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Multidistrict Litigation Restoration Act of 2004

Location: Washington, DC

MULTIDISTRICT LITIGATION RESTORATION ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - March 24, 2004)

Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, this legislation makes it easier for federal judges to retain jurisdiction of a lawsuit when questions regarding the facts are not in dispute, such as the facts in lawsuits stemming from a plane crash.

For example, a plane crash with 100 fatalities from 25 states can result in 25 different plaintiffs. This legislation allows those 25 cases to be transferred to one court, which reduces the burden on our federal courts.

Thirty years ago federal judges were authorized by circuit and district court case law to transfer cases to their own district or another district for trial. This provided them the ability to consolidate cases in their jurisdiction or refer cases to the appropriated jurisdiction as they saw fit.

Unfortunately, in 1998, the Supreme Court reversed that practice in the Lexecon case because of the language in the statute. The opinion said that Congress could resolve the issue. Mr. Speaker, that is why we are here today.

The Lexecon decision has prevented the federal court system from adjudicating complex cases even when all parties to a case have agreed on the wisdom of a transfer. That is not the most efficient and effective way for the management of our federal courts.

Our transferee judges are federal judicial experts. We must provide them with the freedom they need so they can supervise day-to-day pretrial proceedings, which include the underlying facts, laws and the possibility of a settlement.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

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