Mississippi’s High Court Won’t Allow Class Actions
The Mississippi Supreme Court historically has decided to not allow for class action lawsuits in its state courts, making Mississippi the only state in the nation in which there are no class actions available to its citizens at the state level, said attorney Richard T. Phillips of Batesville, who filed a petition seeking for the state legislature to approve these lawsuits, termed “Rule 23,” moving forward.
“The absence of a class-action procedure in Mississippi denies, as a practical matter, the Mississippi courts, including this Mississippi Supreme Court, the ability to address the rapidly increasing number of disputes and issues involving state law which arises from contracts and other transactions,” Phillips said. His petition states further, “The purpose of this request is to provide a Rule 23 Class Action procedure to afford citizens of the State of Mississippi a procedure by which the contract and other legal issues which arise today may be resolved in a viable and practical manner in the State Court legal system.”
Simply put, Phillips feels a state class action procedure is needed to allow Mississippi citizens and businesses the same rights afforded to those in other states. However, his motion was denied by the high court in a 7-2 ruling this month.
In the court’s order, the majority opinion indicated there were numerous comments filed by individuals, law firms, businesses, and other organizations concerning the issue. The court’s advisory committee ultimately voted against recommending approval. One of the national groups opposed to class action in state courts was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.
Harold Kim, executive vice president of the Institute for Legal Reform, said citizens already have an adequate forum for bringing concerns normally handled by class actions in federal court. Therefore, allowing them to do so at the state level is unnecessary. What’s more, government enforcement actions have proven to be a more effective way to address many of the issues brought forward by class actions.
Allowing class actions would also expand a system that is already known to be widely abused by attorneys and would negatively affect the state’s overall economic competitiveness. These lawsuits, according to the high court, encourage the type of intrastate forum shopping Mississippi has experienced in the past and has worked hard to eliminate. Adding a state court class action procedure would add an unnecessary and heavy burden to an already overworked and understaffed state judiciary.
Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure simply omits class actions and has done so since the rules were first adopted in 1981. Instead, it allows for joinder, which says, “All persons may join in one action as plaintiffs if they assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative in respect of or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences, and if any question of law or fact common to all these persons will arise in the action.” Yet, the state high court has interpreted and reinterpreted the joinder rule over the years, deciding to not allow many joinder cases.