AUSTIN � Harris County voters fired Mark Davidson as district judge in November, but he continues presiding over 9,000 asbestos suits from courts all around Texas.

After Davidson failed to win re-election, the state Multidistrict Litigation Panel decided that as a retired judge he qualified to keep the asbestos docket.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson approved the decision.

A judge in a multidistrict proceeding manages discovery and trial preparation. For trials, cases return to the counties where they began.

Texas legislators created the multidistrict panel in 2003, copying a national multidistrict panel that Congress created in 1967.

Texas law requires the panel to find that a transfer is convenient for parties and witnesses and that it promotes just and efficient conduct of the action.

The law states, "The pretrial court has the authority to decide, in place of the trial court, all pretrial matters in all related cases transferred to the court."

A pretrial judge can set aside or modify any ruling of a trial judge.

On its effective date in 2003, the law provided for consolidation not only of future civil actions but also of asbestos and silica exposure suits already on the books.

The panel picked Davidson in January 2004. Through last year he managed the asbestos docket in addition to local cases in the 11th District Court of Harris County.

Now he can devote all his attention to asbestos.

In the Nov. 4 election Davidson, a Republican, received 537,626 votes. Democrat Mike Miller received 563,884 votes.

A week later, asbestos plaintiff lawyers asked the panel to reappoint Davidson.

No defendant opposed the motion, and the panel granted it on Dec. 3. The appointment stands until further order of the panel.

David Peeples of San Antonio is chairman of the panel. Other members are George Hanks of Houston, Douglas Lang of Dallas, Catherine Stone of San Antonio and Ann McClure of El Paso.

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