Appellate Practice

Posner Targets Lawyer's Remark about Wives and Clothes Dryers (Take Our Poll)

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Updated: A lawyer’s remark during oral arguments that appeared to suggest only women wash and dry clothes apparently didn’t go over too well with Judge Richard Posner of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The lawyer, Clinton Krislov of Krislov & Associates in Chicago, was representing plaintiffs in a class action suit that contended Sears Roebuck engaged in deceptive advertising by touting its stainless steel clothes dryers without revealing that some parts could rust and stain clothes.

The Oct. 28 ruling (PDF posted by Above the Law) written by Posner decertified the class and had this dry observation: “At argument the plaintiff’s lawyer, skeptical that men ever operate clothes dryers—oddly, since his client does—asked us to ask our wives whether they are concerned about rust stains in their dryers. None is.”

Above the Law reported on Posner’s comment and said the lawyer evidently “thought this was still 1950.”

Krislov told the ABA Journal that his remark was not intended to suggest that men never do laundry. Instead, he said, he was merely suggesting that Posner and other male judges on the panel hadn’t had much occasion to do laundry themselves. If they had, he says, they would have acknowledged that people buy stainless steel clothes dryers to avoid rust stains, rather than to impress their neighbors.

“I’m like the last one to suggest that men don’t do laundry,” Krislov said.

A lawyer from Sears’ law firm who observed the oral arguments, Philip Oliss of Squire Sanders & Dempsey, told the ABA Journal he was surprised by Krislov’s question about the judges’ wives, but he hopes the impact of the opinion won’t be overlooked in the hubbub over Posner’s response.

“It’s interesting that people have picked up on that one comment by Judge Posner,” he said in an interview. “I’m hoping that the blogs and the press won’t overlook what the court really did.”

“It’s a pretty significant case in the development of consumer class action law,” he added. “It really sort of slams the door on some of the more creative ways that plaintiffs in the 7th Circuit are trying to get around … some of the law that has been developed limiting multistate class actions.”

For his part, Krislov disliked the decision and its criticism of collusive class action settlements. “Judge Posner seems to view this [opinion] as his personal blog,” Krislov said. “I mean, he spent six pages talking about collusive settlements, which obviously had nothing to do with this case.”

Hat tip to Above the Law and How Appealing.

Updated at 10:10 a.m. to include Krislov’s comments.

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