This evening, I came across an excellent blog article by David J. Sales, a trial lawyer with the Florida personal injury firm, Searcy Denney. His article discusses Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s vote in favor of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 and the significance of that vote in demonstrating an independent streak, allowing him to counter John McCain’s claim to being the “maverick” candidate willing to break with his party.
Sales makes two insightful observations about CAFA that refute popular myths about the statute. First, he points out that by passing a statute that shifts jurisdiction over many class action lawsuits from state courts to the federal courts, Congress created a “decidedly anti-federalist” measure, a point that calls into question any perception of the law as a triumph in conservative lawmaking. Second, he notes that the effects of CAFA have not been been measurably harmful to consumers as many Democrats and trial lawyers warned, a point that discredits any argument that support for CAFA could only have been justified by a pro-big business, anti-consumer agenda.
CAFA has not brought about an end to class actions, as some conservatives hoped and as some liberals had feared. Maybe for some the law didn’t go far enough in preventing class action abuse, and maybe for others it went too far in restricting access to justice. But it did add some reasonable procedures that may at least in some cases improve the quality of decision making and prevent abuse in class actions. Isn’t that exactly the kind of compromise that the vast majority of us who find ourselves closer to the middle of the American political spectrum would like to see happen more often?