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. Joshua

    BTW i quit walmart because woman ran it and made men do all the hardwork that is i why i must defend walmart at this point they don't deserve a punishment when it's the Individual females who need to look in the mirror and realize there men co workers do so much and there trying to destroy the company.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. mystereo

    The Supreme Court....fighting for Corporate America and foreign interests. That's the American Way.

    March 30, 2011 at 4:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. nimitta

    Hello? When Toobin refers to the "conservative majority" or the "conservative justices", he's referring to Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy – the conservative majority. They were the ones most critical of plaintiff. In his articles he often refers to the "liberal minority" as well. This usage has absolutely nothing to do with Toobin's own politics, just the standard way that publications across the political spectrum – from the WSJ to Mother Jones – refer to the court's obvious demarcation. I support equal pay and am no fan of WalMart, but I don't think it's that hard to understand that if their policy is anti-discriminatory, a reasonable person might question whether the actions of some individual outlets should expose them to such a broad suit.

    March 30, 2011 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. Andrew

    CNNs take on the story, they're conservatives. Good analysis, that's funny that you never blame Liberal politicians or judges for outcomes. Maybe it could be that their argument was right, trying to make a class action lawsuit when they were also trying to say each store was allowed to discriminate in their own way. CNN is so liberal it's sick, when will we get a true news outlet.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. josh

    This Betty Duke needs some form of higher education. I would put money on the fact Betty has never completed and obtained a high school diploma. This lady has more then likely been riding the welfare system, and is now looking for her next meal ticket/ free ride. People like Betty make me sick! Things like this make people with legitimate claims look less crediable and harder to get true justice.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  6. Obelisk

    @Yepitsme: Last I checked (2 minutes ago on Google) there were around 2,000 manufacturers worldwide of blu ray Dvds. 1700 were in China 10 were in the US 6 in the UK and the rest in asia. Just sayin. If you find a Blu ray movie that's made here let me know. But hey nobody else responded to me so kudos. You're attempt to prove me wrong only reinforced my point. Nobody can complain about foreign goods because they all own them. Walmart just happens to move huge amounts of it so it translates into lower costs usually.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. Andreas Moser

    The gap in pay is really the women's fault because they (1) have different priorities in life, and (2) because they judge men according to their wealth and thus force men to compete to earn more and more: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/gender-pay-gap/

    March 30, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  8. Scottish Mama

    My experience at Walmart was wonderful. My managers were alawys trying to tell me to train in positions with a higher pay instead of down grading. There was no discrimination as all my managers were women. Even many of the hi lo drivers were women. This lawsuit is bogus.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      YOu are not the real Scottish Mama, Walmart is the opposite of my fake Scottish Maman opinion. The Managers were tyrants, slept with women in their care, drank on the job, slept in their cars during work, stole merchandize from the floor, and supported this happening with other managers.But everyone else was told to tow the line and do all the work.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. Obelisk

    @Scottish: Aldi sells garbage. If you look at the weight and quality of their canned goods then you'd figure out mathematically it's cheaper to buy a name brand canned good elsewhere. Their meats are garbage as is most of the stuff they sell.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Nope the canned goods weights are the same 14.5 oz.cans at Costco and Aldi's. I have not tried any meats there.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      I try not to and usually it is my other scottish that impersonates me. Are you just a walmart lover? Come to the darkside and shop locally.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chris

    A frivolous lawsuit by bitter women out to make a quick buck.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Yeah all 500,000 to 1.4 million of them.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Obelisk

    @Alyssa: So two wrongs make a right in your world? Lawyers are greedy on both sides. A woman sued McDonalds because the coffe cup didn't say "Hot" on it. I love counter points that enable bad behavior as long as the bad behavior supports your agenda. Lol

    March 30, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. Obelisk

    @Scottish: You've been on here 2 days straight bashing Walmart. I've gotten much accomplished in that time. I looked online for any proof that Walmart takes life insurance out on its greeters and can't find anything solid. You could be working for a living, but instead choose to sit on your rear for 2 days straight (probably skipping showers). I'm going to the gym now. A gym is a place where people exercise so they don't turn into bitter old gelatinous humans. Have fun typing on your foreign made computer all day. You sell out! Lol

    March 30, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Actually I have typed 2 days in a row. I have done many things. The Scottish mama above is not me though, and I can read and type, it does no take long. It looks as though you read all of the blogs. I am glad you go to your gym. I do enough that I do not need to pay for a gym I have one at home. I bought It when I worked at Sams Club. So I know about these instances that I blog about personally. I was management and chose to defend my workers when they were right. The management are exactly as the women portray them to be. Management did speak of insurance on the elderly door greeters. I was the man who had pregnated a woman who worked as his employee, he divorced his wife, lived with her. He was terminated a couple of years ago for drunkenous. I still see people who used to work there and it has not changed. Now I need to go to my gym.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. The Bible is True

    I'm really happy to hear it was a good day in court for Wal-Mart. That wonderful family has been washed in the precious, hot, and coppery smelling blood of their lord and saviour. Unlike those godless lesbian harlots.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. Picard 1

    I'll bet there was some discrimination going on but probably just at the store level and those individual stores & their managers should be investigated and these women might see some compensation but it sounds to me that they have gotten greedy and are trying to bury the entire company which is not a good tact.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. Scottish Momma

    I'm lying. I've never worked before. In fact I'm acutely aware that mom and pop places have more hanky panky and less oversight than a large corporation. The Walmart I was at drug tested it's employees and even fired one that came in drunk. You even have to be on the clock when you speak to anyone about company business. Is every store perfect? Probably not, but most are ran pretty well. I wish the fake Scottish Mama would quit posting her/his Michael Moore propaganda under my name.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      You should learn how to spell my name correctly if you are going to impersonate me.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
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