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Clarence Thomas joins liberal justices in dissent against class action lawsuit limitations

Clarence Thomas joins liberal justices in dissent against class action lawsuit limitations

Justice Clarence Thomas led the Supreme Court’s liberals in dissent against a decision limiting the standing of the majority of people in a high-profile class-action lawsuit on Friday.

Thomas, along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, pushed back against the conservative bloc of the court, led by Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The decision marked a rare aberration for Thomas, who generally votes with conservatives in divisive cases.


At issue was a case involving the credit reporting agency TransUnion and more than 8,000 people whom the company had flagged as suspected terrorists and drug traffickers. A lower court ruled that the company must pay $40 million in damages after siding with the people involved in the class-action lawsuit.

The court’s majority stopped short of completely reversing that opinion. Instead, Kavanaugh wrote, most of the people involved in the suit had no standing, thereby significantly reducing the penalty that TransUnion will have to pay. The company had argued that the lawsuit, which focused on the terms of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, had been incorrectly classified as a class-action lawsuit.

TransUnion argued that all of the people involved had to show that they had suffered some “concrete injury.” According to the company, it had publicly revealed about 1,000 names of people whose names lined up with the names of terrorists and traffickers.

Kavanaugh agreed in his majority opinion, writing that for the other 7,000: “No concrete harm, no standing.”

Thomas took issue with Kavanaugh’s maxim, writing that it ignored a long history of the Constitution allowing people to sue even if they cannot show “concrete” harm when their rights have been violated.

“That may be a pithy catchphrase, but it is worth pausing to ask why ‘concrete’ injury in fact should be the sole inquiry,” Thomas wrote, adding that the court had always before considered the simple fact of legal injury enough to support standing.

Thomas concluded that everyone involved in the case except for the other five conservatives believed that TransUnion had harmed the other 7,000 people.

“A person is harmed when he requests and is sent an incomplete credit report, or is sent a suspicious notice informing him that he may be a designated drug trafficker or terrorist, or is not sent anything informing him of how to remove this inaccurate red flag,” Thomas wrote, fitting the statement within a rhetorical question.

Thomas buttressed his arguments with citations of a case involving nominal damages, which the court decided earlier this year. In that case, Thomas wrote the majority opinion, finding that a student at a Georgia college was owed nominal damages after the school had restricted his ability to preach in public. The school had argued that because it had changed its rules to accommodate the student, he had no standing.

There, Thomas that the school was still at fault and that an “award of nominal damages by itself can redress a past injury.” In this case, the damages requested were $1.


Chief Justice John Roberts responded to Thomas’s opinion in a lone dissent, in which he accused the whole court of debasing itself by deciding that the student had standing to sue his college.

“The Court sees no problem with turning judges into advice columnists,” Roberts wrote of his colleagues. “In its view, the common law and (to a lesser extent) our cases require that federal courts open their doors to any plaintiff who asks for a dollar.”

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Tags: News, Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Class-action lawsuits, Terrorism, Drugs, Credit

Original Author: Nicholas Rowan

Original Location: Clarence Thomas joins liberal justices in dissent against class action lawsuit limitations

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