Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
MULTIDISTRICT LITIGATION ACT OF 2000
(House of Representatives - December 15, 2000)
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[Pages H12513-H12514] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] MULTIDISTRICT LITIGATION ACT OF 2000 Mr. McCOLLUM. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the Committee on the Judiciary be discharged from further consideration of the bill (H.R. 5562) to amend title 28, United States Code, to allow a judge to whom a case is transferred to retain jurisdiction over certain multidistrict litigation cases for trial, and ask for its immediate consideration in the House. The Clerk read the title of the bill. The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Florida? Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Speaker, reserving the right to object, I yield to the gentleman to explain the bill and his proposed amendment. Mr. McCOLLUM. I thank the gentleman for yielding. Mr. Speaker, the bill that is under consideration is derived from the base text of section 2 of H.R. 2112, which the House passed by voice vote under suspension of the rules on September 13, 1999. I should therefore note that the relevant legislative history of H.R. 2112, section 2, as set forth in House Report 106-276, serves as a legislative history for H.R. 5562. H.R. 5562 responds to a 1998 Supreme Court decision pertaining to multidistrict litigation, the so-called Lexecon case. The bill would simply amend the multidistrict litigation statute by explicitly allowing a transferee court to retain jurisdiction over referred cases for trial for the purposes of determining liability and punitive damages, or to refer them to other districts as it sees fit. Compensatory damages would still be determined by the State or Federal referral courts pursuant to compromise language developed by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Berman). The legislation is wholly consistent with past judicial practice of nearly 30 years under the multidistrict litigation statute. This legislation obviously promotes judicial administrative efficiency without compromising the rights of litigants and their counsel to due process and appropriate compensation. It is strongly endorsed by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. I urge my colleagues to support it as well. As a final point, Mr. Speaker, I will shortly offer a technical amendment to the bill based on an observation by counsel for the ranking member. H.R. 5562 as introduced inadvertently references a nonexistent subsection of title 28 of the U.S. Code. The amendment simply strikes this reference. I might add that this is the last bill that I will get to manage or comment on in this body while I am a Member of Congress. I have enjoyed again working with the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Scott). It has been a great privilege to be a Member of the House, and it has been a great privilege to have been chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary during this Congress. And during the last 20 years it has been a great honor to be here. Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Speaker, under my reservation, I would want to express my appreciation as I did the last time we were here with what we thought was the last piece of legislation that we would be considering. The gentleman and I have worked together on the Subcommittee on Crime. I have enjoyed that work. We worked in a bipartisan way. Even when we did not agree, we were able to constructively work and try to come to as much consensus as we could. I wish the gentleman from Florida well in the future. Again, I want to express my appreciation for the way we were able to work together. Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my support for H.R. 5562. H.R. 5562 consists of Section 2 of H.R. 2112, which the House passed by voice vote under suspension of the rules on September 13, 1999. Previously, on July 27, 1999 and also by a voice vote, the Committee on the Judiciary favorably reported H.R. 2112, including language identical to H.R. 5562. On June 16, 1999, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property held a hearing on H.R. 2112, and Section 2, on which H.R. 5562 is based, was fully vetted and discussed. Therefore, in essence, the House has already fully considered H.R. 5562, found it non-controversial, and passed it. H.R. 5562 has a very narrow purpose and effect--it would overturn the 1998 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Lexecon v. Milberg Weiss. The Lexecon decision held that a multidistrict litigation transferred to a federal court for pretrial proceedings under Section 1407 of the Judicial Code cannot be retained by that court for trial purposes under Section 1404(a). In so holding, the Lexecon decision upset decades of practice by the Multidistrict Litigation Panel and federal district courts. The Lexecon decision also increases the cost and complexity of such multidistrict litigations by requiring courts other than the transferee court, which has overseen discovery and other pretrial proceedings, to conduct the trial. H.R. 5562 overturns the Lexecon decision in a carefully calibrated manner. While H.R. 5562 allows a transferee court to retain a case for trial on liability issues and, when appropriate, on punitive damages, it creates a presumption that the trial of compensatory damages will be remanded to the transferor court. In so doing, H.R. 5562 is careful to overturn the Lexecon decision without expanding the power previously exercised by transferee courts. More importantly, the presumption regarding the trial of compensatory damages ensures that plaintiffs will not be unduly burdened in pursuit of their claims. Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Speaker, I withdraw my reservation of objection. The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Florida? There was no objection. The Clerk read the bill, as follows: H.R. 5562 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the ``Multidistrict Litigation Act of 2000''. SEC. 2. MULTIDISTRICT LITIGATION. Section 1407 of title 28, United States Code, is amended-- (1) in the third sentence of subsection (a), by inserting ``or ordered transferred to the transferee or other district under subsection (i)'' after ``terminated''; and (2) by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(i)(1) Subject to paragraph (2) and except as provided in subsection (j), any action transferred under this section by the panel may be transferred for trial purposes, by the judge or judges of the transferee district to whom the action was assigned, to the transferee or other district in the interest of justice and for the convenience of the parties and witnesses. ``(2) Any action transferred for trial purposes under paragraph (1) shall be remanded by the panel for the determination of compensatory damages to the district court from which it was transferred, unless the court to which the action has been transferred for trial purposes also finds, for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice, that the action should be retained for the determination of compensatory damages.''. SEC. 3. EFFECTIVE DATE. The amendments made by section 2 shall apply to any civil action pending on or brought on or after the date of the enactment of this Act. Amendment Offered by Mr. MC COLLUM Mr. McCOLLUM. Mr. Speaker, I offer an amendment. The Clerk read as follows: Amendment offered by Mr. McCollum: Page 2, lines 7 and 8, strike ``and except as provided in subsection (j)''. Mr. McCOLLUM (during the reading). Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the amendment be considered as read and printed in the Record. The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Florida? There was no objection. The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Florida (Mr. McCollum). The amendment was agreed to. [[Page H12514]] The bill was ordered to be engrossed and read a third time, was read the third time, and passed, and a motion to reconsider was laid on the table. ____________________