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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal Hears Oral Argument in Wal-Mart National Gender Discrimination Class Action

On March 24, 2009, an en banc panel of eleven judges heard oral argument in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a national gender discrimination class action. When Federal District Court Judge Martin Jenkins certified Dukes as a class action in 2004, it became the largest case discrimination class action in the nation's history.

A three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the class certification order in February, 2007, then modified its decision in December, 2007, again affirming certification, but the Ninth Circuit subsequently granted Wal-Mart's petition for en banc review. So Tuesday, the Court once again heard arguments on whether to affirm the District Court order.

Kim Kralowec of the very fine UCL Practitioner blog has given an excellent live report and follow-up report on the oral argument. Kim writes, in part:
Judge Pamela Rymer asked lead plaintiffs' counsel Brad Seligman, "in 25 words or less, what is the claim in this case?" Seligman said "uniform delegation of discretion regarding pay decisions in a business with a culture of discrimination."
15 words. This -- boiling such a complicated case down to such a concise statement -- is very high-level lawyering, folks. You can listen to the oral argument on the web site run by class counsel.

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