Professor Suzette Malveaux Moderates
Panel on Significant Consumer Law Case
Catholic University law professor Suzette Malveaux was the moderator of an Oct. 19 panel sponsored by the American Constitution Society that examined AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, a case to be argued before the Supreme Court in November that could alter how consumers settle disputes with companies or money-lenders.
Many consumers don’t realize it when they apply for a credit card or sign for an auto loan, but if they have a legal beef with the lender later on, they may have already limited the options for how to press their case.
That’s because in their standard contracts, companies often include provisions requiring the parties to resolve disputes through individual arbitration proceedings or in small claims court, and that ban class actions or class-wide arbitration.
For companies, it’s much cheaper and easier to handle disputes with customers on a micro level, as opposed to dealing with the costly and complex litigation that is the hallmark of many class actions.
Some states will not enforce a provision that bans class actions because they deem these provisions unconscionable and invalid under state law. AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion will ask the nation’s highest court to decide whether federal law—specifically the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925—preempts state law that invalidates these bans.
Some commentators believe that this case, while little publicized, has potentially wide-ranging implications for consumer, civil rights, and other class actions.
Held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the panel moderated by Professor Malveaux included F. Paul Bland Jr., senior attorney, Public Justice; Alan S. Kaplinsky, partner, Ballard Spahr LLP; Nina Pillard, professor of law, Georgetown University Law Center; and Stephen J. Ware, professor of law, University of Kansas School of Law.
The Supreme Court will hear AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion on Nov. 9, 2010.