Class action lawsuits: I learn a new term, “cy pres.”

Thanks to the New York Times’s superb Supreme Court journalist, Adam Liptak, I learned, as he entitled it in yesterday’s Sidebar pieces, “When Lawyers Cut Their Class-Action Clients Out of the Deal.”

I had no idea this sort of thing happens. And it has a name, a French name: “cy pres,” which, as Liptak writes, “…is derived from a French legal expression, ‘cy pres comme possible,’ or ‘as near as possible.'” (I suspect it’s a medieval legal French expression for “screw you.”)

Here’s how this stunningly irritating piece of news begins:

WASHINGTON — “We always knew this settlement would get a tremendous amount of attention,” Scott A. Kamber told the federal appeals court in San Francisco a couple of years ago.

He was defending a novel bargain he had struck with Facebook on behalf of millions of users whose privacy he said the company had violated. The settlement’s central innovation was to cut Mr. Kamber’s clients out of the deal.

The class members would get nothing. The plaintiffs’ lawyers would get about $2.3 million. Facebook would make a roughly $6.5 million payment — to a new foundation it would partly control.

The appeals court upheld the settlement last year by a 2-to-1 vote, with the majority saying it was “fair, adequate and free from collusion.” Last month, critics of the settlement asked the Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Facebook settlement certainly explores new frontiers in class-action creativity…

Yep, it sure does. (That’s medieval American, btw.)

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