Supreme Court hears fee assignment, collective bargaining cases News
Supreme Court hears fee assignment, collective bargaining cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; briefs] Monday in two cases. In Kansas v. Colorado [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether the Supreme Court must abide by Congressional rules regarding expert witness costs when the case falls under the Supreme Court's original and exclusive jurisdiction. The Court has constitutionally mandated original jurisdiction [Article 3, § 2 text] over the case because it is a dispute between two states. In 2001, the Court ruled [opinion] that Colorado was liable for millions of dollars in damages and interest for diverting water from the Arkansas River into Colorado farm lands. The dispute continued, and in 2004, the Court ordered a special master to further investigate the situation [opinion]. The special master determined that US law [28 U.S.C. § 1821(b) text] caps a witness' attendance fee at $40 per day, but lawyers for Kansas have argued that the legislative intent behind the statute was meant to bind only lower courts and that the Supreme Court is statutorily unlimited in awarding fees [28 U.S.C. § 1911 text] in cases of original jurisdiction.

The Court also heard arguments in the case of 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett [oral arguments transcript, PDF], in which the court is considering whether an employee may bring a statutory anti-discrimination suit when the employee's collective bargaining agreement prohibits such suits in favor of arbitration. In 2003, the employer of the three plaintiffs, all union members older than 50 years, changed their jobs to positions they described as less desirable. The plaintiffs alleged age discrimination [Age Discrimination in Employment Act text] and brought suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [official website], which rejected the age discrimination argument. The plaintiffs then filed suit with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, which found that the arbitration requirement in the collective bargaining agreement was unenforceable because it deprived the plaintiffs of the right to an appropriate judicial forum. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the ruling [text, PDF]. Lawyers for the appellants said during oral arguments that the National Labor Relations Act [text] allows general collective bargaining, but lawyers for the plaintiffs responded that the right of unions to bargain collectively does not trump all individual rights.