gavel.gif (3462 bytes) Senate committee advances bill federalizing class actions


The Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) reports that after two earlier postponements and following a debate that saw opponents of the bill far more spirited and passionate than its supporters, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on June 30 to report to the full Senate S. 353, the so-called “Class Action Fairness Act.”

According to ATLA, the bill has nothing to do with fairness—its only purpose is to radically expand the jurisdiction of the Federal District Courts, which it does by authorizing the removal of virtually all civil actions that are filed as class actions in state court.

According to ATLA, proponents of the bill failed to attract the widespread bipartisan support which they sought. In fact, seven of the eight committee Democrats, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), whom supporters of the bill had targeted, voted for all pro-consumer amendments and against the bill.

Only Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) of the committee Democrats voted to report the bill, according to ATLA. Meanwhile, Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI), in a hotly contested re-election fight against Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), failed to cast a vote on any of the pro-consumer amendments, all of which failed on 10-7 votes, ATLA reports.

ATLA reports that ranking Democratic member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), joined by Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE), Robert Toricelli (D-NJ), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) led the fight against the bill and offered the pro-consumer amendments.

Sens. Leahy and Biden went so far as to pledge a spirited filibuster should Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) seek to bring the bill to the floor for a vote later this session, according to ATLA.

According to ATLA, among the pro-consumer amendments were ones that would have carved out from the bill class actions involving environmental issues, guns, and tobacco, as well as litigation involving state consumer protection statutes. One amendment would have prevented the removal-dismissal-removal merry-go-round that the bill almost certainly would create, ATLA reports.
ATLA urges all members to contact your U.S. Senators to oppose this unwarranted, anti-consumer expansion of Federal Court jurisdiction.

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