Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

En Banc Eleventh Circuit Dismisses Equal-Protection Challenge to Alabama Minimum-Wage Law

In July 2018, a panel of the Eleventh Circuit ruled (in Lewis v. Governor of Alabama) that plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s Minimum Wage Act “have stated a plausible claim” that the law “had the purpose and effect of depriving Birmingham’s black citizens equal economic opportunities on the basis of race, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.” In my critique back then, I explained that the panel’s reasoning struck me as farfetched, with radical implications for future judicial intrusion on the legislative processes.

Today the en banc Eleventh Circuit ruled, by a vote of 7 to 5, that the plaintiff employees did not have Article III standing to sue the state attorney general. It therefore found it unnecessary to reach the equal-protection claim. On the standing question, the en banc majority ruled that plaintiffs failed to satisfy the “traceability” and “redressability” components of standing. That is, they could not trace their injuries (alleged lower wages) to anything that the state attorney general did wrong (slip op. at pp. 13-23), and a judgment against the state attorney general would not plausibly have led their employers to pay a higher wage (pp. 23-33). I’ll leave it to standing mavens to sort through the competing arguments made by the majority and the dissenters.

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