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Class actions have become an increasingly prominent feature of Australia’s litigation landscape. Some people think they enhance access to justice, offer an efficient way to deal with large numbers of claims and function as an effective regulatory tool, while others criticise them as improper ‘private’ regulation or as just another way for lawyers to become wealthy. Students will have the opportunity to critically evaluate these views. Law reform proposals will be considered, as will the development, present state and likely future directions of the law and practice of Australian class actions. While the focus will be on Australia, methods used in other countries to bring and manage group proceedings will be considered and compared. Students will have the opportunity to engage and debate with lecturers and guest lecturers with substantial academic, practice, judicial and international experience.
Principal topics include:
- The origins of modern class action regimes in Australia
- Comparisons of the federal and Victorian regimes with those in other Australian and overseas jurisdictions
- The main stages of class action litigation
- The roles of lawyers, judges, parties, litigation funders and regulators
- Specific issues, including choosing a forum, defining the class, the role of the lead plaintiff, entrepreneurial lawyering, identifying and notifying class members, settlement and court approval
- Comparing class actions with other procedures available for bringing and managing complex litigation
- Securities class actions and the regulatory role of the class action
- Funding and costs issues, including the role of commercial litigation funders.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the statutory regimes, principles and practices governing class action litigation, including recent local and international developments in this field of law and practice
- Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the purposes and efficacy of class action litigation
- Be an engaged participant in debates regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as the extent to which Australia’s class action regimes have secured the policy goals of access to justice and judicial economy, empirical evidence regarding the practical operation of these regimes, their interaction with the activities of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the role of commercial litigation funders
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the key practical, conceptual and ethical issues that arise in the context of class action litigation
- Have an advanced understanding of the main stages class action litigation and how class action proceedings are commenced, conducted and settled
- Have a detailed understanding of class action regimes in a comparative and empirical context
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to class action litigation and to critically evaluate law reform initiatives and existing issues, debates, theories and controversies
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging issues relating to class action litigation
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding class action litigation to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
- Be able to demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of class action litigation.
Last updated: 11 February 2021