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Action-A-Day 2/23: Oppose H.R. 985 To Defend Class Actions & Access to Justice

ACTION:

Oppose H.R. 985, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, a bill that would undermine class actions and other mass lawsuits by a set of deceptively labeled procedural reforms. The bill would enable corporations to avoid accountability in the courts when they’ve harmed American consumers or workers.

BACKGROUND

Last week (2/15), Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted to introduce H.R. 985, the misleadingly titled Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, a bill that would restrict the public's access to justice.

The bill will give broad immunity to businesses and the government, ensuring that they cannot be sued for disastrous oil spills, systemic underpayment of wages, fraudulent banking overcharges, privacy breaches, data breaches, and discrimination.

Impact Fund, a well-respected civil rights organization, has coordinated opposition from more than 121 organizations dedicated to protecting civil rights, the environment, the disabled and consumers. Read their letter to House Judiciary. If this bill passes, there will be no way to challenge other widespread violations by the federal government and large businesses in court.

From American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen: “H.R. 985 will eviscerate class actions, which are often the only avenue for Americans to hold corporations accountable if they are victims of widespread illegal behavior. If this bill becomes law, it will deny justice to Americans who suffer from financial fraud and deceptive scams, massive civil and human rights violations, or unsafe products and toxic workplaces that cause horrific injuries and deaths.”

KEY MESSAGES (Reword as you wish)

I strongly oppose the undermining of civil rights law and consumer & worker protections through the nearly insurmountable barriers that H.R. 985 would create in the ability to bring a class action lawsuit.  Class actions are a vital tool for consumers, investors, employees, and others to fight wrongdoing by big businesses. They are also an essential way for citizens to challenge actions of the government.

It's also outrageous that the House would consider such sweeping legislation without holding a single hearing. If class action reform is needed, it must be accomplished without limiting access to the courts for American citizens. It is disappointing that the GOP places the interests of Wall Street and corporate interests over those of ordinary Americans. H.R. 985 would restrict access to justice for victims of financial fraud and deceptive scams, civil rights violations, unsafe products and toxic workplaces. I urge opposition to this bill.

EXAMPLES OF H.R. 985 IMPACT (from attorney friend of Rebecca Seitz)

Brown v Board of Education? Think that cases like Brown v. Board are important tools for ordering the legislative and executive branches to fulfill their constitutional obligations to provide equal protection and due process for all? Yeah, sorry, you don't get those any more if this law is passed.

Mad at Target for their data breach? Sorry, no class action lawsuit to get refunds for everyone and get them to change their practices to prevent it from happening again.

Mad at Wells Fargo for fraudulently creating accounts for their customers? Nobody is likely to be able to successfully bring a class action against them either.

Large employer not paying overtime to its employees in a bunch of states? Well, each one has to file their own lawsuit instead of letting a few stop the bad practice and get fair wages for all employees.

BACKGROUND

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/lawmaker-news/320360-new-republican-bill-would-gut-class-actions-not-improve-them

https://www.impactfund.org/legal-practitioner-blog/hr-985

Video / transcript from Ring of Fire progressive talk radio show breaks this down in simple terms.

https://trofire.com/2017/02/20/house-republicans-vote-shield-dangerous-corporations-consumer-lawsuits/

Primer on class actions & why we have them

https://twitter.com/5thCircAppeals/status/832265519294210050

 

CONTACT

If your Rep in the U.S. House is Jamie Raskin, *email* your thanks to him for voting against H.R. 985 in committee. Ask him to urge his colleagues to oppose the bill.

If your Rep in the U.S. House is Andy Harris, he hasn't yet issued a statement on H.R. 985, but he voted in favor of a similar bill last year. Voice your opposition anyway. He'll be happy to hear from you! (Kidding!)

Tweet your opposition to @HouseJudiciary, @HouseGOP, @HouseFloor and to your Reps.  #HR985 #classactions #civilrights

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (House Judiciary Chair & HR985 sponsor)

Know anyone in his district, the 6th Congressional District of VA? Encourage them to contact him.

@RepGoodlatte

Ask these Democrats on House Judiciary why they did not vote to oppose the bill (they didn't vote for it, but also not against it).

 

Luis Gutierrez (IL-4)

 https://gutierrez.house.gov/

 

Karen Bass (CA-37)

https://bass.house.gov/

 

Cedric Richmond (LA-2)

https://richmond.house.gov/

 

Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8)

https://jeffries.house.gov/

 

THANKS to Rebecca Seitz for submitting this CTA and offering suggested language.