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  • What is a multidistrict litigation (MDL)?

    Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is a procedure utilized in the federal court system to transfer to one federal judge all pending civil cases of a similar type filed throughout the United States. The decision whether cases should be transferred is made by a panel of seven federal judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation meets periodically to review requests that cases be consolidated for pretrial matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, a law passed by Congress. Although the panel meets in different cities in the United States on a periodic basis, the Clerk of the Panel is permanently stationed in Washington, D.C.

    The judge who gets all the federal cases assigned to him is known as the “transferee judge.” The judges from throughout the United States who send cases to the MDL judge are known as the “transferor judges” or “transferor courts.”

  • Why was the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation formed?

    The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation was created by legislation in 1968 in response to the difficulty among the courts in coordinating almost 2,000 related cases that were then pending in 36 districts around the country which alleged a nationwide antitrust conspiracy among electrical equipment manufacturers. A consensus evolved among lawmakers and the judiciary that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation was needed to coordinate complex cases filed in multiple districts. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation consists of seven judges presided over by the chairman. The duties of each panel member are the same with respect to deciding cases. The chairman of the panel has additional responsibilities since he is responsible for the oversight of the panel’s office, its staff of 20 employees, and its budget. Also, the chairman usually handles any necessary contacts with the transferee district.

  • How is the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation Contacted?

    The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is located in Washington, DC at the following address:

    Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building One Columbus Circle, NE Room G-255, North Lobby Washington, DC 20002-8004

    The hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time

    Telephone: 202- 502-2800   FAX: 202- 502-2888 (24 hours)

  • How are cases transferred from one court to another in the MDL setting?

    Proceedings for transfer may be initiated by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation upon its own initiative or a motion filed with the Panel by a party in any action in which transfer for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings may be appropriate. Before cases are designated multidistrict litigation and transferred to one federal court, the Panel convenes a hearing and notifies all parties of the place and time of the hearing. The Panel’s order of transfer is based on a record of such hearing at which material evidence may be offered by any party to an action in any federal court that would be affected by the transfer.

  • Is multidistrict litigation a type of class action?

    No. Although, class actions may be consolidated in the same manner as are single plaintiff cases. However, for cases to be consolidated the Panel must find they have one or more common questions of fact. Since commonality is also a required element for a class action, class actions are frequently litigated in MDL proceedings.

  • What happens to a lawsuit after it is transferred to a federal judge by the Panel?

    Generally, the transferee court (the MDL court) will set standing orders or pretrial orders informing the lawyers involved of the ground rules, deadlines and procedures the court expects the litigants to follow. Steering committees may be appointed to manage the substance of the litigation and the discovery of facts. In theory, discovery and case management by the MDL court should allow completion of pretrial matters, then the case must be remanded back to the transferor case for trial. The only cases that would not be remanded are those cases originally filed in the court with the MDL judge is seated. In practice, many cases sent to an MDL court are settled at some point in time during the pretrial proceedings. Many suggested procedures for MDL case management are found in the Manual for Complex Litigation, Fourth, from the Federal Judicial Center. Also, Conte & Newberg, Newberg on Class Actions, Third, at Chapter 9 discusses complex case management including MDL consolidations.

  • Does a litigant have a right to have a case decided in the state where it was filed?

    Yes and No. A judge acting as an MDL judge has the power to issue rulings on motions that may be dispositive of a case. For instance, if the MDL court should decide that as a matter of law a litigant must prevail in a lawsuit, he may grant “summary judgment” to that litigant without a trial. An MDL judge may also dismiss counts in a complaint if he determines they lack merit. Finally, an MDL judge may oversee a class action settlement if the facts of the case permit such an action. However, if a case was filed in a federal court in a different state, and issues remain to be tried after all discovery and pretrial rulings have been made by the MDL judge, he cannot “self assign” that case to himself for trial. Rather, he must remand the case back to the transferor court for it to be tried in the court where the lawsuit was originally filed.

  • Are the decisions of the JPMDL published, and if so, where?

    Yes, to a limited extent. The Federal Supplement contains those decisions and Transfer Orders the Panel determines should be published. Decisions of the Panel are also available through the LEXIS, and Westlaw commercial legal databases.

  • What fees are charged by the JPMDL?

    The Clerk of the Panel may be contacted for a current fee charge information. However, the published set of fees for the JPMDL is posted at: