Order Code RS20382
Updated March 1, 2001
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Multidistrict Jurisdiction Act of 1999
Paul Starett Wallace, Jr. 1
Specialist in American Public Law
American Law Division
Senior Paralegal Specialist
American Law Division
The Multidistrict Jurisdiction Act of 1999, H.R. 2112, 106th Congress, as passed by
the Senate, with an amendment in the nature of a substitute, would overturn a Supreme
Court ruling by amending 28 U.S.C. § 1407. The present plain meaning of the statute
requires a federal district court that has been deciding pretrial matters in cases
consolidated from various district courts to transfer the cases back to the those courts
for trial. This legislation would allow the court, which is familiar with the facts and law
of the consolidated litigation, to retain the case for trial. The 106th Congress adjourned
without taking further action.
Since 1968, federal law has allowed a panel of federal judges to transfer civil actions
with common questions of fact "to any district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial
proceedings."2 It provides that upon conclusion of the pretrial proceedings the actions are
to be remanded for further proceedings to the district courts in which they were filed. This
provision notwithstanding, after a circuit court endorsed the practice in 1971,3 it has
become increasingly common for the transferee court, which has gained a familiarity with
the issues, to retain the cases for disposition.
This is an update of CRS Report RS20382, Multidistrict Jurisdiction Act of 1999 by Paul
28 U.S.C. § 1407.
Pfizer Inc. v. Lord, 447 F.2d 122 (2nd Cir. 1971).
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
This practice, without clear statutory authority was criticized by academics and was
subject of a persuasive dissent by Judge Kozinski in a Ninth Circuit decision.4 Noting that
less than 4% of the cases were ever sent back to the transferor courts for resolution, Judge
Kozinski termed the process a "remarkable power grab" by the transferee judges.5 The
Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Judge Kozinski's conclusion that the process of
retaining cases for trial did not have statutory authority.6
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the Judicial Conference of the United
States and the Department of Justice favor the proposed legislation which would
essentially change the law to effect the practice of the past thirty or so years. They argue
that allowing the transferee court to retain the centralized cases for trial after pretrial
proceedings is convenient to the parties and witnesses and promotes the efficiency of the
The bill would also allow transfer of the multiple actions back to the courts from
which they came for determination of compensatory damages if the interests of justice and
convenience of the parties so require.
H.R. 2112 was introduced by Representative James Sensenbrenner on July 9, 1999.8
It was reported to the House on July 30, 19999, as amended by Committee on the
Judiciary.10 The bill passed the House as amended by voice vote on September 13, 1999.11
H.R. 2112 was referred to the Senate on October 21, 1999, where it was amended by the
Senate Judiciary Committee.12 On October 27, 1999, H.R. 2112 as amended by the
Senate Judiciary Committed, passed the Senate by unanimous consent13. On November
16, 199914, the House disagreed to the Senate amendment and a conference was requested
on November 17, 1999, by the House without objection.15 The 106th Congress adjourned
without taking further action.
In Re American Continental Corp./ Lincoln Savings & Loan Securities Litigation, 102 F.3d
1524 (9th Cir. 1996).
Id. At 1540.
Lexicon Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, 523 U.S. 26 (1998).
See generally 145 Cong. Rec. S12835-S12837 (daily ed. October 19, 1999) [Introductory
remarks of Senators Hatch, Leahy, Grassley, Kohl].
145 Cong. Rec H4022 (daily ed. July 9, 1999).
145 Cong. Rec. H6758 (daily ed. July 30, 1999).
H. Rept. 106-276.
145 Cong. Rec. H8109 (daily ed. September 13, 1999).
145 Cong. Rec. S13011 (daily ed. October 21, 1999)
145 Cong. Rec. S13327 (daily ed. October 27, 1999).
145 Cong. Rec. H12020 (daily ed. November 16, 1999).
145 Cong. Rec. S14693 (daily ed. November 17, 1999).
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