Breaking News: This'll be all over the country by tomorrow. The AP will have it in a few hours. Fark will probably dig it. Overlawyered will be gloating. But you can read it here first:
In Cohn v. Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (Orange County Superior Court case no. 06CC00090), the plaintiff sued the Angels Baseball Club and the promoter of a freebie deal whereby every woman over the age of 18 got a Mother's Day tote bag for coming to the Angels game on Mother's Day. The plaintiff claimed that this was unlawful discrimination under California's Unruh Act. I discussed the case last May, in my post entitled "I'm Not Kind of Lawyer" [Hoping to wipe out the same sort of discrimination that blacks once suffered in the South (his legal team's words, not mine), San Diego attorney Alfred Nava is at it again....] I've followed the case since then. It's quite easy to do, since the case is assigned to Judge Jonathan Cannon, one of my favorite judges here in the OC, and he posts his tentative rulings on the internet every week for his law and motion calendar. Last August, Judge Cannon refused to toss the case on demurrer, ruling that the complaint stated a potential valid claim on its face. On calendar today: a motion for summary judgment by the Angels. And the decision is....
Like the 2002 Giants, Michael Cohn loses to the Angels. Here is Judge Cannon's full tentative ruling, which was adopted without change after a hearing this afternoon. An identical motion by Corinthian Colleges, Inc. was granted for the same reasons.
Both parties agree it is the objective of the Unruh Civil Rights Act to prohibit businesses from engaging in unreasonable, arbitrary or invidious discrimination. Pizzaro v. Lamb’s Players Theater (2006) 135 CA4th 1171. The parties also agree on the basic facts of this case. Defendant distributed tote bags to women over age 18. The totes were not distributed to men (with the exception of some booster club members, season ticket holders and media.) Plaintiff claims the distribution was intended to discriminate against men. Defendant claims the distribution was part of a plan to honor mothers on Mother’s Day. Because the facts are not in dispute, it becomes a question of law as to whether or not defendants’ act of distributing the tote bag to women over 18 violated provisions of the Unruh Act.
The Unruh Act, as set forth in Civil Code §51, prohibits only arbitrary, invidious, or unreasonable discrimination. In re Cox (1970) 3 C3d 205. A policy or practice that involves arbitrary, class-based distinctions, including those based on gender, will fall within the scope of the act. Koire v. Metro Car Wash (1985) 40 C3d 24.
If a strong public policy exists in favor of discriminatory treatment, courts have found the discriminatory treatment reasonable, and therefore, not arbitrary. Such a finding supports the purpose of the act which is to eliminate antisocial discriminatory practices, not to eliminate socially beneficial ones. Sargoy v. Resolution Trust Corp. (1992) 8 CA4th 1039.
Here, a strong public policy did exist in favor of defendants’ conduct. The give away, along with many other activities planned for the May 8th game, were to celebrate Mother’s Day and honor mothers. The President’s Mother’s Day proclamation encouraged all “Americans to express their love, appreciation, and admiration to mothers for making a difference in the lives of their children, families, and communities.” Defendant’s May 8th game activities and give away did just that.
It is true defendant distributed the totes to women who may not have been mothers, but the evidence supports defendant’s decision to distribute the bag to all females over age 18. There was no efficient way, under the circumstances, to quickly and efficiently determine whether the individual did or did not have children.
Plaintiff complains some men, but not all men did get the totes. Defendant has produced evidence that the totes given to men were not necessarily for the purpose of celebrating Mother’s Day. Totes were given to booster club members as payment for their volunteer services. Totes were given to the media to promote the May 8th celebration. Totes were sold to interested season ticket holders.
The Mother’s Day give away did not involve an arbitrary, class-based distinction. Therefore, the remedies under the Unruh Act are not available to plaintiff. The motion for summary judgment will be granted.
RULING: The motion for summary judgment is granted.
Thus, public policy says it's ok to give free stuff to the ladies on Mother's Day. It's not unlawful discrimination; it's a celebration of Mother's Day. In other words, the world is divided into two groups: normal people, and this one idiot plaintiff and his lawyer. Judge Cannon has shown himself to be in the larger of the two groups.
As a result, the case is over. Instead of a jury, the plaintiff will have to take his case to the Court of Appeal, where the plaintiff might get a published -- and highly publicized -- opinion ripping him and his motives to shreds.