Public Citizen Litigation Group played a major role in achieving two important Supreme Court wins this week.
This morning, in Smith v. Bayer Corporation, the Court unanimously held that a federal court’s decision denying class certification is not binding on a state court considering certification of a similar class action brought by a non-named member of the proposed class in the first case. The ruling prevents corporations from relying on procedural games to deny injured consumers their day in court. Public Citizen attorneys Scott Nelson and Allison Zieve assisted counsel for the plaintiff, Rick Monahan of West Virginia’s Masters Law Firm, in preparing the brief on the merits, and co-authored and appeared as co-counsel on the reply brief. The Supreme Court’s opinion agrees with the fundamental arguments we advanced: A state-court motion for class certification under state rules presents a different issue from a federal-court motion invoking federal rules, and members of an uncertified class are not parties who are bound by the judgment in the case where certification was denied.
Earlier this week, in Nevada Commission on Ethics v. Carrigan, the Court held that laws requiring legislators to recuse themselves from votes in which they or their close associates have financial interests do not violate the legislators’ First Amendment rights. Public Citizen had urged that result in an amicus curiae brief prepared by our Supreme Court Assistance Project fellow Brian Frazelle, together with Scott Nelson and Allison Zieve. The Court’s opinion agrees with the view presented in our brief that when a legislator votes, she is exercising government authority and not engaging in personal speech protected by the First Amendment. The opinion, written by Justice Scalia, borrows a number of key phrases from our brief. The case is an important win for proponents of laws fighting corruption in government.
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Allison M. Zieve
Director, Public Citizen Litigation Group