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“New Rule on MDLs Should Prompt Courts to Reevaluate Involvement in Settlement,” The AmLaw Litigation Daily

news | May 7, 2024

Hollingsworth LLP partners Robert Johnston and Gary Feldon have published in Litigation Daily on MDL judges’ proper role in settlement and how the proposed Rule 16.1 may provide guidance in the future.

Playing off Chief Justice John Roberts’ quote comparing judges to umpires, they write how the proposed Federal Rule of Civil Procedure on multidistrict litigation—the first rule specific to MDLs—has put a spotlight on MDL judges’ proper role in settlement.

If adopted, proposed Rule 16.1 will govern MDL parties’ initial submissions to courts and a court’s resulting initial case management order. Given that MDL courts currently have no formal guidance, the stakes for the new rule are high.

Revisions to the preliminary draft rule and its Committee Note have at least partially addressed defense-side concerns. However, proposed Rule 16.1 brings into sharp relief the question of what role, if any, an MDL judge should have in promoting settlement between the parties.

Johnston and Feldon note that, if Rule 16.1 is adopted, now is the perfect moment to reevaluate MDL courts’ efforts to facilitate settlement. They further state “Because of MDLs’ unique characteristics, courts’ involvement in settlement should be even more limited than in other cases. MDLs will produce fairer, more efficient outcomes when judges fulfill their proper role—as umpires, not players.”

The article is also available online to subscribers.