Judicial Panel Grants Defense Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, but Refuses Request to Transfer to District of Columbia and Selects Instead Western District of Washington as Appropriate Transferee Court
Two class action lawsuits were filed against the United States Postal Service (USPS) – one in Washington and one in Illinois. Each class action complaint purported to be brought on behalf of a nationwide class. In re United States Postal Service Privacy Act Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. April 9, 2008) [Slip Opn., at 1]. The Judicial Panel explained at page 1 that the class actions each “involve allegations that USPS violated the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and was otherwise unjustly enriched when it disclosed employees’ personal information (such as their home addresses) to companies which it authorized to disseminate the targeted solicitations without obtaining prior authorization from each affected employee.” Defense attorneys filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the litigation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in the District of Columbia; plaintiffs in the class actions did not oppose the motion, but each requested transfer to the district in which their own class action already was pending. Id. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits, finding that centralization “will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings (particularly with respect to the issue of class certification); and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.” Id. The Panel disagreed, however, that the District of Columbia would be the appropriate transferee court, selecting instead the Western District of Washington, which is where the first class action was filed, id. Accordingly, the Judicial Panel transferred the Illinois class action to Washington, id., at 2.