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U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Mich., R. 83.11(b)(7) states that companion cases are those cases in which it appears that substantially similar evidence will be offered at trial, or the same or related parties are present, and the cases arise out of the same transaction or occurrence. Cases may be companion cases even though one of them may have already been terminated. Counsel shall be responsible for bringing such cases to the attention of the court by responding to the questions included on the civil cover sheet. When it becomes apparent to the judge to whom a case is assigned and to a judge having an earlier case number that two cases are companion cases, upon consent of the judge having the earlier case number, the judge shall sign an order reassigning the case to the judge having the earlier case number.
Plaintiff Barbara Grutter commenced an action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 and 2000d on behalf of herself and others similarly situated. Plaintiff, who is white, alleged that the defendant law school rejected her application for admission because of her race. Defendants, the university’s regents and its law school, filed a motion asking the chief judge to reassign the action to a judge handling another action filed by plaintiff rejected undergraduate applicants against defendant university. Alternatively, they asked the originally assigned judge for an order designating the actions as companion cases. The chief judge disqualified herself and reassigned the motion to two other judges, who found that the matters were companion cases.
Could the two cases in question be designated as companion cases?
The originally assigned judge struck the reassigned judges' opinion from the docket, holding that the chief judge was without authority under the court's rules or under 28 U.S.C.S. § 136(e), 137 to select individual judges for reassignment. In addition, the chief judge's order purported to reassign both portions of the motion, although only one portion was addressed to her. The remaining portion was addressed to the originally assigned judge, who denied the motion, holding that the cases were not companion cases under the court's rules because they did not have the same or related parties, nor was the evidence substantially similar.