Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23
Go to Rule 23 Essential Points
Rule 23. Class Actions <p id=” 23a”=””>(a) PREREQUISITES. One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members only if:
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
(b) TYPES OF CLASS ACTIONS. A class action may be maintained if Rule 23(a) is satisfied and if:
(1) prosecuting separate actions by or against individual class members would create a risk of:
(A) inconsistent or varying adjudications with respect to individual class members that would establish incompatible standards of conduct for the party opposing the class; or
(B) adjudications with respect to individual class members that, as a practical matter, would be dispositive of the interests of the other members not parties to the individual adjudications or would substantially impair or impede their ability to protect their interests;
(2) the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole; or
(3) the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy. The matters pertinent to these findings include:
(A) the class members’ interests in individually controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions;
(B) the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the controversy already begun by or against class members;
(C) the desirability or undesirability of concentrating the litigation of the claims in the particular forum; and
(D) the likely difficulties in managing a class action.
(c) CERTIFICATION ORDER; NOTICE TO CLASS MEMBERS; JUDGMENT; ISSUES CLASSES; SUBCLASSES.
(1) Certification Order.
(A) Time to Issue. At an early practicable time after a person sues or is sued as a class representative, the court must determine by order whether to certify the action as a class action.
(B) Defining the Class; Appointing Class Counsel. An order that certifies a class action must define the class and the class claims, issues, or defenses, and must appoint class counsel under Rule 23(g).
(C) Altering or Amending the Order. An order that grants or denies class certification may be altered or amended be- fore final judgment.
(A) For (b)(1) or (b)(2) Classes. For any class certified
under Rule 23(b)(1) or (b)(2), the court may direct appropriate notice to the class.
(B) For (b)(3) Classes. For any class certified under Rule 23(b)(3), the court must direct to class members the best notice that is practicable under the circumstances, including individual notice to all members who can be identified through reasonable effort. The notice must clearly and concisely state in plain, easily understood language:
(i) the nature of the action;
(ii) the definition of the class certified;
(iii) the class claims, issues, or defenses;
(iv) that a class member may enter an appearance through an attorney if the member so desires;
(v) that the court will exclude from the class any member who requests exclusion;
(vi) the time and manner for requesting exclusion;
(vii) the binding effect of a class judgment on members under Rule 23(c)(3).
(3) Judgment. Whether or not favorable to the class, the judgment in a class action must:
(A) for any class certified under Rule 23(b)(1) or (b)(2), include and describe those whom the court finds to be class members; and
(B) for any class certified under Rule 23(b)(3), include and specify or describe those to whom the Rule 23(c)(2) notice was directed, who have not requested exclusion, and whom the court finds to be class members.
(4) Particular Issues. When appropriate, an action may be brought or maintained as a class action with respect to particular issues.
(5) Subclasses. When appropriate, a class may be divided into subclasses that are each treated as a class under this rule.
(d) CONDUCTING THE ACTION.
(1) In General. In conducting an action under this rule, the court may issue orders that:
(A) determine the course of proceedings or prescribe measures to prevent undue repetition or complication in presenting evidence or argument;
(B) require—to protect class members and fairly conduct the action—giving appropriate notice to some or all class members of:
(i) any step in the action;
(ii) the proposed extent of the judgment; or
(iii) the members’ opportunity to signify whether they consider the representation fair and adequate, to intervene and present claims or defenses, or to otherwise come into the action;
(C) impose conditions on the representative parties or on intervenors;
(D) require that the pleadings be amended to eliminate allegations about representation of absent persons and that the action proceed accordingly; or
(E) deal with similar procedural matters.
(2) Combining and Amending Orders. An order under Rule 23(d)(1) may be altered or amended from time to time and maybe combined with an order under Rule 16.
(e) SETTLEMENT, VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL, OR COMPROMISE. The claims, issues, or defenses of a certified class may be settled, voluntarily dismissed, or compromised only with the court’s approval. The following procedures apply to a proposed settlement, voluntary dismissal, or compromise:
(1) The court must direct notice in a reasonable manner to all class members who would be bound by the proposal.
(2) If the proposal would bind class members, the court may approve it only after a hearing and on finding that it is fair, reasonable, and adequate.
(3) The parties seeking approval must file a statement identifying any agreement made in connection with the proposal.
