Volume 71, Number 1

April 1996

Overlapping Class Actions

Geoffrey P. Miller

Large-scale class actions pose unique problems that challenge the traditional norm of allowing parallel litigation to continue in the courts of different jurisdictions. Professor Miller argues that the existing system represents a series of compromises between the need for both the efficient and orderly disposition of disputes and a residual concern for the principle of separate sovereignty. The efficiency concern in the large-scale litigation setting moves to the forefront because of the massive difficulties faced by the courts in disposing of such litigation in an expeditious and accurate manner. The interest in respecting separate sovereignty, however, is of diminished importance because of the inherently interstate nature of this type of litigation. To accommodate this weighing of public policies, a number of innovations have been adopted, and still others proposed, which move toward an exclusive forum model—the model in which litigation arising out of a single complex of operative fact should proceed in one and only one forum. Professor Miller recommends additional reforms that would move the conduct of class action litigation in the direction of the exclusive forum model. Specifically, he recommends that (1) the removal power should be broadly construed to authorize federal courts to take over overlapping state class action cases when the federal court litigation offers the opportunity for the complete and adequate resolution of the claims asserted in state court; (2) federal courts with jurisdiction over a class action should interpret the Anti-Injunction Act to authorize antisuit injunctions against overlapping state class actions, in situations where the state-court proceeding threatens to obviate the federal-court litigation by means of a comprehensive settlement that extinguishes the federal law claims, at least when the federal court concludes that there is a substantial probability that the federal litigation will result in a fair and adequate settlement or judgment that affords relief to the members of the plaintiff class; and (3) federal courts should continue to experiment with the auction approach to class action litigation, and in furtherance of this end, should view the possibility of a litigation auction as an additional consideration favoring the centralization of overlapping class cases in a single federal forum.