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7th Circuit decides MDL appeal question

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeal wants each federal judge handling multi-district litigation to have the flexibility to choose between sending parts of unresolved cases back to the original courts or keep those in one jurisdiction, once a final district-level decision has been made and the time for appeal arrives.

In what it describes as an “important question concerning the management of appeals in multi-district litigation” under 28 U.S.C. § 1407, the federal appellate panel upheld a decision made initially by U.S. Judge Robert Miller in the Northern District of Indiana and affirmed by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

The appellate decision came in FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. v. United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, No.11-2438.

This appeal involves Miller’s handling of a line of cases involving FedEx drivers nationwide who were in a dispute with the worldwide shipping company about whether they were independent contractors or employees entitled to back pay and full benefits. More than 70 cases from federal courts nationwide were transferred to Miller’s jurisdiction in South Bend starting in 2005 and consolidated into one MDL case for pre-trial proceedings. Last year, the Indiana federal judge ruled in the company’s favor on most cases and found that the FedEx drivers were independent contractors, and he threw out the claims that FedEx had misidentified drivers’ employment status and owed them back pay, overtime and other damages.

Miller’s summary judgment decisions resolved all of the claims in 22 of the still-pending MDL cases at the time, and those final judgments are being appealed to the 7th Circuit. But other claims remained in 12 pending MDL cases that Miller presided over, and those cases didn’t have a final appealable judgment.

So, Miller faced a choice: issue partial final judgments in those unresolved 12 cases to allow those parties to file appeals in the 7th Circuit where the other claims are being addressed, or follow the usual course of action and send those cases back to the jurisdictions where they originated so that any final judgments and appeals would flow through those Circuits. Choosing one option meant the courts lose the advantages of the other option, and the parties in this FedEx case disagreed on their preferences.

The Indiana judge remanded the cases and recommended that the JPML – having final authority over the question – do the same. The national panel agreed with Miller, who has been a member of the JPML in the past.

FedEx disagreed and asked the 7th Circuit to review that decision and issue a writ of mandamus requiring the cases be consolidated for appeal in the 7th Circuit. The 7th Circuit decided to leave the decision up to the federal judge presiding over the MDL case.

“The choice between these two methods of case management is best left to the transferee court and JPML, without trying to impose a rigid rule for all cases and circumstances,” Judge David Hamilton wrote for the panel that included Judges Daniel Manion and Diane Sykes. “The choice between these two methods of case management is an archetype for a discretionary judgment, and the transferee court and the JPML are in the best positions to make that judgment.”
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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