DEVLIN v. SCARDELLETTI

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
01-417
Petitioner 
Devlin
Respondent 
Scardelletti
Opinion 
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondents)
(Argued the case for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
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Facts of the Case 

Robert Devlin, a retired worker represented by the Transportation Communications International Union, participates in a defined benefits pension plan (Plan) administered by the Union. In 1991, the Plan was amended to add a cost of living increase (COLA). In 1997, the Plan's trustees eliminated the COLA because the Plan could not support such a large benefits increase. The trustees also filed a class action in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment that the 1997 elimination was binding on all Plan members or that the 1991 COLA was void. After the District Court conditionally certified a class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(1) and the trustees asked the court to approve their settlement with the class representatives, Devlin moved to intervene. The court denied his motion as untimely. The court then heard objections to the settlement, including those advanced by Devlin, and approved the settlement. In affirming the District Court's denial of Devlins's intervention, the Court of Appeals held that, because Devlin was not a named class representative and because he had been properly denied the right to intervene, he lacked standing to challenge the settlement.

Question 

Does a nonnamed member of a class certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(1) have the power to appeal the approval of a settlement over objections he stated at the fairness hearing?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Devlin, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including Appellate Procedure (or relevant rules of a circuit court)

Yes. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court held that nonnamed class members like Devlin, who have objected in a timely manner to approval of the settlement at the fairness hearing, have the power to bring an appeal without first intervening. The Court reasoned that the District Court's approval of the settlement, which bound the nonnamed class member as a member of the class, amounted to a final decision of the nonnamed class member's right or claim sufficient to trigger his right to appeal. Moreover, the Court concluded, appealing the approval of the settlement was the nonnamed class member's only means of protecting himself from being bound by a disposition of his rights he found unacceptable, given that the nonnamed class member had no ability to opt out of the settlement. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissent, in which Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined.

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DEVLIN v. SCARDELLETTI. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 08 July 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_417>.
DEVLIN v. SCARDELLETTI, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_417 (last visited July 8, 2014).
"DEVLIN v. SCARDELLETTI," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 8, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_417.