Lieff Cabraser attorneys Elizabeth Cabraser and Lexi Hazam spoke this week at the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies Conference on “Increasing the Number of Women and Minority Lawyers Appointed to Leadership Positions in Class Actions and MDLs” in Atlanta on April 6th and 7th. The conference’s goal was to lay the groundwork for the drafting of bench-bar best practices intended to further balance the presence of women and minorities in leadership roles in significant complex and multi-state litigation.
The conference included panels reviewing the range of judicial discretion in appointing lawyers to lead these large-scale critical cases, existing application and selection processes, organizations currently working to increase underrepresented appointeees, and several other topics. Elizabeth Cabraser spoke on the panel discussing “What Should a Judge Consider and Do When Appointing a Lawyer to Class Action or MDL Leadership Position?” while Lexi Hazam spoke on “Experiences of Women and Minority Lawyers Who Applied for Leadership Positions.”
Given that no fewer than 15 judges attended the conference, the Duke Law Center noted, “This was an opportunity for counsel experienced in MDLs and class actions to work with judges to help shape the future of MDL and class action procedure.”
As noted by the Daily Journal (subscription), “Women and their male allies in the plaintiffs bar want to see more women in charge of big, multiplaintiff cases. This week in Atlanta, a group of leading lawyers and judges from around the country convened to figure out how to make it happen.”
The Journal further noted, “The stakes are high for MDL appointments, since the lawyers are handling litigation that affects hundreds or even thousands of underlying plaintiffs’ cases.”
The Journal cited Elizabeth Cabraser’s role in the historic Volkswagen diesel emissions case, where she serves as sold lead counsel and chair of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, and noted that she is one of the “repeat players” Judges tend to choose for leading MDLs.
John Rabiej, the director of the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies, noted that “Judges have a lot of discretion and a lot of them don’t have much experience with MDLs, so they want experienced lawyers.” Cabraser herself pointed out that “[a leadership role] is not an honor and it’s not a sinecure — this is a job. Judges need leads with the talent and resources to fund the litigation.”
Cabraser went on to note that the recent spike in women leading MDLs is likely to accelerate. “Womens’ progress has been invisible for years and now, finally, after years of supporting each other, we have the experience, talent and resources.” She noted that four of the seven federal judges on the panel that decides whether to create an MDL are women, including chair Judge Sarah Vance of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “I think there’s going to be a juggernaut,” Cabraser concluded. “We women are available now. We’re on a roll.”
About the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies
“Bridging the gap between academia and the bench and bar,” the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies administers several distinct programs, all aimed at improving the administration of justice by focusing on the study and exploration of the judicial process. The Center brings together judges, practitioners, teachers, and key government officials to achieve a better understanding of the judiciary and to generate improvements in the administration of justice.
About Elizabeth J. Cabraser
A name partner and co-founder of Lieff Cabraser, Ms. Cabraser chairs the firm’s personal injury and environmental litigation practice groups. One of the nation’s leading class action litigators and possessing unparalleled expertise in complex civil litigation, she has served as court-appointed lead, co-lead, or class counsel in scores of federal multi-district and state coordinated proceedings. Today, she serves in court-appointed leadership positions in several of the nation’s highest profile civil cases, including a solo leadership role in the VW “Clean Diesel” Emissions case, as well as lead positions in the GM ignition switch defect and Takata defective airbag cases.
About Lexi Hazam
An emerging leader within the plaintiffs’ bar, Lexi Hazam represents clients in mass torts cases and qui tam actions, as well as complex class actions. She has been appointed by the court overseeing the nationwide Abilify gambling injuries MDL litigation to the Plaintiffs Executive Committee and the Science and Expert Sub-Committee for the case, and was also appointed by the court overseeing the nationwide Benicar MDL litigation to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee therein and serves as Co-Chair of the Benicar MDL Plaintiffs’ Science and Experts Committee. Lexi has also spoken at several conferences on Benicar injuries and Benicar lawsuits.