Case: Kansas v. Colorado

Date: Monday Dec. 1, 2008

Issue: Does the Supreme Court have the authority to rule on the reimbursement of expert witness fees in a case between two states?

Background: The Constitution mandates disputes between states be settled by the Supreme Court. This case is the latest in a century of legal battles between Kansas and Colorado over water rights to the Arkansas River, which flows through both states. A Special Master ruled in favor of Kansas as it sought to enforce parts of a water usage compact. For its part, Kansas enlisted the help of expert witnesses incurring more than $9 million in costs. But the Special Master limited the amount of money it could recoup for those costs. Kansas is appealing that decision to the Supreme Court asking for it to award the full amount of compensatory damages it is seeking.

Case: 14 Penn Plaza v. Pyett

Date: Monday Dec. 1, 2008

Issue: Is an arbitration clause contained in a collective bargaining agreement, freely negotiated by a union and an employer, which clearly and unmistakably waives the union member's right to a judicial forum for their statutory discrimination claims, enforceable?

Background: In 2003, Steven Pyett and two co-workers were reassigned from their nighttime security jobs at a New York City office building. The men claim the job transfers were not allowed under the terms of their union's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and the new job assignments amounted to age discrimination by their employer. Accordingly, they filed suit against 14 Penn Plaza seeking damages. But 14 Penn Plaza filed a counter-motion arguing the CBA compels resolution of the dispute by arbitration. They contend the Federal Arbitration Act supports their position. But so far lower courts have ruled in favor of the workers saying even if the CBA proscribes binding arbitration, the workers do not forego their legal options.
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