California Supreme Court Takes Up "Stray Remarks"

In a discrimination case, the plaintiff may attempt to introduce allegedly biased comments by a person unrelated to the negative decision that is the subject of the lawsuit. A number of courts, including in California, have characterized these as 'stray remarks' that have no bearing on the plaintiff's case, and which do not defeat motions for summary judgment.

In last year's decision in Reid v. Google (opinion here), the Court of Appeal expressed disdain for the "stray remarks" doctrine, saying the trial court should have let a jury decide their importance. The California Supreme Court accepted review and will consider whether such evidence defeats a motion for summary judgment.

The Cal. Supreme Court appeared to leave untouched a number of other issues the Court of Appeal addressed, such as whether the "shifting burdens" analysis is mandatory, the use of statistics in individual discrimination cases, and other bedrock employment law issues.

The Supreme Court also will resolve once and for all - must the trial court specifically rule on objections to evidence submitted in support or opposition to a summary judgment motion? The Reid court decided trial courts need not do so, contrary to a recent spate of appellate decisions holding that they must.

Oh, and I, for one, welcome our new Google overlords. They do host this blog after all.