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Lawrence W. Schonbrun

Lawrence W. Schonbrun

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Wikipedia Wars

Posted: 03/30/11 06:29 PM ET

Recently, I noticed that someone (a plaintiff's class action lawyer perhaps?) wrote a Wikipedia page about so-called "professional objectors" in class action lawsuits, and it includes the following definition:

A professional objector is a lawyer who repeatedly files objections to various aspects of class action settlements in order to receive a payment of money in exchange for the withdrawal of the objection.

Here is my response:

A "professional plaintiff's class action lawyer" is a lawyer who repeatedly files class action lawsuits that challenge various aspects of companies' business practices and procedures in order to receive a payment of money in exchange for the dismissal of the lawsuit.

The power of "professional plaintiffs' class action lawyers" in the American legal system is unrivaled. It is no more clearly demonstrated than in their ability to have the word "professional" ("exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally business-like manner in the workplace") given a negative connotation by our country's judiciary when applied to counsel representing class members who object to proposed class action settlements and/or attorneys' fee requests -- the so-called "professional objector." Equally troubling has been "professional plaintiffs' class action lawyers'" ability to have the judiciary cast aspersions on objectors' counsel for engaging in a litigation/business strategy not dissimilar from the litigation/business strategy of "professional plaintiffs' class action lawyers." Although the mainstream judiciary fails to appreciate this tactical congruity, at least one prominent observer of class action industry practices, Professor John C. Coffee Jr. of Columbia University Law School, has noted the irony of the accusation of the predatory nature of so-called "professional objectors."

To deflect attention from objectors' efforts to expose the extortionate nature of the class action industry, "professional plaintiffs' class action lawyers" have launched an unprecedented and unfortunately successful attack on lawyers who represent objectors willing to take on the class action industry. They don't want objectors trying to convince judges to reject bogus class action settlements and typically excessive attorneys' fee requests filed by "professional plaintiffs' class action lawyers."

In fact, there is an arsenal of litigation tactics that "professional plaintiffs' class action lawyers" employ -- with judicial complicity -- against objectors. This Wikipedia article is just one small example of "professional plaintiffs' class action lawyers'" efforts to marginalize those who seek to expose the class action industry for what it really is.

Unfortunately, the judiciary doesn't want to fix the class action problem. It is happy to accommodate attacks on objectors as a way of deflecting attention from the fact that judicial findings approving proposed class action settlements as fair, adequate, and reasonable, are, in reality, a legal fiction. They serve to disguise the judicial maxim that a "bad settlement (and, it could be added, an attorneys' fee large enough to make plaintiffs' class action lawyers go away and find someone else to sue) is almost always preferable to a good trial." This guiding principle of judicial approval of class action settlements sustains the plaintiffs' lawyers class action shakedown racket.