Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Last month Judge Lorna Schofield (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York) issued an interesting decision that is one of the first to apply the 2018 amendment to Rule 23 regarding objectors to class action settlements. The new language in Rule 23(e)(5)(B) provides:
“Unless approved by the court after a hearing, no payment or other consideration may be provided in connection with: (i) forgoing or withdrawing an objection, or (ii) forgoing, dismissing, or abandoning an appeal from a judgment approving the proposal.”
The recent decision comes in the case of In re Foreign Exchange Benchmark Rates Antitrust Litigation. Two objectors had appealed Judge Schofield’s approval of the class settlement in that case, but the objectors reached an agreement with class counsel to dismiss the appeal in exchange for a $300,000 payment to the objectors’ counsel and a $5,000 incentive award payment to one of the objectors.
Judge Schofield refused to approve the payment, quoting this language from the Advisory Committee Note to the 2018 amendment:
“But some objectors may be seeking only personal gain, and using objections to obtain benefits for themselves rather than assisting in the settlement-review process. At least in some instances, it seems that objectors -- or their counsel -- have sought to obtain consideration for withdrawing their objections or dismissing appeals from judgments approving class settlements. And class counsel sometimes may feel that avoiding the delay produced by an appeal justifies providing payment or other consideration to these objectors. Although the payment may advance class interests in a particular case, allowing payment perpetuates a system that can encourage objections advanced for improper purposes.”
She reasoned: “The Agreement here seems to fit that description; the Agreement does little more than benefit Objector’s counsel and ‘perpetuate a system that can encourage objections advanced for improper purposes.’”
Here is the full opinion:
It’s also available on Westlaw at 2019 WL 5256957.
Here’s coverage of Judge Schofield’s decision from Bloomberg’s Perry Cooper.
PS: Because Judge Schofield refused to approve the payment, the Second Circuit appeal went forward. Just a few weeks after oral argument, the Second Circuit issued an opinion affirming Judge Schofield’s approval of the settlement. Here is the Second Circuit’s opinion:
The Second Circuit opinion is available on Westlaw at 2019 WL 5681336.
Monday, November 18, 2019
Pound Civil Justice Institute/Lewis & Clark Law School Symposium: "Class Actions, Mass Torts, and MDLs: The Next 50 Years"
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Jay Tidmarsh’s essay, The Negotiation Class Action. Jay reviews a recent paper by Francis McGovern & Bill Rubenstein, The Negotiating Class: A Cooperative Approach to Class Actions Involving Large Stakeholders.
Friday, November 8, 2019
Today Judge Klausner of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California certified both a damages class and an injunctive relief class in Morgan v. United States Soccer Federation. The plaintiffs are members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, alleging violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII based on discrepancies in pay between them and the Men’s National Team.
Here is today’s order:
Monday, November 4, 2019
Mullenix on Choi, Erickson & Pritchard on Attorneys Fees in Securities Fraud Class Action "Mega-Settlements"
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Linda Mullenix’s essay, Is Greed Good? Mega-Fees in Securities Fraud Class Action Mega-Settlements. Linda reviews a recent paper by Stephen Choi, Jessica Erickson, and Adam Pritchard, Working Hard or Making Work? Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Fees in Securities Fraud Class Actions.
Friday, October 11, 2019
Sergio Campos has published The Uncertain Path of Class Action Law, 40 Cardozo L. Rev. 2223 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
For the past ten terms the Supreme Court has increased its focus on the law of class actions. In doing so, the Court has revised the law to better accord with a view of the class action as an exception to an idealized picture of litigation. This “exceptional” view of the class action has had a profound impact not only on class action law, but on procedural and substantive law in general. However, in the October 2015 term the Court decided three class action cases that support an alternative, “functional” view of the class action, one that does not view the class action as exceptional, but as one of many equally permissible tools to serve the objectives of substantive law. This alternative view has the potential to have a similarly significant impact on the law, but it is not certain whether the Court will further develop this alternative, especially given its most recent class action decisions. This Article discusses the development of the “exceptional” view of the class action, the awakening of a “functional” alternative view, and the uncertain path ahead.
Monday, September 30, 2019
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in Molock v. Whole Foods Market, Inc., which addresses the extent to which the Supreme Court’s 2017 Bristol-Myers decision on personal jurisdiction applies to class actions.
Here is the oral argument recording.
Here’s coverage from Perry Cooper, Whole Foods Appeals Court Tries to Avoid Jurisdictional Issue (Bloomberg).
And here’s what can happen in the Whole Foods parking lot.
Monday, September 23, 2019
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Symposium: “Class Actions, Mass Torts, and MDLs: The Next 50 Years” (Lewis & Clark Law School, November 2019)
The Pound Civil Justice Institute and Lewis & Clark Law School are co-sponsoring a symposium entitled Class Actions, Mass Torts, and MDLs: The Next 50 Years.
