Finality of Judgments in Class Actions: A Comment on Epstein v. MCA, Inc.
William T. Allen
In this Response, Professor Allen contends that in arguing that plaintiffs in state court proceedings are unable to fairly and effectively bargain for the release of exclusively federal claims, the court in Matsushita II reached a judgment that is inconsistent with established concepts of finality of judgments, with design of an effective class action mechanism, and with the policies and precedents of full faith and credit. Although the centrality of the federalism idea has waxed and waned, the Supreme Court has generally encouraged respect by the lower federal courts of the processes and judgments of state courts. The existing system of decentralized state and federal courts allowed for the development of the Delaware Court of Chancery as a de facto specialized court of fiduciary and business law, which has been a positive force in the economy. The Matsushita II court, by contrast, does not accord respect to state court determinations of adequacy under Rule 23 and thus potentially reinvents the problem of inefficiency and second-guessing that is solved by the rule of finality and recognition of judgments. Commentators favoring Matsushita II‘s disregard for state court judgments erroneously believe that state court judges possess less integrity than their federal counterparts. A litigant is entitled to only a conscientious judicial determination of the issues according to law in a proceeding that meets constitutional minimums—a task that state courts are ably equipped to handle and that federal courts should not lightly disturb.