More than two dozen lawyers appeared before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in July to argue where hundreds of lawsuits filed over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill should be consolidated. In a federal courthouse in Boise, Idaho, they spent one hour addressing the devastation the oil spill wrought on the Gulf of Mexico coast. When they filed out, the courtroom was nearly vacant.

The oil spill litigation wasn’t the only topic to be heard that day — 13 additional cases were scheduled for oral arguments before the panel. After that, the panel would have to decide another 15 cases in which lawyers argued in court filings, rather than in person.