The Origins of Class Action Research Journal
Library Science 102
Syd O. Sullivan
May 13, 2005
The focus of my research is class action lawsuits; specifically, their origins and evolutions. I intend to locate sources that can historical information, and background data in a legal and possibly sociological context. The questions I will consider in my research are as follows:
· Where do class-action lawsuits originate?
· What is the relation of class actions to other forms of tort litigation?
· How does the origin of class-action lawsuits reflect the evolution of modern tort litigation?
· What, if anything, does the origin of class actions have to say about where the modern legislature regarding them is going, or ought to be going?
· How has class action litigation changed over time?
I believe that my research will show that class action litigation is still, at the core, the same as it was when it first originated as a proper form of litigation.
My research thus far has proceeded with surprising ease, once I got over the significant bump of actually getting to a location where I could locate appropriate materials. The first item I really located was the book, From medieval group litigation to modern class action, by Stephen C. Yeazell. I located the book, in the University of Washington Law Library, after my instructor showed me where to find the catalogue.
I first searched for the keywords gclass actionh and ghistory.h At first my search yielded no results, but eventually, I located the book by following a few subject links from other items. Once I had that, I had enough to go on; with the call number KF 8896, I was easily able to locate other related resources.
When I arrived at the library, I was quickly able to locate the appropriate area of the reference stacks, but not the classified stacks, which is where the catalogue had said that my book was located. A few minutes, and some librarian aid later, I had in my hands both the initial object of my search, and several other relevant materials.
The most important of those other materials was the first volume of Newberg on class actions, a reference material devoted wholly to the particulars of class action lawsuits. I photocopied the relevant section, as I was unable to check out the reference book (although upon obtaining a library membership, I was able to check out those books I located in the classified stacks).
Aside from the materials obtained from the library, my instructor in another class has been an invaluable resource in the acquisition of relevant materials. When I was at fist stuck on where to begin looking for information on class action litigation, he provided me with a thick stack of photocopied periodicals and book chapters, all with highly relevant material
From this wide selection, I have extracted only one really useful article so far (although I offer the caveat that there is a lot of material to go through; I have no doubt that Ifll find another from the pile): Individual justice and collectivizing risk-based claims in mass-exposure cases, by David Rosenberg.
At this point, I have located only one other resource. Perhaps the best way to describe it isnft so much elocated,f but ereused.f The website FindLaw.com is a resource that I was first introduced to in my senior year of high school, during a class on Constitutional law. I knew that going there, I would be able to easily locate appropriate resources – and indeed, I did, in the form of the FindLaw class action and mass tort center.
Historical origins of class actions. (2002) In Conte, A., & Newberg, H. B. (Eds.), Newberg on class actions, 4th ed. (Vol. 1, pp. 30-33). St. Paul: Thompson West.
This reference series (I hesitate to precisely label it an encyclopedia, although I suppose it must be) offers and in-depth and authoritative exploration of class action litigation. This entry, on the history of class actions, if not as detailed as some other articles in the books, is exactly what I was looking for; a summary of the affair, the kind of introduction to the topic, with more than enough information to help me find more of the same, if I so desire. The work is obviously intended for the legal community, and not the public at large; West is a large-scale publisher of legal references, and the language of the work is not readily accessible to the layman. The editors of the work are both lawyers at universities, Conte at UPenn, and Newberg at Harvard.
Rosenberg, D. (1996). Individual justice and collectivizing risk-based claims in mass exposure cases. New York University law review 71:210, 211-239.
The periodical from which this article is culled is a monthly journal of law; although not specifically devoted to class actions, it does have articles on them, as evidenced by the above. The article is useful in that it provides a modern – if not fully current – perspective on class actions; a useful thing to have, when researching history. Being published in a law journal, the article is obviously intended for legal professionals, students, and so forth. The author is a professor at Harvard Law.
FindLaw. FindLaw class action and mass tort center. (1994-2005). Retrieved May 12, 2005 from http://classactions.findlaw.com
FindLaw is perhaps the best and largest legal resource website on the Internet; it was named Best Legal Website in the 9th annual Webbys (awards for the Internet, similar to the Oscars or the Novas). Its scope is so broad as to include transcripts of court cases, directories of lawyers, and everything in between, including specialized subsites for areas such as class action litigation. The class action section as a whole is a marvelous resource for references to modern mass tort litigation. As well, it is designed to be both useful to the legal community, and accessible to the general public. Although I was unable to locate any specific author information (the site is maintained by FindLaw, itself a corporate body), the site has built its own ethos and authority over its eleven year lifespan.
Yeazell, S. C. (1987). From medieval group litigation to the modern class action. New Haven : Yale University Press
Perhaps the most useful and relevant of the works I have found thus far, the book is exactly what it claims to be: a treatise on the origins of class actions. The book itself is cited in other works on the same topic (most notably Newberg), which speaks highly of it. The author is a professor of law at UCLA, and has written extensively on various topics of civil procedure. The book is intended for the legal community, and the language makes it largely inaccessible to the general public.