Federal Courts Corner: When Will The Court Make A Decision About My Motion?

April 1, 2016Articles Garden State Gavel Blog

Clients always ask: When will the Court make a decision about my motion? The general rule is that lawyers cannot predict with any certainty when the federal courts will resolve any particular pending motion.

In the federal courts, there is no requirement that judges issue an opinion within any time frame. However, the Civil Justice Reform Act (the “CJRA”) provides some guidance. It encourages judges to resolve matters before them within a certain period of time.

Among other things, the Act periodically requires the District Courts to publish a report, listing the motions that remain unresolved for more than six months, along with the judge to which the motion and matter is assigned. Colloquially, in the District of New Jersey, we refer to this as the “Six Month List.” Similarly, the Act requires publication of all cases, and the judge to which it is assigned, that remain open three years after the filing of the initial complaint.

By virtue of the CJRA’s reporting requirements, Congress attempts to leverage the peer pressure between the federal judges to encourage productivity. Congress also attempts to capitalize on the potential public scrutiny attendant to the publication of these statistics to spur the quick and efficient administration of justice.

In a perfect world, clients could generally expect a decision about their pending motion within six months of its filing date. But our world is not perfect. The District of New Jersey faces a judicial emergency, which has made it increasingly difficult for the Court to promptly address litigants’ motions. Under the present conditions, litigants cannot rely on the “six month” rule of thumb with any certainty.

Clients’ concerns are grave because their unresolved motions and protracted litigation negatively affect their wallets. Next time your client wants to know when the District Court for the District of New Jersey will decide a pending motion, consider explaining the Six Month List and its parameters. Also consider explaining that Congress has yet to confirm nominations for new judges for the District, making it increasingly difficult for the Court to timely handle its pending disputes.

The old adage “knowledge is power” proves true. Clients may be able to use information about the Six Month List and our judicial emergency to budget, forecast, and strategize. Clients that better understand how the political battles over the judicial nomination and confirmation process directly affect them and their wallets may find it prudent to pressure their Senators to address the pending judicial nominations and to schedule a vote.