Consumers and Investors Protection in Croatian Law
State Legal Minds Go International
Posted 2/3/2005 10:32 AM
A Kanawha County judge and lawyer take their experiences overseas to Croatia and London.
Story by Juliet A. Terry Email | Bio
West Virginia is exporting some of its judicial and legal talent this month, but only temporarily.
Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tod J. Kaufman has been invited to speak to an international law conference in Croatia this week. And Erica Mani, general counsel for former Gov. Bob Wise, is one of just two lawyers in the nation to participate in a six-week program in England.
Kaufman to Croatia
In early January, Kaufman got word that a Croatian law school was organizing an international conference, "Consumers and Investors Protection in European and Croatian Law -- Challenges of Global Sales and Capital Market."
The University of Rijeka Faculty of Law was expecting more than 100 participants from throughout Europe's business, economic, legal, government and academic communities -- and the university wanted Kaufman to speak about class actions and consumers in America's legal system.
"I've never been asked to speak to any conference before, so this comes as a real honor to be asked to speak at an international conference," Kaufman told The State Journal.
Kaufman said he believes his experience overseeing class-action litigation is what got the attention of the Croatian conference organizers, particularly the five years he has spent presiding over the consumer class-action Community Health Association, et. al. v. Lucent Technologies, et. al. That case garnered national headlines after a $110 million settlement was reached in May 2004.
"I think class actions are a positive vehicle for case management of large cases," Kaufman said. "Mass litigation, really, is another word for case management of complex cases, and it is an important field of law. It's always a challenge to me because of the social implications that go along with cases involving large numbers of people."
The lawyers involved in class actions and other mass litigation are "at the top of their field," are highly specialized and "they tend to be the best in the country," he said.
"This area of law really gives me opportunity for growth, and it's a really changing area," Kaufman said. "(This) really fascinates Europeans because countries like Italy and Croatia do not have class actions. Our ability to manage complex civil litigation through class actions is what prompted (my invitation to) the conference."
He said the American system of justice is the "envy of the world." Class actions help consumers seek redress in the courts. While one consumer may not have the resources to bring a case, an entire class does.
"It's my understanding that Europe wants to know how to do this," Kaufman said. "I'm just so honored to be included, and I'm also fascinated by the opportunity to be part of the interchange of ideas from legal scholars from around the world."
Kaufman has been a judge at the Kanawha County Circuit Court for 16 years and served in the West Virginia Senate from 1982-1988.