Thursday, April 27, 2017

Federal Circuit Adopts Professors' Theories on Veterans' Courts Hearing Class Actions

Relying, in part, on an amicus brief filed by Professor Adam Zimmerman and others, the Federal Circuit this week agreed that veterans can bring class actions in veterans court in the case Monk v. Shulkin.

"By adopting our theory that this veteran's court could hear class actions under its statute, the Federal Circuit not only creates a meaningful path for veterans to pursue desperately needed institutional reform, but it has essentially paved the way for almost all other agencies with similarly worded authority to do the same," said Zimmerman.

The Wall Street Journal reported: "Adam Zimmerman, a class-action expert at Loyola Law School who filed an amicus brief in the case along with other academics, said the Federal Circuit ruling has the power to help more than the veterans. It also could pave the way for other agencies granted similar authority to the veterans court to hear collective actions, he said.

Relevant excerpt of opinion:

Under 38 U.S.C. § 7264(a), “[t]he proceedings of the [Veterans Court] shall be conducted in accordance with such rules of practice and procedure as the Court prescribes.” This express grant authorizes the Veterans Court to create the procedures it needs to exercise its jurisdiction.

Other tribunals have relied on statutes with similar language as 38 U.S.C. § 7264 to aggregate claims and create class action procedures, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). See Amicus Br. of 15 Admin. Law, Civil Procedure, and Fed. Courts Professors at 10–11 (noting that the EEOC was granted authority to “issue such rules, regulations, orders and instructions as it deems necessary and appropriate to carry out its responsibilities” pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(b)). Under this authority, the EEOC adopted a class action resolution procedure. 29 C.F.R. § 1614.204; see, e.g., 57 Fed. Reg. 12,634 (Apr. 10, 1992); Wade v. Donahoe, No. CIV.A. 11-3795, 2012 WL 3844380, at *13 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 4, 2012) (“Pursuant to [its 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(b)] authority, the EEOC has promulgated regulations for class actions.”).

On the basis of the express statutory authority of the Veterans Court to prescribe “rules of practice and procedure,” the Veterans Court may prescribe procedures for class actions or other methods of aggregation.




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