This case concerns an alleged automatic transmission defect in certain automobiles. After the parties reached a settlement, the named plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of that settlement for a proposed settlement class. In their motion, the plaintiffs asked the court to give the settling parties advance permission to seek depositions and other discovery from absent class members who objected to the proposed settlement. The plaintiffs also sought to require that, in order to maintain their right to object, such class members provide detailed up-front disclosures that not only established their membership in the proposed class, but also stated the legal grounds for their objections and listed their and their attorneys’ objections in past, unrelated cases. The settling parties sought to back up these discovery and disclosure rules with noncompliance sanctions, including loss of the ability to object.
Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen, Inc. sought leave to file an amicus brief opposing the motion for preliminary approval. Their brief explained that the proposed discovery, disclosure, and sanctions rules were extraordinary, unnecessary, inappropriate, and in conflict with discovery, class action, and due process principles.
The judge denied Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen’s motion for leave to appear, concluding that their interest in the case was only a generalized concern, that class counsel could adequately represent the relevant interests, and that the proposed arguments were not useful. In particular, the judge explained that the proposed amicus brief would not contribute to the court’s understanding because the challenged settlement provisions are routinely approved by courts and she concluded that they do not raise due process concerns.