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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

The role of the class respresentative in class actions has become an enigma. On a doctrinal level, the United States Supreme Court has, at times, treated the named plaintiff as the pivotal figure in the class lawsuit; the fate of the entire action rising or falling with the status of the representative. On other occasions, however, the Court has reduced the representative to nothing more than a figurehead with little or no function. On a practical level, there has been an increasingly open acknowledgement from both courts and commentators that the latter view is closer to reality. That is, the named plaintiff plays almost no role in the actual prosecution of the class action, and the class attorney is actually the moving party. This Article argues that keeping the representative engenders confusion and the proliferation of phantom issues, distracting courts from directly addressing the unique problems inherent in class action litigation. The author concludes that the time has come to think about eliminating the class representative.

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