James Azadian (JD ’01) Argues Successful En Banc Petition in Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

June 12, 2019 | Pepperdine Law alumnus and Board of Advisors member James S. Azadian (JD ’01) recently argued and won an en banc petition before the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on behalf of client Kia Motors.  Azadian is a member and the West Coast appellate chair at Dykema Gossett PLLC, located in Los Angeles.

From the Dykema press release:

Dykema, a leading national law firm, represented Kia Motors America Inc. and Kia Motors Corp. in its Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals class action settlement victory on June 6, 2019.

In July 2018, the Court granted Dykema’s petition for en banc review of a three-judge panel’s split controversial decision, throwing out the nationwide class-action settlement claiming that fuel efficiency estimates in advertisements and car window stickers for certain vehicle models were overstated. The two-member panel majority criticized the trial court for not analyzing the consumer protection laws of several states in certifying a nationwide settlement class of plaintiffs, but the panel majority itself did not identify any variations in such state laws.

The decision forced trial courts to scrutinize a settlement class to the same degree as a litigation class by requiring the attorneys and the trial court to conduct an all-50-states analysis of consumers’ claims. Trial courts throughout the Ninth Circuit sidelined pending class settlements as they waited for the en banc court’s decision.

In an 8-3 majority decision, the en banc panel agreed with Dykema that there is no requirement, absent sufficient showing from an objector, that the trial court has to analyze variances of state laws at the settlement stage. Reversing the earlier panel ruling and reinstating the trial court’s multidistrict settlement of more than $200 million, the en banc majority explained that “[t]he criteria for class certification are applied differently in litigation classes and settlement classes,” and “[i]n deciding whether to certify a litigation class, a district court must be concerned with manageability at trial.  However, such manageability is not a concern in certifying a settlement class where, by definition, there will be no trial.” The en banc panel’s decision faithfully applies the established rule from its 1998 decision in Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., which rejected the notion that “idiosyncratic differences between state consumer protection laws” defeat certification of a class.

“The en banc panel reached the correct decision, returning to its own, well-settled understanding of the law and realigning itself with the Supreme Court and the precedents from the circuits across the country” said James Azadian, leader of the Kia Motors appeal team, who argued the case before the 11-judge en banc panel. “After many years of litigation, Kia may now proceed with distribution of the nationwide class action settlement chosen by its customers.

From Dykema Gossett PLLC:

Azadian specializes in complex federal and state court commercial litigation raising cutting-edge and core business issues, the First Amendment to the Constitution, Article I of the California Constitution, and the application of California’s anti-SLAPP statute in federal court.  Mr. Azadian has served as counsel in more than 200 appeals and writ proceedings covering a wide variety of industries and subjects.

Mr. Azadian has served as an adjunct professor teaching courses in Appellate Advocacy at Pepperdine University School of Law, Law and Economics at UCLA, the Supreme Court Practicum at Northwestern University School of Law, and Legal Ethics at USC. He is the current Chair of the Appellate Lawyer Representatives of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, as appointed by Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Sidney Runyan Thomas, a group of approximately 20 appellate attorneys chosen as representing the very best in the field of appellate advocacy. Additionally, Mr. Azadian serves on Pepperdine Law’s Board of Advisors and on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach.

Before joining Dykema, Mr. Azadian was the hiring shareholder and chair of a Southern California-based law firm’s appellate, writs, and constitutional law practice, as well as its regulatory practice. He started out in private practice as an appellate associate with the Washington, D.C. office of Sidley Austin LLP, right after he had completed his judicial clerkships with Ninth Circuit Judge Consuelo Maria Callahan and District Judge Ricardo Manuel Urbina of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.”

Azadian was also recently quoted in the Los Angeles Daily Journal profile of Judge Consuelo Callahan. Azadian clerked for Judge Callahan from 2004-2006. See the article and coverage from Dykema’s website.