In Devlin v. Scardelletti, the Supreme Court held that a class member who objects in a federal district court to a proposed class-action settlement may appeal approval of that settlement without moving for (and being granted) intervention. As I explained in this article, despite efforts by settling parties to limit Devlin to members of non-opt-out classes, the right to appeal approval of a class settlement should extend to all class members.
Devlin proceeded on the (correct) assumption that a class member could object to a proposed settlement in a district court without intervening. But what about the rights of non-class members to object to a class certification and settlement that could adversely affect their interests? Those issues are addressed in a new decision of the Third Circuit, Benjamin v. Department of Public Welfare. There, the objectors were intellectually impaired residents of state-run care facilities who objected to a settlement that favored community placement. The class definition excluded people who opposed community placement. The district court denied the objectors' motion to intervene for the purpose of challenging class certification and the proposed settlement.
The Third Circuit reversed, holding that the objectors' interests were not adequately representated by the existing parties, including the state of Pennsylvania, which ran the care facilities. The court noted that although ordinarily a government is an adequate representative of the public, the objectors here had their own personal interests at stake and should not be forced to accede to Pennsylvania's position, which was "necessarily colored by its view of the public welfare."
The Third Circuit remanded to allow the objectors to raise their concerns with the class certification and settlement. Armed with intervention status, presumably the objectors will be able to appeal any adverse rulings on their merits. Worth reading.