Koby v. Helmuth, No. 13-56964 (9th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed a class action against ARS, a debt collection agency, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq. The class consists of some four million people nationwide. At issue is whether the magistrate judge had the authority to exercise jurisdiction to approve the class action settlement without obtaining the consent of all four million class members. If so, at issue is whether the magistrate judge abused her discretion by approving the settlement as fair, reasonable, and adequate. The court concluded that the magistrate judge had the authority to enter final judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(c); the court joined three of its sister circuits and concluded that the statute requires the consent of the named plaintiffs alone, not the consent of the four million class members not present before the district court; and section 636(c) does not violate Article III of the Constitution by permitting magistrate judges to exercise jurisdiction over class actions without obtaining the consent of each absent class member. The court concluded that the magistrate judge abused her discretion by approving the settlement because there is no evidence that the relief afforded by the settlement has any value to the class members, yet to obtain it they had to relinquish their right to seek damages in any other class action. Furthermore, ARS and the named plaintiffs likewise presented no evidence that the absent class members would derive any benefit from the settlement’s cy pres award. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded.