Toobin: High Court addressed only class size, not discrimination, in Wal-Mart suit
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a class-action lawsuit involving hundreds of thousands of plaintiffs was simply too large.
June 20th, 2011
11:41 AM ET

Toobin: High Court addressed only class size, not discrimination, in Wal-Mart suit

The Supreme Court on Monday put the brakes on a massive job discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart.  The suit was the largest class-action suit in U.S. history - and, says Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst, therein lies the problem.

Toobin, who was in the courtroom for opening arguments in March, spoke on "CNN Newsroom" after the high court's ruling was announced.  He shared his initial impressions of the ruling and noted that he was still reading the "complicated" decision.

He said the class-action status - potentially involving hundreds of thousands of female workers - was too large.

"The Supreme Court has basically said this is too big a case," Toobin said. "The facts are so different regarding each of the plaintiffs that it’s not fair to Wal-Mart to lump them into one case."

The decision in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes (10-277) did not represent the usual political divisions within the high court, Toobin said. The nine justices simply thought the class was too big under the rules governing class-action suits.

"The decision was 5-4, in part, but it was basically unanimous that the case had to be thrown out," Toobin said, adding that the court did not rule on whether Wal-Mart had ever discriminated.

The ruling was not a surprise. In March, Toobin predicted the case would be thrown out, based on the Supreme Court justices' responses to oral arguments.

The case could be resuscitated, Toobin said, but attorneys would have to "figure out another way to get the courts to consider the possibility that there was enormous gender discrimination at Wal-Mart."

"That conversation will continue. This lawsuit in its current form will not," he added, saying the lawsuit could be reconfigured into several smaller lawsuits, which would pose less of a threat to Wal-Mart.

"This was a case that even a company as big as Wal-Mart had to fear in terms of the financial repercussions. But now, they don't have to fear that any more, and Wal-Mart and its directors are certainly breathing very easy today," Toobin said.

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Filed under: Courts • Justice • Lawsuit • Supreme Court • U.S.
soundoff (189 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    Walmart...Too Big To Sue...???...especially during current economic conditions and job losses???
    Walmart...Too Big To Fail...???...Lehman Brothers...Bank of America...GM???...Sounds familar...?!?!
    Big Business vs. Consumer/Employee/Tax Payer....No contest!!
    Haves vs. Have Nots...Class Warfare...
    Fall of the Roman Empire...French Revolution

    June 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Too big to sue is not the ruling, too many suing to handle the case is the ruling.

      June 20, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. James

    For all the nashing of teeth, most people are paying no attention at all to what the court actually said.
    - No one said Wal-Mart was too big to sue.
    - No one said Wal-Mart was not guilty
    - No one said Wal-Mart could not be sued.
    What they said was that 1.6 million workers were too diverse a group to meet the standards for a Class Action and that the Ninth Circuit had lowered the Class Action standards too low. As the article says, they can easily break into several class action suits based on groups with similiar situations and then proceed/

    June 20, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • linda

      I am glad you read the same thing I read. That is exactly what the justices are saying. Any other time, I would be on the side of the others if it said what they think it said. They should break it up into separate categories and then sue their

      June 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jason

    Gee, I wonder why companies don't want to hire? It's the crazy liberal revenge fantasy schemes we have brewing in this ever-growing nation of psychotics. Not only do companies have to pay insane workers comp and unemployment insurance and the highest corporate tax rates in the world, but now they have the added pressure from a group of parasitic leech attorneys who want them to pay out to people who made the decision to work at an agreed hourly rate and were paid every penny of their agreed to hourly rate, but 10 years later feel they are owed something. It's going to get to a point where the only way to get a job in this country is "under the table" like the underground economy of the illegal immigrants.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • FatSean

      The effective corporate tax rates are quite low, actually.

      And yes, we workers want to have a better standard of living than the Chinese folks.

      Your troll is a pretty bad cut and paste of various right-wing talking points. You should touch it up, add a personal touch.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Yeah, should make us all serfs and put d&%kheads like you as overseers

      June 20, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • THINK

      Don't worry, you'll get your wish. It's called SLAVERY. Don't think it's coming?

