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Law School Case Brief

Rappaport v. Katz - 62 F.R.D. 512 (S.D.N.Y. 1974)

Rule:

The vague and indefinite description of the purported class depends upon the state of mind of a particular individual, rendering it difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether any given individual is within or without the alleged class. The members of a class must be capable of definite identification as being either in or out of it.

Facts:

Two couples, one married at City Hall in November 1973 and one planning to be married at City Hall within the coming year, complained that certain rules which defendant Clerk of the City of New York established in conjunction with his officiating at civil weddings violated their rights to privacy and free expression guaranteed by the FirstNinth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The rules involved dealing with appropriate attire and the exchange of rings. The two couples filed a motion for class certification seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive and declaratory relief.

Issue:

Should the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification be granted?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court denied the motion for class certification. According to the Court, the proposed class of all persons who wished and were legally entitled to be married by the city clerk constituted an amorphous, imprecise group which was neither distinguishable nor definable. The Court held that there could not have been a showing that members of the proposed class shared the complaint of the two couples.

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