The U.S. Supreme Court is accepting fewer cases than before, yet employee benefits lawsuits now make up a higher proportion of its caseload than at any time since the federal pension law was enacted in 1974, according to a recent article by Keith N. Hylton, an economist who teaches law at the Boston University.
In 1996, the latest year which Mr. Hylton studied, the nation's high court ruled in four cases (or 5.41% of its total caseload) involving the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Since the signing of ERISA 24 years ago, the high court has averaged 1.2 ERISA cases per term, or 1.14% of its total caseload.
Mr. Hylton finds the increase in the number of ERISA cases troubling when compared with a decline in the number of other labor law cases the court has heard. "Barring a dramatic change in the Supreme Court's conservative-liberal balance, the day may soon come in which ERISA cases make up by far the largest share of the court's labor and employment decisions," he wrote in The Labor Lawyer, a publication of the American Bar Association's Labor and Employment Law section.