Friday, July 12, 2013

Shearin v. Brown (Cal. Ct. App. - July 11, 2013)

I'm sometimes a bit dubious about the creative ways that appellate courts occasionally come up with to justify the refusal to certify a class.

But not here.

California occasionally makes mistakes in calculating the release date of its prisoners.  This results in some individuals being incarcerated when they should be free.  (It also results in the erroneous early release of some inmates who should remain incarcerated.)

That's wrong.  Those adversely affected deserve a remedy.  California calculates that there are 594 such people.  My strong sense is that few of them are both aware of the error as well as able to navigate the relevant claim process.  As a result, many -- probably nearly all -- of them do not receive what they deserve.

Class actions are designed, in part, to solve this problem.

Class treatment is nonetheless not warranted here.  As the trial court and Court of Appeal held.  There are a variety of reasons -- a variety of different mistakes -- that result in erroneous calculations of the release date of individual prisoners.  The results may be the same:  erroneous incarceration.  But there is no uniform process that leads to this result.  The common questions do not predominate, and class treatment is not superior to individual actions.