The chair of the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, John G. Heyburn (W.D. Ky.), gave an interview last month in The Third Branch: Newsletter of the Federal Courts. He talked about how the Panel promotes efficient litigation management. But most lawyers will want to know his thoughts on the "primary criteria" for choosing a particular district courts to send cases to. He said:
Selecting the "right" transferee judge is critically important, because the success of an MDL largely turns on the work of that judge and the parties. Typically, the Panel seeks a judge with some existing knowledge of the involved cases or the issues presented. Ultimately, however, the willingness and motivation of a judge to undertake the often substantial additional responsibilities of an MDL are the most important attributes.
The selection of an appropriate transferee district is usually of lesser importance. The location of the transferee court can be significant, where a particular district is convenient to likely discovery needs, related grand jury proceedings, or ongoing state court litigation involving the same parties and subject matter.
Among other criteria, the Panel considers the location of the involved actions, and particularly that of the most advanced action, and the existence of a qui tam action based on the same factual allegations. If a significant number of plaintiffs and defendants favor a particular district, the Panel will also take that into consideration, although it is generally not dispositive.
Judge Heyburn also mentioned that the Panel expects this year to look into whether its "centralization decisions may have the (unintended) tendency of benefitting certain groups of lawyers over others".