June 10th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Arbitration

Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon, 2022 U.S. LEXIS 2815 (June 6, 2022) (Thomas, J.)  JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court. Latrice Saxon works for Southwest Airlines as a ramp supervisor. Her work frequently requires her to load and unload baggage, airmail, and commercial cargo on and off airplanes that travel across the country. The question presented is whether, under §1 of the Federal Arbitration Act, she belongs to a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” that is exempted from the Act’s coverage. We hold that she does. Southwest sought to enforce its arbitration agreement with Saxon under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U. S. C. §1 et seq., and moved to dismiss the lawsuit. In response, Saxon invoked §1 of the FAA, which exempts from the statute’s ambit “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” Saxon argued that ramp supervisors, like seamen and railroad employees, were an exempt “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” Ibid. In this case, we must decide whether Saxon falls within a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” 9 U. S. C. §1. We interpret this language according to its “‘ordinary, contemporary, common meaning.’” Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., 571 U. S. 220, 227, 134 S. Ct. 870, 187 L. Ed. 2d 729 (2014) (quoting Perrin v. United States, 444 U. S. 37, 42, 100 S. Ct. 311, 62 L. Ed. 2d 199 (1979)); see also New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, 586 U. S. ___, ___-___, 139 S. Ct. 532, 202 L. Ed. 2d 536 (2019) (slip op., at 6- 7). To discern that ordinary meaning, those words “‘must be read’” and interpreted “‘in their context,’” not in isolation. Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton, 587 U. S. ___, ___, 139 S. Ct. 1881, 204 L. Ed. 2d 165 (2019) (slip op., at 5) (quoting Roberts v. Sea-Land Services, Inc., 566 U. S. 93, 101, 132 S. Ct. 1350, 182 L. Ed. 2d 341 (2012)). We begin by defining the relevant “class of workers” to which Saxon belongs. Then, we determine whether that class of workers is “engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” To be sure, we have relied on statutory purpose to inform our interpretation of the FAA when that “purpose is readily apparent from the FAA’s text.” AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U. S. 333, 344, 131 S. Ct. 1740, 179 L. Ed. 2d 742 (2011). But we are not “free to pave over bumpy statutory texts in the name of more expeditiously advancing a policy goal.” New Prime, 586 U. S., at ___, 139 S. Ct. 532, 202 L. Ed. 2d 536 (slip op., at 14). Here, §1’s plain text suffices to show that airplane cargo loaders are exempt from the FAA’s scope, and we have no warrant to elevate vague invocations of statutory purpose over the words Congress chose.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]



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