The American Law Institute (ALI), an independent organization that produces scholarly work to clarify, modernize and improve American law, has released a new book, Principles of the Law of Aggregate Litigation. Vanderbilt law professor Richard Nagareda served as an Associate Reporter for the project, teaming up with New York University law professor Samuel Issacharoff, who was the project’s Reporter, and Lewis & Clark Law School Dean Robert Klonoff and University of Texas law professor Charles Silver, who served as Associate Reporters along with Professor Nagareda.
“The impetus for this book was the fact that we’ve had the modern class action lawsuit for more than 40 years,” Nagareda said. “In that time, we’ve learned a lot about how this type of litigation works, the problems it can generate, where it works best, and where it does not work. The book is designed to build on our 40-plus years of real-world experience and offer guidance to judges and lawyers who are dealing with aggregate litigation in various forms.”
The book provides an overview of mass disputes in modern society and discusses key concepts in the field, which has changed significantly in recent years. The content is divided into three chapters: The first defines and categorizes the varieties of aggregate litigation today, of which class actions are just one part. The second focuses on the certification principles for class actions. The third analyzes the settlement of both class and non-class aggregate litigation, including the “aggregate settlement rule” in legal ethics.
“The process for amending the rules of civil procedure has become a very open, very public process, and one that moves very slowly,” Nagareda said. “In this book, we could examine the hot-button issues from all sides.”
One topic Nagareda addressed was class certification. “There’s an old saying that you don’t realize how beautiful the world is until you try to paint it,” he said. “I hadn’t realized how far we had gotten toward developing a genuine law of class certification until we came to the point of laying out the governing principles. I think we’re actually in a pretty sensible place on this topic.”
The American Law Institute initially approached leading scholars of aggregate litigation seven years ago, and the book is the product of careful collaboration among the reporters and advisors on the project, who included leading judges, practicing lawyers, and scholars versed in the realities of aggregate litigation. Notwithstanding numerous ongoing controversies about litigation in American society, the project ultimately garnered the unanimous approval of the ALI membership at its annual meeting in 2009.
“This is the first body of proposals that aims to organize and clarify the way the American legal system deals with mass disputes,” Issacharoff said. “No systematic review of these types of cases existed before. As an increasing number of countries around the world are beginning to deal with aggregate cases for the first time, this text will serve as a valuable resource and model in navigating this crucial field.”
As a result, the project has garnered international attention, being presented at scholarly conferences at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, in 2008, and at Renmin University in Beijing, China, in 2009. The project also will be the subject of a forthcoming symposium issue of the George Washington Law Review, which will feature commentary by leading scholars of civil procedure and legal ethics.
The book combines clear black-letter provisions with extensive explanatory comments, clarifying illustrations, and detailed reporters’ notes. The book can be ordered in hard-copy form from the ALI: www.ali.org. Its contents are also available for legal research via Westlaw.