Aggregate litigation has become an integral part of the U.S. civil justice system, used in cases as varied as civil rights, securities, and mass torts. Aggregate litigation, however, is often the cause of intense controversy among the private bar, the bench, and the academy. At its best, it creates substantial efficiencies and expands participation in the civil justice system. At its worst, it skews outcomes, takes legal power out of the hands of litigants, and extracts meritless settlements from businesses. With this in mind, in 2009 the American Law Institute completed a project on the Principles of the Law of Aggregate Litigation, whose goal was to “identify good procedures for handling aggregate law suits” and the “ways of governing them that promote their efficiency and efficacy as tools for enforcing valid laws.”
The completion of the Principles in 2009 spurred a host of reactions from attorneys, judges, and scholars from around the nation. On March 12, 2010, The George Washington University Law School’s James F. Humphreys Complex Litigation Center hosted a symposium with almost all of the leading scholars on complex and aggregate litigation in the academy. The questions posed by these scholars included: What is the optimal level of aggregation? When is class action litigation appropriate? Where did the Principles get it right, and where did they go wrong?
The four panels at the symposium and the resulting articles respond to these questions and more, provide valuable insight into the current state of aggregate litigation, and offer normative arguments for changes in current practice. The participants in the symposium agreed that, in general, the Aggregation Project was a significant and positive step forward in clarifying and making coherent the law attending aggregate litigation. Many of the scholars present, however, criticized important proposals and recommendations in the Principles.
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