TorteDeForm

Kia Franklin

Great Class Actions Post on ACS Blog

I just wrote about how tort "reform" messaging often distracts us from examining and acknowledging the strengths and benefits of our civil justice system. One area in which this is especially true is class action litigation.

In that vein, Elizabeth Cabraser, a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, writes about the tremendous social benefits of class actions on ACS blog. She says that "class actions can be seen as instruments of cultural change and engines of justice movements." She highlights the frequently discussed as well as the rarely recognized features of class actions. Read her full blog post on ACSBlog, but here's an excerpt:

Roughly a month ago, I was invited to speak on a panel at “Class Actions and Justice,” a conference cosponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy, Public Justice and the Cardozo School of Law. I was asked to address some of the ways in which class action litigation had been used in the civil rights and human rights context.

In preparing my remarks, I was struck particularly by an obscure class action from Kansas that many progressives fail to recognize as a class action. This was a case that changed the face of our nation, and the way we see ourselves and each other, a case that represented a step toward achieving our nation’s promises – Brown v. Board of Education.

Brown v. Board used what we now would call a Rule 23(b)(1) or (b)(2) class action to achieve, through the rule of law, something that Americans for the most part, individually or in the aggregate, had resisted. Of course, thinking of Brown made me think of other human rights uses of the class action instrument, such as the Marcos litigation brought by roughly 10,000 victims of a generation-long reign of terror in the Philippines, a class action that was fully tried and affirmed on appeal.

Certain benefits of class actions are discussed often. Aside from their role in facilitating judicial efficiency, class actions play powerful roles in ensuring access to justice in our courts. Class actions allow plaintiffs who might not be able to litigate their claims individually, to seek redress in the courts as a group. Also, in limited fund cases, class actions encourage equal relief for the entire group of individuals harmed, not simply those who have the resources to litigate their cases first. However, thinking about Brown v. Board made me reflect upon some of the less discussed benefits to class actions...Keep Reading

This is a great blogopst and folks should comment directly on ACS blog, where the author can answer questions and respond to your thoughts.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 2:27 PM, May 21, 2008 in Class Action
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Comments

It is easy to point out a few (very few) cases where civil litigation achieved a great societal good.

Brown v Board of Education was one of those few cases (even if it was a very poorly reasoned case). It is much easier to point out where runamok civil litigation has done great harm to society and sapped the vitality of the society in which we live. Of course Kia probably sees the fees paid to attorneys as a societal good but the rest of us know better

Posted by: Paul W Dennis | May 21, 2008 9:16 PM

All to often, the idea that lawsuits are to improve society is used as an excuse for financial profit and redistribution of monies. At some point, I think that we forgot that it is the role of the legislature to create laws and amend them if necessary. When the courts try to legislate through torts we end up with a jury of a few deciding the fate of a nation of millions with social and economics implications that are removed from the case. We should not confuse determining if a law is Constitutional with reallocation of monies for the purpose of profit and redistribution.

Posted by: throckmorton | May 22, 2008 8:39 AM