Class action settlements are different from other settlements for several reasons. The most obvious difference is that class action settlements are subject to a unique notice and court approval process. The overriding purpose of the process is to ensure fairness to members of the class. Judicial oversight is deemed necessary because most class members have little knowledge of the lawsuit and are unknown to plaintiffs’ counsel yet will be bound by the decisions counsel make on their behalf.
The nature of class action settlements and the process to which they are subject fundamentally alter the roles of counsel and the court. This post and the ones that follow will explore these altered roles. We will start with the simplest one – the role of defense counsel.
Examining the role of defense counsel in a class action settlement is simplest because, unlike plaintiffs’ counsel, defense attorneys generally possess no potential conflict of interest in the settlement approval process. Their duty to their clients remains undivided