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Ted Frank

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Ted Frank
Born (1968-12-14) December 14, 1968 (age 48)
Education BA, Brandeis University;
JD, University of Chicago
Occupation Lawyer
Years active 1995-present

Theodore H. "Ted" Frank (born December 14, 1968), is an American lawyer, activist, legal writer, and former blogger, based in Washington, D.C..[1] He wrote the vetting report of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin for the John McCain campaign in the 2008 presidential election.[2] He is the founder and president of the Center for Class Action Fairness (CCAF), established in 2009.[3][4] The New York Times calls him the "leading critic of abusive class-action settlements";[5] the Wall Street Journal has referred to him as "a leading tort-reform advocate."[6]

Frank graduated from Brandeis University in 1991, and the University of Chicago Law School in 1994 with a Juris Doctor. A litigator from 1995 to 2005, and a former clerk for Frank H. Easterbrook on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Frank was a director and fellow of the Legal Center for the Public Interest at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.[7][8][9] He was an adjunct fellow at Manhattan Institute’s Center for Legal Policy, where he was editor of the Institute's web magazine, He was on the Executive Committee of the Federalist Society's Litigation Practice Group and contributed to conservative legal weblogs, and, as of 2008, was a member of the American Law Institute.[10]

Background and early career[edit]

Frank was born in 1968. He is a grandson of journalist Nelson Frank, a nephew of author Johanna Hurwitz, and a cousin of the politics editor of The Atlantic Online, Garance Franke-Ruta.[11]

He graduated from the Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, then earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Brandeis University in May 1991.[12] He wrote columns for his campus newspaper and political magazines and was a member of the student senate. He objected to a campaign to stop serving pork at the Jewish university, which was noted in The New York Times.[13]

University of Chicago Law School where Frank graduated from in 1994

In 1994 Frank earned his Juris Doctor with high honors from the University of Chicago Law School.[14] At Chicago he earned Order of the Coif and served on the law review.[15] While at Chicago Law, he was a known presence on Usenet groups and researched urban legends; he was an early contributor to the Baseball Prospectus collective through essays on the Usenet group[16][17] He has also been described as a contributor along with snopes of "trolling for newbies" and also as one of the "most consistent posters of serious research".[18][19]

After clerking for Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Frank entered private practice between 1995 and 2005 as a litigator on class action tort cases at law firms Kirkland & Ellis, Irell & Manella, and O’Melveny & Myers.[20] Among his earliest cases were two sudden acceleration cases, where he represented the automakers.[21] As part of his practice, Frank defended a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to delay the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election, defended Vioxx liability cases, and served on defense teams for antitrust and patent cases.[citation needed]

Advocacy of tort reform[edit]

The whole point of a class action is to generate efficiencies that wouldn't be possible in individual actions—so why are the attorneys taking a one-third contingent fee instead of a much smaller percentage?
—Frank, questioning the class action system. May 2005.[22]

In 2003, Frank began contributing regularly to Overlawyered, a legal weblog edited by Walter Olson that advocates tort reform; he continued there through 2010.[23]

Frank joined the American Enterprise Institute in 2005 when AEI offered him a fellowship to research the effects of the Class Action Fairness Act.[21] As the director of the AEI Legal Center for the Public Interest he spoke and wrote about civil justice issues and liability.[20][24][25][26][27] Frank also sits on the Executive Committee of the Federalist Society's Litigation Practice Group.[28]

Frank is a leading proponent for tort reform in the United States.[6] According to Frank, he became disillusioned at class action tactics, and the willingness of judges to approve settlements he felt were poor for consumers.[21] He has strongly criticized obesity lawsuits, calling them "rent-seeking vehicles that are neither good law nor good public policy."[29]

In April 2008, several members of Congress brought up the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act under Title VII, a revision of law "to state that prior acts outside the 180-day statute of limitations could be included", affecting employment financial issues.[30] Frank was against the revision, saying that wages and hiring would be reduced to counter the possibility of litigation from a hired employee.[30] The law was eventually passed in January 2009.[30]

