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. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.