January 29, 2009

Blame Conservatives, Ignore Poor Lawyering

Many people are rejoicing the passage of the "Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act."  It overturns the Supreme Court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.  Their happiness comes with plenty of vitriol for the conservative justices who apparently committed a great injustice by interpreting the statute the way it was written and not being "sympathetic enough to those who are on the outside, those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless."  There is a giant elephant in the room that goes largely unnoticed in this debate:
"In a footnote, the Supreme Court noticed that the plaintiff, Lily Ledbetter, could just as easily have sued under the Equal Pay Act, which, recognizing that it is sometimes difficult to detect pay discrimination, has a much more generous deadline for bringing claims, allowing pay discrimination claims to be brought three years after it occurs. But her stupid lawyer failed even to make such a claim in her appeal."
Decisions like this one are repeatedly used to demonize conservative justices for interpreting the law as it is written instead of importing some whimsical view of justice. But what this case epitomizes is there is often more than meets the eye.