United States v. Burke, 504 U.S. 229, 25 (1992)

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Cite as: 504 U. S. 229 (1992)

O'Connor, J., dissenting

inequity in treating Title VII litigants like other plaintiffs who suffer personal injury.

Second, the Court intimates that the unavailability of jury trials to Title VII plaintiffs bears on determining the nature of the claim they bring. See ante, at 240, 241, n. 12. Here, the Court apparently assumes the answer to a question we have expressly declined to address on recent occasions. See Lytle v. Household Mfg., Inc., 494 U. S. 545, 549, n. 1 (1990) ("This Court has not ruled on the question whether a plaintiff seeking relief under Title VII has a right to a jury trial. . . . [W]e express no opinion on that issue here"); Team-sters v. Terry, 494 U. S. 558, 572 (1990). More importantly, the Court does not explain what relevance the availability of jury trials holds for the question of excludability under 104(a)(2). The suggestion is that Title VII recoveries are not excludable under this section because employment discrimination suits are equitable rather than legal in nature. Cf. Sparrow v. Commissioner, 292 U. S. App. D. C. 259, 949 F. 2d 434 (1991). That argument, however, ignores the very IRS regulation the Court purports to apply. Instead of construing the statutory term "damages" as a reference to the remedy traditionally available in actions at law, the IRS defines "damages" to mean "an amount" recovered through prosecution or settlement of a "legal suit or action based upon tort or tort type rights." 26 CFR 1.104-1(c) (1991) (emphasis added). This inclusive definition renders the historical incidents of "actions at law" and "suits in equity" irrelevant to the proper interpretation of 104(a)(2).

Finally, the Court asserts that Congress fundamentally changed the nature of a Title VII suit when it enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub. L. 102-166, 105 Stat. 1071. By authorizing compensatory and punitive damages in addition to backpay and injunctive relief, the Court suggests, Congress extended the statute's scope beyond purely economic losses to personal injury. See ante, at 241, n. 12. This theory is odd on its face, for even before the 1991


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