"Class Action Fairness Bill" Anything But Fair to Average Consumer
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- March 9, 2005 -- President Bush has signed into law the so-called "Class Action Fairness Bill," S.B. 5, unfair legislation that blocks average citizens from confronting large companies. The new law allows defendants to move class actions filed in state courts, where they have traditionally been tried, to federal courts. Because federal courts are much friendlier to business interests than state courts, cases are far less likely to get certified. Many federal courts are also backlogged, making for a slow, unwieldy process.
Following are excerpts from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's speech before Congress about the dangers of S.B. 5.
"Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this legislation. Today, Republicans are bringing to the floor, as their first major legislative action, a payback to big business at the expense of consumers. The Republican agenda is to ensure that some Americans do not get their day in court."
"Make no mistake: the class action bill before us today is an extreme bill. It is not a compromise bill, as some have claimed. It is an extreme bill that is an injustice to consumers, and a windfall for irresponsible corporations."
"Consumers will be hit hard by this bill. It lumps together individual personal injury cases... which are not class actions under current procedures, and forces them into the federal courts. Doing so will greatly increase the likelihood that such cases will never be heard. Special interests have even admitted that the real intent of this bill is to clog the federal courts and therefore stop the cases."
"To irresponsible corporations, however, the class action bill is a belated Valentine. It is exactly what they asked for. Powerful corporations will largely be immune from the accountability that currently comes from meritorious state class action cases. For example, this bill would help shield large corporations from any accountability for Enron-style shareholder fraud, for activities that violate employee rights under state law, and for telemarketing fraud targeted at the elderly."
"This bill also runs counter to the principles of federalism that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle claim to support. It throws thousands of state cases into federal courts that are not equipped to adjudicate state laws."
"For instance, lawsuits involving the enforcement of state hourly wage laws, which often have greater protections than federal wage laws, would be forced into federal court. In fact, 46 state attorney generals, on a bipartisan basis, have requested an exemption so that they can continue to protect their citizens under the state consumer protection laws in state courts."
"The Republicans have rejected that request, while Democrats have incorporated it into our substitute. Democrats, in our substitute, support sensible approaches that weed out frivolous lawsuits, but not meritorious claims. Our Democratic substitute says that certain kinds of cases must always have their day in court. Physical injury cases, civil rights cases, wage and hour cases, state Attorneys General cases, and others must be heard if we are to remain a nation that strives for justice for all."
"President Harry Truman said it so well. 'The Democratic Party stands for the people. The Republican Party stands, and always has stood, for special interests.' I urge my colleagues to stand up to the special interests, to support the Democratic substitute, to listen to the recommendations of the federal judges and the Judicial Conference of the United States, and to oppose this unjust bill," Ms. Pelosi concluded.
Brayton Purcell has fought long and hard against S.B. 5. Although we lost this particular struggle, we will continue to monitor legislation and to oppose any bills that go against consumer and public interest.