Professor Elizabeth Chamblee Burch, the Fuller E. Callaway Chair of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law, will receive the Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution’s 2019 Mangano Dispute Resolution Advancement Award for her groundbreaking scholarship in the area of multidistrict litigation (MDL) settlement.
The $5000 annual award recognizes scholars whose published empirical research has furthered the advancement and understanding of the values and skills of dispute resolution. It was established through the generosity of Hon. Guy J. Mangano '55, '83HON, who has dedicated his long career to promoting dispute resolution, first as presiding justice of the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department, next as a state legislator, and then as an arbitrator and mediator.
The opioid crisis, and the lawsuits seeking to hold the drug’s prescribers, manufacturers, and distributors legally accountable for its devastation, have put MDL in the spotlight. MDL allows the opioid cases and other suits brought in federal courts across the country to be consolidated for preliminary proceedings before one judge. By some estimates, about 40% of all current federal cases are part of a MDL. The theory goes that centralizing pretrial business and settlement negotiations in cases that share common questions of fact creates greater, and much-needed, efficiencies.
Professor Burch has focused her scholarship on MDLs, and the MDL settlement process, for a number of years. Her recently published Monopolies in Mass Litigation, the third in a series of empirical articles in a six-year-long data collection project, appears in the Vanderbilt Law Review.
Noting that federal judges assigned to MDLs choose the same lead plaintiffs’ and defendants’ lawyers time and again, the article introduces new empirical evidence demonstrating that these repeat players “continually achieve their goals in tandem—defendants end massive suits and lead plaintiffs’ lawyers increase their common-benefit fees.” The related fallout can be “lower payouts to plaintiffs, stricter evidentiary burdens in claims processing, or more coercive plaintiff participation measures in master settlements.”
To address these dispute resolution and procedural justice pitfalls, Professor Burch recommends structural modifications to improve the MDL settlement process for all parties, drawing in part from procedural safeguards that are already in place for class actions.
Considering this year’s Mango Award nominations and submissions, the award selection committee comprised of Elayne E. Greenberg, Assistant Dean for Dispute Resolution Programs, Professor of Legal Practice, and Director of the Carey Center and St. John’s Law Professors Keith Sharfman, Jeff Sovern, and Ettie Ward recognized Professor Burch’s article as reflecting her outstanding scholarship in the field.
Research considered for the Mangano award has broad applicability to the alternate dispute resolution field, or focuses on the values and application of dispute resolution in a specific area. Interdisciplinary research is encouraged, and the findings should be published in a nationally respected journal within a specified period. In assessing a candidate, the selection committee also considers:
The Mangano Award selection committee appreciated the strong credentials that Professor Burch brings to her work. Since entering the academy in 2006, she has authored over 30 articles that have been published in some of the nation’s top law reviews. She co-authored one of the leading textbooks on complex litigation, has given over 65 lectures to diverse domestic and international audiences, and is tapped for her legal expertise by major media outlets regularly. Professor Burch’s book, Mass Tort Deals: Backroom Bargaining in Multidistrict Litigation, will be published by Cambridge University Press in April 2019. She teaches Complex Litigation; Mass Torts; Multidistrict Litigation: Law, Practice, and Strategy; and Civil Procedure at UGA Law.
"The purpose of the Mangano Award is to strengthen the legitimacy of the dispute resolution field by supporting quality empirical research that informs good dispute resolution practice,” Professor Greenberg says. “Professor Burch’s research examines the MDL settlement process and recommends procedural safeguards that will increase the likelihood that the process yields fairer outcomes to all involved.”
Professor Burch looks forward to formally accepting the Mangano Award at a reception hosted by the Carey Center on March 11, 2019. “I’m exceedingly grateful to St. John’s and to the Mangano committee for reading my work,” she says. “It’s a tremendous honor to receive this award, to be included alongside the wonderful scholars who have been previous recipients, and to be recognized for my empirical work on multidistrict litigation.”