Please pardon imPaneled’s apparent moribundity in recent weeks. The rush to get online for the last Panel hearing did not allow for a plan to do research and posts when those pesky billable matters get busy. Fortunately, the pendency of another Panel hearing has resulted in such a plan, and imPaneled will never again lapse into a coma of similar duration.
Before we get to next week’s proceedings in the “Hostess City of the South” (which is not so nicknamed due to any abundance of Twinkies), an epilogue of sorts for September’s fun is in order. Let’s start with MDL 2274, the CitiMortgage HAMP Contract proceedings, the background of which is here. The Panel sent all of the actions to the Central District of California, citing the pendency of “[f]our first-filed actions” there, and Citi’s designation of the district as its consolation prize. Judge Fischer, anticipating a leadership dispute, laid out the criteria that would guide his decision, which vaguely parallel those in Rule 23(g)(1)(A): “(1) willingness and ability to commit to a time-consuming process; (2) ability to work cooperatively with others; (3) professional experience in this type of litigation; and (4) access to sufficient resources to advance the litigation in a timely manner.” Alas, no such drama was forthcoming. The sole lead counsel motion sought co-lead positions for Milberg (representing the West Coast plaintiffs) and Roddy Klein & Ryan (previously in the East Coast contingent). Counsel should be lauded for their cooperation—but not by imPaneled. A dispute would have been more interesting.
The Panel’s disposition of MDL 2291, the Wesson Oil Marketing and Sales Practices proceedings, was about as compelling as the non-action that preceded it. To the surprise of no one, that went to Judge Morrow in the Central District of California. Then the action started. The Panel’s order required the transfer of only one case, the Scarpelli action, from New Jersey to the C.D. Cal. Judge Morrow consolidated that case with the five cases already pending there, and ordered the parties to submit lead counsel papers. Wolf Haldenstein and Milberg, who had spoken for the California plaintiffs from the outset, moved for their appointment as co-leads. The New Jersey plaintiffs sought the appointment of Bursor & Fisher as a third co-lead. But two weeks later—before resolving the motions—Her Honor determined that her consolidation of the Scarpelli action with the others had been “in error,” for reasons that appear nowhere in any of the dockets. She subsequently granted the Wolf/Milberg motion in the consolidated cases. The Scarpelli docket has since been idle. If anyone has any insights as to this odd turn of events, feel free to forward them.
Finally, the recent record in MDL 2290, the JPMorgan Chase Mortgage Modification Litigation, has been light in both volume and intrigue. The Panel hearing proved telling, as the Panel transferred all of the pending cases to the District of Massachusetts, based primarily on the pendency of the first-filed action there. Defendants’ apocalyptic vision as to what would have otherwise befallen our federal courts thus will not come to pass. Plaintiffs’ counsel played nice as to lead positions, agreeing to co-leadership for Levin Fishbein, Keller Rohrback (who had both filed in and moved for California), Roddy Klein & Ryan (who signed onto the others’ motion for California despite filing first in Massachusetts) and Cuneo Gilbert (who filed “me too” papers supporting California after filing their case in New Jersey).
More to come in coming days as we close the book (for now) on the other September arguments, tackle more recent news, and preview next week’s Slugfest in Savannah.