March 21, 2012 Articles

A Pilot Program for Complex Litigation

By Kristofer S. Riddle

By its nature, complex litigation often exaggerates the difficulties contained within any lawsuit and has the capacity to test the limits of our judicial system. Questions of substance and procedure can slow the process to a crawl when complexity and high stakes combine with the specter of a sub-optimal outcome. With either side able to exert a unilateral dilatory influence over procedural areas of complex litigation, some courts have elected to address these issues.

On November 1, 2011, a new pilot program aimed at streamlining complex civil litigation took effect in the Southern District of New York. To achieve this goal, the program implements a variety of measures intending to improve the quality of judicial case management. The 18-month program came out of the district’s Judicial Improvements Committee (JIC), chaired by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin. For this project, the JIC created an advisory committee composed of experienced attorneys with diverse backgrounds.

The ultimate recommendations from the committee focused on four general areas that, together, make up the whole of the pilot project: initial pretrial conference procedures, discovery procedures, motion procedures, and final pretrial conference procedures.

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