Are class action suits unconstitutional?

That's the position of a Northwestern University law professor who makes a compelling case in Forbes against a tactic which is the favorite legal tactic of the left, and a big money maker for the lawfirms which utilize it. Lest you imagine that he's one of those impractical academics, the article notes that he argued earlier that corporations had First Amendment rights, something the Supreme Court later affirmed.

For Martin Redish, it's a constitutional travesty. The longtime professor at Northwestern University School of Law, a self-professed liberal Democrat, has caused a stir in academic circles by suggesting that the class action as we know it violates the U.S. Constitution. His reasoning is simple: Since the right to sue belongs to the individual, only the individual can choose to give it away.

In a typical class action, lawyers sue on behalf of a group of plaintiffs who theoretically hold the same claim--purchasers of a stock that fell on bad news, say--and a judge approves combining them into a single group. In some cases plaintiffs can opt out of the class; in others the judge orders everybody in. Usually the majority of "plaintiffs" never even knew they were involved.

"You have injured people, but they're basically comatose," says Redish. "They don't know about the class action, they don't care, and they are unlikely to be compensated."

Professor Redish contends that these matters are better resolved through legislative action rather than through this contortion of the legal system. His argument is persuasive and original.


Clarice Feldman