What Is A Scheduling Order

What Is A Scheduling Order

Hey friend! If you’ve ever been involved in a civil lawsuit, you’re probably familiar with scheduling orders. But in case you’re not, let me give you the lowdown on what they are and why they’re so important.

In a nutshell, a scheduling order is a court document that lays out all the key deadlines and dates for your case. It’s essentially the roadmap that keeps your lawsuit on track and moving forward efficiently. Trust me, you want the court to issue one! Without it, your case could drag on forever.

Here are some of the big benefits of getting a scheduling order in place:

  • It pushes both sides toward a speedy resolution of the dispute. No more unnecessary stalling!
  • It allows for better case management. You’ll know what needs to happen when.
  • You’ll have clear deadlines to meet. No more last-minute scrambles to get stuff done!
  • It reduces the likelihood of continuances and trial delays. The court will expect the dates to be followed.
  • Most importantly, it helps you get and keep firm trial dates. As any experienced litigator knows, a trial date is the light at the end of the tunnel!

So if you want your case to be resolved as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, be sure to get a scheduling order in place. Let’s look at how they work.

The Legal Basis for Scheduling Orders

In Tennessee, scheduling orders are authorized by Rule 16 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. This rule gives judges the discretion to actively manage cases on their docket. It allows them to call scheduling conferences with the attorneys, and then enter orders that set various deadlines for the case.

While the judge can issue a scheduling order whenever they want, either party in a lawsuit can also file a motion asking the court to enter one. So if you think it would help your case, take the initiative and request it! The judge will almost always grant a reasonable scheduling order.

What Gets Included in a Scheduling Order?

Now let’s dive into the good stuff—what exactly goes into these magical documents? Scheduling orders can cover a range of deadlines and pretrial requirements, but some key components are:

Deadlines to Amend Pleadings and Add Parties

The scheduling order will dictate when all amendments to pleadings (e.g. the complaint and answer) must be completed. This stops the issues in the case from constantly changing.

It also sets a deadline for adding any new parties to the lawsuit. You don’t want defendants added at the last minute!

Discovery Deadlines

A major chunk of the scheduling order deals with discovery deadlines. It will set specific dates by which all fact discovery and expert discovery must be finished. Deposition deadlines may be included too.

Discovery is often the longest phase of litigation, so you want the deadlines clearly defined up front. No more wondering when you’ll get the other side’s documents!

Deadlines for Dispositive Motions

Dispositive motions like motions for summary judgment can resolve a case without trial, so scheduling orders usually include deadlines by which they must be filed and heard. This keeps the pretrial motions process on track.

Other Pretrial Deadlines

As you get closer to trial, the order may include deadlines for:

  • Exchanging witness and exhibit lists
  • Filing motions in limine to exclude evidence from trial
  • Submitting pretrial briefs

The All-Important Trial Date

And finally—the big one! The scheduling order sets the definitive trial date, which all the other deadlines work backward from. This date drives the entire timeline.

Having a trial date on the calendar motivates both sides to adhere to the scheduling order. No one wants to explain to the judge why they need to delay the trial!

Changing the Dates in a Scheduling Order

Sometimes, you just need a little more time to complete a task required by the scheduling order. Is it written in stone or can you ask for an extension?

The good news is, the court can modify scheduling order dates for “good cause.” For example, if unforeseen circumstances arise, or sticking to the deadline would cause unfair prejudice.

Some tips:

  • If you know you need more time, ask before the deadline passes. It shows you’re acting diligently.
  • Explain how granting the extension won’t harm the other parties. Play nice!
  • If you’ve missed the deadline already, you’ll need to meet a higher “excusable neglect” standard. Don’t make a habit of this!

How Judges Enforce Scheduling Orders

To keep cases moving, judges have broad discretion in enforcing scheduling order deadlines and issuing sanctions when they’re missed. For example:

  • Monetary sanctions like fines or paying the other side’s costs
  • Excluding evidence or preventing witnesses from testifying
  • In severe cases, dismissing claims or defenses altogether!

As officers of the court, attorneys have an ethical duty not to cause unnecessary delay and to act diligently on their cases. Scheduling orders are a great tool for meeting this obligation.

Some judges are more hardcore about enforcement than others. But in general, both sides should make a good faith effort to comply. No judge wants to babysit grown lawyers!

Why Scheduling Orders Improve the Litigation Process

When respected by both sides, scheduling orders can really streamline litigation and save you headaches. Here are some of the biggest benefits:

Increased Efficiency

Cases with scheduling orders tend to hum right along toward resolution. The deadlines keep things moving forward in an orderly fashion.

Cost Savings

With a clear roadmap in place, there’s less time and money wasted on redundant tasks or last-minute scrambles.

Narrowing of Issues

Resolving amendment and discovery deadlines early solidifies each side’s theory of the case. No more moving targets!

Improved Court Administration

Fewer requests for continuances ease the judge’s docketing challenges. Scheduling orders are the grease keeping the wheels of justice turning.

Happier Clients

By providing predictability and moving the case promptly toward resolution, scheduling orders reduce clients’ anxiety over the unknown.

Let’s Wrap This Up!

You now know what scheduling orders are, why they’re so critical for efficient litigation, and how courts use them to actively manage cases. While no one enjoys deadlines, scheduling orders bring order to the chaos of civil lawsuits. They provide litigants with a just, speedy, and cost-effective resolution process.

So next time you’re involved in a lawsuit, be sure to get a scheduling order in place ASAP. Your wallet and your sanity will thank you later! Cases move along best when everyone knows what they need to do, and when they need to do it. Happy litigating!