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Class Action Defense Cases—In re National Security Agency: Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Denies Requests To Exclude Class Actions From Coordinated/Consolidated Pretrial Proceedings In The Northern District Of California

Judicial Panel Agrees with Government and Telecommunication Company Defense Attorneys that Six Additional Class Action Lawsuits Should be Transferred to Northern District of California for Pretrial Coordination or Consolidation with Class Actions Previously Transferred Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407

Several class action lawsuits were filed against the federal government challenging the government’s “surveillance of telecommunications activity and the participation in (or cooperation with) that surveillance by individual telecommunications companies.” In re National Security Agency Telecommunications Records Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2007 WL 549355, *1 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. February 15, 2007). In response to a motion to centralize that litigation, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) held in part that “centralization under Section 1407 was necessary in order to eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings (particularly with respect to matters involving national security),” and transferred the class action cases to the Northern District of California. Id. (citing In re National Security Agency Telecommunications Records Litig., 444 F.Supp.2d 1332, 1334 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. 2006)). Plaintiffs in a class action pending in Missouri, together with defense attorneys involve in class actions pending in Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey and Vermont, moved the Judicial Panel to vacate its orders conditionally transferring the affected class action cases to the Northern District of California for inclusion in the coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings; plaintiffs in the initially centralized actions joined in the motion, opposing transfer of the additional class actions. In re NSA Telecommunications, 2007 WL 549355 at *1. The United States and telecommunication company defendants opposed the motions to vacate.

The Judicial Panel denied the motions, reaffirming that these six class actions involve common questions of fact with the class actions previously centralized in the Northern District of California. In re NSA Telecommunications, 2007 WL 549355 at *1. The Panel concluded, “Transfer of these actions is appropriate for reasons expressed by the Panel in its original order directing centralization in this docket.” The Panel explained at page *1:

In that [prior] order, the Panel held that the Northern District of California was a proper Section 1407 forum for actions sharing factual and legal questions regarding alleged Government surveillance of telecommunications activity and the participation in (or cooperation with) that surveillance by individual telecommunications companies. The Panel stated that centralization under Section 1407 was necessary in order to eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings (particularly with respect to matters involving national security), and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary. . . . Like the actions already centralized in this docket, the six actions currently before the Panel arise from the Government’s alleged telecommunications surveillance program, and necessarily implicate common and delicate questions of national security.

Accordingly, the Judicial Panel ordered that the six class actions be transferred to the Northern District of California for inclusion in the coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings previously ordered. Id.

NOTE: Other defense attorneys proposed creation of a separate docket for the Missouri class actions, but no other party joined in this request. In re NSA Telecommunications, 2007 WL 549355 at *1.