"Justice Delayed?" Not here. Be prepared for the "Rocket Docket"

by PilieroMazza PLLC

As you arrive at the front door of the courthouse of the Alexandria Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (“EDVA”), you are met with a sculpture of a blindfolded Lady Justice bearing the slogan “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.” And believe me, they are not kidding. Resolution of your business dispute will occur at breakneck speed, so be prepared!

Known nationally as the “Rocket Docket,” the EDVA resolves cases at a pace roughly twice as fast as that for federal courts nationally; the average time from the filing of a complaint to trial in the EDVA is about 11 months, the fastest in the country.  

Many businesses in the Washington, DC metro area that find themselves faced with litigation, especially those that deal with federal government contracts, will have their disputes resolved in the EDVA.  This happens either because of the domicile of a party, the fact that the contract was entered into or to be performed in Northern Virginia, or as a result of a venue selection clause in the contract.  

Therefore, it is essential for your litigation counsel to be knowledgeable in the practices and procedures in the EDVA, or else your company will be playing an expensive game of “catch-up” and any requests for a break from the hectic schedule set by the Court will likely fall on deaf ears.

How fast is fast?  The initial order that allows for the commencement of discovery (when the parties “show their hands” by exchanging written interrogatories, requests for documents and conducting depositions) and it establishes certain other key dates, which are usually issued within 30 days of the time a defendant answers the complaint. The discovery period will also be set at this time, and the period will be limited to 90 or 120 days from the date of the initial order.  

The brevity of the discovery period is one of the most startling aspects of practice in the EDVA to “outsiders”; three or four months to complete discovery in a complex business dispute that could involve multiple claims for relief, numerous parties and tens of thousands of documents is in practice very little time, as procrastinating litigants learn to their peril.  

Judges in the EDVA are generally not sympathetic to scheduling problems and issues caused by heavy case loads. Unlike as is often the case in state court practice, the parties cannot agree among themselves to extend the discovery deadlines in the EDVA and the dates will not be changed by the judges, absent extraordinary circumstances.

In what is even more alarming to litigants that are used to cases getting bogged down in the courts, the trial of a dispute in the EDVA will be set for four to eight weeks from the final pretrial conference, which usually occurs shortly after the conclusion of discovery. Again, any request to extend the trial date will be met with extreme disfavor by the court.

As a result of the pace of the Rocket Docket, well-prepared EDVA plaintiffs can use the speed of litigation to their advantage by lining up the support for their case, preparing their witnesses and retaining consultants and experts in advance of filing. Oftentimes, defendants faced with EDVA litigation perceive themselves as at a disadvantage from the outset, inasmuch as for those reasons the pace can be seen to favor the plaintiff. By the same token, defendants faced with a claim that is subject to dismissal prior to trial will be able to bring the issues to the court sooner rather than later, and the perennially well-informed bench in the EDVA has a reputation for willingness to summarily dismiss cases in appropriate circumstances.

With apologies to Edison, litigation in the EDVA can be summarized as “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent preparation.” Be mindful of venue selection clauses in your contracts and of the possibility, due to the facts of your situation, of your business dispute landing in the EDVA. If it does, be prepared from the outset for a sprint to the finish line by gathering your documents, preparing any potential witnesses, and aligning yourself with a litigation team that is familiar with the pace and procedures of the “Rocket Docket.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© PilieroMazza PLLC | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

PilieroMazza PLLC

PilieroMazza PLLC on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.