The United States Supreme Court recently approved and adopted amendments to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 concerning class action practice as proposed by the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules. The amended rule went into effect on December 1, 2018. The amendments do not affect the core of the rule – the criteria for obtaining class certification. Instead, the changes are more subtle adjustments that update and modernize procedures and processes for notification to class members and obtaining approval of class settlements. Nonetheless, although the amendments are not breathtaking, there are important changes.
The first set of amendments apply to Rule 23(e), governing the process of settlement of a class action. First, the amendment makes explicit that the subsection applies not just to already certified classes, but also “a class proposed to be certified for purposes of settlement.” The changes also add some discretion of the court concerning when notice of a proposed settlement and settlement class should be provided. As part of the settlement approval process, the parties now are expressly required to give the court “information sufficient to enable it to determine whether to give notice of the proposal to the class.” The giving of notice is justified only if that information is sufficient to allow the court to determine it is likely to approve the proposed settlement and certify the class. Once notice is approved, the new rule recognizes modern developments by allowing that notice may be by “United States mail, electronic means, or other appropriate means.” The rule thus recognizes that in many cases traditional mail notice may still be best; in others e-mail notification might be the best way to reach class members.
Reprinted courtesy of Edward M. Koch, White and Williams LLP and Michael Jervis, White and Williams LLP
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