Judge Posner’s recent opinion in In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation, Nos. 05-3265, 05-3266, 05-3305 (7th Cir. Dec. 13, 2006), attracted some attention because the Seventh Circuit reversed in part the dismissal of the slavery reparations class actions. But on this blog, when we post on a slavery reparations decision, we aim straight for the capillaries. We don’t worry about the broad social implications of allowing compensation for slavery. Instead, we focus on the stuff that’s dear to our hearts: What did Judge Posner say about the power of MDL transferee courts to decide dispositive motions in cases that were not originally filed in the transferee court?
On that point, Judge Posner simply confirmed what we (and, so far as we know, most other lawyers and judges) have assumed to be true for the past decade: The MDL transferee court does indeed have the power to decide dispositive motions, even as to cases that were originally filed in some other district and then transferred under 42 U.S.C. Section 1407 to the transferee court.
The issue, of course, is whether the Supreme Court’s decision in Lexecon, which forbade the MDL transferee court from trying cases originally filed outside the transferee district, implicitly forbade the transferee court from deciding dispositive motions in those cases. To the extent there was any real doubt, Judge Posner eliminates it:
“We are also persuaded that a district court to which a case is transferred under section 1407 can rule on a motion to dismiss the case even if the plaintiff has not agreed to let the court decide the merits.”
Slip op. at 2. We doubt that we’ll hear much more about this issue.