Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc. v. Sperling

PETITIONER: Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc.
RESPONDENT: Sperling
LOCATION: Westside High School

DOCKET NO.: 88-1203
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 493 US 165 (1989)
ARGUED: Oct 02, 1989
DECIDED: Dec 11, 1989

ADVOCATES:
John A. Ridley - on behalf of the Petitioner
Leonard N. Flamm - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc. v. Sperling

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 02, 1989 in Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc. v. Sperling

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 88-1203, Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. v. Richard Sperling.

Mr. Ridley.

John A. Ridley:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This matter involves an action brought pursuant to the Age Discrimination and Employment Act.

Under that statute, joinder in the suit by perspective plaintiffs is governed by Section 16(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires these individuals to file a consent to join action with the court.

The issue before the Court is whether any ascertainable source of judicial power exists to permit the district court, as the district court itself here put it, to offer the mechanisms of judicial process to aid Plaintiffs in filling their class with all its possible members.

Specifically, the district court here facilitated Plaintiff's solicitation effort in several ways.

It compelled Hoffmann-La Roche to disclose to Plaintiffs the names and addresses of all those persons who Plaintiffs considered to be similarly situated, solely for the purpose of inviting them to assert money damage claims against Roche.

William H. Rehnquist:

Would they... would the Plaintiffs eventually have been able to get that by discovery anyway, do you think?

John A. Ridley:

Your Honor, that is uncertain, and of course, the district court here entered its order exclusively on the basis of facilitating the solicitation of claims.

William H. Rehnquist:

Without treating it as a discovery matter yet.

John A. Ridley:

That is correct, Your Honor.

It directed... in addition to compelling the disclosure, the court also directed the Plaintiffs to send notice to those persons with the notice, expressly stating that it had been authorized by the court.

In my argument this afternoon I would like to make three principal points.

Byron R. White:

Did you say they did three things?

The court did three things?

John A. Ridley:

Well, Your Honor, the court did three things--

Byron R. White:

It ordered the names, it ordered the... it authorized the notice--

John A. Ridley:

--That is correct.

It reviewed and authorized the notice.

Byron R. White:

--And what else?

John A. Ridley:

And it put its imprimatur on the notice which was to be sent out.

Byron R. White:

Did the Plaintiffs pay for the notice?

John A. Ridley:

They would have paid for the notice.

It was not to be sent out by the clerk of the court or the clerk, the court itself, although that had been the Plaintiffs original request to the court.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Ridley, we have a good microphone system here.

I don't think you need to speak quite as loud.

John A. Ridley:

I apologize for the Court.

In my argument this afternoon, I would like to make three principal points.

First, judicial facilitation of notice is inconsistent with basic principles of judicial restraint and neutrality.