Concordia University School of Law, Faculty Scholarship

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Class action settlements often present the court and parties with the practical problem of disposing of residual funds that remain after distributions to class members. The cy pres doctrine is a well-recognized device that permits the court to designate suitable organizations to receive such funds. Recently, academics, judges, practitioners, and professional objectors have mounted a multi-faceted attack on this device, ranging from constitutional and ethical concerns to appeals challenging specific awards. This Article first describes the use of cy pres awards in class action settlements and explains why the constitutional, statutory, and ethical objections are unfounded. This Article then addresses other concerns that have been raised about particular awards by suggesting a principled and practical approach to cy pres awards. Finally, this Article explains why public interest and legal services organizations—organizations focused on providing access to the justice system for disenfranchised individuals—are appropriate cy pres recipients and avoid many of the problems raised by other potential recipients.