How Tony Soprano Got Into the Mob Business. Or, How the Attorney General’s Parens Patriae Case Stayed in State Court

Illinois v. AU Optronics Corp., et al, No. 10-5720, 2011 WL 2214034 (N.D. Ill. June 6, 2011).

Tony Soprano, a not so gentle giant, always recognized a good business opportunity when he saw one. During the week before the Super Bowl between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, Tony decided he wanted to sell televisions on the black market. Tony called his cousin, who called his brother, who called his mother, who called his friend, Christopher, to tell him to get some televisions, regardless of who he had to kill…literally. Christopher ended up scoring a truck full of TVs within the next hour. The details of how Christopher acquired these TVs shall remain unannounced, as I fear for the lives of my family.

Tony and Christopher got together and came up with the brilliant business idea to sell their TVs at a rate higher than everyone else in the black market because they knew they were the only ones who had these very special TVs. However, when some of their customers found out they had (unknowingly) conspired to raise the prices, they were not too happy but knew not to mess with a mobster, at least not without involving the Illinois state court system.

After the State Attorney General sued Tony and Christopher, they decided they wanted to get into federal court so they looked to CAFA to help get the case removed to federal court. However, they had to jump through two hoops in order to get there.

The first CAFA hoop was the requirement of minimal diversity of citizenship among the parties. Tony knew that the Attorney General was not part of his extended family, so he thought he had this number nailed. However, the court disagreed because the State of Illinois had a quasi-sovereign interest in bringing suit and, therefore, the State was a real party in interest in the case and is not merely a nominal party bringing claims on its residents behalves. Therefore, as a State, it does not meet the requirement of being a citizen, as required by CAFA.

Second, an action removable under CAFA also must meet the definition of “class action” or “mass action.” Tony knew he was a man of both class and mass. However, the court seemed to disagree. The State Attorney General convinced the court that the lawsuit was not a class action or a mass action because it was not a private suit brought on behalf of private interests but was rather brought by a state entity on behalf of the general public and was a parens patriae suit (which Tony of course did not understand because apparently they don’t teach this foreign term in mob school.)

As a result, Tony’s case remained in state court. Since he was not able to make it to the federal courtroom, he realized he never wanted to be sued again so he made sure he had his family “take care of business” whenever a problem arose. In the future, Tony lived happily ever after (which is more than can be said about those people who crossed Tony or his family members down the line!)

(Editors’ Note: Our regular readers know that the CAFA Law Blog will occasionally take liberties with the facts of a case to make reading mundane cases more enjoyable. Consequently, our regular readers do not need this disclaimer. However, so new readers are not shocked to learn that the facts above do not directly correlate with the facts set forth in the opinion, we will state explicitly that we took literary license with the facts of this case somewhat. Now fuggaboutit.)

Hillary Barnett

(Editors’ Note: On a serious note…this case is one of several parens patriae cases that are discussed in a very scholarly article entitled “Removal of Attorney General Actions Under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005,” BNA, Inc. Class Action Litigation Report, Vol. 12, No. 9, May 13, 2011. This article will give you a road map to remove similar AG actions. It was written by our very own Anthony Rollo and Michael Ferachi).