Cardegna v. Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc.
In this putative class action, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a mandatory arbitration clause may be enforced even when it is embedded in an agreement whose principal purpose is alleged to violate Florida’s criminal laws against usury and loan sharking. The plaintiffs argued, and the Florida Supreme Court had agreed, that where an entire contract is void ab initio under a state’s normal principles of contract law, it never comes into existence and no part of it can be enforced. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the arbitration clause was separable from the remainder of the contract as a matter of federal law and that an arbitrator (not a court) should determine if the contract as a whole is illegal. Public Justice Attorney Paul Bland was lead counsel in the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Public Justice Executive Director Arthur Bryant, Brayton-Baron Attorney Leslie Bailey, then-Public Justice Attorney Michael Quirk, and Leslie Brueckner assisted with the U.S. Supreme Court brief, along with co-counsel Clayton Yates of Fort Pierce, Florida, Christopher Casper of Tampa, Florida, and Richard Fisher of Cleveland, Tennessee.
Ruling of the Florida Supreme CourtThe Fla. Supreme Court held by a 5-1 vote that the payday lender defendant cannot force its customers (represented by Public Justice and a team of consumer advocates) to arbitrate their claims that the lender's entire payday loan contract is illegal and void because its interest rates are usurious.
Initial briefPublic Justice's initial brief on behalf of appellants, urging the Fla. Supreme Court to hold that because a payday lending contract is criminal under state law and void ab initio, an arbitration clause embedded in the contract may not be enforced.