2013 Halfway Report: How the Supreme Court Has Treated Business

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Are you flustered, flummoxed and flabbergasted that 2013 is already halfway over?

I am.

Don’t despair. This week we’ll be reviewing all the significant legal developments so far this year to make sure no one misses anything.

We’ll start with the highest court in the land.

Do the Supremes love business?

The answer is a fairly resounding “yes,” according to most commentators.

“The Supreme Court strengthened the hand of business in the session that comes to a close this week,” according to today’s Wall Street Journal. Deepak Gupta, a prominent plaintiffs’ lawyer, called the Court’s 2013 rulings “a near blood-bath for class-action plaintiffs’ lawyers.” He added: ”The court is so hostile to class actions that any victory for plaintiffs, no matter how straightforward, is a surprise.”

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Big winners this year have included American Express, Comcast, Royal Dutch Shell and Standard Fire Insurance. Among other things, the High Court:

  • Struck down attempts by trial lawyers to avoid the effects of the Class Action Fairness Act, a 2005 statute designed to funnel class actions into federal rather than state courts;
  • Ruled that trial lawyers may have violated privacy laws by obtaining DMV records to recruit plaintiffs for lawsuits;
  • Upheld a lower court ruling ordering a plaintiff to pay the legal costs of her employer after she sued for harassment and lost; and,
  • Made it harder for companies to be sued in the U.S. for human rights abuses that occurred abroad.

According to Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer who argued the landmark Wal-Mart v. Dukes and Standard Fire cases: Justices on both the left and the right are showing a “healthy degree” of skepticism toward plaintiffs who file “creative or questionable lawsuits.”

We’ll cover some of the big legislative changes tomorrow. Stay tuned.

This was originally published on Manpower Group’s Employment Blawg.

Mark Toth has served as Manpower Group North America's Chief Legal Officer since 2000. He also serves on the company’s Global Leadership Team, Global Legal Lead Team and North American Lead Team. Mark is recognized as an expert on legal issues affecting the U.S. workplace and is frequently quoted in media from The Wall Street Journal to 60 Minutes. He is also a past Chair of the American Staffing Association and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Contact him at mark.toth@manpowergroup.com.