Coordination Among Federal Courts

Frequently, courts have devised these pretrial orders independently, without awareness of the activities in other districts outside the state. Despite this independence of action, the orders are re­markably similar in scope and general content. There is a special need for coordination of efforts in cases that involve some common factors but are not sufficiently similar in regard to facts and law to qualify for multidistrict litigation88 or class action treatment.89

Duplication of effort runs counter to one of the primary purposes of use of standardized procedures—the efficient allocation of scarce judicial resources for the resolution of legal disputes. Unsystematic development of a myriad of similar orders stands in contrast to reports of increasing cooperation and sharing of information and form pleadings within the plaintiffs’ bar and the defendants’ bar. There are at least two commercial information services that disseminate legal and factual materials of interest to attorneys in as­bestos cases. Prior to the Center’s asbestos conference, no compara­ble mechanism served to identify and disseminate information about standard orders and other procedural devices that would be useful to members of the federal judiciary.

In summary, courts have experimented with efforts at standardization of all aspects of asbestos litigation. Coordination of efforts among federal district courts may facilitate development of stand­ard procedures and forms. The similarity and apparent success of these efforts to standardize confirm my basic finding that asbestos cases are routine cases cloaked in the apparent complications presented by multiple parties. Once active steps are taken to reduce the duplication inherent in multiple representation, asbestos cases become manageable.

  1. See In re Asbestos and Asbestos Insulation Material Prods, Liab. Litig., 431 F.
    Supp. 906 (J.P.M.D.L. 1977).

See Jackson v. Johns-Manville Sales Corp., 727 F.2d 506 (5th Cir. 1984); see
also In re N.D. Cal. Dalkon Shield IUD Prods. Liab. Litig., 693 F.2d 847 (9th Cir.
1982), cert, denied, 459 U.S. 1111 (1983). But cf. In re “Agent Orange” Prods. Liab.
Litig., 506 F. Supp. 762 (E.D.N.Y. 1980), cert, denied sub notn. Diamond Shamrock
Chem. Co. v. Hyan, 104 S. Ct. 1417 (1984); see also In re “Agent Orange” Prods. Liab.
Litig., 100 F.R.D. 718 (E.D.N.Y. 1983), mandamus denied sub nom. In re Diamond
Shamrock Chem. Co., 725 F.2d 858 (2d Cir. 1984) (class certification for punitive
damages under rule 23(b)(1)(B)).