What Do MDL Leaders Do?: Evidence from Leadership Appointment Orders

36 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2020 Last revised: 4 Dec 2020

Date Written: January 11, 2020


In federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), district courts regularly appoint attorneys to manage the litigation of cases that are transferred to a single district court for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Orders appointing MDL leaders serve as a constitution or charter for a particular MDL, reallocating functions that otherwise would be performed by individually retained plaintiffs’ attorneys to court-appointed leaders. As such, they perform a crucial role in the “MDL model” of aggregate litigation and settlement. Yet in spite of their importance, knowledge of these orders is mostly folk wisdom.

This Article presents preliminary findings from a study of leadership appointment orders in all MDLs pending in the federal courts in June 2019. The principal finding is that, while leadership appointment orders are a standard feature of contemporary MDL, they vary significantly in how they structure plaintiffs’ leadership, the functions they assign to court-appointed leaders, and how orders conceive of the relationships among court-appointed leaders, non-lead attorneys, and MDL plaintiffs. The Article’s findings about the “diverse uniformity” of MDL leadership appointments shed light on debates over the nature of contemporary MDL, the duties court-appointed leaders owe to non-client plaintiffs, and the costs and benefits of MDL’s dependence on decentralized, ad hoc procedure-making.

Keywords: multidistrict litigation, MDL, civil procedure, complex litigation, attorneys, lead attorneys, judicial administration, 1407

JEL Classification: K40, K41, K42, K49

Suggested Citation

Noll, David, What Do MDL Leaders Do?: Evidence from Leadership Appointment Orders (January 11, 2020). 24 Lewis & Clark Law Review 433 (2020), Rutgers Law School Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3517807

David Noll (Contact Author)

Rutgers Law School ( email )

123 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102
United States
9733532584 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.rutgers.edu/bio/dln65

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