Gary Peeples, an associate in Burch, Porter & Johnson’s labor and employment practice group, has written an amicus brief in the case of Frank v. Gaos; the brief was filed last month. It’s the first time in recent history that a BPJ attorney has written an amicus brief at the merits stage in a case before the high court, though several BPJ lawyers have argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case involves a class action settlement in which the plaintiffs’ lawyers got a $2.125 million fee, charities selected by class counsel and the defendant (Google) got most of the remainder of the $8.5 million settlement fund, and the 129 million class members got nothing.
Ted Frank, who founded the Center for Class Action Fairness in 2009, is the named petitioner in the case and will be arguing the case pro se before the Supreme Court in the fall. Frank and his colleagues’ goal is to persuade federal district courts not to approve settlements that are unfair to the absent class members and/or otherwise abusive.
The New Jersey Civil Justice Institute invited Peeples to draft and submit the brief, and he eagerly accepted. The issues of class actions generally, and class action settlements more specifically, are among Peeples’s academic interests.
Frank v. Gaos is no academic exercise, though. If the Supreme Court affirms the Ninth Circuit’s decision, plaintiffs’ lawyers will be incentivized to file more meritless class actions like this one, said Peeples. His view, which is shared by the Institute, is that class actions like the one at issue here exist solely for the recovery of attorneys’ fees by class counsel. While he isn’t opposed to all class actions, Peeples believes the class action device should not be abused for the purpose of obtaining a huge fee award, which harms the absent class members and society as a whole.
To read the brief, click HERE.