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Empirical Study of Class Actions in Four Federal District Courts: Final Report to the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules

NCJ Number
T E Willging; L L Hooper; R J Niemic
Date Published
207 pages
This report presents the methodology and findings of a study that addresses many of the issues in the continuing debate about class action lawsuits under Federal Rule 23.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, an outgrowth of an equity rule, was promulgated in 1938 as part of the first Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The current version of the rule creates a procedure designed to permit representative parties and their counsel to prosecute or defend civil actions on behalf of a class or putative class that consists of numerous parties. Rule 23 was last amended in 1966. The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules is currently considering proposals to amend Rule 23. This report presents empirical data on all class actions terminated between July 1, 1992, and June 30, 1994, in four Federal district courts: the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Southern District of Florida, the Northern District of Illinois, and the Northern District of California. The study selected for analysis as class actions closed cases in which the plaintiff alleged a class action in the complaint or in which plaintiff, defendant, or the court initiated class action activity, such as a motion or order to certify a class. Some of the primary issues examined were what portion of class action litigation addresses the type of class to be certified, whether judges are reluctant to rule on the merits of claims before ruling on class certification, and whether the filing of a case as a class action or certifying a class coerces settlement without regard to the merits of the claims. Other issues addressed were how well the notice process works and who bears its costs and in what ways class representatives and individual class members participate in the litigation. Suggestions are offered for future research, and the report advises that there is much to be done before systematic data are sufficient to put into perspective the anecdotes and generalizations that have long been driving the debate about class actions. Appended Advisory Committee Draft of Proposed Rule 23 for 1993 and 1995, 83 figures, and 56 tables


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