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Motions Practice in the Rocket Docket

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

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia is able to keep cases moving quickly enough that it is known as the Rocket Docket and has the fastest average filing to trial time of all federal courts in the nation partly because of its motions practice guidelines. The rules for motions differs between the various divisions, but they all generally allow for motions to be heard and decided quickly. This is especially true in the Alexandria Division, which operates on a motions day system, and allows the parties to immediately know when their motions will be heard.

  • The following are some of the basic rules for motions, which are universally applied throughout the district:
  • All motions must include a meet and confer statement. The judges are very strict about this requirement and demand that parties act in good faith to resolve their differences. The meet and confer process must include either an in-person meeting or a telephone call as a prerequisite to filing the motion. A letter alone is insufficient.
  • All motions must be accompanied by a brief (except motions for a more definite statement, motions for an extension of time to respond to pleading, and motions for default judgment).
  • Briefs must be in 12-point Roman style or 10 pitch Courier style. One inch margins are also required. Notice Roman style is required; not Times New Roman. Many good fonts are included in the Roman style family and some courts have opined on why TNR is a lousy font for legal drafting. But I digress.
  • Opening briefs are limited to 30 pages and replies are limited to 20 pages. The court will occasionally grant leave to go beyond these limitations.
  • Depending on the judge and division, a notice of hearing, waiver of hearing, or notice as to whether argument is requested should be filed with the motion.

In Alexandria, the following rules also apply:

  • Motions should be scheduled for the first permissible motions day.
    Practice tip: attorney unavailability for a Friday should be the rare exception, not the rule.
  • If the moving party doesn’t notice the motion, the opposing party may. Motions not noticed for 30 days will be deemed withdrawn. Moreover, the staff in the clerk’s office who operate the CM/ECF system will ping filers who do not file a notice of hearing at the same time as their motion.
  • Courtesy copies must be delivered to the judge (directly to chambers, except for Judge Ellis).

The lawyers at Harvey & Binnall are experienced Rocket Docket lawyers. We are always willing to talk to lawyers who might be unaccustomed to the court’s procedures. Moreover, we are happy to serve as local counsel or lead counsel for clients with matters pending before the EDVA.