Jun. 5, 2011 (UPI NewsTrack) -- WASHINGTON, June 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court gets hot, like the weather, in June, when decisions in all the most controversial cases, like those involving Walmart and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) , come cascading down as the justices join a frantic race to get out of Dodge for the summer recess.
Many controversial cases are decided in June, the last full month of the term, regardless of when they were heard. The prevailing theory is that the issues in the cases are so weighty it takes time to get a clear majority. But another theory once popular in the Supreme Court press room says the justices want to rule on controversial cases at the last minute, just before they leave for parts unknown, because they don't want to hear all the bitchin'.
Some cases in which the world is still waiting for a resolution:
-- Walmart vs. Duke.
Walmart Inc., one of the world's biggest corporations and one many social critics love to hate for its purported impact on small-town America, is facing a legal nightmare. The nightmare is what may turn out to be the largest class-action suit in U.S. history, one claiming systematic discrimination against women in promotion and pay.
If allowed to go forward, the suit and its projected class of 1.5 million U.S. women could cost the retail giant billions of dollars.
"This is the big one that will set the standards for all other class actions," Robin S. Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, an agency of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told The New York Times. The center has filed several friend of the court briefs supporting Walmart.
The case started in San Francisco in 2001 when six women filed suit claiming Walmart discrimination, in part because they were passed over for promotion in favor of men.
The dispute to be decided by the Supreme Court is not about whether the women's claims have merit. Rather, it's about the certification of the class.
The Walmart plaintiff class, if the high court allows it, includes all women who worked in any of the company's 3,400 U.S. stores since the late 1990s.
"This nationwide class includes every woman employed for any period of time over the past decade, in any of Walmart's approximately 3,400 separately managed stores, 41 regions and 400 districts, and who held positions in any of approximately 53 departments and 170 different job classifications," Walmart said in court documents. "The millions of class members collectively seek billions of dollars in monetary relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that tens of thousands of Walmart managers inflicted monetary injury on each and every individual class member in the same manner by intentionally discriminating against them because of their sex, in violation of the company's express anti-discrimination policy."
The company questions whether monetary claims can be brought under the Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "which by its terms is limited to injunctive or corresponding declaratory relief," and whether the certification of the huge class passes muster under civil rights law and the Constitution's "due process," or fair proceedings, guarantee.
Washington attorney Joseph Sellers, co-leading counsel for the plaintiffs, scoffed at the idea Walmart would have a tough time defending itself against such a large class action. "There's a substantial body of evidence that comes from Walmart's own workforce data," including "very sophisticated analysis" to show what company policy was.
"We have evidence that there is a culture at the company that condones or says women are second-class citizens," Sellers told United Press International last fall, some of it surfacing at managers' meetings at strip clubs or at Hooters restaurants.
A federal judge and two sittings of the 9th Circuit -- a three-judge panel and the full 11-member court rehearing the appeal en banc -- approved the class. But the vote was narrow in both cases -- 2-1 for the panel and 6-5 for the full court.
The nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument on the case in March.