"Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
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Workers and Civil Rights

Representing employees with wage and hour disputes, minimum wage and overtime, civil rights claims over discrimination, and human rights violations.

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Class Actions

Class actions are pursued on behalf of a class or group or collective of people with a common issue of law or fact.

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International Law & Transactions

Litigating for foreign clients in America, and conducting loan transactions and due diligence for micro finance institutions and worthwhile clients, and pursuing human rights.

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Tweets For Justice:

RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC is a law firm registered in Seattle, Washington with addresses in El Paso and Berkeley.  The firm was established by American lawyer Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. while he was studying complex litigation in Europe under a Fulbright grant from 2007 to 2008.

At the Berkeley law school graduation ceremony on May 13, 2016, Karin Gaudet-Asmus gave a speech as president of the LL.M. class with 200 students. There were thousands in attendance at the Hearst Greek Theater in Berkeley.

Karin Gaudet-Asmus at the graduation ceremony for the Berkeley LL.M. Program.

Karin Gaudet-Asmus at the graduation ceremony for the Berkeley LL.M. Program.

The ceremony celebrated the end of the one-year LL.M program with students from nearly 50 different countries as well as the end of the three-year J.D. program. During her term as Class president, Mrs. Gaudet-Asmus collaborated with students to organize cultural events, an end-of-the year ball at the Chabot observatory in Oakland, a boat trip around the San Francisco Bay, a new public service certificate for LL.M. graduates, and other events and celebrations. She also initiated a nationwide online network of LL.M. students at leading law schools. She tried to organize an event with all of the major bar exam preparation courses so students could compare their services and rates, but most of the prep courses refused the invitation to participate.

Karin Gaudet-Asmus Accepting Her Diploma From Berkeley Law's New Dean Melissa Murray

Karin Gaudet-Asmus Accepting Her Diploma From Berkeley Law’s New Dean Melissa Murray

As noted in her five-minute speech, an official copy of which may be viewed at this link, Mrs. Gaudet-Asmus intends to return to El Paso, Texas with her husband, Robert Joseph Gaudet, Jr. An unofficial recording of her speech, available at this link, includes the Berkeley law school dean’s introduction of Mrs. Gaudet-Asmus in which the Dean mentions Mrs. Gaudet-Asmus’s interest in returning to El Paso.

Mrs. Gaudet-Asmus was elected LL.M. Class president in a contested election with at least five candidates from France, Mexico, Brazil, and Japan. To the best of recollection, she was the first female LL.M. class president at Berkeley. Classmates and officials at the Advanced Degree Program office noted she did an amazing job as Class president. One student remarked she gave the best speech at graduation.

As a student, Mrs. Gaudet-Asmus earned “high honors,” the highest available grade, from some of her courses. She enjoyed the opportunity to learn from outstanding, knowledgeable, and nationally known instructors such as Judge William A. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit and Prof. Burt Neuborne of NYU who litigated class actions on behalf of Holocaust survivors and taught at Berkeley in the 2016 Spring term.

Joe P. Federici

Joseph Federici

In addition, Mr. Joseph Federici, who is Of Counsel at RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC, graduated this month from Georgetown University’s M.S. in Foreign Service Program. As a graduate student, he served as a teacher’s assistant for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and improved his understanding of Afghanistan’s native language.

Congratulations to Mrs. Gaudet-Asmus and her classmates for their hard work and to Mr. Federici.

By Killian Donoghue

killina photo2d48953

On April 27, 2016, the European Union (EU) issued a new privacy regulation that is binding, with direct legal effect, upon all Member States of the European Union. The EU’s publication of the General Data Protection Regulation is significant for two reasons: firstly, it recognises the importance of protecting EU citizens’ personal data rights; and secondly, it recognises the utility of class action procedures.

 

Right to privacy of personal information. Article 8(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union provides that everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her. In short, it protects the privacy of personal data. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on the 27th of April 2016, is aimed at giving greater protections to that right. As well as providing the right to lodge a complaint with the supervisory authority of a Member State, the Regulation provides that “each data subject shall have the right to an effective judicial remedy where he or she considers that his or her rights under this Regulation have been infringed as a result of the processing of his or her personal data in non-compliance with this Regulation” (Art 79(1)). That includes a right to receive compensation, for material or non-material damage suffered as a result of an infringement of the Regulation, from the data controller/processor responsible for the violation of a personal data privacy right (Art 82(1)).

