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Actos Plaintiffs Accuse MDL Judge of Interfering With State Court; Judge Denies Allegations

Litigation over Actos took an unusual turn recently when lawyers for some Actos plaintiffs accused Judge Rebecca F. Doherty of federal interference with state court – an allegation Judge Doherty denies.

Judge Doherty is the judge assigned to oversee the Actos MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which was established by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on December 29, 2011 in the Western District of Louisiana for the purpose of consolidating federal Actos lawsuits from plaintiffs who allegedly developed bladder cancer after using the drug.

MDL judge had reached out to state judge

Recently, Judge Doherty reached out to Judge Sarah Singleton of the First Judicial District of Court New Mexico, who is handling Actos cases on the state level, to coordinate their efforts. Some Actos attorneys protested this move, charging that Doherty’s actions meant she was interfering with state litigation involving Actos in New Mexico, and creating prejudice against the state court plaintiffs by causing their case to be delayed without proper notice.

On August 23, Judge Doherty responded to the allegations in a memo in which she stated that it was entirely appropriate for her to try to coordinate efforts with a state judge, noting that “coordination, cooperation, discussion and interaction between and among federal courts and state courts is not a novel thing…rather, it is advised, encouraged, and welcomed by both the federal and state courts.” She also pointed out that the Mass Tort Litigation Committee of the Conference of Chief Justices’ state manual actually encourages interaction between state and federal courts in MDLs and mass torts.

Judge Doherty did agree that the federal court has no jurisdiction over state court cases, and assured the lawyers that she was not trying to exercise such jurisdiction.

Judge warns lawyers about “incendiary, accusatory conduct”

In addition to alleging misconduct by Judge Doherty, the attorneys had also accused state Judge Singleton of judicial misconduct, saying that she was abdicating her role as state judge by working with Judge Doherty. Judge Doherty called the allegations “wholly unsupported” and “completely inaccurate,” and went on to suggest that the lawyers’ inflammatory tone was intended to manipulate or intimidate one or both of the courts. She warned the lawyers to consider the potential consequences of “such incendiary, accusatory conduct.”

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