Friday, October 12

Supreme Court: Whining, Country Cookin' and Celebrities

In our recent post on how overly concerned the Supreme Court seems to be with old people, we pointed out that there were a few other employment cases this term that didn't have anything to do with those along in years.

While that's not exactly true (see below), the cases present a couple of age-neutral issues, parties, bigots and other tabloid-ready topics worth considering, and a judge/justice SCOTUS celebrity showdown that will blow your mind!!

Descriptions after the jump.

CBOCS West v. Humphries.
As a preliminary matter, we note this post is being published in the N.D. of Ill. so we'll take our cues from the 7th Circuit's opinion and refer to CBOCS by it's Christian name, Cracker Barrel.

We tried to skim the questions presented to sum up the case, but somebody must've read the brevity suggestion for SCOTUS questions. From the petition:

Is a race retaliation claim cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1981?

What kind of question is this? They better have good orals, 'cause Cracker Barrel is definitely not winning best brief this term.

The 7th Circuit opinion summarizes the case pretty well: Humphries was an assistant manager at Cracker Barrel in Bradley, IL (go Boilermakers!) And, after the store manager who liked him left, they apparently brought in a temporary manager from the early 19th century. From the Circuit Op.:

According to Humphries, Cardin [the mgr] routinely made racially derogatory remarks, such as stating that all African-Americans are “drunk or high on drugs” or that “all Mexicans have a bunch of kids.” Humphries alleges that other employees confirmed Cardin’s inappropriate comments, and told Humphries that Cardin had stated that he was there “for the white people” and was “going to take care of the white people.”

Humphries was fired, of course, and claimed it was in retaliation for bringing the manager's actions to the attention of the district manager. When his Title VII case was dismissed, the district court granted summary judgment on the 1983 claims, holding that retaliation isn't an option under section 1983. The 7th Circuit reversed, and now here we are.

Sprint United Management v. Mendelsohn
Ok, so we said these cases didn't have anything to do with old people, we were speaking from a purely academic point of view. Ms. Mendelsohn, is, in fact, an old person. But the question before the court is not about her underlying ADEA claim (she got riffed and claimed she was picked because of her age) but the fact that she wasn't given a fair trial because the trial court wouldn't hear "me too" evidence

"Me too" evidence is the hilariously juvenile nickname (we're waiting for the "nuh-uh, stupid" evidence debate) given to testimony from fellow employees who experienced similar discrimination (in this case, during the reduction-in-force) though not necessarily by the same manager or under the exact, same circumstances. Introduction of this type of testimony has actually been a pretty hotly-debated issue in discrimination cases.

Preston v. Ferrer
Ok, this case is not necessarily an employment case, though the result will definitely have implications on L&E law, because it involves federal preemption under the Federal Arbitration Act. That substantive importance, however, has nothing to do with our interest in this case.

The "Ferrer" in the caption is "Judge" Alex Ferrer, more commonly known as "Judge Alex" to anyone in college, raising small children or sick from school. The other guy, what's-his-name, is Ferrer's former manager. If ever there was an unfortunate and sordid relationship leading two individuals to the Supreme Court, this is it. From Preston's attorney's press release:

Alex Ferrer is a former Florida District Court Judge, who now makes his living on television, arbitrating petty legal disputes.

Arnold Preston is a Florida attorney, who once practiced before Judge Ferrer in Miami. In 1999, Mr. Preston left Florida and took a job with the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills, California. Recalling Judge Alex Ferrer’s charisma on the bench, Arnold Preston introduced the Florida jurist to the top agents at William Morris. When Arnold Preston left William Morris to become a talent manager and television producer in 2002, he became Judge Alex Ferrer’s manager.

The two had a falling out, of course, and Mr. Preston is trying to arbitrate commissions he is allegedly owed. Heartbreaking.

Current Employment is reading right through this. We think the Supremes are merely trying to capitalize on their involvement in the media high-point that was Anna Nicole, though we hope they're planning some kind of judge-on-judge Iron Chef-style showdown where Judge Alex gets to pick a justice to opine against (we say go with Alito - he's new and seems easliy flustered).

At the very least, we hope the Roberts Court will adopt a minimum c-list celebrity standard for future terms. We'll keep you posted.