A Writ Improvidently Granted

When a matter rises to the level of the Supreme Court of the United States, the case accepted for argument has the potential to set a precedent. In a recent matter, a 61-year-old former attorney for the state of Illinois, Harvey N. Levin, alleged he was terminated in favor of a younger female attorney. While the case could have examined remedies under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), instead argument caused the court to question its presence on the docket.

Opening day for the new session of the Supreme Court ended a week later with an unceremonious decision that stated succinctly the outcome of oral argument in the case of Madigan v. Levin, [t]he writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted.

At question was whether federal or state employees can proceed to court on a claim of age discrimination instead of pursuing all remedies available through an administrative action under ADEA. Findings could have been relevant to state and private employers, but the question is no longer at issue.

Instead, the oral argument became an exercise in the extrication of the court from a case on which certiorari should probably not have been granted. Highlights included:

  • Discussion on jurisdictional issues that precluded argument by the Illinois Solicitor General attempting to dissuade the court of the constitutional claim
  • Inability by counsel for Mr. Levin to respond to the question of whether his client was an employee or an appointee
  • Justice Scalia commenting that statements made by counsel for Mr. Levin were not included in his brief, to which counsel repeatedly responded,  [w]e could’ve done a better job

As suspected by those familiar with the oral argument, the court disposed of the case and the question it supposed.

This case makes a statement about the necessity of experienced, high skilled legal counsel at any phase of litigation. Mr. Levin was not served by his representation and important questions were not answered. If anticipating litigation, seek legal counsel in New York with the experience and knowledge to decisively present your case in any court of law.

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