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Community Voices: Discount justice for women in Wal-Mart v. Dukes ruling

GLORIA J. BROWNE-MARSHALL | 12/20/2011, 4:08 p.m.

Commonality should be of concern. The Court’s decision correctly raises commonality concerns in a legal action representing 1.5 million plaintiffs. But, the Court failed to accept that a multi-national corporation with a million current employees and tens of millions of customers can, realistically, spawn massive injuries such as those alleged by Dukes. In a global village, one international company can, and did, cause injuries to millions. The banking industry is a sub-prime example. The Supreme Court’s majority denied class action status. In doing so, they affirmed a class-based struggle slowly tearing this country apart and discounted the over-arching legal arguments these women presented. It was a clear victory for Wal-Mart. Those women, defeated, earning minimum wage, are now forced to find attorneys and bear the cost of litigating individual lawsuits against an international retailer who has billions of dollars and throngs of attorneys.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has moved on to criminal justice, affirmative action, health care and voting cases. We need to know about these issues, as well. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court creates the law of the land. But, interest in the Court’s burgeoning docket hardly competes with holiday music, Christmas parties, travel plans, and, of course, shopping. Wal-Mart is expanding hours, cutting prices and providing employment. But, while standing in the check-out, impatiently waiting to purchase gifts, don’t forget the discount justice given to the women in Wal-Mart v. Dukes.

Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, an associate professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College in New York City, is the director/founder of The Law and Policy Group, Inc., and author of “Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present.”