Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Adequacy of Representation
I recently posted a response to Jay Tidmarsh's article, Rethinking Adequacy of Representation, 87 Texas Law Review 1137 (2009) on SSRN. Although I ultimately find his recommendation troubling for the reasons I highlight below, I highly recommend his article. Here's his abstract:
This article by Jay Tidmarsh questions the usefulness of traditional tests for adequacy of representation in class action proceedings. When determining whether to certify a class, courts have sought to avoid endorsing those classes marred by conflicting interests or the possibility of collusion. Yet, Tidmarsh argues, such conflicts of interest are an intrinsic characteristic of class actions, stemming from the very policy rationales that have prompted the judiciary to allow litigation by classes.
As a result, the current doctrine of adequate representation has left the courts without a bright-line rule; instead, the courts' inquiries into adequacy of representation must focus primarily on the degree of conflicts, leading to confusion and uncertainty--indeed, were prevailing case law strictly applied, virtually no class action could survive the test for adequacy. Tidmarsh therefore proposes an alternative, bright-line rule: "Representation by class representatives and counsel is adequate if, and only if, the representation makes class members no worse off than they would have been if they had engaged in individual litigation." This rule, he believes, would afford far better protection to the interests of individual class members while simultaneously providing the judiciary with a more intelligible test that could be applied with far more consistency.
And here's the abstract from my response, titled Procedural Adequacy:
This short piece responds to Jay Tidmarsh’s article, Rethinking Adequacy of Representation, 87 Texas Law Review 1137 (2009). I explore Professor Tidmarsh’s proposed “do no harm” approach to adequate representation from a procedural legitimacy perspective. I begin by considering the assumption underlying his alternative, namely that in any given class action both attorneys and class representatives tend to act as self-interested homo economicus and we must therefore tailor the adequacy requirement to curb self-interest only in so far as it makes class members worse off than they would be with individual litigation. Adopting the “do no harm” principle as our yardstick for adequate representation is alluring - it removes motivations and morality from the equation and avoids the stickiness that those calculations entail. Plus, Professor Tidmarsh’s careful treatment of the philosophical and economic arguments underlying the joinder rules make a compelling argument for the change. My concern, however, is two-fold: (1) tailoring adequacy to egocentric behavior by providing a floor to minimally acceptable conduct creates a troubling anchor that is at odds with agency and ethical principles and (2) this proposed change, particularly as it tolerates collusion and unequal treatment among class members, may adversely impact perceptions of procedural justice and class action legitimacy.