News Release: Faculty Experts, Finance and Economics, Law, Politics

Mar. 29,  2011

Emory Law Experts Weigh in on Supreme Court Cases

The United States Supreme Court is back in session and preparing to rule on a number of controversial topics. From campaign finance reform to First Amendment issues, Emory experts are available to discuss the arguments and potential outcomes on these cases.

Walmart Class-Action Lawsuit

Walmart Stores v. Dukes

Six female Walmart employees are suing the company on behalf of every woman working for Walmart, 1.5 million people, for gender discrimination. The Supreme Court will rule whether to allow this class action suit to go forward. If it does, it will be the largest class action suit in history.

“It’s very controversial litigation,” says Emory law professor and civil procedure expert Rich Freer, “precisely because when you certify a class you are forcing the defendant to role the dice for liability potential for 1.5 million people on one case.” He doesn’t expect the Court to certify the case. The arguments for this case are scheduled for March 29.

Campaign Finance Reform

 McComish v. Bennett

“Campaign finance reform has always been motivated by two main goals,” says Emory law professor and election law expert Michael Kang. “One of those is the prevention of corruption, and the second is equalizing resources for different candidates.”

In McComish v. Bennett, the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of public funding for elections. Kang says it’s the most important campaign financing reform case in recent years. But, he says, it’s unlikely to be upheld because the Roberts court has so far been opposed to campaign finance reform.  A decision is expected soon.

First Amendment

Snyder v. Phelps

The Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, allowing them to continue protesting at military funerals. However, Emory law professor and First Amendment expert Julie Seaman says this doesn’t end the possibility of future lawsuits. “[The Phelps Family] followed police directives. They were non-violent.  They didn’t shout directly at the Snyders… The Court doesn’t decide whether some other behavior that doesn’t fit those circumstances whether it would be constitutional to sue them under those circumstances,” Seaman explains.

Schwarzenegger v. EMA

Today, any child can buy a video game no matter how violent it is. The Court is set to rule on a case from California in which former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed a statute to change that. Seaman says the vagueness of this case may cause a problem. “We don’t know what counts as deviant violence for minors.” The arguments for this case were in October, and a decision is expected soon.

Interviewing Possible Child Abuse Victims

Camreta v. Greene

Oregon authorities received a tip that a father was sexually abusing his nine-year-old daughter. They interviewed her at her school without any parent or guardian present, which is legal. The girl’s mother sued saying this interview violated the girl’s Fourth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court is set to decide if this process is constitutional.

“The problem of interviewing a child with the parent present is very serious when you have a parent as a suspected perpetrator or someone who’s suspected of collaborating or in some way assisting,” explains Emory law professor and children’s rights expert Barbara Woodhouse.

She says this case has split the child advocacy community for fear of the ruling changing how both alleged abuse victims and accused criminals are treated. Arguments were heard March 1, and a ruling is expected in the coming months.


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