July 11, 2011
On June 20, 2011, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a class-action lawsuit brought by current and former Wal-Mart employees. The respondents alleged that nearly 1.5 million women were discriminated against on the basis of sex during their time of employment at thousands of Wal-Mart stores across the country. The main question before the Court was whether questions of law or fact common to the class existed, which is a requirement of Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Scalia, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that the plaintiff class did not meet the commonality requirement of Rule 23(a) and therefore could not be certified as a class. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito joined Justice Scalia’s opinion. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Parts I and III of Justice Scalia’s opinion. Justice Ginsburg also filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, which Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined.
To discuss the case, we have Brian T. Fitzpatrick, who is an Associate Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University Law School.