Law School Case Brief
Connor v. First Student, Inc. - 5 Cal. 5th 1026, 236 Cal. Rptr. 3d 826, 423 P.3d 953 (2018)
In cases involving statutory interpretation, the court's fundamental task is to determine the legislature's intent so as to effectuate the law's purpose. If the statute's text evinces an unmistakable plain meaning, the court need go no further. The court construes statutory language in the context of the statutory framework, seeking to discern the statute's underlying purpose and to harmonize its different components.
Plaintiff Eileen Connor and others filed a class action lawsuit in California state court against their former employers, defendants First Student, Inc. and First Transit, Inc. (collectively, "First") and defendants HireRight Solutions, Inc., and HireRight, Inc. (collectively, "HireRight"), an investigative consumer reporting agency hired by First to conduct background checks of employees. The complaint alleged that the notice provided by HireRight before the background check was done did not satisfy the specific requirements of the Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act ("ICRAA") and that First failed to obtain her written authorization to conduct the background check, as ICRAA required. HireRight filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that ICRAA was unconstitutionally vague as applied to Connor's claim because it overlapped with the Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act ("CCRAA"). The trial court granted HireRight's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the appellate court reversed, finding that although the ICRAA and the CCRAA overlapped to some degree, there was no positive repugnancy between them that would render the ICRAA unconstitutional.
Was the ICRAA unconstitutionally vague?
The state supreme court affirmed the appellate court's judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The court concluded that some overlap between the two statutes did not render the ICRAA unconstitutionally vague when the statutes were otherwise unambiguous. The background check that HireRight conducted was an investigative consumer report under the ICRAA because it reported on Connor's character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living. That the CCRAA also applied did not exempt HireRight from the requirement that it obtain Connor's written authorization under the ICRAA before conducting or procuring a background investigation.
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