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Central District Of California’s Local Rule 23-3 Remains In Current Version Of Local Rules Despite The Ninth Circuit’s Explicit Rejection Of Bright-Line Rule

Jan 29, 2019 | Posted by Kirsten F. Gallacher | Topic: Class Actions

Certain district courts, such as the Central District of California, have local rules with strict filing deadlines for motions for class certification in order to streamline class actions pending in the district.  Local Rule 23-3 provides that “[w]ithin 90 days after service of a pleading to commence a class action . . . the proponent of the class shall file a motion for class certification that the action is maintainable as a class action, unless otherwise ordered by the Court.”  C.D. Cal. L.R. 23-3.

In ABS Entertainment, Inc. v. CBS Corporation, 908 F.3d 405, 427 (9th Cir. 2018), the Ninth Circuit expressly rejected “the bright-line of Local Rule 23-3 [as] incompatible with the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.”  There, the parties sought two separate stipulations to extend the 90-day deadline, which the district court denied.  The plaintiff filed a timely motion, which was struck for various technical deficiencies.  The district court then dismissed the motion for class certification for failure to file a timely motion for class certification under Local Rule 23-3.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s striking of the plaintiff’s certification motion.  The court explained that Local Rule 23-3’s “bright light rule is in direct contrast to the flexibility of the Federal Rule, which calls for a determination on class certification ‘[a]t an early practicable time after a person sues or is sued as a class representative.’”  ABS Entertainment, 908 F.3d at 427 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(1)(A)).  The court emphasized that the flexible approach of the Federal Rules makes sense, as “the class action determination can only be decided after the district court undertakes a ‘rigorous analysis’ of the requisites for certification”—and this analysis may require discovery.

Despite the Ninth Circuit’s unequivocal rejection of Local Rule 23-3, Local Rule 23-3 remains in the Central District of California’s local rules effective December 1, 2018.  Though certain district judges have opted out of this automatic 90-day deadline in favor of a court-ordered deadline, Local Rule 23-3 appears to remain operable—and thus may govern—a class action filed in the Central District of California.  Determining whether this 90-day deadline applies to a class action filed in the district is crucial to case management, discovery, and strategy for opposing certification.