Friday, August 11, 2017

Prof. Zimmerman Urges Veterans Court to Use Class Actions Before Adopting Formal Rule

By Professor Adam Zimmerman
Gerald Rosen Fellow

I was among those who filed an amicus brief--on behalf of the nation's leading scholars in administrative law, federal courts and civil procedure--in Veteran's Court today arguing how it may conduct class actions.

By way of background, in April, the Federal Circuit issued a pathbreaking decision holding that veterans could bring class actions in veterans courts, reversing over 30 years of precedent. Before that, veterans groups lacked meaningful ways to challenge systemic problems at the VA. Relying, in part, on our earlier amicus brief and our research in Inside the Agency Class Action, 126 Yale L.J. 1634 (2017), the Federal Circuit concluded that the nation's veterans courts indeed had power to hear class actions to improve efficiency, consistency and fairness in their own proceedings.

As a result, the veterans court has now begun to consider adopting formal rules to aggregate cases, including class actions. At the same time, veterans groups have already started filing class actions. So, the Veterans Court invited amici, including us, to weigh in on whether it can hear class actions before it adopts a formal rule to do so. Because formal rules often take several years to complete, how the veterans court proceeds now could have a dramatic impact on the speed in which it is able to provide justice for thousands of the nation's veterans.

Our brief, written with the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic, surveys a range of different courts--federal courts, legislative courts and administrative tribunals--to show how they have experimented with class actions. In so doing, we show how many different courts gained invaluable experience, and swiftly resolved large numbers of pending cases, by adopting aggregate procedures, on a case by case basis, before adopting a formal rule to do so.

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