Federal Rule 23(E) Interpretation

The Fourth Circuit in Shelton v. Pargo, 582 F.2d 1298, 1302-04 (4th Cir. 1978) relied on this language to hold that former Federal Rule 23(e) unambiguously applied to only post-certification class-action lawsuits. In Shelton, the plaintiff sought to dismiss her class-action complaint after reaching a settlement with the defendant. Shelton, 582 F.2d at 1301. The trial court approved the dismissal with qualifications and directed that notice be provided to all putative class members pursuant to former Federal Rule 23(e). Id. Relying on Sosna and Baxter, the Fourth Circuit rejected the trial court's interpretation of former Federal Rule 23(e): Former Federal Rule 23(e) does not apply to any action simply because it was begun as a class action. By its explicit language, former Federal Rule 23(e) is confined in operation to the settlement and dismissal of a "class action." . . . . It is the actual certification of the action as a class action . . . which alone gives birth to "the class as a jurisprudential entity," changes the action from a mere individual suit with class allegations into a true class action . . ., and provides that sharp line of demarcation between an individual action seeking to become a class action and an actual class action. Id. at 1303-04.