In February 2011, Frank was part of a three-member panel at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee which consisted of himself, James Blumstein, who is a law professor at the university, and Charlie Ross, a former State Senator in Mississippi, presenting their perspectives on how the business and people of the state would benefit from tort reform.[31] Frank and the other panelists argued that "Tennessee’s current civil justice system is both inconsistent and unsustainable" and it was argued that, based on reforms in other states, a reform in this area could result in 30,000 jobs a year or 577 jobs each week in Tennessee and significantly improve the health system.[32]

Issues and conflicts[edit]

In 2006, Frank published an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing for various tort reforms and criticizing the Association of Trial Lawyers of America for "show[ing] much more of an interest in benefiting trial lawyers than in fairness or justice.[33] Jon Haber, CEO of ATLA, responded in the Post, accusing Frank of proposing to destroy "the nation's civil justice system to benefit the insurance industry, drug companies and other corporate powers", of a "laughable" claim that too many lawsuits "may transform the nation into a 'banana republic'", of "find[ing] the fight for justice trivial" and making "nothing more than an attack on the Constitution of the United States".[34] The next day, Frank described Haber's op-ed as "a collection of ad hominems and insults and non sequiturs", "purport[ing] to be responding to [Frank, but] in fact responding to a fictional straw-man". He accused Haber of "dishonest change of subject: at no point does Haber defend the lawsuits I actually criticize", and ended by noting that Haber did not respond to "the most important part of my op-ed" about "trial lawyers ... trying to undo [the concept that a deal is a deal] retroactively".[35]

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in 2007, Frank said that the Department of Treasury and SEC should urge the Supreme Court to reject expanded securities litigation liability in Stoneridge v. Scientific-Atlanta.[36] Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. and Barney Frank criticized this op-ed in their saying that Frank's argument substituted policy considerations for the plain text of statute.[37][38] Frank rebutted the allegation on the Overlawyered weblog.[39] Also in 2007, Frank posted an article regarding tort trial lawyer Arthur Alan Wolk on Overlawyered, a website he has regularly posted on since 2003 about tort reform issues, that prompted Wolk to sue Frank for defamation. The case was dismissed as barred by the one year statute of limitations.[40] On appeal, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press,[41] the Society of Professional Journalists,[42] the American Society of News Editors,[43] the New York Times,[44] the Washington Post,[44] the Associated Press,[44] and law professors and First Amendment experts Eugene Volokh[45] and Glenn Reynolds, among others, filed amicus briefs in support of the defendants saying that there was no actionable claim of libel.

Frank, who worked on the Vioxx case early in his career, was called "perhaps the loudest critic of the Vioxx litigation," and debated trial lawyer Mark Lanier about the issue.[46] Frank continued his criticism in a 2011 article. "A final sordid chapter in the tort litigation over Vioxx closed, as Judge Eldon Fallon divvied up $315 million to be paid to the plaintiffs' attorneys who worked on the litigation. This sum was in addition to the more than $1.2 billion already paid to such attorneys. When you add in what Merck paid to plaintiffs and for its own attorneys, the Vioxx litigation cost it more than $7 billion. Yet Merck almost certainly did not do anything wrong. Even as an unsympathetic corporate defendant, it won the vast majority of cases that went to trial, and another dozen or more that plaintiffs' attorneys dismissed on the eve of trial rather than risk the publicity of a certain loss. Even in the handful of cases that Merck lost at trial, such as the $253 million verdict in the Ernst case that generated much of the publicity that led to tens of thousands of cases being filed, Merck won reversals of most of those on appeal because the verdicts were based on conclusory junk-science expert testimony that should not have been admitted into evidence."[24] Lanier defended the settlement as fair.[46]

Sarah Palin vetting[edit]

