A highlight of the afternoon session was the panel involving “A Wide-Ranging Discussion of Class Actions from the Client’s Perspective.” Hosted by my partner Tim Congrove, doing his best Phil Donahue impersonation, the panel included experienced, articulate in-house counsel. Specifically, the panel brought to the stage Michael G. McQueeney , The Coca-Cola Company, Malini Moorthy , Pfizer Inc., and Laura E. Proctor , LP Building Products. Each of these highly accomplished in house counsel manages a complex civil litigation docket that includes active proposed class actions, certified classes, settled classes, and/or other aggregate litigation.
The panelists shared class-related issues of importance to them and their companies, including tactics for defending multiple class actions across jurisdictions, addressing no-injury classes, and resolution strategies. They talked a bit about what they expect from their outside counsel (thank goodness your humble blogger qualified on all accounts), and the important factors they consider in deciding to try a case where a class has been certified.
A particularly interesting part of the discussion was the panel’s thoughts on tort reform, civil justice reform, and what to do about the many vacancies currently on the federal courts.
On the last point, Congress passed legislation authorizing additional judgeships in 1990. Since that time the district courts have experienced a 38 percent growth in caseload, but only a 4 percent growth in judgeships. In five especially busy federal districts, the Eastern District of California, the Eastern District of Texas, the Western District of Texas, the District of Arizona, and the District of Delaware, the judges face weighted caseloads that exceed 700 cases per judge. The Judicial Conference recommends a weighted caseload of 430 per judgeship.
In August the ABA House of Delegates will vote on a proposed resolution supporting enactment of comprehensive legislation to authorize needed permanent and temporary federal judgeships, and urging the President to advance nominees for current vacancies for federal judicial positions promptly and the United States Senate to hear and vote on those nominations expeditiously.