 

Given the high cost of legal services within some EU Member States, and the “chilling effect” that an order to pay the winning side’s costs could have on a person’s decision whether to initiate legal proceedings to enforce their rights, it is welcome that the Regulation introduces measures which will give substantive effect to the right to privacy guaranteed by Article 8(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

 

Class actions to enforce privacy rights. Article 80 of the Regulation provides for two types of class action procedures: (1) an opt-in procedure whereby a data subject can mandate a not-for-profit public interest body, which is active in the field of protecting data rights, to issue proceedings on his or her behalf; and (2), a Member State may provide that a not-for-profit public interest body, which is active in the field of protecting data rights, can issue legal proceedings on behalf of data subjects if it considers that the rights of data subjects have been infringed—independently of the data subjects.

 

Whether or not Member States choose to exercise option (2), the supremacy of EU law over national law and the direct effect of EU regulations means that, even in Member States where the domestic legal system does not provide for class action procedures, data subjects (EU citizens) within all 28 Member States can avail themselves of a class action procedure to seek an effective judicial remedy where they believe that a data controller/processor has infringed their personal data rights.

Conclusion. The new Regulation is a leap forward in the sense that it creates, for the first time, a class action procedure that all European citizens can use in every one of the Member States of the EU. The procedure is limited to the enforcement of privacy rights under the Regulation. And it is also limited to actions brought by non-profit public interest bodies. In other words, private citizens are not entitled, by this Regulation, to file a class action lawsuit, as in the United States. But it is a step forward that the EU has not taken in other substantive areas of law, such as anti-trust/competition law or consumer protection.

Jpeg

Russian law students at Udmurtia State University who attended Robert Gaudet’s lecture on massive justice through American class actions

On April 29, 2016, Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. made a presentation by Skype to law students at Udmurtia State University in Izhevsk, Russia. The Skype sessions are part of a six-year long program that is organized by Udmurtia State University in cooperation with the American Bar Association Section of International Law International Human Rights Committee (“IHRC”) which Mr. Gaudet used to co-chair for two years and for which he now serves as a member.

Mr. Gaudet’s spoke about American class actions.  There are no procedures for class actions in Russia so it was a novelty that one of the students had previously heard about.  Based on developments in Europe, where most countries did not have class actions 10 years ago but roughly half the countries now have class action procedures (albeit rarely used), Mr. Gaudet predicted that class actions would come to Russia within 10 to 30 years.  “They’re a good idea,” Mr. Gaudet explained in his presentation.

In a discussion during the presentation, Mr. Gaudet commented on the recent death of the musician Prince who has been discussed in the American media over the past week as a “worldwide icon.”  As it turns out, he is not an icon – at least with the new generation of twenty somethings and teens – in Izhevsk, Russia.  None of the students in Mr. Gaudet’s presentation had heard of the artist formerly known as Prince.  One student had heard of Prince’s former girlfriend, Kim Bassinger.  They were aware of Charlize Theron, “of course” they said, who appeared in a movie about class actions called “North Country” that Mr. Gaudet mentioned during the presentation.

Mr. Gaudet was prepared for his session by Andrew Solis, a law student at Southern Illinois University, who has been organizing presentations with mostly Illinois lawyers over the past year under the guidance of his Dean Cynthia Fountaine who is a member of the IHRC and has shown sustained commitment to the Russia Skype program over the past few years, enabling it to continue.  Past organizational support was provided by IHRC member Anna Caldwell.

The Russian Skype program is an invaluable way to build bridges between cultures and legal regimes.  Izhevsk is roughly 14 hours away, by train, from Moscow, and it’s the site where tanks and rifles were manufactured during the Cold War.  General Kalashnikov, who invented the famous rifle by his name, lived and was based in Izhevsk until his death a couple of years ago. Therefore, it is especially significant that the IHRC and the law department at Udmurtia State University have sustained this program over the past six years to develop bonds of mutual understanding, trust, and education between two countries that are often seen, in headlines, as being in geo-political and military tension with each other.

