District Court declines to decertify class because of alleged conflict-based inadequacy of counsel

United States District Court Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill (Eastern District of California) denied a renewed motion to decertify a class of former members of Calcot that marketed their cotton in a Seasonal Pool.  Andrews Farms v. Calcot, LTD., 2010 WL 3341963 (E.D.Cal. Aug. 23, 2010).  Defendants argued that counsel was inadequate because of an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of a former named plaintiff represented by counsel and the interests of the certified class.  The Court found class counsel to be adequate and declined to apply a mechanical disqualification rule:

Because class actions are unique, “the traditional rules that have developed in the course of attorneys' representation of the interests of clients outside of the class action context should not be mechanically applied to the problems that arise in the settlement of class action litigation.” In re Agent Orange Prod. Liab. Liti., 800 F.2d 14, 19 (2nd Cir.1986). Class actions provide a particular problem with respect to the rules on conflict because “the potential for conflicts in the course of representing numerous class members is greatly enhanced.” In re Joint Eastern and Southern Dist. Asbestos Litig., 133 F.R.D. 425, 431 (S.D.N.Y.1990). Thus, “although automatic disqualification might promote the salutary ends of confidentiality and loyalty,” the courts do not apply such rules automatically in a class action context, because automatic disqualification “would have a serious adverse effect on class actions.” In re Agent Orange, 800 F.2d at 18. Accordingly, to determine whether class counsel will represent the interests of the class vigorously, the Court must employ “a balancing of the interests of the various groups of class members and of the interest of the public and the court in achieving a just and expeditious resolution of the dispute.” In re Joint Eastern and Southern Dist. Absestos Litig., 133 F.R.D. at 431 (quoting In re Agent Orange, 800 F.2d at 19).

Slip op., at 8.