February 11, 2005

If You Build It...

Sam Heldman has a careful break-down of the new Senate bill that kicks a bunch of class-action lawsuits up to the federal courts. If I understand the consensus take here, the main problem isn't that the federal courts are less sympathetic to these sorts of cases, but rather that the federal courts will be swamped by the vast swarm of new cases and will end up dismissing a bunch on technicalities.

But then—and not to sound naïve here—why not just build more federal courts? Isn't that something we should be thinking about anyway? If a relatively small subset of new lawsuits is really going to "severely swamp" the federal courts, as people fear, then they were probably close to overburdened in the first place, no? And then we've got population and immigration growth to consider—we all know how those shifty immigrants cause nothing but legal trouble!—so let's start expanding stuff. Speaking of which, and looking far into the future, I would assume there comes a time when the population of the United States will reach a point at which there are too many constitutional cases for the Supreme Court to possibly consider in a reasonable amount of time. What then? Do we build Supreme Court II to share the load? Or can we still get away with one court to rule them all.

UPDATE: Oh. James Joyner discovers an even more fatal flaw in the new class-action bill: it "tak[es] taking away the ability to sue at all" in some cases. Wonderful!

SUPER UPDATE: Reading Sam Heldman's post more carefully, it sounds like you'd have to build a lot more courts to fix the problem, since "class actions take about five times as much judicial work as regular civil cases." He also reads the badly-written bill carefully and argues that most cases will get kicked up to the federal courts, rather than only a small subset. Read his post, it's important.
-- Brad Plumer 1:58 AM || ||