Federal Rule Civ. Proc. 24 requires that an application to intervene in federal litigation must be "timely." In this case a motion to intervene was filed promptly after the final judgment of a District Court, for the purpose of appealing the court's earlier denial of class action certification. The question presented is whether this motion was "timely" under Rule 24.
Until November 7, 1968, United Airlines required its female stewardesses to remain unmarried as a condition of employment; no parallel restriction was imposed on any male employees, including male stewards and cabin flight attendants.
One of the first challenges to this rule was brought by Mary Sprogis, who filed timely charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August 1966, contending that her discharge constituted sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. V). The EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that United's policy was illegal, and issued a "right to sue letter."
While the appeal in the Sprogis case was pending, the present action was filed in the same District Court by Carole Romasanta, a United stewardess who had been discharged in 1967 because of her marriage. She, too, had filed charges with the EEOC, leading to a finding of cause to believe that the no-marriage rule violated Title VII and the issuance of a right-to-sue letter. Romasanta then promptly filed the present suit as a class action on behalf of herself and all other United stewardesses discharged because of the no-marriage rule. Another United stewardess was later permitted to intervene as a named plaintiff.
Several months later, the District Court granted United's motion to strike the complaint's class allegations, ruling that the class could properly consist of only those stewardesses who, upon the loss of their employment because of marriage, had filed charges under either a fair employment statute or United's collective-bargaining agreement. As thus defined, the class numbered not more than 30 and in the court's view did not satisfy the numerosity requirement of Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 23 (a) (1).
The specific controversy before us arose only after the entry of that judgment. The respondent, a former United stewardess, had been discharged in 1968 on account of the no-marriage rule. She was thus a putative member of the class as defined in the original Romasanta complaint. Knowing that other stewardesses had challenged United's no-marriage rule, she had not filed charges with the EEOC or a grievance under the collective-bargaining agreement.
The respondent promptly appealed the denial of intervention as well as the denial of class certification to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The appellate court reversed, holding that the District Court had been wrong in believing that the motion to intervene was untimely under Rule 24 (b),
In urging reversal, United relies primarily upon American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538. That case involved a private antitrust class action that had been filed 11 days short of the expiration of the statutory limitations period.
It is United's position that, under American Pipe, the relevant statute of limitations began to run after the denial of class certification in the Romasanta action. United thus reasons that the respondent's motion to intervene was time barred, and in support of this position makes alternative
This argument might be persuasive if the respondent had sought to intervene in order to join the named plaintiffs in litigating her individual claim based on the illegality of United's no-marriage rule, for she then would have occupied the same position as the intervenors in American Pipe. But the later motion to intervene in this case was for a wholly different purpose. That purpose was to obtain appellate review of the District Court's order denying class action status in the Romasanta lawsuit,
The lawsuit had been commenced by the timely filing of a complaint for classwide relief, providing United with "the essential information necessary to determine both the subject
The critical fact here is that once the entry of final judgment made the adverse class determination appealable, the respondent quickly sought to enter the litigation. In short, as soon as it became clear to the respondent that the interests of the unnamed class members would no longer be protected by the named class representatives, she promptly moved to intervene to protect those interests.
United can hardly contend that its ability to litigate the issue was unfairly prejudiced simply because an appeal on behalf of putative class members was brought by one of their own, rather than by one of the original named plaintiffs. And it would be circular to argue that an unnamed member of the
Our conclusion is consistent with several decisions of the federal courts permitting post-judgment intervention for the purpose of appeal.
The judgment is
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE WHITE join, dissenting.
The Court's opinion shifts confusingly between the two distinct questions of timeliness raised by respondent McDonald's attempt to intervene in this action against petitioner United Airlines, Inc.
In American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974), the Court held that the filing of a class action complaint "suspended the running of the limitation period only during the pendency of the motion to strip the suit of its class action character." Id., at 561 (emphasis added). Time again commenced to run under the limitations period when the District Court denied class status, and members of the putative class were allowed to intervene in the nonclass action only if their motions were filed before the expiration of the remaining time.
A straightforward reading of American Pipe leads to the conclusion that the filing of the class action complaint in Romasanta v. United Airlines tolled the statute of limitations for respondent, but "only during the pendency of the motion to strip the suit of its class action character." Under the American Pipe rule, the statute of limitations had run
Today's opinion also represents a marked departure from established law on the question of timeliness under Rule 24. The Court apparently has ruled that a motion to intervene for the purpose of appealing the denial of class status is timely under Rule 24 as a matter of law, so long as it is filed "within the time period in which the named plaintiffs could have taken an appeal." Ante, at 396. The discretionary judgment of the District Court emphasized in NAACP v. New York, 413 U.S. 345, 365-366 (1973), is thus eliminated.
The Court purports to distinguish American Pipe on the ground that respondent's purpose in intervening was not "to join the named plaintiffs in litigating her individual claim" but rather "to obtain appellate review of the District Court's order denying class action status." Ante, at 392. The relevance of this undisputed factual distinction is not explained, but two major themes can be identified in the Court's opinion: First, that respondent was justified in relying on the named plaintiffs to protect her interest by taking an appeal, and second, that petitioner was not prejudiced by respondent's intervention at the end of the litigation. These themes have a common analytical weakness, namely, the Court's unwillingness to accept the consequences of the District Court's denial of class status. In the words of the Advisory Committee that drafted the 1966 amendment to Rule 23, the action was
Under the Court's analysis, the "critical fact" in this case is that "once the entry of final judgment made the adverse class determination appealable," respondent moved to intervene "as soon as it became clear [to her] that the interests of the unnamed class members would no longer be protected by the named class representatives." Ante, at 394. Pervading the Court's opinion is the assumption that the class action somehow continued after the District Court denied class status. But that assumption is supported neither by the text nor by the history of Rule 23. To the contrary, those sources as well as this Court's decision in American Pipe support the view that the denial of class status converts the litigation to an ordinary nonclass action. Reliance by respondent on the former class representatives was therefore misplaced. After the denial of class status, they were simply individual plaintiffs with no obligation to the members of the class. Pearson v. Ecological Science Corp., 522 F.2d 171 (CA5 1975). In the words of Judge Pell, dissenting below, the denial of class status is "a critical point which puts putative class members on notice that they must act to protect their rights." Romasanta v. United Airlines, Inc., 537 F.2d 915, 922 (CA7 1976).
