At a recent conference with class members in an extended employment discrimination proceeding, Hairston v. McLean Trucking Co., one disgruntled class member, among sixty-seven and one of seventeen named plaintiffs asked me: "Lawyer, who do you represent in this proceeding?" Forty of the class members and sixteen of the named plaintiffs were at that time reasonably satisfied with a backpay settlement proposal. One class member and one plaintiff objected vehemently. I advised the group that the settlement was reasonable and that they should accept it. The objector's question, however, did seriously concern me.
We had been litigating the case for ten years. During this period there had been no division in the ranks of the plaintiffs and the class. All of them were interested in a determination which would insure better job opportunities for blacks and compensation for earnings they had lost because of the employer's discrimination. Some, however, had better claims than others: some had been with the employer longer; some had expressly rejected opportunities to move to better jobs; some were admittedly unable to perform the better jobs. Notwithstanding, the disgruntled class member insisted that each class member and plaintiff receive an equal sum of the backpay award.
From my representation of the parties in the proceeding, I knew the weakness of the claims of the objecting class member and plaintiff. Under these circumstances, was I to withdraw from the proceeding, continue to represent all parties and ignore the objection, or represent those who assented and insist that the objectors retain other counsel?
Chambers, Julius L.
"Class Action Litigation: Representing Divergent Interests of Class Members,"
University of Dayton Law Review: Vol. 4:
2, Article 7.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udlr/vol4/iss2/7
Julius L. Chambers is President, Legal Defense Fund, and Partner, Chambers, Stein, Ferguson & Becton, P.A., Charlotte, North Carolina. B.A., North Carolina Central University (1958); M.A., University of Michigan (1959); L.L.B., University of North Carolina (1962); M.L., Columbia University (1963). Member: North Carolina and American Bar Associations.
This was a speech presented to the Black American Law Students Association of the University of Dayton School of Law on September 29, 1978.