In an opinion yesterday, Judge Scheindlin denied class certification in a proposed class action accusing the New York City Housing Authority of systematically under-compensating employees based on their race. Among other reasons for the ruling, Judge Scheindlin found that class counsel was not up to the task:
Adequacy of counsel is particularly important in the class action context where the class as a whole is bound by the result of the litigation. Here, both defendants have challenged counsel’s adequacy.
In response to this challenge, plaintiffs’ counsel states in a conclusory manner that he is “pretty qualified.” To prove this point he cites to a list of past employment and civil rights cases he has participated in, marking certain cases as “Collective/Class Actions.” This list is interesting for several reasons. First and foremost, counsel states that this list was compiled by his sixteen-year-old daughter – apparently without any oversight from counsel . . . . [A]ll of the listed cases settled or were dismissed prior to reaching the class certification stage. Indeed, as far as I can tell from the dockets of the listed cases, this is the first motion for class certification counsel has ever filed.
Even if this is not counsel’s first motion for class certification, it might as well be. Quite aside from counsel’s lack of class action experience, his performance in the present case has been so lacking as to raise doubts about his ability to diligently pursue the interests of the class . . . . Counsel’s inability to provide a consistent definition for the class he purports to represent or respond to the arguments made by the defendants leads me to conclude that counsel is not “qualified, experienced and able to conduct the litigation.”