The Court's casual treatment of the prejudice to petitioner also reflects its assumption that the class action persisted despite the denial of class status. Petitioner was fully justified
Considerations of policy militate strongly against the result reached by the Court. Our cases reflect a long tradition of respect for statutes of limitations and the values they serve.
The Court also ignores the important "principle that `[s]ettlement agreements are highly favored in the law and will be upheld whenever possible because they are a means of amicably resolving doubts . . . and preventing lawsuits.'" Pearson v. Ecological Science Corp., supra, at 176, quoting D. H. Overmyer Co. v. Loflin, 440 F.2d 1213, 1215 (CA5 1971). Settlements particularly serve the public interest "within the confines of Title VII where `there is great emphasis . . . on private settlement and the elimination of unfair practices without litigation.'" Air Lines Stewards v. American Airlines, Inc., 455 F.2d 101, 109 (CA7 1972), quoting Oatis v. Crown Zellerbach Corp., 398 F.2d 496, 498 (CA5 1968). Today's decision will deter settlements because of the additional uncertainty as to whether the agreements will be nullified by the action of persons who enter the litigation only after final judgment.
In my view, the proper analysis of these questions is as follows: Under American Pipe, the filing of a class action complaint tolls the statute of limitations until the District Court makes a decision regarding class status. If class status is denied in whole or in part, the statute of limitations begins to run again as to class members excluded from the class. In order to protect their rights, such individuals must seek to intervene in the individual action (or possibly file an action of their own) before the time remaining in the limitations period expires. Assuming that intervention is sought within the limitations period, the district court's decision whether
"Upon timely application anyone may be permitted to intervene in an action . . . when an applicant's claim or defense and the main action have a question of law or fact in common. . . . In exercising its discretion the court shall consider whether the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties."
United argues that it was unfairly surprised when after having settled the case with all of the original and intervening plaintiffs it nonetheless faced an appeal, and suggests that the negotiation of settlements will be impeded if post-judgment intervention like the respondent's is permitted. The characterization of the resolution of the Romasanta action as a "settlement" could be slightly misleading. It is of course true that opposing counsel agreed upon a disposition that resulted in dismissal of the complaints. But that agreement came only after the District Judge had granted motions by some plaintiffs for partial summary judgment, and, there was never any question about United's liability in view of the Sprogis decision. All that remained to be determined was the computation of backpay, and the guiding principles for that computation had been established in Sprogis. The "settlement" ultimately reached merely applied those principles to the claims in this case.
The respondent's motion to intervene was filed less than three weeks after the "settlement" was incorporated in the District Court's final judgment, and necessarily "concern[ed] the same evidence, memories, and witnesses as the subject matter of the original class suit." American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538, 562 (BLACKMUN, J., concurring). There is no reason to believe that in that short period of time United discarded evidence or was otherwise prejudiced.
The decision in Pellegrino v. Nesbit, 203 F.2d 463 (CA9), is also similar to the case at bar. There a corporation had filed an action against corporate officers under § 16 (b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U. S. C. § 78p (b), for recovery of short-swing profits. The District Court entered judgment for the defendants, and when the corporation failed to appeal, a shareholder sought to intervene for the purpose of appealing from the District Court decision. The Court of Appeals, reversing the District Court, ruled that the motion was timely and that intervention should have been permitted. 203 F. 2d, at 465-466.
Post-judgment intervention for the purpose of appeal has been found to be timely even in litigation that is not representative in nature, and in which the intervenor might therefore be thought to have a less direct interest in participation in the appellate phase. See, e. g., Hodgson v. United Mine Workers, 153 U. S. App. D. C. 407, 417-419, 473 F.2d 118, 129; Smuck v. Hobson, 132 U. S. App. D. C. 372, 378-379, 408 F.2d 175, 181-182; Zuber v. Allen, 128 U. S. App. D. C. 297, 387 F.2d 862, discussed in Hobson v. Hansen, 44 F. R. D. 18, 29-30, n. 10 (DC); Wolpe v. Poretsky, 79 U. S. App. D. C. 141, 144, 144 F.2d 505, 508; United States Cas. Co. v. Taylor, 64 F.2d 521, 526-527 (CA4).
Insofar as the motions to intervene in these cases were made within the applicable time for filing an appeal, they are consistent with our opinion and judgment in the present case.
"It is important to note that had she sought intervention immediately after the denial of class status, and her intervention had been denied, the intervention issue would have been before this court three years ago. Furthermore, assuming that her intervention had been denied because of petitioner's failure to protest the no-marriage rule—the requirement which was the basis of the court's holding that this action lacked the requisite numerosity to proceed as a class action—then that issue would have been before this court and decided three years ago. Instead, petitioner chose to sit back and allow others to assume the costs and risks in prosecuting their individual actions, and now she attempts to revive her dead claim through another suit which after years of legal argument and negotiation was finally settled to the satisfaction of all parties." 537 F. 2d, at 922 (dissenting opinion).