(4) If the class action was previously certified under Rule 23(b)(3), the court may refuse to approve a settlement unless it affords a new opportunity to request exclusion to individual class members who had an earlier opportunity to request exclusion but did not do so.
(5) Any class member may object to the proposal if it requires court approval under this subdivision (e); the objection may be withdrawn only with the court’s approval.
(f) APPEALS. A court of appeals may permit an appeal from an order granting or denying class-action certification under this rule if a petition for permission to appeal is filed with the circuit clerk within 14 days after the order is entered. An appeal does not stay proceedings in the district court unless the district judge or
the court of appeals so orders.
(g) CLASS COUNSEL.
(1) Appointing Class Counsel. Unless a statute provides other- wise, a court that certifies a class must appoint class counsel. In appointing class counsel, the court:
(A) must consider:
(i) the work counsel has done in identifying or investigating potential claims in the action;
(ii) counsel’s experience in handling class actions,
other complex litigation, and the types of claims asserted in the action;
(iii) counsel’s knowledge of the applicable law; and
(iv) the resources that counsel will commit to representing the class;
(B) may consider any other matter pertinent to counsel’s ability to fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class;
(C) may order potential class counsel to provide information on any subject pertinent to the appointment and to propose terms for attorney’s fees and nontaxable costs;
(D) may include in the appointing order provisions about the award of attorney’s fees or nontaxable costs under Rule 23(h); and
(E) may make further orders in connection with the ap- pointment.
(2) Standard for Appointing Class Counsel. When one applicant seeks appointment as class counsel, the court may appoint that applicant only if the applicant is adequate under Rule 23(g)(1) and (4). If more than one adequate applicant seeks appointment, the court must appoint the applicant best able to represent the interests of the class.
(3) Interim Counsel. The court may designate interim counsel to act on behalf of a putative class before determining whether to certify the action as a class action.
(4) Duty of Class Counsel. Class counsel must fairly and ade- quately represent the interests of the class.
(h) ATTORNEY’S FEES AND NONTAXABLE COSTS. In a certified class action, the court may award reasonable attorney’s fees and nontaxable costs that are authorized by law or by the parties’ agreement. The following procedures apply:
(1) A claim for an award must be made by motion under Rule 54(d)(2), subject to the provisions of this subdivision (h), at a time the court sets. Notice of the motion must be served on all parties and, for motions by class counsel, directed to class members in a reasonable manner.
(2) A class member, or a party from whom payment is sought, may object to the motion.
(3) The court may hold a hearing and must find the facts and state its legal conclusions under Rule 52(a).
(4) The court may refer issues related to the amount of the award to a special master or a magistrate judge, as provided in Rule 54(d)(2)(D).
- When a case starts it is not a class action, yet. The case is filed as a “putative class action”. Courts must give permission, meaning that the court must certify the case as a class action. The putative class action must satisfy the requirements of Rule 23.
- There are different types of class action and different standards that must be met for each:
- First, every class action must meet the standards of Rule 23(a): (1) too many parties for it to be practical to join all of them as named parties in one case; (2) at least one common question of law and fact; (3) the proposed class representative’s claims must be typical of the class; and (4) the class representative will be an adequate representative. Once 23(a) is satisfied the court can move on to the specific type of class action being brought and whether the class requirements are met. There are three types of class actions, 23(b)(1), 23(b)(2), and 23(b)(3) class actions.
- There are two types of 23(b)(1) class actions. 23(b)(1)(A) is appropriate where separate trials would create a risk of “incompatible adjudication” for the defendant. For example, if shareholders want to sue to compel a defendant company to do something, such as to declare a dividend, a class action is appropriate so one court tells the the defendant company what it must do. This is similar to Rule 19 in that there is a preference for having all relevant claims in one case to avoid inconsistent outcomes where a party might be unable to comply with contradictory orders from different courts. 23(b)(1)(B) is where multiple parties are trying to get access to a limited fund.
- 23(b)(2) class actions seek primarily injunctive relief. These claims are typically used in civil rights cases where the class wants to change a discriminatory policy or practice.
- 23(b)(3) claims seek monetary relief. These claims are typically in securities fraud cases where a company allegedly defrauded a large number of investors or where many consumers join together in class to sue the manufacturer of a defective product. In a 23(b)(3) class action the class representative must provide best practicable notice under the circumstances, that must, among other things, inform, members of the class of their right to opt-out. If a member opts out he will not receive the benefit or be bound by any judgment or settlement.