Aggregate Litigation and the Death of Democratic Dispute Resolution

Mullenix, Linda S. | January 1, 2013

Professor Redish has anchored the modern class action in American political and constitutional theory, raising serious questions about the legitimacy of this procedural device for resolving aggregate claims. Professor Redish’s major insight is his argument that the courts and litigants have transformed the modern class action from a mere procedural device into a means for controlling and altering substantive law in ways that he considers to be highly undemocratic. Others, however, have suggested that the class action is dead. The Article surveys accounts of the death of class actions and explains the continued endurance of class litigation, which, it turns out, is hard to kill off. The Article then documents the changing landscape of aggregate dispute resolution, documenting a significant paradigm shift in the twentyfirst century towards increased use of private claims resolution mechanisms. The Article focuses on settlement classes, multidistrict litigation procedure, contractual nonclass settlements, the quasi-class action, and fund approaches to mass claim resolution. Finally, the Article critically evaluates this paradigm shift and concludes that Redish’s critique of class action litigation has even greater relevance in the new world of nonclass, aggregate claims resolution: that Professor Redish’s critique applies with even greater force in the nonclass universe. With the paradigm shift towards nonclass aggregate claims resolution, the arc of history may be bending towards greater injustice—a shift that is more significant because it is largely unbounded by rules and unmoored from judicial oversight.