Emory Law Journal


Myriam Gilles


In recent years, much attention has been paid to the startling disparities in income and wealth in contemporary U.S. society. The implications of this wealth gap reverberate across the socio-legal landscape, but nowhere is the gap more glaring than in the civil docket, where litigation¿particularly class actions brought by or on behalf of low-income consumers and employees¿is on the verge of disappearing. The unavailability of class litigation is disproportionately more harmful to low-income groups than any other legal impairment, for a number of reasons. As contemporary judges see fewer civil cases brought by or on behalf of poor people, one might expect that they will grow further out of touch with and more ill-equipped to manage these claims; and as this reservoir of wisdom empties, judicial attitudes towards the poor may harden, growing disdainful and ungenerous. Accordingly, when judges are sporadically faced with the legal claims of low income groups, it becomes harder to spot (or easier to ignore) patterns of exploitative, abusive conduct by corporate or governmental actors.