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Opinion
Noah Feldman

This Is What a More Conservative Supreme Court Looks Like

The political and legal divides over workers’ class-action lawsuit were predictable.

Nothing changes on the outside.

Nothing changes on the outside.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Wondering what will happen if Justice Anthony Kennedy retires and President Donald Trump gets to pick his successor? The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday gave a good preview of that possible conservative future. In an extraordinary decision, the court barred workers from bringing collective legal action against employers if their employment contracts require individual arbitration instead.

Seen purely in terms of politics, the 5-4 outcome reflected the struggle between the pro-management conservative majority and the pro-labor liberal minority. Employers don’t want class actions filed against them. By making employees sign agreements that require individual arbitration of disputes, businesses can now be sure that they won’t be taken to court when they’ve shortchanged many employees minimally — even if the collective loss to employees is significant. From the perspective of employers, the decision is a major win.