Rule 23

I just lost an extensive post on the tort reform bill which passed the Senate today. Here's a slightly shorter with less discussion of civil procedure. Primarily, the bill creates Federal jurisdiction for a lot more class-action cases than previously had it. While I haven't seen evidence for this, I presume the reasoning behind this is that the mean federal damages award is lower than the mean state damages award and significantly lower than the awards in some of the outlier jurisdictions where many class-actions are filed. I have no idea whether this is a good or bad idea.

One quote from the NYTimes says that, "But critics of the bill have said it may effectively create an impossible situation for many plaintiffs, since federal courts are barred under a 1985 Supreme Court ruling from considering class actions in which there are "material" differences in the laws among the affected states. Thus, the critics say, the law may create a "Catch-22" in which class-action plaintiffs find both federal and state courthouse doors locked." As far as I can tell, this isn't true. The bill doesn't strip state courts of their jurisdiction, and indeed I don't know where Congress would get the power to do that. So if the Federal courts are unable to hear an action, presumably the state courts will. Lending credence to this is that the bill provides guidelines for when Federal courts may, and when they must, remand cases to the state court they were filed in. The bill also makes some changes in how attorneys fees will be measured in cases where the settlement involves coupons.

There's another line in the Times which really rubs me the wrong way. It says, "The Senate vote this afternoon followed repeated attempts by some Democrats to enact amendments curbing the effects of the measure. They were beaten back in part because some Democrats had also seen problems in the current state of the law." Everyone sees problems in the current state of the law, the issue is whether or not this bill fixes them. Implying that some Democrats think the status quo is perfect is false, and possibly malicious.