Judicial Panel Rejects Defense Opposition to Request for Pretrial Coordination Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 and Grants Motion for Centralization of Three Class Action Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits were filed in California, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, in addition to an action filed in the Court of Federal Claims, against the federal government and others seeking “reimbursement of the communications excise tax on long-distance telephone service, where the charge for such service was not based on the distance of the telephone call.” In re Long-Distance Telephone Serv. Fed. Excise Tax Refund Litig., 469 F.Supp.2d 1348, 1349 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. 2006). The Wisconsin plaintiff moved the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, to centralize the lawsuits for pretrial purposes in the Easter District of Wisconsin; the California plaintiffs supported centralization but argued for transfer to the District of the District of Columbia or the Central District of California. Id. Plaintiffs in the District of Columbia and in the Federal Claims court opposed the motion, as did the United States. The Panel concluded that, save for a “single California state law claim brought against [a] telecommunication provider,” centralization was warranted. Id. The Panel further concluded that the District of the District of Columbia was the appropriate transferee court. Id.
NOTE: As noted above, the motion for centralization implicated an action pending in the Court of Federal Claims. The Panel noted that previously it “has never reached the issue of whether Section 1407 authorizes transfer of a Court of Federal Claims action,” but concluded that it “sees no need to resolve that issue here.” In re Long-Distance Telephone, at 1349. Instead, the Panel encouraged “voluntary cooperation between the Court of Federal Claims and the transferee court” but “[left] the degree and manner of such cooperation to the joint discretion of the respective judges.” Id.