WASHINGTON (Jan. 27, 2005) — The Senate is poised for quick action on the Class Action Fairness Act, a contrast from the stalemate the legislation reached in the previous Congress.
The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote on the bill Feb. 3, and if it passes as expected, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., wants to bring it to the Senate floor the week of Feb. 7. The House also plans to introduce its own, slightly stronger version of the bill the week of Jan. 31.
The Senate bill would mandate federal jurisdiction over class-action lawsuits worth more than $5 million; contain safeguards to ensure that plaintiffs, and not their attorneys, receive the bulk of any settlement; and require that interstate class actions be heard in federal courts.
The Senate bill would, however, allow class actions to remain in state courts where the defendant and two-thirds of the class members reside—a provision not in the pending House bill. Also, the House bill would be retroactive to all existing class actions, which the Senate legislation would not be. The Class Action Fairness Act passed the House in June 2003, but failed to advance in the Senate during the 108th Congress.