The US Supreme Court has denied certiorari in Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Gentry, No. 07-998 (U.S. Mar. 31, 2008, cert. denied) on a petition filed to review the California Supreme Court's ruling in Gentry v. Superior Court (Circuit City Stores) (2007) 42 Cal.4th 443. We previously discussed the case is several posts, including this post regarding the argument and this post regarding the opinion:
In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court has reversed an appellate decision upholding a ban on class actions in wage and hour arbitrations, holding that, in certain cases, class action waivers/bans are unenforceable, even if the arbitration agreement itself was not procedurally unconscionable as a whole. The key part of the holding in Gentry v. Superior Court provided that:
[C]lass arbitration waivers should not be enforced if a trial court determines, based on [certain] factors ... that class arbitration would be a significantly more effective way of vindicating the rights of affected employees than individual arbitration. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal upholding the class arbitration waiver and remand for the above determination.
The questions presented by the petition were:
1. Whether the Federal Arbitration Act permits a court to refuse to enforce an agreement calling for individual arbitration based on state labor law policies that do not apply generally to "any contract." 9 U.S.C. § 2.
2. Whether the Federal Arbitration Act permits a state court to refuse to enforce an agreement to arbitrate based upon an unconscionability analysis "that takes its meaning precisely from the fact that a contract to arbitrate is at issue." Perry v. Thomas, 482 U.S. 483, 492 n.9 (1987).
For employers, this certainly looked like the best chance they had to get the SCOTUS to come to their rescue on this issue, using the Federal Arbitration Act. The court is currently packed with as pro-business and pro-arbitration a panel as we've seen in many decades, there were amicus briefs filed by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, Ace American Insurance Company, et al., and the Pacific Legal Foundation. Circuit City was represented by veteran Supreme Court advocate Carter G. Phillips.
Gentry v. Superior Court looks like it will be the controlling law in California for the foreseeable future. The other arbitration-related petitions pending in the U.S. Supreme Court are procedurally and substantively distinguishable.