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June 2006

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Class Action Fairness Act's Judicial Impact Under Study

A long-term study of what impact the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) is having on the federal courts has produced its first interim progress report, one that shows that the number of class action cases dramatically increased in three busy district courts since the early 1990s.

CAFA, which took effect February 18, 2005, is aimed at removing class action cases from state to federal courts.

The Federal Judicial Center's interim report was presented to the Judicial Conference's Advisory Committee on Civil Rules on May 22. It noted big increases in class action cases handled by the U.S. district courts for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Northern District of Illinois, and the Southern District California, the courts that comprised the study's initial focus.

A previous FJC study found that those three courts and one other (the Southern District of Florida) resolved 407 class action cases over a two-year period ending in 1994.

The current study found that in the four-year period ending June 30, 2005, there had been 348 class action filings in Pennsylvania Eastern, 1,062 in Illinois Northern, and 465 in California Northern.

"Though the time period in the current study was twice as long and the cases studied were filings and not terminations, those differences do not account for the more than fourfold difference in the number of cases," the interim report said.

It added, however, "Our current data do not yet allow us to tell whether there have been significant changes in class action filings in federal courts generally."

Tom Willging, leader of the FJC’s study, said that an eventual goal is a before-and-after-CAFA comparison of federal class action caseloads.

The next report, expected in September, likely will include data for all district courts using the Case Management/Electronic Case Files System (as of May, 89 of the 94 district courts were using that case management system).

To read the interim report, go to http://www.fjc.gov/library/fjc_catalog.nsf and click on Recent Materials.