It will take place at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon on November 1 & 2, 2019.
You can register to attend the symposium here. It’s free for judges, law clerks, academics, law students, and public officials.
Friday, August 23, 2019
Burbank & Farhang on the Effects of Judicial Partisanship and Identity on Class Certification Decisions
Steve Burbank & Sean Farhang have posted on SSRN a draft of their article, Politics, Identity, and Class Certification on the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Here’s the abstract:
This article draws on novel data and presents the results of the first empirical analysis of how potentially salient characteristics of Court of Appeals judges influence precedential lawmaking on class certification under Rule 23. We find that the partisan composition of the panel (measured by the party of the appointing president) has a very strong association with certification outcomes, with all-Democratic panels having more than double the certification rate of all-Republican panels in precedential cases. We also find that the presence of one African American on a panel, and the presence of two females (but not one), is associated with pro-certification outcomes. Contrary to conventional wisdom in the scholarship on diversity on the bench, such diversity may be consequential to lawmaking beyond policy areas conventionally thought to be of particular concern to women and racial minorities.
Class action doctrine is a form of trans-substantive procedural law that traverses many policy areas. The effects of gender and racial diversity on the bench, through making more precertification law, radiate widely across the legal landscape, influencing implementation of consumer, securities, labor and employment, antitrust, prisoner’s rights, public benefits, and many other areas of law. The results highlight how the consequences of diversity extend beyond conceptions of “women’s issues” or “minority issues.” The results also suggest the importance of exploring the effects of diversity on trans-substantive procedural law more generally.
Our findings on gender panel effects in particular are novel in the literature on panel effects and the literature on gender and judging. Past work focusing on substantive antidiscrimination law found that one woman can influence the votes of males in the majority (mirroring what we find with respect to African American judges in class certification decisions). These results allowed for optimism that the panel structure — which threatens to dilute the influence of underrepresented groups on the bench because they are infrequently in the panel majority — actually facilitates minority influence, whether through deliberation, cue taking, bargaining, or some other mechanism.
Our gender results are quite different and more normatively troubling. We observe that women have more pro-certification preferences based on outcomes when they are in the majority. However, panels with one female are not more likely to yield pro-certification outcomes. Female majority panels occur at sharply lower rates than women’s percentage of judgeships, and thus certification doctrine underrepresents their preferences relative to their share of judgeships.
Our suggestions regarding mechanisms that may help to explain these results are speculative and tentative. Recent scholarship on the gender gap in political discussions and decision-making illuminates some disquieting possibilities. If the dynamics identified by this research are at play, one possibility is that a female judge in the minority who vigorously advocates for a preferred outcome is less successful because, as a panel minority in a substantive domain that, unlike anti-discrimination law, does not elicit gender-based deference, she is regarded as less authoritative and influential. Another is that the reinforcement of a female majority increases her propensity to advocate preferences that differ systematically from those of her male colleagues in areas without obvious gender salience.
Thursday, August 8, 2019
Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a unanimous decision in Patel v. Facebook. The panel opinion by Judge Ikuta begins:
Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that Facebook subjected them to facial-recognition technology without complying with an Illinois statute intended to safeguard their privacy. Because a violation of the Illinois statute injures an individual’s concrete right to privacy, we reject Facebook’s claim that the plaintiffs have failed to allege a concrete injury-in-fact for purposes of Article III standing. Additionally, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class.
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Today the en banc Ninth Circuit issued its decision in In Re Hyundai and Kia Fuel Economy Litigation (covered earlier here). Judge Nguyen authors the majority opinion, and Judge Ikuta authors a dissenting opinion.
Contrary to the earlier panel ruling, the en banc Ninth Circuit affirms the district court with respect to both class certification and approval of the settlement.
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Today the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Home Depot U. S. A., Inc. v. Jackson. Justice Thomas authored the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. It begins:
The general removal statute, 28 U. S. C. §1441(a), provides that “any civil action” over which a federal court would have original jurisdiction may be removed to federal court by “the defendant or the defendants.” The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) provides that “[a] class action” may be removed to federal court by “any defendant without the consent of all defendants.” 28 U. S. C. §1453(b). In this case, we address whether either provision allows a third-party counterclaim defendant—that is, a party brought into a lawsuit through a counterclaim filed by the original defendant—to remove the counterclaim filed against it. Because in the context of these removal provisions the term “defendant” refers only to the party sued by the original plaintiff, we conclude that neither provision allows such a third party to remove.
