TIJERINA v. HENRY - 398 U.S. 922 (1970)
U.S. Supreme Court
TIJERINA v. HENRY , 398 U.S. 922 (1970)
398 U.S. 922
Reies Lopez TIJERINA et al.
Virgil HENRY et al.
No. 1776, Misc.
Supreme Court of the United States
May 25, 1970
The appeal is dismissed.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.
Appellants brought this suit as a class action, claiming to represent a class 'designated as Indo-Hispano, also called Mexican, Mexican-American and Spanish American, [which is] generally characterized by Spanish surnames, mixed Indian and Spanish ancestry and ... Spanish as a primary or maternal language.'1 The District Court dismissed the complaint as a class action, holding that appellants' definition of the class was 'too vague to be meaningful.'2
Class actions are controlled by Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. That Rule does not in terms define a 'class', other than by stating that the class must be 'so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable' and that there must be 'questions of law or fact common to the class.' Certainly those two prerequisites were satisfied in this case. In addition, however, federal courts have required that '[t]he members of a class must be capable of definite identification as being either in or out of it.' Chaffee v. Johnson, D.C., 229 F.Supp. 445, 448. See also Dolgow v. Anderson, D.C., 43 F.R.D. 472, 491; Weisman v. MCA Inc., D.C., 45 F.R.D. 258, 261; 3B J. Moore, Federal Practice 23.04 (1969).
In my view, the District Court clearly erred in holding that the members of the class were not sufficiently identifiable. The court relied, for example, on the fact that 'the complaint is silent as to whether people with some Spanish or Mexican and Indian ancestors, as well as ancestors who are of some other extraction, i. e., French, English, Danish, etc., would be included as members of the class. These considerations make this characteristic so vague as to be meaningless.' One thing is not vague or uncertain, however, and that is that those who dis- [398 U.S. 922 , 924]