In her new article Symmetry & Class Action Litigation, 60 UCLA L. Rev. 1494 (2013), Connecticut law professor Alexandra Lahav has spotted what appears to be an interesting inconsistency in the way modern courts treat class action: despite case law to the contrary, courts often treat certification of a litigation class more rigorously than certification of a settlement class. One can think of any number of reasons for this: courts favor settlements of large disputes; they like clean dockets; there are fewer possible parties to appeal. Professor Lahav believes that it reveals a pro-defendant bias in the courts:

The

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In years past, when I was a budding class-action nerd at O’Melveny & Myers, I used to look forward to the ABA’s annual convention on class actions. While I couldn’t go myself (not cost-justified for baby lawyers), John Beisner would always come back and circulate Professor John Coffee’s Five-Year Reviews of class action law. I learned a lot about Rule 23 that way–not just the doctrine, but the way that the lawyers were actually using the Rule. Those five-year reviews were an essential guidebook for me as I made my way in an area of law that often seemed like … Continue Reading

In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, Justice Scalia registered his disapproval of using statistics to litigate liability in a class action, writing

The Court of Appeals believed that it was possible to replace such proceedings with Trial by Formula. A sample set of the class members would be selected, as to whom liability for sex discrimination and the backpay owing as a result would be determined in depositions supervised by a master. The percentage of claims determined to be valid would then be applied to the entire remaining class, and the number of (presumptively) valid claims thus derived

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For the last six or seven years, a growing academic literature has put forward the argument that the primary justification for class actions is not to compensate absent class members, but to deter corporate wrongdoing. That justification has formed the basis of a number of arguments, from Professor Fitzpatrick’s proposal that class action attorneys earn a 100% commission on their cases to Professor Lahav’s that the law should go a little easier on the class-action lawyer. It also underlies many of the fears that tightening the class-action rules may lead to rampant corporate misconduct.

Few practitioners or scholars have … Continue Reading

Last week, my post on the Ten Most Interesting Articles in 2011 got linked by Professor Alexandra Lahav at the fine Mass Tort Litigation Blog. She recommended my list of ten interesting but unwritten articles to students looking for notes topics, although she cautioned that 

I don’t agree with Mr. Trask’s assessment of my own work, legal academia or what people ought to write about …

Which is a completely fair opinion, even though I’m not entirely sure what those assessments are myself. Leaving aside what I think of Professor Lahav’s work (I’ve featured it three times on this … Continue Reading

 During the latter half of 2011, I was privy to the following exchange between a well-known law professor and a well-known practitioner:

PROFESSOR: Yes, I wrote a piece which concluded that the class action is dead. You heard it here.
PRACTITIONER: And yet plaintiffs keep filing the things …

That exchange (which I promise actually happened), summarizes the primary trend in class-action scholarship in the last year: declaring the device "dead," either because classes are now too hard to certify because of Dukes, too hard to bring in the first place because of Concepcion, or too expensive because Continue Reading

As I’ve discussed before, there are few areas of law as polarized as class actions. The plaintiff and defense bars in class-action law rarely agree on anything, from the proper scope of Rule 23 to what a class action is in the first place. And I’m not the only one to have noticed this divide. Connecticut law professor Alexandra Lahav recently published an essay in the Fordham Law Review on "Two Views of the Class Action."

Lahav’s essay could improve from more focus.  She winds up talking about two different pairs of competing views–one of class actions, and … Continue Reading

 Last year, I discussed Northwestern professor Martin Redish’s argument that class actions are unconstitutional. Redish had predicted–and I largely agreed–that the argument would fall on deaf ears. It turns out we were both wrong. Leaving aside those defense lawyers who adopted his arguments about the Rules Enabling Act, Alexandra Lahav of the University of Connecticut has now reviewed his book Wholesale Justice.

Lahav praises the book, but largely disagrees with its conclusions. Specifically, she takes issue with Redish’s argument that class actions violate separation of powers, and that they lack democratic accountability.

In arguing against Redish’s separation-of-powers critique, … Continue Reading

 When the Supreme Court granted certioriari in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Inc., the Vanderbilt Law Review grabbed a number of law professors who study mass torts and asked them to contribute essays to its En Banc feature. One of these–Richard Nagareda’s Common Answers for Class Certification–was one of the most interesting articles published in 2010. Several of the other contributions also posed some interesting questions, among them Alexandra Lahav’s The Curse of Bigness: The Optimal Size of Class Actions

Lahav doesn’t really address the question she asks in the title; she offers no verdict on the … Continue Reading