University of Colorado Professor Melissa Hart testified before the U.S. Senate's Committee on the Judiciary as an expert on how a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wal-Mart v. Dukes and AT&T v. Concepcion restrict access to the judicial system and diminish corporate accountability.
Hart, who filed an amicus brief in Wal-Mart v. Dukes on behalf of 31 Civil Procedure and Class Action Law Professors supporting the suit, testified June 29 because of her work as a scholar and teacher of civil procedure, Supreme Court decision-making and employment discrimination.
Hart said the majority opinions in both Dukes and Concepcion reflect hostility to class-action resolution of disputes and ignore the important fairness and efficiency gains that collective resolution offers. By limiting the ability of consumers and employees to join their small individual claims in a larger action, these decisions will make it harder to hold companies accountable for misconduct.
"These narrow majority decisions make it harder to enforce civil rights and consumer protection laws," Hart said.
"It is clear that in the future, every employment discrimination class action will be evaluated in light of the current court's hostility to class litigation.
"The decision will thus have a significant chilling effect on the collective adjudication that has been an essential aspect of full enforcement of the law."
Wal-Mart v. Dukes, begun in 2000, was the largest civil rights class action lawsuit in U.S. history.