Group Letter to U.S. House of Representatives Opposing Class Action Bill

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March 7, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Groups Urge You to Vote NO on H.R. 985.

Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:

This week, the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 985 – the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017.”  Title I of this bill – Fairness in Class Action Litigation – would obliterate class actions in America.  The undersigned groups write in strong opposition to H.R. 985.  The fact that the House would even consider such sweeping, reckless legislation without holding a single hearing is an outrage.

Like last year’s legislation (H.R. 1927), the bill begins with the requirement that every person in a class have “an injury of the same type and scope” before the case can proceed. This alone would sound the death knell for most class actions.  Classes inherently include a range of affected individuals, and virtually never does every member of the class suffer the same “scope” of injury from the same wrongdoing. Certainly, many civil rights, discrimination and employment class actions, including cases involving refusals by companies to properly pay workers, would not satisfy these criteria.

But Title I of H.R. 985 adds another 10 pages of new, complicated provisions, each of which is designed to ensure that no class action could ever be brought or litigated. In some cases, it would do so by overturning centuries of American law.  Some provisions would make it even more impossible to bring race and gender discrimination class actions.  Other provisions would have a dramatic impact on cases against toxic polluters. The bill even goes so far as preventing someone from choosing his or her own counsel.  And that’s just the beginning of what’s wrong with this appalling piece of legislation.

In addition, by considering this bill now, Congress is circumventing the process that Congress itself established for promulgation of federal court rules under the Rules Enabling Act, bypassing both the Judicial Conference of the United States and the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, the Judicial Conference already has an Advisory Committee on Civil Rules, which is currently meeting to discuss possible changes to Rule 23. Interference with the proper federal court rules process is reckless and irresponsible, particularly when this proposal is so damaging to victims.

Class action lawsuits are among the most important tools to enable harmed, cheated and violated individuals and small businesses to hold large corporations and institutions accountable and deter future misconduct.  H.R. 985 would annihilate that tool. We urge you to oppose this bill. 

For more information, please contact Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy, [email protected] or Susan Harley at Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, [email protected].


9to5, National Association of Working Women

A New Way of Life Reentry Project


Alliance for Justice

American Antitrust Institute

American Association for Justice

American Family Voices

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees

Bet Tzedek Legal Services

Brazilian Policy Center

California Employment Lawyers Association

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Justice & Democracy

Central Florida Jobs with Justice

Comite Civico Del Valle

Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws

Communications Workers of America

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Watchdog

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Consumers Union

D.C. Consumer Rights Coalition

Daily Kos

Demand Progress

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

District Council 37 (NY) Municipal Employees Legal Services


East Bay Community Law Center

East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

Economic Policy Institute Policy Center

Environmental Working Group

Essential Information

Farmworker Association of Florida

Food & Water Watch

Fuse Washington

Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings

Impact Fund

Interfaith Alliance of Colorado

JASA Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens

Law Foundation of Silicon Valley

Louisiana Bucket Brigade

Main Street Alliance

Maryland Consumer Rights Council

MFY Legal Services, Inc.

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Center for Law and Economic Justice

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)

National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

National Consumers League

National Disability Rights Network

National Employment Law Project

National Employment Lawyers Association

New Haven Legal Assistance Association

Oregon Environmental Council

OVEC - Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Progressive Congress Action Fund

Public Citizen

Public Counsel

Public Justice

Public Justice Center

Public Law Center

SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center


SEIU 775

SEIU 925

SEIU 1199 NW

Sierra Club

Southern Appalachia Mountain Stewards

Southern Poverty Law Center

Texas Watch


Washington Community Action Network

Washington Federation of State Employees

Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Western New York Council on Occupational Safety & Health

Woodstock Institute

Workers' Rights Center

Workplace Fairness



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