The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Michael J. Davis Chief Judge U.S. District Court District of Minnesota
On April 5, 2013, the undersigned United States District Judge heard oral argument on Plaintiffs' unopposed Motion For Final Approval Of Class Action Settlement, Fees, Costs, And Incentive Awards [Dkt. No. 146 ("Motion For Final Approval") and supporting documents [Dkt. Nos. 147-152]. Plaintiffs Judith Thorkelson, Karen Walhof, Gayle Aldrich, and Jean K. Stanley ("Plaintiffs") have brought an unopposed Motion For Final Approval Of Class Action Settlement, Fees, Costs, And Incentive Awards. The motion seeks an order that: (1) finally approves the $4.5 million Settlement with Defendants Publishing House of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, d/b/a Augsburg Fortress Publishers ("Augsburg Fortress"), Beth Lewis, John Rahja, Sandra Middendorf, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, ("ELCA") (collectively, "Defendants"), as final, fair, reasonable, adequate, and binding on Class Members and finally approves the Settlement Class; (2) approves payment of attorney's fees and costs to Class Counsel in the amounts of $900,000 in attorneys' fees and $159,323.34 as reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred during the litigation of this matter; (3) approves payment of four Incentive Awards in the amount of $5,000 to Class Representatives Judith Thorkelson, Karen Walhof, Gayle Aldrich, and Jean K. Stanley, and payment of an Incentive Award in the amount of $2,500 to Class Representative Sharon Bristol; (4) authorizes the distribution of Settlement Benefits to Class Members and cy pres distribution of any unclaimed Settlement Funds to Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota ("LSS"); and (5) enters a Final Order dismissing claims related to the action subject to the obligations of the Settlement Agreement, but retains jurisdiction over the enforcement of the Settlement Agreement, the Court's Order, and distribution of the Settlement Benefits to Class Members.
Based on the briefs, affidavits, and other materials submitted by the Plaintiffs, the oral arguments presented at the final approval hearing, and the record as a whole, the Motion For Final Approval is GRANTED.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
1. This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this litigation, all members of the Class, and all Defendants.
2. Terms capitalized in this Order and Final Judgment have the same meanings as those used in the Settlement Agreement or Preliminary Approval Order.
3. The Preliminary Approval Order outlined the form and manner by which Plaintiffs would provide the Settlement Class with notice of the Settlement, the Final Approval Hearing, and related matters. The notice program included individual notice via First Class U.S. Mail to members of the Settlement Class who could be identified through reasonable efforts. Proof that mailing conformed to the Preliminary Approval Order has been filed with the Court.
4. Class Counsel mailed Notice Of Class Action, Proposed Settlement, Hearing On Motion For Final Approval, And Motion For Attorney's Fees And Reimbursement Of Litigation Expenses ("Class Notice"). A copy of the Class Notice was filed with the Court as Exhibit 1 to the Affidavit Of Carey Johnson Concerning Mailing Of Notice.
5. The Class Notice mailed to the Settlement Class clearly stated the nature of the action; the Class definition; the claims and defense in the lawsuit; that a Class member may appear through counsel or opt out, and the procedure for doing so; and the binding effect of the class judgment on Class Members. The Class Notice clearly stated the date, time, and place of the Final Approval Hearing.
6. Counsel for Augsburg Fortress and ELCA provided notice to the Attorney General of the United States, and to the Attorneys General of the States of Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin on November 19, 2012 ("CAFA Notice"). They updated the notice on December 21, 2012. The CAFA Notice provided due notice of the Final Approval Hearing, the proposed Class Notice, the Settlement Agreement, and information about Class Members residing in each State.
7. The Class Notice, Class Counsel's follow-up work, and the CAFA Notice fully complied with Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, satisfied the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1715 and due process, constitute the best notice practicable under the circumstances, and constitute due and adequate notice to the Class of the Settlement, Final Approval Hearing, and the other matters referred to in the Notices. Class Counsel filed a copy of the Settlement Agreement with the Court on November 9, 2012 (Dkt. No. 137-1) (Exhibit 1 to Declaration Of Craig S. Davis In Support Of Preliminary Approval Of Settlement, Conditional Certification Of Settlement Class, Approval Of Settlement Class Notice, And Setting Final Approval Hearing (Dkt. No. 137)).
8. The Settlement was obtained following an extensive investigation of the facts. It resulted from vigorous arm's-length negotiations that were undertaken in good faith by counsel with significant experience in litigating class actions, in cooperation with a respected mediator, Hon. Richard Solum (retired).
9. Class Counsel have represented to the Court that they believe the Settlement to be fair, ...