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
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.
Last March, dean of class action scholarship John Coffee Jr. published an article in the Columbia Law Review titled "Litigation Governance: Taking Accountability Seriously." Coffee’s argument is that, from a corporate governance perspective, there are two ways to keep an organization’s leaders accountable: "exit" and "voice." In other words, judges and legislators can make it easier for shareholders to leave an organization, or they can give them a greater voice in governing it. He then tries to apply those principles to class actions and other forms of collective redress. Specifically, he worries about how the current class-action regime … Continue Reading