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Amchem Products v. Windsor

The Proper Question Of Class Certification

When CCR took the case to the Supreme Court, its claim was that the objectors had no case. But the Court, which upheld the appeals court's ruling, found that it was the settlement offer itself which lacked proper legal standing. Justice Ginsburg gave the opinion for the Court, in which Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, and Thomas joined. In it she outlined the elements of Rule 23, which had taken shape with a 1966 revision which delineated conditions to be met before a class could be certified for a class action suit.

Principal among the concerns outlined in parts (a) and (b) of Rule 23, Ginsburg noted, are questions as to whether the proposed group has sufficient unity of claims to constitute a class. The importance of these questions remains even when settlement, rather than trial, is proposed. A "common interest" alone would not satisfy the predominance requirement of Rule 23(b)(3), she said, since that amounts to a virtual redundancy. In fact, "No settlement class called to the Court's attention is as sprawling as the one certified here."

Turning to the adequate representation clause of Rule 23, in section (a)(4), Ginsburg again found the class wanting, as there were conflicts of interest, as noted above. "Representatives must be part of the class and possess the same interest and suffer the same injury as the class members," she said; otherwise, by definition, they are not representative. In the case of "the currently injured, the goal is generous immediate payments." But this is clearly not in the interest of those not currently injured, who may find in another decade or so that they are suffering serious--and expensive--injuries.

Given that the class referred to in the so-called class action suit was not a class at all as defined in Rule 23, the Court saw no need to rule on the adequacy of the notice given within the suit itself, which was the original basis for the case being brought to the Court's attention. As to the need suggested earlier by the investigating committee, that Congress take action by appointing a "nationwide claims processing regime," the Court noted that this was up to the legislative body, which had so far taken no action. But Rule 23 simply "cannot carry the large load the settling parties and the District Court heaped upon it."

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentAmchem Products v. Windsor - Significance, The Proper Question Of Class Certification, Breyer Urges Action, Further Readings