Monday, August 10, 2009
The Tennessee Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has issued an opinion regarding situations that may arise when a trial court presides over a class action case in which the parties agree pursuant to the cy pres doctrine that a portion of the settlement be donated to a charitible organization;
We conclude that a trial court's decision with respect to the recipient(s) of unclaimed funds in a class action should not implicate Canons 1 and 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct so long as the trial court follows the appropriate principles of cy pres distribution. Since the function of the court...is to approve or disapprove the recipient(s) of the residual funds, if any, the court should refer the parties to Rule 23.08 and then decide, after the parties have selected the recipient(s) of the residual funds, wether the recipient(s) are acceptable to the court.
The trial court may not play any role in the selection process as "doing so could be looked upon as showing favoritism to a particular group or charity." (Mike Frisch)