In a mandamus case that could significantly alter one of the hottest federal civil dockets in Texas, the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Thursday over whether a trial judge’s discretion should be limited when a party moves to transfer venue.

The stakes in In Re: Volkswagen are huge, because the case could end up stemming the tide of product liability suits filed in the Eastern District of Texas. Under 28 U.S.C. §1391(a)(1), plaintiffs can file product liability suits in “any district in which a defendant resides.” Plenty of plaintiffs have taken advantage of this law and filed in the Eastern District, where the judges are known for moving such disputes in an efficient manner and the juries have a reputation — rightly or wrongly — for being pro-plaintiff.

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