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Understanding Calendar Control in Fairfax County Circuit Court

Northern Virginia Practice and Procedure By Harvey Binnall PLLC - 2018/01/09 at 09:25am

Litigating a civil dispute in Fairfax County Circuit Court is intimidating to many lawyers, even though the court publishes a manual on its procedures. While there are a number of rules and requirements that the court uses in order to efficiently handle its very large docket and while continuances are heavily disfavored, there are a number of advantages to litigating there, such as the court’s calendar control procedures.

Every weekday that the court is open, litigants in Fairfax can appear before a calendar control judge to seek various types of relief. The most common request is probably a continuance, but there are a number of other options, such as:

  • A long-brief scheduling order for a complicated motion which might require more than 5 pages of briefing;
  • An evidentiary hearing on a motion (which, if granted, will often be set on a Thursday);
  • An emergency hearing on motions for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction;
  • A change in the number of trial days assigned to a case; and
  • Rescheduling trials affected by inclement weather.

These are only a subset of the requests that can be made at the daily calendar control hearings. A calendar control judge will not, however, decide a motion that can and should be set for a hearing on the Friday motions docket.

Here is the basic information–and some helpful tips–for calendar control hearings:

  • Time: 8:30 a.m., every day that the court is open. Emergencies that affect hearings or trials on the next day can also be heard at 3:00 p.m.
  • Place: 5th Floor Judges Chambers (adjacent to the elevators in the new section of the courthouse). Parties check-in with a staff member at the desk. After all parties have arrived (or have called in by telephone), they will then be allowed to stand in line outside the conference room and wait for one of the two calendar control judges to become available.
  • Notice: The Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia require parties to meet and confer in good faith about dates for hearings; calendar control is no exception. While parties can be noticed the day before the hearing, it is the duty of counsel to attempt to find a date that is agreeable to everyone, without unnecessary delay;
  • Procedure: The parties will jointly complete the blue calendar control form in the waiting room, which will include the exact relief that is requested and which party is requesting it. When called into the conference room, be prepared to succinctly describe your request, why it is needed, and whether it is opposed by the other party/parties. The judge may ask questions but will make a ruling on the spot. He or she will make the necessary remarks on the form and sign it, making it a court order. The moving party is then directed to take the form to the clerk at the back corner of the conference rooms.
  • Appearing by telephone: Lawyers can appear by telephone at a calendar control hearing by calling chambers at (703) 246-2221 at 8:30 a.m. The phone may ring for a while (this is a very busy time for the staff) but will be answered. After the staff member takes down the necessary information, the caller will be put on hold and will eventually be transferred to a calendar control judge. IMPORTANT: If more than one party will be calling into the hearing, they must initiate a conference call with each other first, and then call chambers on that conference call.
  • Calendar control judges: The judges rotate calendar control duty, with two judges serving for two-week intervals.
  • Seeking continuances: Do not assume that a continuance request will be granted just because the parties are in agreement. Judges grant continuance only upon good cause shown. If you are seeking a continuance, be prepared to explain why it is needed and why there are no other options other than a continuance. There are a number of common basis for continuances that judges will often find are insufficient to grant a continuance, such as the availability of witnesses, a change in counsel, or the fact that discovery has not been timely completed, when the parties did not take prompt action to serve discovery requests and move to compel deficiencies.

calendar control, civil litigation, Fairfax County Circuit Court