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

This month’s piece of classic scholarship comes from the sociology of law. Thirty years ago, William L.F. Felstiner, Richard L. Abel, and Austin Sarat published a piece in the Law & Society Review titled "The Emergence and Transformation of Disputes: Naming, Blaming, Claiming …

The authors wanted to trace how experiences transform into legal disputes. And they identified three key steps along the way:

  • Naming — the party recognizes that she’s been injured, or, as the authors put it, recognizes an experience as injurious;
  • blaming — she figures out that someone else is responsible for her
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Today’s piece of "classic" scholarship is by Linda Mullenix, Professor of Law at the University of Texas. Published in 2004, Taking Adequacy Seriously: The Inadequate Assessment of Adequacy in Litigation & Settlement Classes, 57 Vand. L. Rev. 1687 (2004), took an in-depth look at the routine under-enforcement of Rule 23(a)(4)’s adequacy requirement.

To put the case simply, courts pay lip service to the concept of adequate representation but fail to robustly engage in any meaningful inquiry to establish the existence of such adequate representation. For judges, the adequacy inquiry usually is the least-rigorously examined requirement for

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Mass torts have long been a problem for the American judicial system. Today, it’s Vioxx, the BP oil spill, and Chinese drywall. Fifteen years ago, it was asbestos, Agent Orange, and silicone gel breast implants. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when mass torts first threatened to overwhelm crowded dockets in various jurisdictions, the courts carefully considered whether to use class actions as a means of resolving thousands of similar tort claims.

And, at that time, Columbia University law professor (and recent Daily Show guest) John Coffee wrote an in-depth examination of the … Continue Reading

 This month, in our piece of classic scholarship looks at an old University of Chicago Law Review comment on how to use class action. The Class Action Device in Antisegregation Cases, 20 U. Chi. L. Rev. 577 (1953). (JSTOR link here.)

The Comment takes a plaintiffs’ view of how to use class actions to combat segregation (which it defined to mean "any policy of discriminatory treatment of a minority group"). It begins with an observation that even it called "obvious," but that sets up much of its argument argument: that "segregation is a group phenomenon."

One reason that the

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 This month’s look at "classic" class action scholarship focuses on the article Nonpecuniary Class Action Settlements by Geoffrey Miller and Lori Singer. Like the name suggests, nonpecuniary settlements are settlements that don’t require cash payments to the absent class members. According to Miller and Singer, they include:

  • Coupon settlements.
  • Monitoring settlements, "where the defendant endows a fund whichis used to identify and compensate for future harm allegedly arising from the defendant’s product or conduct"
  • Securities settlements, "where the defendant distributes stocks, puts, or warrants instead of cash to membersof a class as consideration for a release of claims for alleged
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This week, we begin a new feature at Class Action Countermeasures. Much as I occasionally look at classic class-action cases, I’m also going to look at classic scholarship once per month. That scholarship will have to have some connection to class actions or other kinds of aggregated litigation. And I’ll be mining these articles for what they can tell us about the modern class action.

First up, a Harvard Law Review Note from 1955, titled The Challenge of the Mass Trial. This Note is occasionally credited with influencing the 1966 Advisory Committee’s revisions to Rule 23, which created … Continue Reading