chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

ARTICLE

Five Rules to Remember When Practicing Before the JPML

Summary

  • The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) handles a significant portion of federal civil cases through multidistrict litigation (MDL).
  • It is crucial to consult and understand the JPML rules, which differ from federal rules of civil procedure.
  • Attorneys appearing before the JPML must maintain a case management and electronic court filing account and file a notice of appearance.
  • Motions filed with the JPML need to include specific background information, and there are obligations for notifying the panel of potential tag-along actions and requirements for motions for miscellaneous relief.
Five Rules to Remember When Practicing Before the JPML
FatCamera via Getty Images

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) serves as the clearinghouse for a huge portion of the federal caseload. Over half of all federal civil cases currently reside in a multidistrict litigation (MDL), either because the matters were transferred there via the JPML or were directly filed into an MDL previously established by the panel. See Wittenberg, Daniel S., “Multidistrict Litigation: Dominating the Federal Docket,” American Bar Association, Feb. 19, 2020. Despite the increasing prevalence of MDLs and the frequency with which attorneys may encounter cases that are or become part of an MDL, most practitioners are likely less familiar with the unique quirks of practicing before the panel, specifically when arguing over MDL formation and expansion or transfer of actions to an existing MDL. Below are five rules to remember when practicing before the JPML:

  • Right to Appear—Any attorney authorized to practice before any federal district court may appear before the JPML with one important caveat—the attorney must maintain a case management and electronic court filing account. JPML R. 2.1(c). Make sure your account is updated!
  • Notice of Appearance—Parties appearing before the JPML are required to file or designate an attorney via a notice of appearance. However, the JPML rules specify that each party “shall designate only one attorney” to receive service of all pleadings. JPML R. 4.1(c). While only one attorney per party may be designated for purposes of receiving regular service through the JPML, other counsel can sign up to receive notice of docket entries and pay for access to filings.
  • Form of Motions—Given the sheer number of actions that may be impacted by a JPML filing or decision, it should come as no surprise that all motions are required to include certain background information on each action. In addition to your motion, brief, exhibits, and proof of service, JPML R. 6.1(b)(i), (ii) & (v), don’t forget to include (and remember when planning that you’ll need to prepare) a numbered schedule providing the full list of parties—with complete party names—for each action involved, including location, civil action number, and assigned judge, as well as a copy of the complaints and docket sheets for each action. Id. 6.1(b)(ii) & (iv).
  • Conditional Transfer Orders (CTO) for Tag-Along Actions—Once you are involved in an MDL proceeding, don’t forget the continuing obligation to “promptly” notify the clerk of the panel of “any potential tag-along actions in which that party is also named or in which that counsel appears. JPML R. 7.1(a)(emphasis added). The JPML’s notice standard for tag-along actions explicitly extends to counsel, not just the party.
  • Motions for Miscellaneous Relief—The JPML Rules spell out the particular requirements for motions to transfer (Rule 6.2), CTOs (Rule 7.1), show cause orders (Rule 8.1), conditional remand orders (Rule 10.2), and motions to remand (Rule 10.3). If you need to request relief that doesn’t fall into one of these categories, you are likely looking at a “motion for miscellaneous relief.” See JPML R. 6.3. The important language in this section is that motions for miscellaneous relief include “but are not limited to” various administrative requests like extensions of time.

When practicing before the JPML, one should always consult the rules, which are not necessarily similar to the corresponding federal rules of civil procedure. As the above examples show, the JPML rules may not be intuitive for even the most experienced federal practitioners.