Tom R. Tyler


My goal is to look at aggregation from the perspective of the psychology of the litigant. Doing so is based on the premise that one goal of the courts is to manage conflicts in ways that enhance the legitimacy of the legal system, something which research indicates is best accomplished by using procedures that those involved in litigation view as fair. Applying this perspective to aggregation I make three basic points. The first is that people are dissatisfied when they feel they lack the resources to bring their grievances to a court. If aggregation allows people to more readily access justice in the courts, this should enhance legitimacy. Second, if people go forward with aggregate cases it is important not to eliminate individualized hearings, because research demonstrates that people value such opportunities to address legal authorities. Judges would benefit from using the approach pioneered by Judge Weinstein and Kenneth Feinberg, which provides individual personalized hearings in which litigants receive a respectful hearing of their concerns. Third, private aggregation, achieved through contracts among plaintiffs, offers an opportunity for plaintiffs to achieve many of the psychological benefits traditionally associated with the judicial recognition of their claims through solidarity among litigants who have suffered similar harms.