McCutchen at the Supreme Court

US Airways, Inc. v. McCutchen is scheduled to be argued at the Supreme Court tomorrow, the next round in the on-going investigation by the Court of the scope of equitable relief available under ERISA. In this instance, the Court must consider the extent to which traditional limitations on equitable remedies are incorporated into ERISA. For those of you needing some background, I thought this was a good discussion of the case. For what its worth, I think everything from the Court’s selection of this case, to the recent Court opinions on equitable issues in ERISA litigation, to the language of the statute, point firmly towards the Court upholding and agreeing with the Third Circuit’s take on this issue. I think at the end of the day, the more interesting question is not going to be whether the Court agreed with the Third Circuit on the narrow points at issue in the case, but instead how many various Pandora’s boxes the Court’s discussion of equitable relief in its opinion will inevitably open up, which litigants and lower courts will have to resolve in the future. When the Court has delved recently into the proper scope of equitable remedies under ERISA, it has tended to answer one question while simultaneously opening up many more issues that must be resolved; McCutchen itself, as the Third Circuit’s opinion reflects, is the outcome of just that dynamic.

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