American lawyers who wish to make a presentation to the law students in Izvevsk may contact Mr. Gaudet, Mr. Solis, or the IHRC leadership for more information.  It could be a short presentation of 20 to 30 minutes with a list of vocabulary that is sent to the organizers in advance.  Time is left for discussion and a question-and-answer period.  Presentations generally last, in total, one hour.  CLE credit may be available for preparation and lecture time although lawyers will have to seek CLE credit through their respective bar associations.

The National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), to which Mr. Gaudet belongs as a member, recently issued a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan in opposition to a Congressional bill that would cripple class actions by requiring an early showing, at the start, that all class members suffered a similar injury.  Click here to read NELA’s letter.  The bill would require an enormous expenditure of time and money to investigate each and every class member in a class action, some of which contain 9 million class members. This would have to be done without the benefit of discovery from the defendant.

NELA’s letter identifies the particular language in the bill that would be onerous:

The House may soon consider H.R. 1927, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2015.” Section 2 of this bill would effectively eviscerate consumer, antitrust, employment and civil rights class actions. The undersigned groups write in strong opposition to Sec. 2 of this bill. While a few modifications have been made to the bill since it was first introduced, what has not changed is the requirement that every person in a class have “an injury of the same type and scope” before the case can proceed. (The word “scope” replaced the word “extent” found in the bill’s earlier version, but this is a distinction without a difference.) Class members must already meet common requirements spelled out in F.R.C.P. 23, which requires that the class as a whole have the same type of injury stemming from the same unlawful conduct. However, a new requirement that every individual in a class have an injury of the same “scope,” proof of which must be established before the case can even proceed as a class, will sound the death knell for most class actions.
Many class actions would fail to meet these new requirements including the obligation to prove that class members sustained injuries of the same “scope” as well as the “same type.”  Currently, class members are not required to have the same “scope” of injuries and it would take decades for the meaning of this new requirement to be teased out.  The current rules only provide the class to show, at the start, that they have similar questions of law or fact.

In-house counsel Ben Aidam; Robert Gaudet; Deputy Director Barbara Marcussen at Oikocredit’s international headquarters in Amersfoort, the Netherlands (January 2016)

“I am proud of the work that my client, Oikocredit, performs around the world,”  said Mr. Gaudet.  Oikocredit, an ecumenical cooperative based in the Netherlands, recently hired Mr. Gaudet to represent Oikocredit in a loan transaction in the United States. Mr. Gaudet previously represented Oikocredit in similar transactions on which he collaborated with in-house counsel Ben Aidam and business manager Barbara Marcussen.

In January 2016, Mr. Gaudet visited Oikocredit’s international headquarters in Amersfoort where he met Mr. Aidam and Ms. Marcussen who was recently promoted to Deputy Director.  Ms. Marcussen now manages a portfolio of assets in Africa.  RJ Gaudet & Associates congratulates Ms. Marcussen on her promotion and vision for continued growth and pursuit of Oikocredit’s founding values.

Although it manages substantial assets, Oikocredit has stayed true to the values of its founding members, such as the World Council of Churches, to help small businesses pursue big dreams, especially in lesser developed countries.  Oikocredit provides financial assistance through micro-finance, direct loans to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), and private equity investments. Over the past five years, Oikocredit’s total assets have doubled to 982 million Euros, an astonishing rate of growth.

At a 40th anniversary event in Berlin in 2015, Dr. Konrad Raiser, former General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, noted in an opening speech that the purpose of Oikocredit is to pursue social justice. The World Council of Churches endorsed the establishment of Oikocredit, in 1974, to address an unmet need.  Oikocredit (which started with a different name) had just 1 million U.S. Dollars in starting capital.  Since then, Oikocredit’s assets have multiplied almost 1,000 times.  The field has grown with numerous Micro-Finance Institutions who, sometimes, compete among themselves.

The founding principles of Oikocredit are “justice, self-reliance, and economic empowerment for all, with a mission to alleviate conditions of poverty by providing credit and resources to the most disadvantaged, financially-excluded, ‘unbankable’ communities in the world.” Originally, these values stemmed from the faith of Oikocredit’s founding members.  Today, hundreds of churches still serve as members of Oikocredit.  The mission is supported by a diverse staff with different languages, races, beliefs, and nationalities.  Dozens of worldwide offices, in different regions, provide local expertise.

