Legal Profession Article

For-Profit Public Enforcement

Vol. 127 No. 3 This Article investigates an important yet undertheorized phenomenon: financial incentives in public enforcement. Each year, public enforcers assess billions of dollars in penalties and other financial sanctions for violations of state and federal law. Why? If the awards in question were the result of private lawsuits, the answer would be obvious. We expect that private enforcers – the victims of law violations and their fee-seeking attorneys – will attempt to maximize financial recoveries. Record recoveries come as no surprise in private class actions, for example. But dollar signs are harder to explain in the context of public enforcement. Unlike private attorneys who are paid a percentage of the recovery, public enforcers are paid by salary. They have no direct financial stake in successful enforcement efforts. We assume that public enforcers pursue financial awards only for their deterrent value, not for the benefits that such recoveries can bring the enforcement agency itself. Or do they? Contrary to the conventional wisdom on the division between public and private enforcement, this Article argues that public enforcers often seek large monetary awards for self-interested reasons divorced from the public interest in deterrence.
Civil Procedure Article

Aggregate Litigation Goes Public: Representative Suits by State Attorneys General

Vol. 126 No. 2 State attorneys general represent their citizens in aggregate litigation that bears a striking resemblance to the much-maligned damages class action. Yet while private class actions are subject to a raft of procedural rules designed to protect absent class members, equivalent suits in the public sphere are largely free from constraint. The procedural disconnect between the two categories of aggregate litigation reflects a widespread assumption that attorneys general will adequately represent the interests of their respective state’s citizens, obviating any need for case-specific mechanisms for assuring the loyalty of lawyer to client. This Article challenges the presumption of adequate public representation. By conflating consent of the governed with consent of the client, the conventional wisdom ignores the important differences between political and adjudicative representation. Class action scholars have produced mountains of commentary detailing the agency costs of aggregate litigation, including substantial conflicts between the interests of class counsel and the members of the plaintiff class. I show that the same risks are present in state suits.