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May 7, 2020

COIVD-19 Pandemic Causes JPML to Hold Oral Arguments By Video

In light of the continuing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the United States’ judicial system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) announced that oral arguments for their next hearing will proceed via telephone or videoconference, potentially setting an example for future hearings.

Released in a Notice of Hearing Session issued April 24th, the JPML revealed that while their hearing session scheduled for May 28th will still be located at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington ,DC, the oral arguments will be held by videoconference and teleconference.

 “Further details regarding how the Hearing Session will be conducted—including sign-in information, allocation of argument times, and a mandatory training session for arguing attorneys—shall be provided after the filing of the parties’ Notices of Presentation or Waiver of Oral Argument,” the order states.

Normally, the JPML holds oral arguments every other month in different U.S. District Courts across the nation. This panel of judges considers motions to centralize and consolidate litigation involving different claims based on common questions of fact and law, such as the Roundup Weed Killer litigation, Bard Hernia Mesh litigation, and the 3M Military Earplugs litigation.

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to delay facets of America’s judicial system, officials are finding the need to use technology to adapt and still address cases in a timely manner. To flatten the curve and minimize the spread of the coronavirus, many courts have chosen to switch traditional hearings to virtual ones or hear oral arguments over the telephone. For example, in the hearing scheduled for May 28th, the JPML plans to hear oral arguments whether to centralize and consolidate lawsuits over the following:

  • Tractor hydraulic fluid
  • Evenflo car seats
  • Nine West
  • Family Dollar Stores.

The JPML’s example could set precedence for future proceedings in the judicial system, hopefully moving different litigation forward to resolving injured individuals’ claims.

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