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Standing in Class Actions

Administrative actions can be challenged through class actions claiming injunctive or declaratory relief.  For instance, a private organization of persons concerned about the environment can file a class action against the administrative agency.[i]  Similarly, members of a graduating class of the Marine Academy to whom certain promises had been made by a government agency can sue the agency for non performance.[ii]

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) allows a group to be certified as a class when membership is so numerous and there are questions of law and fact at issue that are common to the members of each class.  The alleged unlawfulness of regulations presents questions of fact and principles of law identical to each member within the respective class.  Finally, “the claims of the named plaintiff representatives of each class must be typical of the claims of the members of their respective classes, and the representative parties must fairly and adequately protect the interest of each member of the respective classes.” [iii]

The class action may be based on the fact that the agency administrator has acted or refused to act on grounds generally applicable to the class.[iv]  In a class action, relief will be granted to the class as a whole.  Exhaustion of administrative remedies by at least one named plaintiff is a condition precedent to sustaining a class action under Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act.  Thus unnamed class members need not have to exhaust their administrative remedies so long as the named class plaintiff exhausts such remedies.  A class action is not permitted as a matter of right in all cases.  If there are alternate remedies, the parties have to resort to them and in such a situation courts will refuse to entertain a class action.

[i] Environmental Defense Fund, Inc. v. Hardin, 428 F.2d 1093 (D.C. Cir. 1970)

[ii] Krawez v. Stans, D.C., 306 F. Supp. 1230 (1969)

[iii] Planned Parenthood Federation, Inc. v. Schweiker, 559 F. Supp. 658, 662 (D.D.C. 1983)

[iv] Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2)

Inside Standing in Class Actions