Consumer protection lawsuits in federal court: part 8 — court enters scheduling order

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The lawyers for the defendant have met with us on your case and we have all submitted to the judge a proposed scheduling order — now it is time for the judge to enter the actual order which gives everyone the deadlines and other rules for the case. This is called the scheduling order.

Does the order have to be the same as the proposed order the parties give to the judge?
No. Often it is but sometimes there are minor changes made. And occasionally there are significant changes between what the parties submitted and what the judge actually puts in his or her order.

Then why do we give the judge a proposed order or what’s called a “report of the parties”?
It gives the judge a good starting place to prepare the scheduling order. The judge doesn’t know the case very well at the beginning of the case — not like the lawyers do. So the judge in essence is saying, “Ok lawyers, you know your case. Tell me what its about and how long it will take to get to trial. How much discovery you need, etc.”

So we as the lawyers give this to the judge.

We lay out the deadlines for discovery (where we swap information and can question each other), the amount of discovery (how many depositions, written questions, etc), and when deadlines should be for certain parts of the case.

Each judge is different — some like us to have longer time periods and some shorter. We may say a case will be ready for trial next July but the judge knows she has a major criminal case set then or a vacation or something else so she adjusts the trial setting.

I’ll say this — it is often surprising to folks how smooth this process goes. The lawyers we work with are all good about coming up with something we can all live with. And the judges appreciate that. If by chance there is a problem with the scheduling order, the judges are very open to listening to the lawyers and will change the order if needed.

What exactly does the scheduling order typically say or include?
Deadlines and limits. Let me explain.

There are all sorts of deadlines:
**Exchange what are known as initial disclosures (initial information and documents)

**Deadlines to amend or modify the complaint or the answer
**Deadlines to take depositions
**Deadlines for expert witnesses
**Deadlines to file what is known as a motion for summary judgment
**Deadlines for mediating a case to try to settle it
**Deadlines to submit witness and exhibit lists for trial
**Deadlines for jury charges
**Dates of the actual trial
There are more but this hopefully gives you a good idea.

There are limits on amount of each type of discovery:

**Depositions — when a lawyer can question the other party about facts and other information relevant to the case.

**Interrogatories — written questions the other side has to answer.

**Request for production of documents — documents the other side has to produce or give to the party asking for the documents
**Request for admissions — asking the other party to admit or to deny certain facts.

Will I get a copy of the scheduling order?
Yes. If we represent you we will give you a copy and usually a summary of the deadlines as sometimes the orders can be pretty long.

What happens next?
The “discovery” portion begins. We will talk about discovery in general in the next article and then take each type of discovery and explore it in more detail in future articles.

Hope you are enjoying our series on consumer protection lawsuits in federal court.

Give us a call at 205-879-2447 if you have any questions and we’ll be glad to help you any way we can.

Thanks!

John Watts

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