According to a familiar story about class actions in the United States, aggregation promotes access to counsel by increasing the amount of money from which counsel fees can be taken. Courts usually award class counsel a percentage of the monetary recovery obtained on behalf of the class, and class treatment can turn a $30 case into a $3 million case. But what about class actions that do not involve monetary relief at all? Some civil rights plaintiffs seek to stop a violation, rather than to obtain compensation for past harm, and therefore choose to pursue only an injunction or declaratory judgment. Other civil rights plaintiffs have no choice but to pursue only injunctive or declaratory relief, for reasons ranging from statutory constraints to immunity doctrines. Unlike in aggregated-damages cases, class treatment in injunction-only cases does not have a multiplicative effect that makes the litigation more lucrative − and thus more attractive − from a law firm’s perspective. Indeed, one might expect that the prospect of class certification would decrease access to counsel in such cases, because federally funded legal aid organizations are prohibited from working on class actions.
Publication Information & Recommended Citation
Carroll, Maureen. "Civil Rights, Access to Counsel, and Injunctive Class Actions in the United States." In The Cambridge Handbook of Class Actions: An International Survey, edited by Brian Fitzpatrick and Randall Thomas, 25-38. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.