The work of Oikocredit has affected millions of lives.  In 2014 alone, Oikocredit financing supported 37 million people.  Females accounted for 86 percent of all borrowers, and 50 percent of borrowers lived in rural areas.  In recent years, Oikocredit expanded its scope to include renewable energy, increased numbers of SMEs, and agricultural cooperatives.  Renewable energy projects enable people without electricity to obtain solar-powered lights that students can use for studying at night and which small business owners can use, e.g., for weaving cloth at night.  These small, tablet-sized lights are cheaper ($50 or less) than other solar-powered lighting systems which cost more ($192).

Oikocredit collaborates with partner Thrive India to provide affordable solar-powered lights as part of a “one child one light” campaign.  Oikocredit also partners with BBOXX to bundle together contracts from customers who bought solar home systems that the customers pay off through periodic payments.  Those payments are used to secure notes that BBOXX DEARs sells to Oikocredit, secured by the future receivables.

Mr. Gaudet and his wife on New Year's Eve in the Hague, the Netherlands, just one week after his admission into the U.S. Court of Federal Claims

Mr. Gaudet and his wife on New Year’s Eve in the Hague, the Netherlands, just one week after his admission into the U.S. Court of Federal Claims

In December 2015, Mr. Gaudet was admitted to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. This admission will be useful for appearing in the Court to prosecute a Fair Labor Standards Act claim and to seek compensation for the victims of vaccinations.

Mr. Gaudet currently represents 290 U.S. Customs and Border Protection canine instructors with Fair Labor Standards Act claims against the U.S. Government, and this opt-in class action is being heard in the Court of Federal Claims.  Mr. Gaudet works with El Paso lawyer David Kern and San Antonio lawyer Mark Greenwald on this matter.  In November, Mr. Gaudet and co-counsel completed a plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment that was filed with the Court.  The lawyers representing the U.S. Government in this matter work in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

As a member of this Court, Mr. Gaudet may also represent people who suffer injuries after taking vaccines. They are entitled to file claims with the Court to obtain compensation from a government-financed compensation fund.  The Court of Federal Claims processes claims for vaccine injuries and, as noted above, hears cases against the U.S. Government.

Applications to the Court require letters of recommendation from two members of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims as well as a certificate of good standing from a state bar association.

Robert Gaudet represents an elderly Louisiana landowner who is being pressured to enter into a lease to drill for oil and natural gas in Lincoln Parish through fracking, which has been used in the vicinity.  Fracking is a fairly new and successful method for finding natural gas.  However, there is some evidence it causes water pollution and even earthquakes.

Although some Louisiana lawyers who routinely handle oil and gas leases do not think there is a serious risk of earthquakes from fracking, there is some evidence that earthquakes have resulted from fracking in various locations around the world.  In Oklahoma, the American Bar Association journal recently reported there are 300 times more earthquakes, after fracking, than in the past. An HBO documentary from 2010 reported on the consequences of fracking in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Wyoming where water wells were polluted and kitchen sink faucets caught fire.

Last week, Mr. Gaudet met with an Amsterdam personal injury lawyer, Antoinette Collignon-Smit Sibinga, who told him she once lived in Groningen, the Netherlands which never had earthquakes until, after fracking, Groningen now has many earthquakes.  An article in the Guardian describes the damages suffered by landowners in the Groningen due to earthquakes caused by the removal of natural gas.  The Groningen landowners have been offered compensation but, generally, in amounts far lower than the actual costs for them to build new houses after old structures were damaged by earthquakes.

http://www.napavalley.edu/Library/PublishingImages/fracking-infographic.jpg

In April 2015, a Dutch court in the Hague ordered the halting of gas production in Groningen due to earthquake concerns, according to an article published in The Globe and Mail. The Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, based in the Hague, had argued to the Court that gas production caused 196 earthquakes in the region over a period of two years.  The ruling required the Dutch gas company to reduce production to a minimal level.  In a separate decision, a Dutch court, in 2014, ordered payment of $1.6 billion in compensation to landowners with damages caused by earthquakes induced by fracking, as reported in an online publication.

In Louisiana, oil companies can obtain an order from a Governor-appointed Commissioner of Conservation to drill on people’s land without their consent. The statutory justification is to prevent the “waste” of natural resources.  If a landowner refuses to enter into a lease, then the oil company can charge the landowner three times the costs for drilling (taken out of any production) as a penalty for the landowner’s refusal to enter into a lease.  Consequently, there’s immense pressure upon Louisiana landowners to enter into leases to allow fracking even though it may someday cause earthquakes.

