Rule 23.2 – Actions Relating to Unincorporated Associations

This rule applies to an action brought by or against the members of an unincorporated association as a class by naming certain members as representative parties. The action may be maintained only if it appears that those parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the association and its members. In conducting the action, the court may issue any appropriate orders corresponding with those in Rule 23(d), and the procedure for settlement, voluntary dismissal, or compromise must correspond with the procedure in Rule 23(e).

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.2 addresses actions brought against an association, corporation, or other entity in a representative capacity on behalf of its members. This rule is specifically tailored for cases where the actions or decisions of such entities affect their members collectively, and it aims to streamline the process of litigating these collective interests. Here’s a breakdown of its key aspects:

  1. Representative Actions: Rule 23.2 permits a lawsuit to be brought by or against parties representing a group without the need to individually join all members of the group. This is particularly relevant for organizations or entities where decisions or actions impact all members similarly.
  2. Applicability: This rule is most commonly applied in cases involving associations, unions, or other collective entities where a legal issue pertains to the rights or responsibilities of the entity as it relates to its membership at large. For example, a lawsuit challenging the legality of a union’s strike action would be brought under this rule.
  3. Notice Requirement: While Rule 23.2 does not elaborate in detail on notice requirements as does Rule 23 (which deals with class actions), courts have interpreted it to require that notice be given to the members of the entity in certain circumstances, especially when the outcome could significantly affect their interests. The extent and manner of notice are often left to the court’s discretion, based on the specifics of the case.
  4. Efficiency and Fairness: The rationale behind Rule 23.2 is to facilitate efficient litigation of collective interests without the procedural complexities of class certification under Rule 23. It allows for the fair and effective resolution of issues impacting all members of an entity, ensuring that the entity’s conduct is scrutinized in a manner that reflects its collective nature.
  5. Distinction from Class Actions: Although Rule 23.2 shares some similarities with class actions, it is distinct in its application and requirements. Rule 23.2 does not require meeting the specific prerequisites for class action certification, such as numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation. Instead, it focuses on the representative nature of the action against or by the entity and the collective impact on its members.

In summary, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.2 provides a framework for legal actions involving entities like associations or corporations where the matter at issue affects all members collectively. It streamlines the process for these representative actions, ensuring that the interests of all members are considered without the need for each to be individually joined to the lawsuit.


(As added Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; amended Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1966

Although an action by or against representatives of the membership of an unincorporated association has often been viewed as a class action, the real or main purpose of this characterization has been to give “entity treatment” to the association when for formal reasons it cannot sue or be sued as a jural person under Rule 17(b). See Louisell & Hazard, Pleading and Procedure: State and Federal 718 (1962); 3 Moore’s Federal Practice, par. 23.08 (2d ed. 1963); Story, J. in West v. Randall, 29 Fed.Cas. 718, 722–23, No. 17,424 (C.C.D.R.I. 1820); and, for examples, Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66 (1939); Tunstall v. Brotherhood of Locomotive F. & E., 148 F.2d 403 (4th Cir. 1945); Oskoian v. Canuel, 269 F.2d 311 (1st Cir. 1959). Rule 23.2 deals separately with these actions, referring where appropriate to Rule 23.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 23.2 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

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