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March 19, 2014 Articles

Book Review: The Class Action Fairness Act: Law and Strategy

By Linda Mullenix

The Class Action Fairness Act: Law and Strategy
Gregory C. Cook, editor
ABA Section of Litigation, 2013

Since enactment of the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) in February 2005, federal courts have issued hundreds of decisions interpreting and applying CAFA. Even for dedicated class-action practitioners, the amount of CAFA case law has been and continues to be daunting. In The Class Action Fairness Act: Law and Strategy, editor Gregory C. Cook has brought together an eminent group of practitioners―on all sides of the docket, including public-interest attorneys―to bring order out of the CAFA chaos. This one-volume handbook begins with a short overview of Congress’s creation of new federal diversity jurisdiction for class actions and the creation of a new procedural mechanism, the “mass action.” The book’s introduction also highlights CAFA’s most significant changes to settlement practices. And, for visual learners, the book’s introduction contains a handy flow chart that provides graphic guidance through CAFA’s intricate sections and subsections.

In short chapters, the book very capably covers every essential topic to class-action practice in a post-CAFA world, either as a matter of original or removal jurisdiction. The handbook first sets forth the eight-year struggle to enact CAFA. This background is useful for understanding the often controversial role that CAFA’s legislative history has played in lower-court interpretations of the statute. The book then segues into discrete chapters synthesizing case law on how federal courts have applied CAFA’s various provisions to determine whether a class action exists under CAFA’s general requirements. Courts have issued hundreds of decisions analyzing the allocation of burdens of production and proof on the requisite diversity, numerosity, and amount-in-controversy requirements to establish a valid CAFA action. These chapters usefully synthesize large amounts of decisional law, bringing some order out of CAFA’s chaos.

The handbook also includes helpful chapters relating to CAFA’s complicated and intricate exceptions, as well as CAFA’s new mass-action provision. These chapters incorporate practical strategies for plaintiffs and defendants in either pleading a class action, removal, or remand. An additional chapter explores the availability of either interlocutory or final appeal of CAFA remand or other class-related orders. Finally, the book concludes with a discussion of CAFA’s new settlement provisions, with a focus on CAFA’s requirements relating to notice, coupon settlements, attorney fees, and protection of class members.

Nearly nine years after CAFA’s enactment, this short but comprehensive handbook finally provides clear and useful guidance to class-action practitioners on either side of the docket. As a one-volume distillation of CAFA jurisprudence, this ready reference on CAFA should prove invaluable to any class-action practitioner.

Keywords: mass torts litigation, CAFA, class actions

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