Behind the scenes in the gigantic Wal Mart gender bias case was one of the “friends of the court” participants: “Equal Rights Advocates.” [the U.S. Supreme Court just denied class action status to 1.6 million women claiming a culture of bias limiting promotions]. Equal Rights Advocates began when I started law school (1974!). It was founded as a clinical program at Stanford Law School, but has since moved on to independent status. As a dad, I am impressed at one of their early victories: they forced the California Youth Soccer Association to lift its ban on allowing girls participate in soccer league competitions. My daughter played soccer from age 5 to age 12 in this same Association.
The Equal Rights Advocate group is an interesting phenomena in the Civil Rights arena and I have several times been tempted to follow it as a model: to form a non-profit corporation that depends on grants, foundation money, and contingency fees to meet its budget. Its goal is to pursue publicly significant civil rights cases impacting large numbers.
They and lead attorney Brad Seligman of the “Impact Fund” fell just one vote short of convincing the Supreme Court of letting them go forward on behalf of 1.6 million women, who must now sue state by state, in smaller class actions. I have a feeling that case will indeed be filed, and the Equal Rights Advocates will be a part of it. They could be sitting pretty now with contingency fees on the horizon but for their recent loss. Thank you Justice Scalia and company.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes (2011) 277 U.S. 8986.