Group Action: How have practitioners used group litigation & collective or class action suits to challenge laws & practices?

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Group Action: How have practitioners used group litigation & collective or class action suits to challenge laws & practices?

In this discussion topic, we would like to explore how practitioners have used group litigation and collective or class action suits to challenge laws, policies, norms and practices that negatively affect the rights of children and teens. Share your thoughts, experiences, questions, challenges and ideas by replying to the comments below.

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Some examples

CRIN is conducting a global study of access to justice for children, which looks at, amongst other things, whether collective action or group litigation for the protection of children’s rights is possible at the domestic level. From our research we've identified a number of examples from countries, including:

  • Australia - Class actions (known as “representative proceedings” or “group proceeding” in the relevant legislation) are permitted in Australia, with most class actions being commenced under the Federal Court’s regime. There’s currently a class action led by a 6-year-old girl in immigration detention against the Australian government, challenging the lack of healthcare on Christmas Island.
  • United States - Class-action procedures are available to litigants in federal courts and state courts. There have been several recent lawsuits brought by advocacy groups challenging teacher tenure laws across the US, including in New York and California, claiming that they violate the right to education.
  • Canada - The Federal Court of Canada permits class action lawsuits. Provincial laws also allow class actions. A class action was filed in February claiming that the Ontario government systematically failed to pursue remedies for the abuse and neglect of children in its care, consequently causing their ability to seek civil damages and compensation to evaporate.
  • Argentina - Collective action may be initiated, including by NGOs, according to article 43 of the Argentine Constitution without naming individual victims.
  • Guyana - A group may apply to the High Court for redress of violations of any of the fundamental rights provisions under the Constitution.
  • Sweden  - A government authority may bring a “public class action” and act as plaintiff to litigate the action on behalf of a group of class members. This form of action is intended to permit authorities to pursue claims where the public interest, in a broad sense, suggests that action should be taken.
  • China - The 2012 amendments to the Civil Procedure Law allows a government authority or “relevant organisation as prescribed by law” to bring a class action challenging conduct that, amongst other things, pollutes the environment, or otherwise damages the public interest.
  • New Zealand - Under the Human Rights Act 1993 there are powers for the Director of Human Rights Proceedings to represent a class of people before the Human Rights Tribunal who have been similarly aggrieved.
  • Ireland - The Irish Human Rights Commission is empowered to institute legal proceedings in its own name to vindicate the human rights of a class of persons in Ireland.

Our country reports on access to justice for children will be progressively published on our website:

If you have examples of notable cases of collective action or group litigation at the domestic level concerning children’s rights, particularly if you have worked on such cases, I would be very keen to hear about them.