Gino DiCaro

Feinstein Plays Critical Role in Advancing CMTA Supported Federal Class Action Reform

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, April 20, 2003 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved a class action lawsuit reform bill sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and supported by CMTA. The bipartisan bill, approved on a 12-7 vote, would enable defendants to move many class action suits filed in state court into federal court.

Under a compromise amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Judiciary Chairman Hatch (R- Utah), a class action case could be automatically transferred to federal court, at the request of either party, if less than one-third of the plaintiffs in the class reside in the state where the action was filed. If more than two-thirds of the plaintiffs reside in that state, the case would remain in state court under that amendment, which passed in a 10-8 vote. For state-filed class action suits where less than two-thirds, but more than one-third, of the plaintiffs reside in that state, the amendment would give federal judges the discretion to decide whether the case should be tried in federal or state court. In making those decisions, federal judges would be required to consider whether a case could have a national impact. "There are strong arguments to be made that state judges should not be making national law, and this amendment is meant to address that issue," Feinstein said.

In 2000, a similar class action bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on an 11-7 vote, with only one democrat crossing party lines to support it. It was never scheduled for floor action. CMTA is eager to see this year's bi-partisan version brought before the full Senate for a vote. CMTA believes that cases are becoming increasingly concentrated in state courts -- which permit class actions to proceed with little or no scrutiny. Feinstein's concerns with the underlying measure went largely to the scope of the bill's criteria dictating when multi-state class actions can be removed from federal court. ?This amendment narrows the scope of the proposed bill by reducing the number of cases that would automatically go to federal court,? Senator Feinstein said. ?This will allow federal courts to focus on the cases that are truly national in scope, rather than cases that really belong in the state system.? CMTA applauds Senator Feinstein for her leadership in forging a compromise amendment to the Class Action Fairness Act and we are very encouraged that this action will greatly assist in making this proposal reality.
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