Stephen Meili


Although class action lawsuits have been the subject of much scholarly research, the vast majority of that work has focused on the history and procedural aspects of class actions, narratives of particular cases, and debates surrounding their utility, cost, and the compensation of the lawyers who litigate them...This article begins to fill these significant voids. Through a series of semi-structured interviews, it examines the expectations and attitudes of plaintiffs’ lawyers and named plaintiffs in consumer protection class actions: why they filed the lawsuit, and whether their goals changed over time; the reasons for their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the result in the case; and—regardless of the result—whether they felt that the litigation process itself was fair. The results of these interviews are then analyzed in order to determine whether they comport with two theories central to studies of the litigation process: dispute transformation and procedural justice. More specifically, this article analyzes the degree to which consumer class action plaintiffs’ lawyers engage in the same kind of dispute transformation with representative plaintiffs that is well-documented in the literature involving individual litigants. It also investigates whether named plaintiffs (and the lawyers who represent them) exhibit the same attitudes toward process fairness that is well documented in the procedural justice literature pertaining to individual disputants. Moreover, given the politically progressive nature of much consumer protection litigation, this article examines the attitudes of class action participants through the frame of the cause lawyering literature. While the study focused on the participants in consumer class actions, many of its conclusions can be generalized to class actions more generally.

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