In the column, Judge Bernthal examined why civil cases can take so long to adjudicate. The often lengthy and complicated process of civil case litigation is in sharp contrast to Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This rule provides that all of the rules “should be construed, administered and employed by the court and the parties to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”
“The goal is as stated in Rule 1,” Judge Bernthal said. “There are many cases competing for the court’s time. The judges with whom I served worked with the lawyers to keep cases moving and get them resolved. That said, we must keep in mind that these cases are rarely simple and thus take time.” A lot can happen between the initial complaint and the adjudication or resolution of the case.
Judge Bernthal carefully breaks down the civil procedure process by using a hypothetical automobile collision case litigated in federal court, highlighting key documents. This includes complaints, motions, answers, discovery orders, interrogatories, requests to produce, depositions and motions for summary judgement.
There are a multitude of things that can cause delays in civil litigation, such as if the defendant’s whereabouts are unknown, scheduling conflicts, discovery disputes and many others. Because of this, it’s often easier for parties to look at alternative dispute resolution options – such as mediation — as a faster and lower cost alternative to litigation. In mediation, a neutral third-party facilitates negotiations between the parties and the parties come to an agreement on the settlement terms. It is only binding on the parties if the mediation agreement is signed by all the parties.
“The majority of civil cases filed do not get resolved by trial,” Judge Bernthal wrote. “Some are dismissed. Others are concluded by the granting of summary judgment. A significant number of cases are concluded when the parties agree to settle the case. Any of these resolutions shorten the time needed to resolve a case.”
To read the full article published November 11th, click here.
Judge Bernthal served 21 years as a federal magistrate judge in the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois. Those who practiced before him have praised his skills as a jurist, describing him as both a learned scholar and efficient administrator. Judge Bernthal’s proven legal knowledge and keen understanding of negotiation are critical assets in both mediation and arbitration. In addition to Judge Bernthal’s work as a mediator and arbitrator, he also publishes a monthly column in the News-Gazette.
For Judge Bernthal’s full bio, click here.
For Judge Bernthal’s availability, click here.
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