King Rat (gkr) wrote,
King Rat

Maclean v. First Northwest Industries

He called back an hour later. Apparently the case was reversed on a successive appeal.

So I went and looked up that decision. Not sure why I didn't find it in the first place. Anyway, it was a split decision. 3 judges fully agreed with the reversal. 2 more judges agreed with the result, but the file does not say on which of the three items above they concurred in order to concur with the result. 4 judges dissented (with two separate dissenting opinions). One judge did not participate in the case at all.

Here's why:

  1. Civil Rights - Law Against Discrimination - Private Action - Damage - Necessity. Conduct is not actionable under the Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60) unless it results in actual harm.
  2. Civil Rights - Law Against Discrimination - Public Accommodations - Price Differential - Validity. A differential in admission prices is not discrimination under RCW 49.60, prohibiting discrimination in places of public accommodation, unless such price differential also makes the affected person feel unwelcome, unaccepted, undesired or unsolicited, when there is no showing of actual damage.
  3. Statutes - Validity - Standing To Challenge. A party challenging the constitutional validity of a statute or governmental action must demonstrate that the challenged activity has operated to his prejudice.

In reading this, it seems the result was based more on the standing of the plaintiff than on the merits. Specifically, the first item was a result of the fact that both the plaintiff and his wife went to the game. Under Washington law, marital property is common. In other words, because his wife also went to the game, there was no harm to him personally, because the discount is shared between him and his wife under the common property statute.

Item #2 meant that the plaintiff, absent any financial damage, had to show that he felt unwelcome, unaccepted, undesired or unsolicited. He apparently never covered that point at the trial court level, and was not allowed to amend his complaint to include such an item.

Reasoning for item #2 and #3 was this:

The respondent has offered no reason why the owners of the team would be motivated to single out their own sex for discrimination, when that sex comprises their most dependable customers. To state the proposition is sufficient to establish its improbability.

In the absence of some showing that the prices charged were unreasonable or forbidden by statute, we perceive no reason for judicial intervention in ticket-pricing policies which are designed not to exclude anyone but to encourage attendance. It is not denied that the pricing policies at the Sonics games have furthered that purpose. Nor is there the slightest evidence offered that the respondent's disgruntlement is shared by any sizable number of fans. What evidence there is in the record shows the contrary.

According to the affidavit of the vice-president, a sizable majority of fans have indicated their approval of promotional programs such as "ladies' night". Perhaps the time will soon arrive when most will shun them. When that occurs, we would expect that the demands of the marketplace will dictate that the programs be abandoned.

In other words, because a large majority of men do not feel unwelcome (i.e., are willing to pay the extra money) there is no discrimination absent a monetary penalty (which Maclean didn't have, due to the fact his wife also went).

I'll summarize the dissents in another entry.


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