According to the book Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, on the weekend before John McCain made his vice-presidential pick, McCain's advisor Arthur Culvahouse asked Ted Frank to prepare a written report on Sarah Palin, "Thrown together from scratch in less than forty hours, the document highlighted her vulnerabilities: "Democrats upset at McCain's anti-Obama 'celebrity' advertisements will mock Palin as an inexperienced beauty queen whose main national exposure was a photo-spread in Vogue in February 2008. Even in campaigning for governor, she made a number of gaffes, and the Anchorage Daily News expressed concern that she often seemed 'unprepared or over her head' in a campaign run by a friend." " The book also says that Frank worked on the vetting of Senator Joe Lieberman.[2] The report was widely criticized;[47][48][49] GQ has cited the report as "the most infamous document in veep-vetting history."[50] In Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's book Race of a Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House (2011), they describe the vetting at length.[51] Frank has defended the report as "exhaustive" and covering "almost everything that would eventually dog her on the campaign trail."[50] In the HBO film Game Change, Frank was played by Brian d'Arcy James.[50]

Center for Class Action Fairness[edit]

Operating largely on donations, the CCAF in a short period has gained a reputation as a formidable check on highly questionable practices that have gone unchallenged precisely because they are the product of collusive parties and allied judges. The advent of a committed and aggressive watchdog like CCAF is, to those familiar with these scams, like sunlight and Lysol.
Karen Lee Torre of the Connecticut Law Tribune describing the Center for Class Action Fairness (CCAF).[9]

In 2009, Frank founded the non-profit Center for Class Action Fairness (CCAF) to represent consumers dissatisfied with their counsel in class actions and class action settlements.[3][4] According to The American Lawyer, as of March 2013, the CCAF had successfully challenged two dozen settlements.[52]

Frank founded CCAF after his successful objection to the proposed class action settlement in the Grand Theft Auto consumer fraud case. Under the settlement, class members who had bought a Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game with a hidden, sexually explicit easter egg would have received less than $30,000, while the plaintiffs' attorneys would receive $1 million in legal fees.[3][53][54][55][56][57] The court rejected the settlement on other grounds, but the case spurred Frank to devote himself to objecting to class action settlements, and he left AEI.[58][59]

CCAF has objected to settlements throughout the United States, in cases where class action lawyers receive cash payments but the plaintiff class receives only discount coupons for further products and services from the defendant company. CCAF argues in those cases that few of the coupons are ever used, so the actual payment to plaintiffs is much lower than the stated amounts.[60] In 2010, CCAF successfully objected to a coupon settlement in a Central District of California class action alleging consumer fraud in the sale of Honda Civic Hybrids; the settlement would have provided $2.95 million in attorneys' fees, but only coupons to the class.[1][61][62] Frank was reported to have said, "coupons are nearly worthless because so few of the intended beneficiaries will find it worthwhile to fill in all the necessary paperwork."[63] The CCAF has also been involved in the case surrounding the allegations of email spamming by Ameritrade in 2009.[64] The case brought Frank before Northern District of California Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, where he challenged the fairness of a TD Ameritrade settlement, which consists of coupons for antivirus software. Frank "argued that the court should not award, or should at least limit, the requested $1.87 million in attorney fees."[64] Judge Walker rejected the Ameritrade settlement in October 2009.[65]

Gay rights activism[edit]

In response to the Chick-fil-A same-sex marriage controversy, Frank created the "Chicken Offset" website to permit gay-rights supporters to offset their purchases of Chick-fil-A with donations to charities that supported gays.[66][67] Frank also co-hosted a benefit to protect same-sex marriage in Maryland.[68]


