I’ve often been asked if the NJC is eligible for a Cy Pres award. The simple answer is yes. We are a 501(C)3 non‑profit, so we are eligible. But the NJC is not just eligible, it’s an excellent choice for a Cy Pres award.
For those of you who do not regularly handle class action cases, let’s review what a Cy Pres award is. It is the residual damages left from a class action when individuals can’t be located or just don’t cash their checks. For example: If there was a defective toaster and all the purchasers are entitled to $5 each, you may not be able to locate every person and some of the checks may not be cashed. The leftover damages are the subject of a Cy Pres award, which generally goes to a non‑profit institution. Something has to be done with the money and the plaintiff attorneys can’t just keep it. Also, it wouldn’t make sense to give the money back to the wrongdoer.
So why is the NJC an excellent choice? First, we are a national institution. Assuming the toaster is resold across the country, it might not be appropriate to have the unclaimed damages go to a local or statewide group.
Second, the Cy Pres award may not be paid out for several years. The NJC has been educating judges across the country for more than 50 years. Our mission hasn’t changed and you can be assured that we will not only be operating several years down the road, but our mission of education, innovation, and advancing justice will be the same.
Third, the Cy Pres award represents the damages that people received for their legal rights. It’s not just toasters or defective products. Consumers could have been overcharged for a service such as cable or phone, or paid too much for an investment. But, one of their rights was affected and they have a right to the damages. The NJC helps courts better serve the public in enhancing and protecting everyone’s legal rights.
Fourth, a Cy Pres award to the NJC could be focused on a distinct type of case
or litigants. The award could be for increasing access to the courts
by helping judges improve their skills in handling cases with
self-represented litigants. It could focus on family cases, small
claims, tribal courts or some of the specialized dockets handled by
Administrative Law Judges. (No, we don’t have a course on toasters but
people who buy toasters use our courts.)
So that’s the longer answer. The NJC is not just eligible for a Cy Pres award in class actions; the NJC is an excellent choice.
— Hon. Chad Schmucker, NJC President
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