The Public Value of Settlement
27 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2009 Last revised: 19 Sep 2013
Date Written: November 4, 2009
This article, part of a symposium honoring the 25th anniversary of Owen Fiss’s Against Settlement, takes issue with the basic premise that settlement indicates defeat of the weak by the powerful, the poor by the rich, the injured by the wrongdoers. The argument is both empirical and normative. On the empirical side, this article challenges the basic claim advanced by Fiss and Marc Galanter that repeat players in the courts of justice are more likely to prevail because they will marshal and deploy greater resources. Over the past quarter century, the emergence of the well-heeled plaintiffs’ firm together with referral and other market organizing practices have allowed plaintiffs to fight and defeat institutional defendants across all sorts of mass harm cases. Normatively, this article challenges the assumption that the driving organizational framework of the court system should be derived from the structural injunction that characterized an episodic phase of the civil rights movement. Instead, resolution of mass harms has been and continues to be one of the great challenges of the judicial system, a process for which settlement is a critical and likely inescapable component.
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