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Archive for May, 2010

When the Supreme Court nomination of then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor was announced, I put together this summary of her fairly significant judicial record on class action issues.  Finding any record on class action issues for current nominee Elena Kagan has been more of a challenge, since she has not served as a judge.  However, Solicitor General Kagan does have a background as a Civil Procedure and Constitutional Law professor, and she has written at least one article addressing class actions.  Professor Adam Steinman at the Civil Procedure & Federal Courts Blog has posted an excerpt from that article, Certifying Classes and Subclasses in Title VII Suits, 99 Harv. L. Rev. 619 (1986).  In that excerpt, Kagan appears to argue for a middle ground between what at the time were two competing models for class certification in Title VII employment discrimination cases.  Her scholarship from 25 years ago is hardly a barometer for how she might rule on any issue today, but might it be support for those who argue that she would be a voice of compromise on the Court if confirmed?

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The Supreme Court recently issued a decision addressing the issue of class arbitration.  In Stolt-Nielson S.A. v.  Animalfeeds International Corp., No. 08-1198 (April 27, 2010), an antitrust class action involving allegations of illegal price-fixing by international shipping companies, the Court held that an arbitration panel’s decision to force class arbitration was invalid because the arbitration agreement was silent about whether arbitration could proceed on a class basis.   

Beyond its impact in cases involving class arbitration and the interpretation of arbitration clauses in domestic disputes, the decision partially closes the door on arbitration as a possible global forum for litigating class actions.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld the arbitration panel’s decision to compel class arbitration and certify a class of all purchasers worldwide of the defendants’ shipping services.  The Supreme Court’s decision leaves open the possibility of global class arbitration based on an arbitration agreement that expressly permits class arbitration, but class arbitration cannot be compelled simply because the agreement is silent on the issue.

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Strafford Publications is scheduling an encore presentation of the riveting CLE teleconference:

Rule 23(f) Class Certification Appeals

Strategies for Pursuing or Opposing Appellate Review in the Absence of Clear Standards

This program was first presented in January 2009, and apparently folks liked it enough to justify a reprise.  Check back here over the next few weeks for more details on the agenda and panelists…

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NERA Economic Consulting has published its first study on trends in securities class actions in Australia.  The study covers a variety of topics, including numbers of filings, industries targeted, and settlement amounts.  However, what I found to be of particular interest is the study’s focus on the impact of private litigation funding.

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I’m embarrassingly late in reporting on them, but I would be remiss if I did not mention two key recent United States Circuit Courts of Appeals decisions addressing the legal standards governing class certification under FRCP 23:

In American Honda Motor Co. v. Allen, No. 09-8051 (7th Cir., April 7, 2010) the Seventh Circuit held that a district court abused its discretion by failing to conduct a Daubert inquiry into the admissibility of expert testimony before relying on that testimony in determining that the plaintiff had met his burden of establishing the elements of class certification. 

Meanwhile, in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Nos. 04-16688 and 04-16720 (9th Cir., April 26, 2010) (en banc), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals clarified that circuit’s standards for conducting the “rigorous analysis” necessary to determine whether the elements of Rule 23 are satisfied.  Following extensive discussion of the history of class certification standards both outside and within the Ninth Circuit, the court articulated class certification standards that essentially mirror those recognized in the Second Circuit’s decision in In re IPO Securities Litigation, 471 F.3d 24 (2d Cir. 2006).  However, applying those standards, the court came to a very different result, affirming certification of a nationwide class of thousands of female employees seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, back pay, and punitive damages arising out of allegedly common, discriminatory employment practices.

Both decisions are worthy of careful reading and study, and you will no doubt hear more about both decisions in the weeks and months ahead.

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