  1. ^ a b Rizo, Chris (24 February 2010). "Group puts the brakes on Honda class action settlement". The Southeast Texas Record. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Heilemann, John & Halperin, Mark (11 January 2010). Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime (1 ed.). Harper. ISBN 0-06-173363-6. 
  3. ^ a b c Fisher, Daniel (September 21, 2009). "A Lawyer Who Tries to Block Settlements". Forbes. p. 36. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Bronstad, Amanda (10 July 2009). "Judge Approves Bluetooth Settlement, but Balks at Attorney Fees Award". National Law Journal. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  5. ^ Liptak, Adam (August 13, 2013). "When Lawyers Cut Their Clients Out of the Deal". New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b Lattman, Peter (October 30, 2006). "Trial Lawyers Defend Themselves While Taking On Terrorism". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 25 August 2007. 
  7. ^ Cincinnati Magazine. Emmis Communications. July 2009. p. 108. ISSN 0746-8210. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Brickman, Lester (31 January 2011). Lawyer Barons: What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America. Cambridge University Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-521-18949-1. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "Challenging Cy Pres Scams". Connecticut Law Tribune. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "New Members Elected". ALI Reporter (American Law Institute). Retrieved March 23, 2009. 
  11. ^ Hurwitz, Johanna (October 1999). Much Ado About Aldo. Turtleback Books. ISBN 978-0-8335-4003-4. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  12. ^ "Resume". Ted Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  13. ^ Special to the New York Times (28 May 1988). "'Pigtown' at Brandeis U. Protests Food Policy". New York Times. The general feeling is that we're not forcing them to eat pork and they shouldn't be forcing us not to eat pork. 
  14. ^ O'Brien, John (July 16, 2007), Attorney: W. Va. SC ignoring law for benefit of trial lawyers, The West Virginia Record. Retrieved September 1, 2007.
  15. ^ Frank wrote a student comment, "The Economic Interest Test and Collective Action Problems in Antitrust Tie-in Cases", 61 U. Chi. L. Rev. 639.
  16. ^ Baseball Prospectus '97. Joe Sheehan, Clay Davenport, and Gary Huckabay, Eds. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books Inc. (former Brassey’s Inc.), 1997. ISBN 0-9655674-0-0.
  17. ^ Gary Huckabay (11 July 2003). "6-4-3:State of the Prospectus, July 2003". Baseball Prospectus. 
  18. ^ Cecil Adams (2000-05-14). "The Straight Dope". Retrieved 2007-08-26. To be fair, not all trolls are slimeballs. On some message boards, veteran posters with a mischievous bent occasionally go "newbie trolling. 
  19. ^ Porter, David (2013). "Usenet Communities and the Cultural Politics of Information". Internet Culture. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-135-20904-9. Retrieved September 13, 2016. The two most notorious trollers in AFU, Ted Frank and snopes, are also two of the most consistent posters of serious research. 
  20. ^ a b "Ted Frank Biography". American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  21. ^ a b c Zahorsky, Rachel (1 April 2010). "Unsettling Advocate". ABA Journal. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 
  22. ^ "The incentives of a class action". West Virginia Record. 4 December 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  23. ^ "About". Overlawyered. 2012-11-03. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  24. ^ a b Frank, Ted (17 August 2011). "Manhattan Moment: Win or lose, trial lawyers get millions in Vioxx fees". The Washington Examiner. 
  25. ^ Liptak, Adam (15 October 2007). "Competing for Clients, and Paying by the Click". New York Times. 
  26. ^ Kharif, Olga (20 August 2007). "Cell-Phone Contract Disputes Heat Up". Business Week. 
  27. ^ Mauro, Tony (21 August 2007). "Observers Speculate Justices Could Rejoin Securities Issue". New York Law Journal. 
  28. ^ "Publications » The Federalist Society". Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  29. ^ Theodore H. Frank (2006). "A Taxonomy of Obesity Litigation". University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review. SSRN 926536Freely accessible. 
  30. ^ a b c Reeves, Martha E. (6 May 2010). Women in Business: Theory, Case Studies, and Legal Challenges. Taylor & Francis. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-415-77803-9. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  31. ^ Morrow, Mike (23 February 2011). "Talking Tort Reform". Tennessee News Report. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  32. ^ "Lawsuit Abuse Reform Will Give Tennesseans Long Overdue Benefits". Tennessee Center for Policy Research. March 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  33. ^ Frank, Ted (September 7, 2006). "End Open-Ended Litigation". The Washington Post. 
