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Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, just some dude interested in the Court who has boundless respect for our female Supreme Court Justices.

...

Although many examples of Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg advocating for women can be found throughout their tenures, I thought I'd provide a recent example that shows not only the bond of gender shared by Justice Ginsburg and her two newest female colleagues, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, but the continued hostility towards class action types of cases by the Roberts Court, as well.

On Monday, the Justices heard oral argument in a case known as Genesis HealthCare Corp. vs. Symczyk.

As I understand it, the case involves a nurse, Laura Symczyk, who brought suit against her employer on behalf of both herself and her similarly affected co-workers, because they were automatically docked pay for lunch breaks they didn't take.

The company proceeded to try to pay-off Ms. Symczyk alone, not her similarly-situated co-workers, in what appears to be an attempt to avoid the "extra cost" of a collective action suit. Ms. Symczyk refused to accept her individual pay-off—she wanted her co-workers treated fairly, too.

The technical question before the Court is, and lawyers reading please correct me if I'm wrong, can a case be considered "moot," or unresolvable, if a sole plaintiff is offered, and refuses, a settlement?

The human aspect of the case, however, looks to be a bit different:

A company—supported in court by the Chamber of Commerce—that screwed-over multiple employees, subsequently attempting to settle with one of them so as to avoid settling with them all,

versus

A nurse selflessly standing with her co-workers by refusing her own compensation so that her co-workers can be given the opportunity for compensation as well.


To my layman's eyes, the underdog is quite readily apparent. The women on the bench appeared to feel the same way at the oral argument, as Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUSblog reports:

From the outset of the argument by Genesis HealthCare’s lawyer, Columbia professor Ronald J. Mann, his woes at the lectern came from tough questioning by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, and he did not help himself with those Justices when he dismissed the question of taking care of the co-workers as “a housekeeping issue” for the courts.
In other words, pissing-off three smart, accomplished women, who happen to be sitting in judgement on the bench in front of you, by trivializing the plight of other women getting burned by some slimey company, probably isn't a good strategy. Using a word like "housekeeping" to do it probably doesn't help either.

Were there other indications of irritated females on the bench?

Yes, indeed:

Although Mann was insisting that his client had been fully willing to pay the entire $7,500 that it figured it owed Symczyk, that was not reassuring to Ginsburg and Sotomayor, both of whom wondered whether the nursing home’s management was slyly trying to escape liability for her co-workers.

[...]

Ginsburg also accused Genesis HealthCare of failing even to give the court in the case a chance to deal with the co-workers’ claim, rushing in to scuttle it at the earliest opportunity.

[...]

Those three saw an obvious injustice, both in Symczyk’s own loss, and in what they perceived as lawyerly manipulation of the case to get it out of court for little more than $7,500 and attorney’s fees.

[...]

Once more, however, Justice Sotomayor and then Ginsburg entered, this time to do battle [...]

(emphasis mine)

Now, I need to be fair to the boys on the bench, too. Did any of them react to the plight of these nurses?

Of course:

Justice Antonin Scalia momentarily tried to come to [Genesis' lawyer's] rescue, [saying] Symczyk probably did not even have “standing” to make a case, for herself or her co-workers, because she could have accepted Genesis HealthCare’s offer, and didn’t.

[...]

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., suggesting that Symczyk’s lawyers had actually failed to make the legal point [...] that an unaccepted settlement offer can never make a lawsuit “moot.”

While I'm in no position to opine on the reasonableness of Roberts' and Scalia's points, Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog does this for a living. Even though I personally read the transcripts, being a non-lawyer unable to attend the arguments "live" has its disadvantages. Many of the nuances go over my head, and the complex nature of the legalese spoken by the Justices and counsel frequently cloud the "bigger picture" for me, so I rely on his "recaps" to gain a sense of the overall tone and flow of discussion at the arguments.

This one in particular seemed to give emphasis to a teamwork-like interaction between the women on the bench, and reminded me of how great an achievement having three women on the Court really is, and that we really need...

More. Female. Justices. (and Federal Judges, while we're at it.)


...

Even though it might be the equivalent of reading a foreign language to non-lawyers like me, you should consider reading a couple of transcripts some time.

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