Monday, August 13, 2018

Why do some judges like "rocket dockets" and "rocket trials"?

I have yet to find a lawyer who likes them.  And most judges don't act this way.  But the E.D.V.A. is known for having a rocket docket.  And there are a handful of judges here and around the country who have them.  The Atlantic covers the rocket Manafort trial here:

There is no dillydallying in the trial of Paul Manafort.

Jury selection lasted but a few hours. The federal judge presiding over the case has repeatedly reminded the lawyers of his impatience and routinely interrupts their questioning of witnesses to speed them up. The most dramatic part of the trial has quickly come and gone. The whole thing could be over in three weeks, leaving plenty of time before Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman has to stand a second trial on separate charges in September.

High-profile trials of deep-pocketed defendants can often drag on for months. But Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s initial prosecution of Manafort on charges of financial fraud is moving briskly along, and its speedy pace is largely due to the particular federal district court where the case is being tried.

The Eastern District of Virginia is famous in the legal community for being the nation’s original “rocket docket”—a jurisdiction where strict rules and a deeply embedded judicial culture help move cases to trial more rapidly than almost anywhere else. In civil cases, the court has been ranked first for speed year after year, but the reputation extends to criminal prosecutions as well.

Here's a more reasonable judge (in Houston) who now has a standard order granting automatic stays where one of the lawyers is pregnant:

Pregnant litigators already have enough to worry about without trial dates getting in the way of due dates.

So Houston state district Judge Ravi Sandill recently issued a standing order that grants expecting lawyers an automatic continuance of a trial setting in his court for up to 120 days before the birth or adoption of a child.

“We did it for a couple of reasons,” said Sandill, judge of Harris County’s 127th District Court. “For one, it’s the right thing to do. And secondly — I think most judges do this already — but it alleviates anxiety for lawyers.”

Sandill said he came up with the idea after reading about Christen E. Luikart, a pregnant Florida lawyer whose motion for continuance sparked controversy last month after her opposing counsel objected to it — just as the Florida Supreme Court is weighing a proposed rule that would create a presumption that pregnant lawyers should get three-month continuances.

“After reading about that, I thought if we could push this, leading by example is not a bad thing for the practice,’’ Sandill said of his order.


Anonymous said...

If you're a plaintiff with a legit case, you love the rocket docket. And if you're a plaintiff with a legit case facing a better funded defendant you REALLY LOVE rocket docket.

Anonymous said...

S.D. Fla. is also one of the fastest districts for speed in civil and criminal trials. Supporters of this speed will often quote the old saying 'justice delayed is justice denied.' But there is a corollary to that saying, which every one seems to have forgotten: 'justice hurried is justice buried.' I am sure judges, lawyers, and parties can find a middle ground between these two extremes.

Anonymous said...

Courts like rocket dockets and trial to make it easier for government in criminal cases and defense in civil cases.

Anonymous said...

I think these so called rocket dockets are just a way for judges and entire districts to burnish their reputations among their peers and litigants. Sort of like being the Dirty Harrys of the circuits. Down here, we once had "Fast Gerry Klein" who would make any of these gunslingers look like they were stuck in a goo of molasses.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the cases moving here - it weeds out slacker lawyers and lawyers who don't know what they are doing. Being ready for trial in a year (typical civil case setting) or less for a typical criminal trial is not a big deal...the case just needs attention. It does get annoying when you have competing criminal settings and the judges want you to go back to back. That is not reasonable, but a few weeks between criminal trials is fine; less is required if the follow up trial is civil - those things are ready to go well in advance.