The purpose of the class action process is to compensate specific victims of misconduct. However, there is a proposal before the court that would amend the Michigan Court Rules and redirect class action settlement funds from class action members to fund public and civic programs of third parties who may not have even been injured by the defendant’s conduct.
Because this proposal would allow the court to redirect funds to third parties – often advocacy groups – chosen by class counsel and approved by the judge, it raises serious First Amendment concerns. Similar to the recent Janus case before the United States Supreme Court, it is possible that class action plaintiffs and defendants could be compelled by the court to support speech through organizations with which they disagree.
Further, it places the court in a precarious position of impropriety, where their impartiality can be called into question by their choice of beneficiaries through this class action slush fund.
This now begs the question: If Michigan Supreme Court Justices want to get into the appropriations game, shouldn’t they be held to the same standards as other public officials and made subject to the Michigan Lobby Act?
The Michigan Freedom Fund has made public comment opposing this rule change. Requiring a class action plaintiff to give their settlement funds to an organization to engage in advocacy with which the litigant disagrees would violate their First Amendment rights.
Will you please email the Supreme Court at ADMcomment@courts.mi.gov and tell them you agree with the Michigan Freedom Fund? The deadline for submitting comments is Sunday, September 1. This is a bad idea, and the Proposed Amendment of Rule 3.501 of the Michigan Court Rules should be rejected.