Gardner v. Westinghouse Broadcasting Company

PETITIONER: Gardner
RESPONDENT: Westinghouse Broadcasting Company
LOCATION: First Division Circuit Court, Pulaski County

DOCKET NO.: 77-560
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 437 US 478 (1978)
ARGUED: Mar 22, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 21, 1978

ADVOCATES:
Leonard L. Scheinholtz - for respondent
Robert N. Hackett - for petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Gardner v. Westinghouse Broadcasting Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 22, 1978 in Gardner v. Westinghouse Broadcasting Company

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 21, 1978 in Gardner v. Westinghouse Broadcasting Company

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 76-1836, Coopers & Lybrand against Livesay and 77-560, Gardner against Westinghouse Broadcasting will be announced by Mr. Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

Both of these case involve the question whether an appeal maybe taken from a trial court order which denies the plaintiff the right to litigate on behalf of the class of similarly situated persons.

The question in each case is the appealability of a an order denying class certification.

In the Gardner case, the plaintiff had been denied a position as a radio performer and sought to bring suit on behalf of all -- she claimed, she had been denied this position because of her sex and she sought to bring suit on behalf of all women who had been discriminated against by the defendant in either applying for positions with the company or in the course of their employment.

The trial judge denied her the right to proceed on behalf of the alleged class.

She sought to appeal on the ground that the denial was in effect a denial of a preliminary injunction because the relief she could get as an individual was less broad than the relief which might be obtained on behalf of the class.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the order could not be appealed on that theory pursuant to Section 1292 (a) (1) of the judicial code.

In the other case, the Coopers and Lybrand case, the plaintiffs were purchasers of securities at a public offering.

They sought to litigate on behalf of all other purchasers at the same public offering and although the trial court originally allowed them the right to do so, it redetermined the matter and held that the plaintiffs could not proceed on behalf of the class, their claim that there being at the offering violated the Securities Acts because of certain alleged misrepresentations in the prospectus.

An appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals at the Eighth Circuit on the theory that the plaintiff did not have sufficient monetary interest in the matter, two plaintiffs, the husband and wife in their own right to go forward with the action and therefore denying them class status, denying them the right to represent the class, in effect killed off the entire action, was the death nail of the action and was the equivalent therefore of the final judgment within the meaning of Section 1291 of the judicial code.

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit after reviewing the finances of the litigants and the issues and the complexity of litigation, concluded that it was indeed the death nail and that the appeal therefore could be taken.

In both cases, we hold that the rules for appealabilty of the class action determinations are not different from other rules governing appealability in the federal courts and that there are no special rules designed for this kind of litigation, yet that if Congress wants to makes these orders appealable, it certainly has the right to do so, but under the rules that have been fashioned up to now, an appeal does not lie.

So in both cases the unanimous holding of the Court is that the orders may not be appealed.

That means that in the Gardner case the decision of the Third Circuit is affirmed and in the Coopers and Lybrand case the decision of the Eighth Circuit is reversed and opinions to that affect have been filed with the clerk.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Stevens.