      June 21, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mauibucky

    "So you're against affordable goods for the poor? You selfishly want people to pay higher prices for goods and services to support your own political agenda? And you do not understand that entrepreneurship and business create wealth, right? Not the gov't?! It must be nice to afford your point of view."

    Trouble, when the entrepeneurs move the jobs to the poorest countrues , there is only two eventual outcomes; either the American workforce accept the $ 200.00 per- month wages paid in China and lower the US standard of living to Third World status or we stop buying cheap Chinese goods and force the capitalists to respond to demand and bring the jobs back here. Capitalists have proven very clearly in the past decade that they are self-serving sociopaths. The only thing they will respond to is their own self interests. Any effort by the government to correct the situation at this point will be met with pressure from Republicans and eventual failure. Our only hope is in the market place. We have to change our spending habits. That WILL mean paying more for goods, but it will bring back jobs to Americans. And don't pretend Wal-Mart or Target are somehow altruists, selling to the poor. That's just naive delusion.They are in this to make money and are pricing their goods to sell quickly to whomever walks in their doors.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • FatSean

      That's the problem. Stupid low income "conservatives" buy into the BS. They ignore the real cost of goods, care only about the dollar cost. Shopping at Walmart and Target is telling the CEOs that more jobs should be off-shored in the name of a few cents off of a product.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • THINK

      "self-serving sociopaths" – EXACTLY. If everyone would go out and read about one type of person that actually exists – the Psychopath – they would know who is know in charge of everything. Their number one goal is to move to the top so they can be in charge over people....they exist. And when in charge, their only goal is destruction and to put misery on other people. They live for nothing else.

      June 21, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. ray

    Imagine if slavery was still legal in the United States, this court would have had cases against it thrown out because the pool would have been "to large". Now we know, if you want to abuse people just make sure that you abuse hundreds of thousands of people. Also, being based in Texas(walmart), with a "Texas" appointed supreme court doesn't hurt either(hint hint)

    June 20, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Wal-Mart is based in Arkansas, Benton I believe.

      June 20, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ray

    Strange, Walmart gets caught hiring thousands of illegal workers and nothing happens to them, hmm. It pays to friends in high (supreme court) places

    June 20, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. john

    @scarlet: Hit the nail on the head there, no cure for ignorant people like you. BTW I've worked with so many lazy people in my lifetime I've stopped counting and decided it was much easier just to pick up their slack.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • THINK

      John – It seems the lazy people who don't think belong in your party: "A poll indicated that after 2004 US Presidential Election 76% of voters who shopped at Wal-Mart once a week voted for George W. Bush, while only 23% supported senator John Kerry"

      June 21, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. john

    @Jane Doe: most corporations have done that to re coop training and other business expenses for hiring someone. The policies were very small policies 25grand that barely covers training all of the withholding taxes and unemployment and workmans comp. What you failed to mention though is that Walmart also paid for an equivalent life insurance policy for all workers that did pay our to the families free of charge to the employee but hey why let facts get in your way.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. john

    @ray: the illegal aliens you're talking about weren't hired by Walmart. They were hired by floor crews that walmart outsourced, after that happened walmart went back to hiring their own floor crew personnel. Poor oversight on part of the stores where it happened at, certainly. Intentional on walmart's part certainly not.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joe

    @Scarlet, actually I'm an atheist so don't make stupid assumptions. Now go back to collecting your welfare and eating your bon bons. Don't worry Obama will take care of you. @TRouble, glad it gave you a chuckle it is true though.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. joe

    @Me Bentonville Arkansas, just north of Fayetteville about thirty miles or so.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. john

    The real problem is a bunch of lazy good for nothing liberals who think that everybody owes them something.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. john

    I have news for most you people who are whining about shopping mom and pop stores, most of their product comes from overseas too it's just that you're paying more for it, so if that makes you feel good hey knock yourselves out. BTW you won't be creating any more American jobs you'll just be shifting them to even lower paying jobs with no benefits at all. Just a reality check for you.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Alex K

    Looks like a win for big corporations. Do you believe the law suit is justified?



    June 20, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Curltron

      Why arn't you offering a poll on the actual decision of the supreme court?

      June 22, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Maria Lopez

    only illegal wetbacks believe in the "American Dream"

    June 21, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
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