Brett Stuff
Judging the Judges
Term Year: 2018

Lamps Plus, Inc., et al Petitioners v. Frank Varela

Summary Analysis

DATE: 2019-04-24
DOCKET: 17-988
NAME: Lamps Plus, Inc., et al Petitioners v. Frank Varela

   AUTHOR: Roberts
   JOINING: Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh
   GOOD: No

OPINION: Concurring
   AUTHOR: Thomas
   JOINING: None
   GOOD: No

OPINION: Dissenting
   AUTHOR: Ginsburg
   JOINING: Breyer, Sotomayor
   GOOD: Yes

OPINION: Dissenting
   AUTHOR: Breyer
   JOINING: None
   GOOD: Yes

OPINION: Dissenting
   AUTHOR: Sotomayor
   JOINING: None
   GOOD: Yes

OPINION: Dissenting
   AUTHOR: Kagan
   JOINING: Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor
   GOOD: Yes

Case Commentary

The Rule of Law has no logic to it. To wit, I give two you selected out-takes from The Court's Decision.
For example, we have repeatedly held that ambiguities about the scope of an arbitration agreement must be resolved in favor of arbitration.

Courts may not infer from an ambiguous agreement that parties have consented to arbitrate on a classwide basis.
Yeah, try to parse that!

Well, it's not that hard.

When in doubt, arbitrate.

When in doubt, deny class arbitration.

And thus, by some miracle of law (call it misguided jurisprudence, which is a lot kinder than what I had to say in the first draft), we have allowed class actions to be very nearly defined out of existence.

How about some terms? I seem to like those. After all (not being a lawyer, legal student, or even one who respects the Rule of Law, this case being a perfect example as to why), I don't know much about the law or how to parse this decision. So, this is one of those (ever popular) reader beware warnings.

Anyhow, the definitions follow, but who knows how far off I am in understanding the underlying nuances of these terms (or even, their overt meaning):

Contract of Adhesion: is what I (personally) like to call a F-U! Contract. It's a take it or leave it contract, presented by one side, in which little (or far more commonly, no) bargaining is allowed.

I consider Contracts of Adhesion to be Unconscionable on the Face. That is to say, I believe they should be enforceable against the drafter, but not the signer.

Contra Proferentem: is a rule law that says all ambiguities in a contract should be decided against the drafter. This is not a Federal Dictum, but a State one... one that all States adhere to.

Rather than turning Contracts of Adhesion against the drafter (and presumably, the more powerful party, as I would), contra proferentem merely states that when in doubt the drafter looses.

As I understand things (given the limited capacity for understanding that I have), Lamps Plus insisted Mr Varela sign a contract as a condition of employment (call it an Employment Contract). There was no negotiation. It was take it or leave it. And Lamps Plus wrote every line of the contract, of which the following are but two (as massaged by the court and with further simplifications by me, but I'm willing to accept this is the meaning of the contract word for word):
The parties agree that any and all disputes, claims or controversies arising out of or relating to the employment relationship between the parties shall be resolved by final and binding arbitration.

Arbitration shall be in lieu of any and all lawsuits or other civil legal proceedings relating to my employment.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Dissent goes on to quote numerous other choice bits of wording from the contract. But additional quotes serve no purpose... other than highlighting how unambiguous the contract really is.
  1. Arbitration is clearly stipulated across the board.
  2. And there is no class exception.
The Court holds that because Class Actions are not specifically included, their inclusion is ambiguous. What rubbish. Is any and all really that ambiguous?

So, The Court (in its less than infinite wisdom and in regards to this case) insists on arbitration, but forbids class arbitration.

I could not disagree more.

To add to the total lack of logic of this Decision, Lamps Plus stated in verbal arguments that if in the contract "claim" had been replaced by "lawsuit" (in the first quote as it was in the second), Class Arbitration would be permissible.


Makes a world of difference to me!

Um, no it does not!

I was not a Lamps Plus customer before, but I will be even less so, now.

Ironically, I am Anti-Arbitration and to some extent Anti-Class Action. I don't think either leads to equitable Rule of Law.

Oh, wait.


I just remembered, I don't respect the Rule of Law much, either.

But then, decisions like this are maybe why.

Let's wrap this up with a fast punch-list.

And finally, as I become more and more aware of the actualities of the Legal Process, the less convinced I am that honour plays a role in it at any level.

If Right is not defended, in the end there will only be Might.

Judging the Judges

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After all, what do I care?

I'm on short time, anyway.

© copyright 2019 Brett Paufler
A Personal Opinion/Editorial