Federal Judge Encourages Class Action Lawyers To Include Minorities and Women In Class Action Litigation

Generally, class action litigation is complicated and expensive.  The cases are often intense, intellectually challenging and financially rewarding.   The law firms and lawyers  that litigate class action cases are members of a relatively small club.  The number of minority and female lawyers who handle class action cases belong to an even smaller club.  At least one federal judge wants to change that.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York issued an Order in a securities class action case which required that:

  Co-Lead counsel, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP and Labaton Sucharow LLP, shall make every effort to assign to this matter at least one minority lawyer and one woman lawyer with requisite experience.  

Judge Baer’s order noted that the class included thousands of individuals who likely had diverse backgrounds and gender.   The order noted that it should be important to all concerned that the Judge consider diversity “in terms of race and gender” when appointing class counsel. 

Judge Baer’s order raises an important issue regarding the exercise of a unique duty a judge must exercise when appointing counsel for a large group of people with various backgrounds, genders and races.  In my view, diversity should be considered when appointing counsel of any type.  The method defining how that consideration is done should be  be fairly debated and reasonably applied. 

The appointment of class counsel is a judicial function on behalf of the  plaintiffs.  There is no similar appointment authority for class action defendants.  On the defense side, diverse attorneys must rely on the goodwill of the defendants and the defense bar to be included in class litigation defense.   Hopefully, the class action defense bar will also recognize the need for diversity and include more minorities and women in the defense of class action litigation.

I have been fortunate.  I have worked with, in my opinion, some of the best class action defense lawyers in the country and I have grown professionally as a result of the experience.  Likewise, I have been able to provide valuable service to the clients in each case.  Increased diversity on both sides of the class action equation is a win-win proposition.

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