Saturday, December 27, 2008

Issues We're Not Going to Be Seeing at the Supreme Court Soon

Supct_2It's the time of year to reflect back, and so I'll reflect back on the Supreme Court's most recent conference and the labor and employment petitions that the Court denied. There were five of them (the links are to the appellate court opinions): Alabama v. Pope; Philadelphia v. Lawrence; Phillips v. Gaston County; Bowie v. Personnel Bd. of Jefferson County; and Waris v. Harris County Pub. Health & Environmental Services.

The issue in Pope was whether an individual who wins a civil rights case has a right under federal law to recover attorneys’ fees from someone else who shared in that victory. In the underlying case, the state had eventually taken the side of a white worker who had lost a promotion because of a court-imposed requirement for racial preferences in state employment, and the lower courts had awarded that worker fees from the state on the theory that the worker was a prevailing party. The Eleventh Circuit Court upheld that award against the state of Alabama in a case involving a court-imposed requirement for racial preferences in state employment actions. 

The issue in Lawrence involved whether the city of Philadelphia owes back pay for overtime to paramedics who do not regularly fight fire. The case turned on whether those paramedics had "legal authority and responsibility" for fire suppression activities within the meaning of section 203(y) of the FLSA. The Third Circuit Court ruled that the paramedics were primarily medical workers and were not exempted from the overtime pay provision.

In Phillips, the issue involved the standard to be used to determine whether a county police officer employee had a property interest in continued employment under North Carolina law. The Fourth Circuit had held not, but had further affirmed the district court's ruling that the officer was discharged for cause.

In Bowie, the Eleventh Circuit had held that a court appointed receiver in bankruptcy was not an employer for purposes of Title VII (and would also have judicial immunity even if Title VII allowed a person to be individually liable) such that the receiver may not be held liable under Title VII for actions taken by him or her as a receiver.

In Waris, the Fifth Circuit had held that the pro se plaintiff failed to establish prima facie case of race or national origin discrimination in connection with the termination of his employment seven weeks after he was hired as clinic manager for defendant county, because he presented no evidence of disparate treatment and that the district court did not act improperly in declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction of plaintiff's state law claims once summary judgment was granted on federal claims.

The only one that surprised me was the Pope case. I would have thought that the result in that case would have rubbed the majority of the Justices the wrong way. The others all seem to be relatively narrow issues, not presenting much that is in great controversy at the moment.

Hat tip: Paul Secunda



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About all that I will predict (and I'm probably wrong) is that the Court will issue its decision in Locke v. Karass on 12 January. And it's for an entirely silly reason: I was in California when it granted cert., vacated, and remanded in my last case in 2000, and I'm scheduled for a status conference in LA on that date.

Posted by: James Young | Dec 28, 2008 5:25:31 PM

As someone for whom lightning has recently struck (and struck once before, on a GVR, in 2000), I wish I could figure out the rhyme or the reason behind which petitions are granted and which are denied, but one could waste much time attempting to predict what the Justices will do. I think even educated and informed guesses are just that: guesses.

Posted by: James Young | Dec 28, 2008 5:25:32 PM

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