To thin out the many lawsuits that fill our nation’s courts, President Bush signed the Class Action Fairness Act into law on February 18. The new law will funnel class-action suits with plaintiffs from multiple states out of state courts and into the federal system, streamlining the system.
The bill passed by a 72-26 vote in the Senate. Amendments to the bill from opponents in the House did not pass through the Senate.
Democratic Senator Herb Kohl (Wis.) said before the signing that the measure would take aim at forum shopping in which lawyers file cases in localities where judges and courts show sympathy for plaintiffs despite the merit their case may hold.
Opponents said before the signing that the rejected amendments are aimed at ensuring that federal judges accept cases and do not dismiss them on procedural grounds.
The Class Action Fairness Act was the first bill that Bush signed in 2005. It is a measure Bush has sought for years.
Formerly, the Act regularly fell short due to the success of Senate Democrats in setting up procedural roadblocks. However, four added Republicans in the Senate combined with a determined public and behind-the-scenes lobbying effort by the White House ensured fast passage for the bill.
Supporters, such as business groups, sought the change because federal courts have traditionally been perceived to favor plaintiffs claiming victimization by corporate fraud or negligence.
Bush said the change is for the good of the system, deterring people from seeking to manipulate class-action lawsuits for financial gain as well as keeping out-of-state businesses, workers and shareholders from being forced to accept unfair settlements.