July 01, 2015

Class Actions

The ABA expressed opposition last month to H.R. 1927, a bill approved June 24 by the House Judiciary Committee that would make changes to class action litigation procedures. In a June 23 letter to committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), a sponsor of the bill, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman said that H.R. 1927 “would unnecessarily circumvent the Rules Enabling Act, make it more difficult for large numbers of injured parties to efficiently seek redress in court, and would place added burdens on an already overloaded court system.” Susman wrote that the legislation would limit the ability of victims to seek redress for harm caused to them, as it would make the regulations more stringent governing certification as a class by mandating that plaintiffs show that they suffered the same type and extent of injury as the named class representative. “Class actions have been an efficient means of resolving disputes. Making it harder to utilize class actions will add to the burden of our court system by forcing aggrieved parties to file suit in smaller groups, or individually,” he said. Susman urged the committee, instead of passing legislation, to allow the Judicial Conference and the Supreme Court, which is poised to rule on cases where there are questions surrounding class action certification, to reshape these procedural and evidentiary rules. He also said that plaintiffs already must meet current rigorous thresholds under screening practices that are in place, as illustrated  by a 2008 Federal Judicial Center study that found that in diversity actions filed as class actions, a mere 25 percent resulted in class action certification motions, nine percent settled, and none went to trial. “The ABA has long recognized that we must continue to improve our judicial system,” Susman said, but he urged Congress to allow the current processes for examining and reshaping procedural and evidentiary rules to work as Congress intended. No further action is scheduled on the legislation.

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