To protect their rights, landowners have the option of refusing to enter into a lease and, if the oil company seeks a unitization order from the Commissioner, then submitting objections to the Commissioner.  The Commission is required to hear objections and may determine whether, or not, to grant an oil company’s application.  In their objections, landowners could raise the prospect of increased earthquakes as a reason for the Commission to deny any application to drill without the landowners’ consent.  According to some local lawyers in Louisiana, unitization orders (which create a “unit” of land that a company can drill on, even without the owners’ consent) are readily granted, even when they are opposed by landowners. Will the serious consequences of fracking, i.e. earthquakes, around the world change the mind of a Commissioner?  Perhaps.  Landowners can always refuse to enter into a lease and submit their objections to an oil company’s subsequent application for a unitization order.

As an alternative, landowners can insert more favorable provisions into a negotiated lease to seek protection and, in the event of harm, compensation for any damages caused by any earthquakes.  A negotiated lease can also contain provisions that require an oil company to use the highest and best practices and technologies for the prevention of earthquakes and remediation of the land.

On behalf of his client, Mr. Gaudet cooperates with co-counsel in seeking creative solutions to growing concerns about fracking including Jenik Radon (who previously represented the country of Georgia in negotiations against BP Oil and currently teaches at Columbia University) and legal counsel in Louisiana.

The land broker seeking the lease, Mark A. O’Neal & Associates, has sent Mr. Gaudet’s client numerous copies of a fine print lease devoid of important legal clauses (e.g. indemnification provision, damages clause) and offered a percentage of royalties; $1 per long ton for sulphur, and just 10 cents/barrel of water.  The broker attached a “draft check” in the hopes that Mr. Gaudet’s client would cash it and, thereby, become bound by the fine print devoid of legal protections, which many landowners sign with little or no revisions.  At one point, the broker told Mr. Gaudet there was no risk of earthquakes due to fracking in Louisiana.

Ingird laughing with pope

Prof. Dr. Detter de Frankopan Meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican Prior to Speaking With Polish Coal Miners About the Legal Consequences of the Pope’s Encyclical on the Environment

The Vatican recently called upon Prof. Dr. Detter de Frankopan for advice on the international legal impact of the encyclical, Laudato Si, which discusses the environment. Prof. Dr. Detter de Frankopan and Cardinal Peter Turkson had a private audience with Pope Francis.

 

Related to Prof. Dr. Detter de Frankopan’s legal advice, Pope Francis released Laudato Si, which is available here, on May 24, 2015. The full name of the document is “Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si, of the Holy Father Francis On Care For Our Common Home.”

 

The Encyclical likens earth to a sister and “mother” who “cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted.” It asks people to protect bio-diverse systems in the Amazon, Congo, and elsewhere from “huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations.” The Encyclical warns of transnational corporations with self-interested proposals to internationalize the Amazon as well as popular consumerism and the spread of a “throwaway culture,” a term the Pope has used in speeches. The Encyclical was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi who loved flowers and animals and spoke to the Earth, Sun, and Moon as his friends.

 

Pope Francis advocates for the abandonment of fossil fuels and their replacement with renewable energy. Although he is not a Catholic, Pres. Obama appears to agree with this general direction as he recently declined to establish a Keystone pipeline and, instead, said we should keep our fossil fuels in the ground.

 

The Pope’s Encyclical is not without controversy.   For instance, Catholic miners in Poland are concerned that they may lose their jobs as the result of the legal implementation of the Encyclical.

 

As a result, Prof. Dr. Detter accompanied Cardinal Peter Turkson to Poznan, Poland to explain to the miners that legal implementation would only occur very gradually. In addition to speaking with Polish miners, Prof. Dr. Detter de Frankopan and Cardinal Turkson attended an environmental conference, Pol-Eco System Conference.

Ingrid bowing to pope

The Pol-Eco System Conference: International Trade Fair of Technologies and Products For Sustainable Development and Municipal Services took place in Poznan, Poland from October 11 – 14, 2015. The conference featured special exhibitions on renewable energy, water management, environmental protection, and other matters. More information about the conference is available at this link.

