In the second half of 2017, in response to a request from a prominent plaintiff’s lawyer to add Rule 23 to the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, the Mississippi Supreme Court the Court opened up the issue of adding state court class actions in Mississippi to the general public for comments. Mississippi does not currently have a state court class action procedure of any type which is a rare distinction. Rule 23 has been omitted from the Rules of Civil Procedure since their initial adoption in 1981. Lawyers (primarily aligned with the plaintiffs’ bar) often complain Mississippi is out of step with the rest of the country on this issue.
In an effort designed to benefit its members and the civil justice system and legal profession in general, in October 2017, the IADC submitted comments opposing the adoption of a state court class action procedure in Mississippi. IADC member Stephanie M. Rippee of Watkins & Eager, PLLC in Jackson, MS authored the IADC’s submission. The basis for the opposition was primarily threefold. First, Federal Rule 23 and the Class Action Fairness Act provide Mississippi citizens with adequate opportunity to participate in class actions in Mississippi federal courts without adding an unnecessary and heavy burden to an already overworked and understaffed state judiciary. Second, Mississippi has worked hard to eliminate intrastate forum shopping, and the addition of state court class actions, which are fraught with the potential for abuse, encourages the reintroduction of that type of forum shopping. Third, experience tells us that class actions inure primarily to the benefit of lawyers and do not adequately address the problems they are supposed to address. The IADC, in step with the Mississippi business community, argued that in addition to being detrimental to the Mississippi civil justice system, the addition of state court class actions would be harmful to employers who choose to do business in the state, and thus, Mississippi’s economy as a whole.
The Mississippi Supreme Court referred the matter to its Advisory Committee on Rules which considered all the comments submitted and also took the unusual step of interviewing both proponents and opponents of the proposed rule change. In the end, the committee recommended that state court class actions not be added to the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. In a decided victory for the Mississippi business community, on May 17, 2018, the Mississippi Supreme Court followed the committee’s recommendation and denied the requested rule change. The order is found here.