When we write stories about court opinions, we always seek comments from the lawyer whose side won the case and the lawyer whose side lost the case.
But what happens if there is no lawyer on the losing side?
For my story in Monday’s paper on the Court of Appeals ruling unpaid overtime wages can be recovered in state court, I spoke with lawyers for Muriel Peters, the woman who was seeking the wages. But her former employer, Early Health Care Giver Inc., lost its charter in October 2012 and has not participated in any appellate arguments.
In the Court of Appeals’ schedule, lawyers from the Public Justice Center are listed as representing Peters. But there is no attorney listed for the appellee in Peters v. Early Health Care Giver Inc. Instead, it says, “Arguing as Amicus on behalf of Appellee,” and names Jennifer L. Katz, an assistant attorney general.
Katz was appearing on behalf of the state’s Commissioner of Labor and Industry which “got involved in the case to clarify that overtime wages were recoverable” under state law, according to Summar L. Goodman, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
In other words, the Commissioner largely sided with Peters. So at the Court of Appeals, no arguments were made on behalf of employers.
Howard B. Hoffman, a Rockville solo practitioner who has represented both employers and employees in wage cases, said the top court should have dismissed the case because it was “improvidently granted” because of a lack of an appellee, or at least allow an employer to appear and have a voice during arguments.
“Peters would have been a better win for employees if it didn’t have this cloud over it,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman praised the work of the Public Justice and has worked with them on other cases.
Sally Dworak-Fisher, a lawyer for Public Justice, said she did not think the lack of an appellee lessened the impact of the Court of Appeals’ decision.
All of which leads me to a question for our appellate lawyer readers out there: Do you recall a case before the Court of Appeals where one side was not represented at oral arguments? Please leave your responses below.