Back in the 1970s, our state legislature enacted a law to require “destruction” by “permanent obliteration” of records of minor marijuana convictions that were more than two years old. So while California employers are generally allowed to ask job applicants about criminal convictions, there’s an exception for certain minor marijuana offenses.
A group of plaintiffs sued Starbucks arguing that it violated this rule by asking applicants about all convictions, including the minor marijuana convictions that are off-limits. But Starbucks got the plaintiffs disqualified because none of them had been convicted of violating marijuana laws. As a result, they couldn’t adequately represent a class made up of such individuals. At that point, the plaintiffs’ attorneys had no representative plaintiff for their proposed class action. That should be the end, right?
Well it wasn’t. The plaintiffs asked the trial judge to order Starbucks to search its own records to find them an appropriate individual to head up the class action. In other words, in a case accusing Starbucks of requiring unlawful disclosures of marijuana convictions, the plaintiffs’ attorneys asked the court to order Starbucks to make such disclosures so that they could represent those individuals in litigation against Starbucks. Incredibly, the trial court ordered Starbucks to do just that! Hey Starbucks, these lawyers want to sue you but don’t have anyone who’s been harmed by your allegedly unlawful practice. Be a good sport and go find them someone, OK?
Starbucks sought a writ challenging the lower court’s order and, on Monday, the court of appeal reversed. All’s well that ends well, right? But here’s another reminder (if you needed one) that courts can go off in some crazy directions.