United States District Court, District of New Jersey, D
October 25, 2002
IN RE AFRICAN-AMERICAN SLAVE DESCENDANTS LITIGATION, RICHARD E. BARBER, SR.
NEW YORK LIFE INSURANCE CO., ET AL.
Before Wm. Terrell Hodges, Chairman, John F. Keenan, Morey L. SEAR,[fn*]
Bruce M. Selya, Julia Smith Gibbons, D. Lowell Jensen And J. Frederick
Motz, Judges OF The Panel
[fn*] Judge Sear took no part in the decision of this matter.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. Terrell Hodges, Chairman.
This litigation currently consists of the three actions in the Eastern
District of New York and the action in the District of New Jersey listed
on the attached Schedule A.*fn1 Plaintiffs in the four actions move the
Panel, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, for centralization of the
litigation in the Eastern District of New York. Defendants Aetna, Inc.
(Aetna); Brown Brothers Harriman & Company; CSX Corporation;
FleetBoston Financial Corporation; and Norfolk Southern Railway Company
(Norfolk Southern) initially opposed centralization; however, in
subsequent submissions and at oral argument, defendants Aetna and Norfolk
Southern asserted that many, if not all, of these defendants as well as
several defendants named in related actions now favor centralization.
These defendants propose selection of a transferee district with a
convenient and central location and a transferee judge experienced in
multidistrict litigation. In particular, these defendants prefer the
Eastern District of Louisiana as transferee district and suggest the
Northern District of California or the Northern District of Illinois as
On the basis of the papers filed and hearing session held, the Panel
finds that these four actions involve common questions of fact, and that
centralization under Section 1407 in the Northern District of Illinois
will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the
just and efficient conduct of this litigation. All actions seek
reparations on behalf of descendants of African-American slaves.
Centralization under Section 1407 is thus desirable in order to eliminate
duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, including
with respect to class certification; and conserve the resources of the
parties, their counsel and the judiciary.
Given the geographic dispersal of the constituent and potential
tag-along actions along with the nature of the claims, no district stands
out as the focal point for this litigation. In concluding that the
Northern District of Illinois is an appropriate forum for this docket, we
note that this geographically central district will be a convenient
location for a litigation becoming nationwide in scope, and the judge
assigned to the action pending in this district is a seasoned jurist who
can steer this litigation on a steady and expeditious course.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, the
actions listed on the attached Schedule A are transferred to the Northern
District of Illinois and, with the consent of that court, assigned to the
Honorable Charles R. Norgle, Sr., for coordinated or consolidated