Ninth Circuit Vacates Denial of Unopposed Class Certification Motion for Failure to Conduct a “Rigorous Analysis”

by charlesjung

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a denial of an unopposed class certification motion.  Cortez v. Saia Motor Freight Line, Inc., No. 08-56356, 2010 WL 3938273 (9th Cir. Oct. 8, 2010) (slip. op.).  The Ninth Circuit held that the “district court erred in failing to explain its reasons for denying the unopposed class-certification motion of plaintiff Hoany G. Cortez”.   Id. *1.

The district court’s conclusory assertion that this case presents “no common questions” of law or fact under Rule 23(a) falls far short of the “rigorous analysis” required in the class-certification context. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a); Gen. Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982). Nor is this a case where the “issues [a]re so plain and the analytical framework so clear that the record,” standing alone, enables effective appellate review. Chamberlan v. Ford Motor Co., 402 F.3d 952, 961 (9th Cir.2005). Contrary to the district court’s conclusion, the record suggests a number of possible common issues, such as whether defendant Saia Motor Freight Line, LLC maintains an official policy of refusing to reimburse workers for required footwear and whether federal OSHA regulations legitimize such a policy.  The district court also omitted any mention of the remaining Rule 23(a) factors and did not discuss any of the prongs of Rule 23(b). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)-(b).

The dearth of substantive analysis in the district court’s March 24, 2008 hearing and March 28, 2008 order prevents this court from engaging in “meaningful appellate review” and requires that we vacate the decision and remand for reconsideration of Cortez’s motion. See Narouz v. Charter Commc’ns, LLC, 591 F.3d 1261, 1266 (9th Cir. 2010). Given the circumstances of this case, we are not convinced that it is necessary to reassign this case to a different judge on remand. See United States v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 785 F.2d 777, 780 (9th Cir. 1986) (per curiam).

Judges and Attorneys

Before Circuit Judges Harry Pregerson, D.W. Nelson, and Sandra S. Ikuta.

Appeal from an order of District Judge Manuel L. Real of the United States District Court for the Central District of  California. D .C. No. 2:07-cv-05388-R-E.

Gregg A. Farley, Esquire, Law Offices of Gregg A. Farley, Los Angeles, CA,  Neal J. Fialkow, Esquire, Neal J. Fialkow Law Offices, Pasadena, CA, Sahag Majarian, Esquire, Law Offices Sahag Majarian, II, Tarzana, CA, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Jesse E.M. Randolph, Esquire, Bryan Cave LLP, Irvine, CA, for Defendants-Appellees.


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