In nearly nine years on the books, the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”) has generated a host of decisions interpreting its provisions. Because the state of the law on CAFA—and class actions in general—is in constant flux, practitioners should certainly make use of online resources (like this blog) to stay up to date. But sometimes what’s needed is a desktop reference that places at one’s fingertips the answers to how to remove a case under CAFA—or how to resist that removal. To fill that need, the ABA’s Section of Litigation recently issued The Class Action Fairness Act: Law and Strategy, edited by Gregory C. Cook.
[Readers should be aware that we received a free review copy of the book.]
This book, dedicated solely to CAFA, provides a thorough analysis of the statute’s provisions and the key judicial decisions interpreting it. In addition, the book offers a number of practical tips for both plaintiffs’ and defense lawyers.
The book opens with a broad overview of CAFA and its expansion of federal jurisdiction over class actions and mass actions. The jurisdictional changes brought about by CAFA are neatly summarized at the close of the introduction in a quick reference chart, which presents a side-by-side comparison of federal diversity and removal jurisdiction over class actions before and after the enactment of CAFA.
Practitioners will also want to bookmark the series of flowcharts preceding the introduction—“CAFA At A Glance”—which were created by Arizona lawyer Kathryn Honecker. Offering visual step-by-step guidance in navigating through the thicket of CAFA’s jurisdictional provisions, including the often thorny “Local Controversy” and “Home State” exceptions to federal jurisdiction, these charts should help orient practitioners—particularly those not already well versed in the minutiae of CAFA—in the right direction.
Also well worth a read is the detailed chapter on CAFA’s legislative history, authored by Scott Nelson of Public Citizen Litigation Group—a respected appellate advocate who routinely represents plaintiffs (and often is one of our opponents in litigation and public policy debates). He chronicles the efforts of five Congresses—and the lively debates outside of Congress—that culminated in CAFA’s enactment in 2005. Nelson identifies the problem that Congress ultimately focused on in adopting CAFA: the willingness of certain state courts to certify virtually any proposed class and to tolerate abuses of the class-action device (and of analogous procedures like mass actions and representative proceedings). These “magnet” jurisdictions attracted nationwide or multistate class actions against businesses. The chapter details the inside baseball of the legislative process as CAFA evolved into an intricate framework of requirements for establishing and exceptions to federal jurisdiction over class and mass actions. A condensed version of this history is presented as a handy timeline at the conclusion of the chapter.
The remaining chapters, too, are worthwhile for class-action practitioners (and other CAFA aficionados). They break down each of CAFA’s provisions, ranging from the $5 million amount-in-controversy requirement to the separate provisions for mass actions to the notice requirements for proposed class action settlements. Practitioners can jumpstart their research process by consulting the relevant chapter or chapters as they confront CAFA-related issues.
In short, The Class Action Fairness Act: Law and Strategy has without a doubt earned a place on our bookshelves. We look forward to the next edition.