Justice Alito authored a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
Monday, April 22, 2019
Maureen Carroll has published Class Actions, Indivisibility, and Rule 23(b)(2), 99 B.U. L. Rev. 59 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
The federal class-action rule contains a provision, Rule 23(b)(2), that authorizes class-wide injunctive or declaratory relief for class-wide wrongs. The procedural needs of civil rights litigation motivated the adoption of the provision in 1966, and in the intervening years, it has played an important role in managing efforts to bring about systemic change. At the same time, courts have sometimes struggled to articulate what plaintiffs must show in order to invoke Rule 23(b)(2). A few years ago, the Supreme Court weighed in, stating that the key to this type of class action is the “indivisible” nature of the remedy the plaintiffs seek.
Some defendants have encouraged federal courts to adopt an extremely restrictive version of indivisibility, which I term “endpoint indivisibility,” as a standard for applying Rule 23(b)(2). This Article argues that an endpoint indivisibility requirement would be fundamentally inconsistent with the historical models for Rule 23(b)(2). Moreover, such a requirement would have devastating effects on civil rights litigation. An alternative standard, which I term “root-cause indivisibility,” offers a better logical and historical fit.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is my essay, When American Pipe Met Erie. I review a recent article by Steve Burbank and Tobias Wolff, Class Actions, Statutes of Limitations and Repose, and Federal Common Law, 167 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1 (2018).
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Frank v. Gaos (covered earlier here). The Court had initially granted certiorari to decide “[w]hether, or in what circumstances, a cy pres award of class action proceeds that provides no direct relief to class members supports class certification and comports with the requirement that a settlement binding class members must be ‘fair, reasonable, and adequate.’” Following oral argument, however, the Court ordered supplemental briefing on whether any plaintiff had Article III standing under the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Spokeo v. Robins.
Today’s per curiam opinion remands the case for the lower courts to consider the standing question:
After reviewing the supplemental briefs, we conclude that the case should be remanded for the courts below to address the plaintiffs’ standing in light of Spokeo. The supplemental briefs filed in response to our order raise a wide variety of legal and factual issues not addressed in the merits briefing before us or at oral argument. We “are a court of review, not of first view.” Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U. S. 709, 718, n. 7 (2005). Resolution of the standing question should take place in the District Court or the Ninth Circuit in the first instance. We therefore vacate and remand for further proceedings. Nothing in our opinion should be interpreted as expressing a view on any particular resolution of the standing question.
Justice Thomas dissented. He would have found that the plaintiffs’ allegations were sufficient to establish standing but that “the class action should not have been certified, and the settlement should not have been approved.”
Monday, March 11, 2019
Simona Grossi and Allan Ides have posted on SSRN a draft of their article, The Modern Law of Class Actions and Due Process. Here’s the abstract:
Our goal in writing this article was to offer helpful insight for a reformed interpretation and application of Rule 23 that would make the Rule serve its intended democratic function. The idea of due process is a promise of the rule of law tempered by reasonableness, fairness, and efficiency. It embraces both the value of individual autonomy and the collective interests of the community. The idea of class actions, premised on due process, is to provide a pragmatic method of dispute resolution that is fair to the individual and responsive to the needs of the community and the challenges generated by widely spread and shared harms. In this respect, class actions operate as a tool of democracy. Rule 23 should be interpreted from this hopeful and effective perspective, one that balances individual autonomy against the legitimate needs of the community. But the Rule is not accomplishing its mission. As we show in the article, it appears to be infused with its framers’ self-doubts, and the Supreme Court treats it as an unwelcome guest in the home of traditional litigation forms—see, for example, our discussions of Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corporation (1999); Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (2011); Jennings v. Rodriguez (2018); Nutraceuticals Corp. v. Lambert (2019).
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Today on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Jasminka Kalajdzic’s essay, In Praise of Non-Partisan Law Reform of Class Actions. Jasminka reviews Howard Erichson’s recent article, Civil Litigation Reform in the Trump Era: Threats and Opportunities Searching for Salvageable Ideas in FICALA, 87 Fordham L. Rev. 19 (2018).
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
SCOTUS: Rule 23(f)’s 14-day deadline for class-certification appeals is not subject to equitable tolling
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert, which involves Rule 23(f)’s 14-day deadline for seeking permission to appeal a district court’s class-certification ruling.
In Justice Sotomayor’s opinion, the Court makes clear that the 14-day deadline is not jurisdictional, which means that it “can be waived or forfeited.” [Slip op. at 3-4] Nonetheless, the Court found that it is not subject to equitable tolling:
“Whether a rule precludes equitable tolling turns not on its jurisdictional character but rather on whether the text of the rule leaves room for such flexibility. Here, the governing rules speak directly to the issue of Rule 23(f)’s flexibility and make clear that its deadline is not subject to equitable tolling.” [Slip op. at 4]
Howard Wasserman has a more detailed recap at SCOTUSblog.