Every day, someone asks me a great political question. Sometimes I can answer them, other times I can't.
This is the page to post any unanswered political questions from class or elsewhere. Some are unanswerable, others have answers. You will receive mad props, a Milner prize, or maybe even a cookie for any questions you post (include your name). I'll also give mad props to any answers that anyone posts on this page (below the question). Good hunting.

Today's question was this:
Are crimes committed on airplane federal or state crimes? (Zac Pierce-Messick)
Here's the answer: Federal! (Mr. Milner)

What are differences in punishments between state crimes and federal crimes? (Savannah S.)
Great question, Savannah. It depends on the crime. The main difference is in WHO punishes them. If you violate a state crime you are tried in a state court. Violate a federal crime and you are tried in federal court. Typically, justice is a little rougher at the state and local level, and there are many fewer incidents of capital punishment (for any crime) at the federal level. (Mr. Milner)

Who gets to be the lead plaintiff in a class action law-suit? How is the lawyer representing the suit selected? (Mr. Milner)

The Role of the Lead or Named Plaintiff in a Class Action

Often the class action starts out with a few people, or even one person, approaching a lawyer for assistance in recovering for a company's defective product or improper conduct. After reviewing the case, if the attorney believes there are other people with the same problem or injury, the attorney works to identify other potential class members and to have the class certified by the judge as a class. If you believe you've been injured by a product or action and that there are others like you, contact one of our attorneys who has experience in class action lawsuits.

Who Can be the Lead Plaintiff?

Usually the person who got the ball rolling will be chosen as the "lead plaintiff," "named plaintiff," or "class representative" in the class action. These labels are used interchangeably. Although anyone can offer to be the lead plaintiff, the role must be officially sanctioned by the court. Who is qualified generally to be the class representative is governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or a state's specific procedural rules. In some areas of the law, there are specific rules governing how the court determines the class representative. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, for example, provides that the best lead plaintiff is the person with the largest financial interest-the dollar amount lost or the percentage of net worth lost-of the damages sought by the class. Also, depending on the circumstances, several individuals may be appointed to serve together as lead plaintiffs. The named plaintiff also must meet specific criteria under the facts of the particular case. His or her injuries must be representative of those of the entire class, and the judge must believe that the lead plaintiff will adequately represent the interests of the class. For example, if the case involves a toxic environmental spill, the lead plaintiff must be someone whose property is alleged to have been damaged by the spill. A person with no such connection to the subject of the lawsuit can't be the class representative. In some types of class action cases, the law imposes a "lead plaintiff deadline." This is a relatively short period of time after the class action has been filed, within which the court must receive all applications for lead plaintiff. If you want to be a lead plaintiff, contact the lawyers who have filed the lawsuit as soon as possible to ensure that your application is submitted before this deadline.

The Named Plaintiff's Job

After obtaining the court's permission to go forward with the lawsuit as a class action, the attorneys and the lead plaintiff work with the court to determine who will be considered a class member. As the case progresses, the lead plaintiff also has control, with the attorneys, over the direction the litigation will take. The named plaintiff works with the attorneys and appears at pre-trial conferences and in court in a manner that closely resembles a typical individual lawsuit. Unlike the other members of the class, the named plaintiff undertakes to give substantial service to the class when he or she agrees to serve as the class representative. If the suit has been successful, the court often approves an "incentive award" to be given to the named plaintiff. An incentive award is a payment to the class representative to reward him or her for stepping forward and representing the class.


Class actions are sometimes called "representative actions." This is because one person or a few people are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which is filed on behalf of an entire class of people who were similarly injured. The named plaintiff or lead plaintiff or class representative is named in the lawsuit takes the lead in working with the attorneys and must have a claim that is representative or typical of the claims of the rest of the class. An experienced attorney can help you determine your role in a class action. Copyright ©2009 FindLaw, a Thomson Business(Mr. Milner)

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