In August of this year, the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure released a preliminary draft of proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Perhaps the most notable of the proposed amendments are those relating to Rule 23, which governs class actions. Rule 23 has been substantively amended four times since its adoption in 1937, and most recently in 2003. The proposed amendments affect the following aspects of Rule 23: method of notice to class members, settlement approval, objections of class members to settlement and appeals.
The proposal includes an amendment to Rule 23(c)(2)(b) to clarify the proper methods of notice to class members of a class certified under Rule 23(b)(3) (common questions of law or fact predominate over those pertinent to only individual class members and the class action is superior to other forms of action). Currently, Rule 23(c)(2)(b) requires notice by “the best notice that is practicable under the circumstances,” which could plausibly be read to permit notice through electronic or other means. But many courts have stated that this subsection of the rule requires notice by first class mail. The proposed amendment would clear up this confusion by allowing notice to be perfected “by United States mail, electronic means, or other appropriate means.” This proposed amendment is meant to clarify that modern methods of communication, such as email and social media, are permissible means of providing notice to class members. The proposed amendment reflects the reality that many people do not check their U.S. mail as regularly as they used to before the advent of electronic mail.