  34. ^ Haber, Jon (October 21, 2006). "A Response to 'End Open-Ended Litigation'". The Washington Post. 
  35. ^ Frank, Ted (October 22, 2006). "A Response to 'End Open-Ended Litigation'". Point of Law. 
  36. ^ Frank, Ted (31 May 2007). "Arbitrary and Unfair". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  37. ^ Stoneridge v. Scientific-Atlanta amicus filed, United States House of Representatives, 30 July 2007 
  39. ^ "Stoneridge: Wherein I am a footnote". 31 July 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  40. ^ "Wolk v. Olson" (PDF). United States District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  42. ^ Blumenthal, Jeff (21 December 2010). "Journalist group lends voice to Wolk libel case". Philadelphia Business Journal. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  43. ^ Goldberg, Kevin (16 December 2010). "ASNE joins amicus briefs tackling unusual issues". American Society of News Editors. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  44. ^ a b c Wolk v. Olson, No. 10-3352 (3d Cir.) docket
  45. ^ Volokh, Eugene (17 January 2011). "Lawyer Seeking Order That "Will Compel ... Volokh to Remove His ... Blog (Post)". Retrieved 21 June 2011. 
  46. ^ a b Lattman, Peter (7 January 2008). "More Vioxx! Mark Lanier Stirs the Pot on Overlawyered". Wall Street Journal. 
  47. ^ Baumgartner, Jody C.; Francia, Peter L. (28 April 2010). Conventional Wisdom and American Elections: Exploding Myths, Exploring Misconceptions. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-4422-0088-3. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  48. ^ Barabak, Mark Z. & Reston, Maeve (3 September 2008). "Vetting of Palin is raising questions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  49. ^ Stevenson, Richard W. (23 March 2012). "After Palin, Expect a More Intense Vetting Process". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  50. ^ a b c Zengerle, Jason (August 2012). "Wanna Be Veep? Okay, but This Is Going to Hurt". GQ. 
  51. ^ Halperin, Mark; Heilemann, John (6 October 2011). Race of a Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House. Penguin Books Limited. p. 500. ISBN 978-0-14-196134-7. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  52. ^ Zabcik, Brian (1 March 2013). "Q&A with Ted Frank: The Class Should Always Be 'Main Beneficiary' in Settlements". American Lawyer. 
  53. ^ Glater, Jonathan D. (25 June 2008). "Hidden Sex Scenes Draw Ho-Hum, Except From Lawyers". New York Times. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  54. ^ "Hardly a 'class' act Legally Speaking". Rockwall Herald-Banner (Texas). 6 May 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  55. ^ Grossman, Andrew (22 December 2008). "Grand Theft Class Action: Game Over". Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  56. ^ Lat, David (10 August 2009). "The Class Action Avenger: Ted Frank's Cool New Job". Above the Law. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  57. ^ "Did Lawyers Inflate Fees in Hot Coffee Class Action Suit?". 27 May 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  58. ^ Jones, Ashby (31 October 2011). "A Litigator Fights Class-Action Suits". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  59. ^ Beck, Susan (4 March 2011). "A Conversation With Class Action Objector". The American Lawyer. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  60. ^ Bill McLellan (23 June 2010). "Lawyers win big in class action suit". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 
  61. ^ Bronstad, Amanda (24 February 2010). "Civic Hybrid class settlement doesn't pass muster". National Law Journal. 
  62. ^ True v. American Honda Motor Co., __ F. Supp. 2d __, No. 07-CV-0287 (C.D. Cal. 2010).
  63. ^ "EDITORIAL: Lawyering unto perdition". Washington Times. 28 December 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  64. ^ a b Moser, Kate (23 September 2009). "Class Action Avenger Discusses Coupon Crusades". Legal Pad. Cal Law. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  65. ^ TD Ameritrade Accountholder Litigation, No. 07-CV-2852, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 126407 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2009).
  66. ^ Greenwood, Arin (5 August 2012). "Chick-fil-A Offsets: Ted Frank, D.C. Lawyer, Offers Chicken From Chain With No Guilt". Huffington Post. 
  67. ^ Sprigman, Chris (8 August 2012). "The Birth of the "Chicken Offset"". Freakonomics. 
  68. ^ Geidner, Chris (20 July 2012). "Cato Scholar Hosting Benefit To Protect Maryland's New Marriage Equality Bill". BuzzFeed. 

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