Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Chris Lazarini commented on the case in which the Court allowed new parties to intervene to cure a deficiency in the named plaintiffs' ability to represent the interests of the putative class. The Court also denied the named plaintiffs' motion to reconsider the Court's recommendation that class certification be denied. Chris provided the analysis for Securities Litigation Commentator (SLC). The full text of the analysis is below and used with permission from the publication. If you would like to receive additional content from the SLC, please visit the SLC website to sign up for the newsletter.
Chen-Oster vs. Goldman, Sachs & Co., No. 10 Civ. 6950 (S.D. N.Y., 8/3/15)
A party seeking permissive intervention must timely file his motion and establish that his claims or defenses share common questions of law or fact with the main case and that intervention will not unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the original parties' rights.
The Magistrate Judge in this putative Title VII class action alleging that Goldman Sachs' personnel evaluation procedures and corporate culture are discriminatory against women considers Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of the Court's recommendation that class certification be denied and a motion to intervene filed by two individuals employed by Goldman Sachs. The Court denies the motion for reconsideration, and grants the motion to intervene.
In their motion, Plaintiffs asked the Court to reconsider its recommendation that they lack standing to seek injunctive relief because they are no longer employed by Goldman Sachs. Plaintiffs argued that the Court should not have applied the law of the case doctrine to a jurisdictional ruling – the District Court previously ruled that persons not employed by Defendant lacked standing to seek injunctive relief – and that the District Court's prior ruling was clearly erroneous. The Magistrate Judge agrees that the law of the case doctrine does not apply to a finding that a court has jurisdiction, because courts are under a continuing obligation to examine their own jurisdiction. In contrast, the Court notes, a finding that jurisdiction does not exist is the same as any other decision subject to the law of the case, and Plaintiffs' remedy under such circumstances is to seek appellate review. Besides, plaintiffs offer no new grounds for believing that the prior jurisdictional ruling was clearly erroneous.
Turning to the Intervenors' motion, the Court notes that it is common to permit intervention under FRCP 24(b) in a putative class action to cure a deficiency in the ability of the named plaintiffs to represent the class, but only if the motion is timely filed, it does not cause prejudice and the proposed intervenors' claims share common questions of law or fact with the main action. Here, the Court finds that the motion was timely filed, even though it came several years after the district court's ruling that non-employees lacked standing to seek injunctive relief. It will not hold Intervenors to constructive knowledge standards that might otherwise apply in cases garnering widespread publicity or involving large corporations or unions with the means, resources and incentives to closely monitor cases affecting their interests, and instead accepts Intervenors' declarations that they learned of the district court's prior ruling not long before they filed their motion.
Next, the Court rejects Defendants' prejudice claims, noting that the burdens and costs on them if Intervenors join the case at this juncture will be trivial and not materially different than the burdens and costs faced if Intervenors file a separate action seeking class wide injunctive relief. Plaintiffs have not objected. The parties most at risk of some prejudice are Intervenors, who would face the cost of having to file a new action and the risk of inconsistent rulings if the motion is denied.
Lastly, the Court finds the central questions of law and fact regarding whether Defendants' personnel policies are discriminatory to be identical for both the main case and Intervenors' case and detects no other considerations weighing against granting the motion.
The case has aged, in part, because Defendants moved to stay the action as to one of the originally named plaintiffs and attempted to force her to arbitrate her claims. The district court denied the motion to compel (see SLA 2012-04), but was reversed on appeal (see SLA 2013-13).