Leading Civil Procedure Professors Urge High Court To Grant Review In Case Implicating Workers’ Access To Courts

A group of fourteen leading scholars are urging the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision making it more difficult for workers to recover lost wages.

In an amicus brief supporting review, the scholars called on the Court to rectify the “broad confusion that has arisen in the lower courts” concerning the proper application of the Supreme Court’s pleading doctrine.

Attorneys at Nichols Kaster filed a petition seeking Supreme Court review on February 10, 2015. The petition asks the Supreme Court to resolve the dispute over how much detail an employee seeking back pay must provide before a court will allow the case to move forward.

The scholars explained that lower courts have reached inconsistent results following of a pair of Supreme Court pleading decisions handed down in 2007 and 2009. “Because of the confusion that persists in the lower courts, amici curiae respectfully urge the Court to grant the petition for writ of certiorari to clarify the applicable pleading standard with respect to factual sufficiency.”

The amicus brief also sharply criticized the decision under review, which requires plaintiffs seeking overtime to come forward with detailed facts before proceeding to discovery and trial. “The Ninth Circuit’s decision makes pleading a technical game and will take courts further from the merits adjudication that was one of the principal goals of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”

The case is Landers v. Quality Communications, Inc., No. 14-969. The petition seeking Supreme Court review was filed by attorneys Paul Lukas and Adam Hansen of Nichols Kaster, PLLP and Leon Greenberg of Leon Greenberg PC.

Hansen said he was "very pleased" to have support from “well respected experts in the field of civil procedure.”

"The amicus support confirms the practical importance of what is at stake in this case," said Hansen. “The courthouse doors must remain open for all, and the Supreme Court should take this case to address the confusion in the lower courts and reaffirm that important principle.”

The case has implications beyond employee rights. The same kinds of heightened pleading standards effectively close the courthouse doors on many plaintiffs alleging environmental damage, consumer protection violations, and official misconduct, said Hansen.

The amicus brief was written by Professor Alexander Reinert, who writes and teaches extensively on the topic of civil procedure at the Cardozo School of Law. The brief was joined by Professors Kevin Clermont (Cornell University Law School), Brooke Coleman (Seattle University School of Law), Scott Dodson (University of California Hastings College of the Law), Melissa Hart (University of Colorado Law School), Helen Hershkoff (New York University School of Law), Allan Ides (Loyola Law School Los Angeles), Suzette M. Malveaux (The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law), David Marcus (University of Arizona Rogers College of Law), Lumen Mulligan (The University of Kansas School of Law), Thomas D. Rowe, Jr. (Duke University School of Law), Paul Secunda (Marquette University Law School), David L. Shapiro (Harvard Law School), and Adam Steinman (The University of Alabama School of Law).