Panel refuses to consolidate WOTUS lawsuits

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2015 - In a blow to the Obama administration, a judicial panel has refused to consolidate a series of legal challenges against the new rule re-defining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. 

Lets Talk Food Lawyers for the administration were seeking to move the nine lawsuits, now pending in seven circuit courts, to the District of Columbia. A North Dakota judge in August blocked implementation of the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule in 13 states, and then a circuit court judge last week extended the stay nationwide

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Jurisdiction ruled that it wouldn't serve the convenience of the witnesses or the parties to the lawsuits to consolidate the cases in the D.C. court. 

“The resolution of these actions will involve only very limited pretrial proceedings,” the panel said. “Discovery, if any, will be minimal, as these cases will be decided on the administrative record.” 

The panel also noted that several courts had already issued differing rulings on motions to block the rule. “Centralization thus would require the transferee judge to navigate potentially uncharted waters with respect to law of the case,” the panel said.

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