Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Joseph Goldstein at the New York Sun has an interesting article on how cases get assigned to Judge Jack B. Weinstein, the Eastern District of New York judge at the center of numerous mass tort cases including Agent Orange, asbestos, tobacco and guns, to name a few. The cases typically land before Judge Weinstein based on the "related case rule," whereby "plaintiffs can indicate that their case is "related" to another case already in the court," and "[t]he new case is then automatically assigned to that judge."
On Thursday, the issue will come again to a head when a lawyer who has long represented the firearm industry, John Renzulli, will ask Judge Weinstein to recuse himself from a high-profile gun suit. The case was brought by New York City against out-of-state gun dealers who have sold handguns later recovered at crime scenes in the city.
It isn't the first time Mr. Renzulli has made this sort of motion — that was back in 1996. In the meantime, Judge Weinstein's docket has drawn increasing scrutiny. There's even a judge on the 2nd Circuit, Jose Cabranes, who makes a habit of quizzing lawyers about the matter when Judge Weinstein's rulings come up on appeal. "Is there a rule or practice in the Eastern District of New York that Judge Weinstein is assigned to all mega-cases?" the Judge Cabranes asked several years ago. The comments came during oral arguments reviewing Judge Weinstein's decision to try a case brought by Blue Cross and Blue Shield against the tobacco industry. The question has stuck with Judge Cabranes over the years. This September, he asked why the city's lawyers had taken a suit against firearm manufacturers "across the Brooklyn Bridge" to where Judge Weinstein sits, when the court in Manhattan was nearer to the city's law offices.
An interesting read.