In 1968, Congress created the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“Panel” or “MDL”) which is governed by 28 U.SC. § 1407. The Panel consists of seven sitting federal judges. They are appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States and include both circuit and district judges. However, no two Panel judges may be from the same district. Id. at § 1407(d). The Panel’s clerk’s office is located in Washington DC in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building.
The Panel’s Job and the Purpose of Transfer
Unless your practice incudes mass torts or class actions, you have probably never heard of the Panel much the less its important function. The job of the panel is two-fold. First, the Pane must determine “whether civil actions pending in different federal districts involve one or more common questions of fact such that the actions should be transferred to one federal district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings. Id. at § 1407(a). Second, the Panel must elect the judge or judges and court assigned to conduct such proceedings. Id.
The purpose of transfer is to centralize cases pending in various district courts to avoid duplication of discovery, to prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and to conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary. Id.
Makeup of the Panel
The Panel consists of seven sitting federal judges. 28 U.SC. § 1407(d). They are appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States and include both circuit and district judges. Id. However, no two Panel judges may be from the same district. Id.
How Is a Transfer Initiated?
Pursuant to 28 U.SC. § 1407(c), transfer may be initiated in two ways. One, by the Panel upon its own initiative, or two, by a motion filed by any party in any action for which transfer for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings is sought. In practice, the vast majority of transfers are initiated by the parties, usually early in the process by one of the defendants. A copy of the motion to transfer must be filed in the district court in which the moving party's action is pending. Id. at § 1407(c)(ii).
What is the Standard for Transfer?
Whenever civil actions involving one or more common questions of fact are pending in different districts, the actions may be transferred to any district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings by the Panel. Pursuant to 28 U.SC. § 1407(a), transfer may grant if it “ will be for the convenience of parties and witnesses and will promote the just and efficient conduct of such actions .” Id. And while the scope of the Panel’s duties may be narrow, it exercises broad discretion in exercising those duties such as selecting the most appropriate transferee court.
In summary, the goal of the Panel is to avoid discovery duplication, to prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and to conserve the resources of the parties and the judiciary in similar cases.
Timothy L. Miles
Timothy L. Miles is a nationally recognized shareholder rights attorney raised in Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Miles was recentely selected by Martindale-Hubbell® and ALM as a 2022 Top Ranked Lawyer, 2022 Top Rated Litigator. and a 2022 Elite Lawyer of the South Mr. Miles also maintains the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®, their highest rating for both legal ability and ethics. Mr. Miles is a member of the prestigious Top 100 Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyers: The National Trial Lawyers Association, a superb rated attorney by Avvo, a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by Premier Lawyers of America (2019) and recognized as a Distinguished Lawyer, Recognizing Excellence in Securities Law, by Lawyers of Distinction (2019).
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