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Attorney Andrew King Sees Arkansas Judiciary in Class of Its Own

3 min read

Andrew King is a commercial litigation partner at Kutak Rock in Little Rock, where he’s been since 2013. His practice includes the defense of class actions, appeals and lending litigation. He started his career as a law clerk to Judge Bobby Shepherd of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and then worked for five years as an associate at the law firm of Williams & Anderson of Little Rock.

King was a Bodenhamer Fellow at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he graduated, cum laude, with a bachelor’s in mathematics and earned a law degree, magna cum laude. He was also was a member of the inaugural class of the New Influentials: 20 in Their 20s in 2010.

In 2010, you were named to the inaugural class of 20 in Their 20s. What advice do you have for this year’s class?
Surround yourself with people of good character. I have been fortunate to learn from some of the best. What they all have in common is that they are committed to learning the rules, following them and treating others with respect. This advice may be pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention to the news — with so many recent stories of people who were influenced by the wrong voices.

As a commercial litigation partner at Kutak Rock, your practice area includes defense of class actions. What trends are you seeing in class-action cases being brought to court?
It’s hard to say that a 30-year phenomenon is a “trend,” but there is a night-and-day difference between a class action in federal court and state court.

If a class action can be removed to federal court, a defendant has a reasonable shot at prevailing on a motion to dismiss before a class is certified (if the plaintiff’s case is weak), and a better chance at defeating class certification. In state court, a class action may be certified before the trial court has even determined whether the plaintiff has a viable claim.

Arkansas’ approach to class actions was one of the reasons Congress enacted the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 to broaden the path to federal court, especially for out-of-state defendants. As a result, in-state companies are more likely to face a class action in an Arkansas court, where a class action is more likely to be certified. So two trends we are seeing are that the federal courts have developed a stronger body of case law to support removal of cases under CAFA, and class-action counsel have responded by trying to engineer new ways to keep class actions in state court, sometimes by making them smaller or adding unnecessary defendants.

Another emerging trend is that defendants are taking a more sophisticated approach to defending the case after a class is certified. Last year my firm was part of a defense verdict in a federal class-action jury trial. Because the certification decision, especially in state court, leaves so many questions unanswered, there is untapped potential for achieving a favorable outcome after certification.

You were on the game show “Jeopardy!” How did you prepare and what was it like?
Fun and humbling! When I was invited to audition, I started watching the show more regularly and kept track of the questions I got right. I checked out a dozen books from the library on topics that are often asked on the show, and started studying every night. Ultimately, I think watching the show helped more than my month of study. I did not fully realize that most of the contestants know the answers to most of the clues, so often it is a contest of who is most comfortable with the buzzer. I was lucky to win my first game (barely), and then came in second to an eventual three-day champion. Afterward, I got plugged into a community of former “Jeopardy!” contestants and was invited to participate in a daily trivia league.

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