 

The Encyclical reflects a belief in the common brotherhood of people and, even, in the unity of all earthly creatures: “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” This is reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assertion that we are all interconnected within a single web.

 

What is the role for lawyers? Prof. Dr. Detter de Frankopan advises the Vatican on international law and explains the legal ramifications of moral beliefs. Another example is New York lawyer Jenik Radon who advises sovereign nations on the risks in contractual agreements with the oil, gas, and mineral industry.   Mr. Gaudet and Mr. Radon currently advise a small landowner in Louisiana regarding negotiations with an oil and gas company that wishes to engage in fracking.

 

Lawyers have a role to play in writing normative values into legal contracts to ensure that the environment is not wasted or destroyed. They can give voice to weaker and less experienced parties, such as individual landowners or even small sovereign nations, in negotiations with multi-national oil and gas companies.

 

ABOUT RJ GAUDET & ASSOCIATES LLC: the firm is registered in Seattle with office addresses in El Paso, Berkeley, and The Hague. It consists of lawyers who are licensed in Texas, Washington, New Jersey, and the United Kingdom and who work across the United States with local counsel on litigation, class actions, international human rights, international law, wage and hour matters, environmental issues, and other types of cases. Prof. Dr. Detter de Frankopan is Of Counsel.

Ingrid speaking to pope

By Robert J. Gaudet, Jr.

japan flag index

In what is likely to yield a trickle rather than a tsunami of justice, Japan will allow class action-type lawsuits filed by consumer associations to seek damages in a new law that will take effect in December 2016.

 

On Sunday, October 24 at a Halloween barbeque of the Berkeley LLM students, I met a student from Japan, Shoichi Hara, who is on temporary leave from his position as a judge in Japan. We spoke about class actions. Judge Hara subsequently explained to me, by email, the status of Japanese class actions:

 

“In Japan, the Consumer Court Special Procedure Act (a Japanese-version of the class action) was promulgated on December 11,2013 and will be enforced within 3 years from that day, taking effect in December 2016. Since it has not been enforced yet, there are no cases now. The Act will allow only qualified consumer organizations to sue against business operators instead of allowing each consumer to file a lawsuit. There will be two steps in the procedure. In the first step, a court will decide the presence of legal liability. After declaring the legal duty of defendant in the first step, the court will inform relevant consumers of the procedure and decide each person’s amount of damage in a simple procedure.

Before the Consumer Court Special Procedure Act, Japan previously introduced another Special Act which enabled qualified consumer associations to file a lawsuit for injunction instead of consumers. The average number of cases per year (from 2009) is about 15, which is increasing, but there have not been so many yet. So, Japanese class action or other consumer protection systems have only just started.”

 

Judge Soichi Standing Before the University of California at Berkeley Law School

Judge Soichi Standing Before the University of California at Berkeley Law School

The Consumer Court Special Procedure Act will bring a slight advantage over the status quo. Presently, there are only a few procedural devices available: (1) joinder which, as in the United States, allows numerous individuals to file their own lawsuits and have them consolidated into a single action, (2) representative actions in which representatives can be appointed, upon explicit instructions from each one of the victims, to represent others with “common interests”; and (3) lawsuits for injunctive relief only filed by “certified” consumer associations that are pre-approved by the Prime Minister.[1]

 

With the new procedure, consumer associations will be able to file actions seeking damages. This is a slight improvement under the older law that only allowed consumer associations to seek injunctive relief. However, given the limited resources of consumer associations, it is not likely there will be a significant number of cases filed under the Consumer Court Special Procedure Act. If, as Judge Soichi reports, only 15 lawsuits for injunctive relief were filed by consumer associations under the older law that took effect in 2007, then similar numbers might be expected under the Consumer Court Special Procedure Act permitting them to seek damages.

 

There is a hint of paternalism in Japan’s approach. It will allow only consumer associations – not victims themselves – to prosecute lawsuits. And, under the older 2007 law, the Prime Minster has to pre-approve eligible consumer associations and may decertify any class action,[2] giving the Prime Minister the opportunity to exercise political influence over the prosecution of a case for injunctive relief.

