NOVACK INVESTMENT CO. v. SETSER
454 U.S. 1064 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

NOVACK INVESTMENT CO. v. SETSER , 454 U.S. 1064 (1981)

454 U.S. 1064

NOVACK INVESTMENT COMPANY, etc., et al.,
v.
Chester W. SETSER
No. 81-646

Supreme Court of the United States

November 16, 1981

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Opinion of Justice STEVENS respecting the denial of the petition for writ of certiorari.

In suggesting that the Court is derelict in its duty to resolve the apparent conflict between the decision of the Court of Appeals in this case and the decision of the Sixth Circuit in Moore v. Sun Oil Co. of Pennsylvania, 636 F.2d 154 (1980), the dissenting opinion fails to mention the fact that both courts held that the issue of liability should be decided by a jury.* The question whether the arithmetical calculation of backpay should be made by a judge or by a jury under instructions from the judge is not nearly as significant as the question whether the determination of liability should be made by a judge or a jury. Moreover, since the employer in this case no longer offered employment of the type sought by petitioner, the backpay issue arose in a somewhat unusual context. I do not believe the Court has abused its discretion in declining to review this case.

Justice WHITE, with whom Justice BRENNAN and Justice MARSHALL join, dissenting.

It may be unfortunate in light of the expanding size of our docket, but it remains the case that this Court is the only

Page 454 U.S. 1064 , 1065

body capable of resolving conflicts between the various lower courts, both federal and state. Our obligation to resolve these conflicts is just as pressing as is the need for a uniform rule of law. In my view this is a very pressing need, and is particularly so when the conflict involves those elements that define the character of the judicial process itself. In this respect, the right to a jury trial is fundamental. It is not a tolerable rule of law that one's right to a jury trial depends upon the geographical location of the federal district court within which one files a complaint. This is precisely what is involved in this case.

Respondent unsuccessfully sought employment as a truck driver with petitioners' trucking company. Alleging that this refusal to hire was based on racial considerations, respondent brought this suit claiming a violation of 42 U.S.C. 1981.1 He filed his complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Respondent sought monetary damages for backpay, lost insurance benefits, expenses incurred in seeking alternative employment, pain and suffering, interest, attorney's fees, and costs. He moved for a jury trial. That motion was opposed by petitioners with respect to the claims for lost wages, interest, attorney's fees, and costs. The District Court, acting sua sponte, entered an order denying a jury trial on all issues, holding that a jury trial is not available in a 1981 case.

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed. 638 F.2d 1137 ( 1981). Relying on Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454 (1975), in which this Court held that both legal and equitable relief is available in actions brought under 1981, and Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, [454 U.S. 1064 , 1066]


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