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Pfizer Inc. v. Lord

July 13, 1971

PFIZER, INC., AMERICAN CYANAMID CO., BRISTOL-MYERS CO., SQUIBB BEECH-NUT, INC., OLIN CORP., AND THE UPJOHN CO. (DEFENDANTS-PETITIONERS)
v.
MILES W. LORD, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE (RESPONDENT), AND STATE OF OREGON, COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, KANSAS CITY, MO., STATE OF WASHINGTON, STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, STATE OF HAWAII, STATE OF UTAH, STATE OF CALIFORNIA, STATE OF KANSAS, CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, REPUBLIC OF VIET NAM, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, STATE OF KUWAIT, RETAIL CLERKS LOCAL 770, ET AL., HOFFA MEDICAL CENTER, UNION HEALTH CENTER OF NEW YORK, EDWARD SWAYDUCK, TEAMSTERS SECURITY FUND OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, VALLEY CLERKS TRUST FUND, SAN FRANCISCO CULINARY, BARTENDERS & SERVICE EMPLOYEES WELFARE FUND, BAKERS HEALTH & WELFARE TRUST FUND, ASSOCIATED LIFE INSURANCE CO., CALIFORNIA PHYSICIANS' SERVICE, AETNA LIFE INSURANCE CO., LESTER CRONLEY, RALPH PFAU, BERNARD & MARK LACHMAN, ET AL., GROUP HEALTH COOPERATIVE OF PUGET SOUND, THRIFTY DRUG STORES CO., AND MARVIN BARKAL (PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS)



Clark, Associate Justice,*fn* and Smith, Circuit Judge.

Author: Per Curiam

The petitioners who are defendants in a civil antitrust action in the court below have filed a motion in this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651 and Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure requesting a writ of mandamus directing the Honorable Miles W. Lord, United States District Judge sitting by designation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, to vacate and rescind an order dated May 17, 1971 directing the transfer, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), of thirty-one antibiotic antitrust actions from the eleven judicial districts in which they were filed to the District of Minnesota for trial.

Some one hundred and fifty-four civil actions have been filed in this litigation since it was commenced in 1963. Beginning in 1968 the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred all of the actions not originally filed there to the Southern District of New York for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407. The majority of the cases were disposed of in a negotiated settlement which was approved by the district court. West Virginia v. Chas. Pfizer & Co., 314 F. Supp. 710 (S.D.N.Y. 1970), aff'd 440 F.2d 1079 (2d Cir. 1971). On November 30, 1970, Mr. Chief Justice Burger designated Judge Lord to the Southern District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 292 which provides:

(d) The Chief Justice of the United States may designate and assign temporarily a district judge of one circuit for service in another circuit, either in a district court or court of appeals, upon presentation of a certificate of necessity by the chief judge or circuit justice of the circuit wherein the need arises.

On December 2, 1970 the "non-settling" cases were assigned to Judge Lord by the Judicial Panel for pretrial proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407(b). This section provides:

(b) Such coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings shall be conducted by a judge or judges to whom such actions are assigned by the judicial panel on multidistrict litigation. For this purpose, upon request of the panel, a circuit judge or a district judge may be designated and assigned temporarily for service in the transferee district by the Chief Justice of the United States or the chief judge of the circuit, as may be required, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 13 of this title. With the consent of the transferee district court, such actions may be assigned by the panel to a judge or judges of such district. The judge or judges to whom such actions are assigned, the members of the judicial panel on multidistrict litigation, and other circuit and district judges designated when needed by the panel may exercise the powers of a district judge in any district for the purpose of conducting pretrial depositions in such coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings.

After extensive briefing and argument Judge Lord issued the order at issue here transferring all the actions to Minnesota for trial under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) which provides:

(a) For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought.

The petitioners now contend that Judge Lord lacked the power to order this transfer, and secondly, even if such power did exist, it was an abuse of discretion for Judge Lord to find that the convenience of the parties justified such transfer.

The petitioners base their argument primarily on a provision of section 1407(a) which states:

Each action so transferred shall be remanded by the panel at or before the conclusion of such pretrial proceedings to the district from which it was transferred unless it shall have been previously terminated . . . .

At first glance the contention that this provision requires the consolidated cases to be sent back to the district in which they were initially filed appears persuasive. Section 1407, however, deals only with the powers of the Multidistrict Litigation Panel, and not with the powers of the judge to whom the cases have been assigned by the Panel. As the respondents point out, 28 U.S.C. § 296, which deals with the assignment and designation of judges and is the basis for Judge Lord's designation by the Chief Justice specifically provides that "such . . . judge shall have all the powers of a judge of the court, circuit or district to which he is designated and assigned . . . ." Thus while the Multidistrict Litigation Panel would have no power to transfer these cases for trial under section 1404(a), the judge to whom the cases have been assigned has such power here as he would in any other case. The Panel has itself recognized the distinction between its powers and the powers of the judge to whom it assigns cases in its rules. Rule 15(d) provides:

(d) Actions will be remanded to the district from which they were transferred unless an order has been signed by the designated transferee judge transferring an action to another district under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) or 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). Such actions will be remanded by the Panel to ...


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