Nearly 400,000 lawsuits now in federal courts are part of multidistrict litigation proceedings. Still, until Tuesday, there were no specific rules on how judges should manage the giant dockets, some of which have thousands of cases.

The Advisory Committee on Civil Rules voted to recommend the first rule to govern multidistrict litigation. The committee dramatically scaled back Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16.1 from several earlier proposals. However, if approved, the draft rule would provide guidance, particularly to judges, many of whom are new to multidistrict litigation.