you move up. When did people get so lazy? The Sam's Club I used to work at has many minorities and women in positions of authority. It wasn't my dream to be a lifer there, but it was good to get me through school. Nobody will reply to this because you all know you own some foreign made product. Changing the outsourcing issue will take an act of congress or a boycott of all foreign goods. That involves reading the label, but clearly reading is asking too much.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • YepItsMe

      On a minor note, Blu-ray discs, last I checked, had 4 operating manufacturing lines in the U.S. Just sayin'.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      I was in Washington D.C. on a business trip and decided to go see the White House. I went into the official White House store to look at the merchandise available. I saw a nice looking statute of Abraham Lincoln as he's depicted on the Lincoln Memorial. I turn it upside down, and stuck to the bottom was a nice "Made in China" sticker. Awesome.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. Obelisk

    @John N. Florida: Exactly and if it is a sin/murder then God will punish you/your wife/Dr accordingly. All these religious clowns always preach about God, yet they want to impose their will in place of God's. As long as people's taxes aren't going towards it then it's not their place to judge.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • JSB

      People mandate their values in society. It's unavoidable. We dictate age of consent or when a person can drink, you can even go to jail for using swear words against someone (verbal assault). It a fallacious argument to say morality can't be mandated. All societies do.

      You disagree that a fetus is a human life. FIne. If you did agree, you'd be just as quick to say it should be protected. The question is not one of imposing morals, but whether or not this creature with a beating heart and neurological activity, that has been scientifically proven to even be able to feel pain, is a human life or not. We unplug those on life support when there is no brain activity. Whatever makes us 'human' seems to be generally agreed to be our ability to think and reason. So, can a fetus think or reason? When most American's say no or probably not – abortion is legal. When they say yes or probably so- it won't be. It's a simple equation.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      JSB, I disagree that the mark for deciding if abortion should be legal is whether the fetus has some sentience. I don't think there's any question that a fetus is a human life. But that's not the reason why a woman should be given the choice to abort it either. A pregnant woman obviously has no ability to separate herself from the child. If she is therefore forced to ensure the survival/health of the unborn her life is therefore subjugated to the life of that child. She is, for all intents and purposes, a slave for 9 months. Since we, as a civilized society, do not abide the existence of slavery, abortion must remain a viable choice for all women, whether the conception of the child was consensual or not.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. Obelisk

    How did we go from Walmart to abortion? Lol I love bloggers. Partisan koolaid anyone?

    March 30, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. Walmart

    We will now be offering 1 free abortion for every $100 you spend with us. 😉

    March 30, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  5. M&M

    Walmart does not discriminate, the womans trying to sue are lazy and want a big paycheck so they can get their big
    dream, a double-wide trailer on wheels, with a refrigerator full of cheap beer and a cupboard full of Kraft Macaroni and
    cheese! It is the truth, when I was in Walmart I overhear a bunch of them talking about that very same dream if you dont
    believe me go to walmart and hide in a isle and you will hear it. Did you know that walmart is run by the democrats AND THE CIA????????? google it and you wil see. I think walmart usees brain wave machines to control your spending habits
    anf that is why people go there.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. epona

    If people would stop shopping at that chit hole we would be better off. I stopped going when I had to finish the transaction bag an old ladies groceries for her after she waited 20 minutes for assistance at a self check out counter. Not that she had any choice. They have pretty much stopped hiring people to do the checking.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Paulus

      Agree completely... The fact that there is only one cashier who works at time in any given Wal-Mart really makes it a waste of time to even go. I always picture a happy face ball holding a whip yelling, "Faster, more, harder." Kind of like that fat guy in "300."

      March 30, 2011 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  7. MrId

    Shop Smart. Shop S-Mart!

    March 30, 2011 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. Your Panties Inna Wad

    I love Wenches, all of them.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. otherwizes

    a better question in all of this would be, 'how many women were OFFERED management positions over the past years with respect to the actual male/female population of possible candidates?

    March 30, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. Marcus68

    Have ot agree with the court on this one. The argument is saying that the discriminitions is basicall "encouraged" by the Walmart corporation, but the policies that are in place do not support that. These women, if they feel they were disciminated against, should go after individual walmart managers for not following Walmart policy. The best they (women) could hope for is to go after the regional managers. My wife works at a Walmart and she does not see any discrimination. A stock room woman makes the same as a stock room guy, there are 4 female and 3 male assistant managers. The store manager is a woman. The store manager is a frien of ours and she makes more than a male couterpart at another store (oh he trained her!).

    March 30, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. GABRIEL

    Equality = Gender Comunism.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Seer

      Equality is what makes the US different from its founding day. Throw it away, and all you have left over is a very wealthy version of Iran.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. CB56

    I find it telling that all of the conservative Judges are lumped together without any quotes being attributed to any. WHO asked what questions would be helpful both conservative and liberal. What answers were given by the legal counsels for both sides. Poorly researched and poorly written with zero information.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. Will 18E

    This is an interesting case, even if you do not like Wal Mart. The issue here which is not clearly spelled out here, is that Wal Mart wants each case's to go forward. But not as a class action. Wal Mart from the very beginning has claimed the six original plaintiffs as individuals were not discriminated, when being denied promotions, for management positions. Wal Mart wants to go to trial with each of six woman and compare each to the individual who was given the promotion over them; thus proving the individuals involved were not discriminated against simple because they are women.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. michael

    if that many feel that way it must be true and as the system would have it the judges are sold out tools that will get there pay some how!

    March 30, 2011 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. Joshua

    I worked at walmart as a man, my managers were all female and all the female co workers did not wanna lift heavy stuff(20lbs is heavy for some of those women). to me this is just 6 women trying to make money and less about women rights, no employer i ever worked for had more diversity than walmart those 6 women should be ashamed of themselves and i hope they lose the battle and end up having to pay the lawyers with there own checks. Woman want same pay for less demanding jobs, thats not fair for the men in the back sweating unloading trucks(were you don't see woman complaining to go and help.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      You seem to equate "demanding" with "physically strenuous". There are other demanding jobs that do not require physical activity.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua

      Alyssia you proove my point women , Women do not give enough credit to hard labor, a place like Walmart is alot of lifting walking and picking stuff up and all the women in walmart wanna door greet, cashier or customer service. If you filla a walmart store with a 100% women workforce there shelves wouldnt be stocked. men can cashier and do customer service but there always sent to do hard stuff, and you proove my point Alysia by blowing off my hard work claim, suggesting the women can go do the easy jobs. trust me when i say any of the guys working there asses off unloading will gladly come up front to greet or cashier.Like i said women choose around hard labor and want hard labor pay for greeting.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
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