 

Why don’t Japanese legislators trust victims and their lawyers to file suit as is done in the United States? As I mentioned at a conference in Brussels in 2012, Japanese legislators seem to have a paternalistic belief that victims and their lawyers cannot be trusted and that only a quasi-government association should be entrusted with the sacred duty of prosecution. There is no reason to believe a consumer association can prosecute suits more effectively or efficiently than the private bar. Nor am I aware of any empirical evidence to support the paternalistic approach.

 

The suits that Japanese consumer associations are allowed to file under the 2007 law are limited in scope to unjust contractual clauses and inappropriate solicitations.[3] In addition, the consumer associations must pre-notify the offender to give it a chance to fix the problem before the associations can file suit. It seems likely that similar restrictions may be placed on consumer associations seeking damages under the new law that becomes effective in December 2015.

 

In its own discussion over collective redress, various governments and actors who submitted comments to the European Union, also, expressed a preference for cases filed by consumer associations rather than private individuals. Therefore, it is not surprising that Japan drew from this European experience, including an irrational paternalism, in drafting its own legislation.[4]

 

From December 2016, it will be interesting to see how actively the consumer associations do – or do not – use their new powers to seek damages for consumers. Even more interesting, I am curious to see when Japanese legislators become willing to look beyond the paternalistic approach, gather empirical evidence, and brush aside mistrust of American-style class actions to devise a system that could, some day, invigorate the Japanese economy with a true tsunami of justice. But that day will have to wait for perhaps another decade or a subsequent generation.

 

 

[1] Sugawara, Ikuo, “The current situation of class action in Japan,” (undated), available at http://globalclassactions.stanford.edu/content/current-situation-class-action-japan (last viewed on Oct. 28, 2015).

[2] Id. at 12, 14.

[3] Id. at 11.

[4] Id. at 16 (“As a result, injunctive relief under the above mentioned consumer group actions was introduced by referring to the systems of the EU countries”).

Me in Blå Hallen Stockholm Town Hall 25 Sept 2015

Prof. Detter Receiving the Award in the Blue Hall at Stockholm Town Hall, Sept. 25, 2015

 

On September 25, 2015, Stockholm University in Sweden conferred the honor of “Doctor Jubilaris” upon Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter who graduated from the faculty of law and went on to a D.Phil. at Oxford University and a second doctorate from Stockholm University; became the first female Fellow of St. Antony’s College at Oxford University; was elected to the Chair of International Law at Stockholm University; and served as Legal Advisor on International Affairs to the Pope, Saint John Paul II, for 25 years.

 

Prof. Dr. Detter attended the ceremony in Stockholm at the Blue Hall in the Stockholm City Hall, followed by a gala supper at the Golden Hall which is often called the “Little Noble Feast” since it occurs on the same premises as the annual Nobel Prize ceremony.

Me at Gala Dinner 25 Sept 2015

Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter at the Gala Dinner With a Golden Mosaic Wall in the Background in the Golden Hall

 

 

The ceremony was conducted in Latin. Prof. Engelbrekt of Stockholm said, in Latin, that she had consulted with her colleagues in the law faculty and that they had selected Prof. Dr. Detter for this honor. In Latin, Prof. Engelbrekt said at the ceremony, “I order you to step forward to receive the sign of your honor.” And, then, she said, “I greet you, Jubilee Doctor” (again, in Latin) and “Good bye, distinguished Doctor” (in Latin as “Vale, clarissima, Doctor”). The program was performed in Latin to maintain the historical roots of this medieval tradition. Participants wore white tie and long evening dresses.

 

Prof. Dr. Detter de Lupis Frankopan was delighted to receive this honor bestowed by her colleagues on the law faculty. The Doctor Jubilaris is conferred under the auspices of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden who officially serves as the head of the University.   The firm of RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC congratulates Prof. Dr. Detter for this recognition.

 

After receiving this award, Prof. Dr. Detter has embarked to Rome for a meeting with HH Pope Francis. She advised his predecessors on matters of international law. It was, perhaps, due to her impressive scholarship and work that Prof. Dr. Detter was recognized on September 25 by her peers. Her academic career started at Oxford University where she attained a D.Phil. under the supervision of Sir Humphrey Waldock who later served as President of the International Court of Justice.

Dr Jub 25 SEpt 2015

Doctorate Conferred Upon Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter With the Name of the Swedish King in Red Letters