Hampton Roads is comprised of 10 independent cities and 6 counties. Each has their own Court system with a bevy of local rules at materially differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Further Virginia has its own set of Rules of Civil Procedure that do not mirror the FRCP in any way. The following are but a few examples of what makes practicing in Virginia and Hampton Roads specifically unique:
- If you file your answer to a suit filed in a Virginia Circuit Court 30 days after being served, as allowed by FRCP, your client will be in default by 9 days according to the Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure.
- The Code of Virginia has some very unique aspects such as the Plaintiff may take a “nonsuit” at any time (with some restrictions). A nonsuit allows the plaintiff to voluntarily dismiss their case, without prejudice, one time as a matter of right – even after you have presented your entire defense and all of your witnesses and experts have been cross examined.
- Norfolk Circuit Court is the most user friendly and getting a hearing can be accomplished quickly but they are the outlier and not the norm.
- Virginia Beach Circuit Court has an open Friday docket where any motion can be address but your entire presentation on all your motions is limited to 30 minutes.
- There is a judge that required that jury trials in his Courtroom start at 9 a.m. when the starting time for bench trials or jury trial before other Judges of the Court is 930. This deviation is not written down anywhere (and that Judge is always on time).
- Chesapeake Circuit Court does not hear trials on Wednesdays. If your trial starts on Tuesday and does not finish it will be carried over to Thursday unless you request a substitute Judge to hear the trial which requires a request month in advance.
- Hampton Circuit Court will not allow a hearing on a motion until the scope and purpose of the hearing has been cleared by the judge assigned to case. (And except in exception circumstances, you will not have a judge assigned to a case in Virginia Beach Circuit Court so your discovery motions, the pre-trial conference and the trial will all be presided over by different judges of that Court).
If all of this was confusing and overwhelming, I have only highlighted a few of the differences and distinctions that occur in our various courts – -there are literally volumes more. And I did not mention the many local federal rules when practicing in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Filing in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) is subjecting your case to what is nationally known as the “Rocket Docket,” a rightfully earned title that describes the very speedy processing of cases in the Eastern District of Virginia. The history behind the title “Rocket Docket” goes back to the 1960s, when Judge Albert Bryan, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia kickstarted the effort to rapidly push the cases through the system. Back in that day, the court would often make an immediate decision upon the conclusion of oral arguments. Though that process has thankfully been curbed, the EDVA is known for its tight scheduling and relatively inflexible deadlines. It is very common to have a case to trial (yes, jury trial also) within 10-11 months from filing of the suit. At the scheduling conference (usually 2-4 months after filing suit), the Court Clerk will not allow the trial to be set out more than 6 months from the conference date. And you have a better chance of finding water in the Sahara than getting the case continued once set (with clear exceptions being made when someone from your firm presents and authenticates your recent obituary).
Knowing these rules, customs, and practices can bring a real advantage to your client. The attorneys at Park Zeigler regularly and ably serve out-of-state attorneys in Virginia State and in Federal Court.
How is local counsel helpful to out-of-state attorneys?
At Parks Zeigler, our attorneys are well versed in EDVA procedural rules and have experience in both Virginia federal and state courts, at both trial and appellate levels. We ensure that when we serve as local counsel, we work efficiently in compliance with local order, rules, customs, and practice.
Seasoned EDVA plaintiffs understand the speed of the “Rocket Docket” and will come well prepared by lining up support for their case— they use the speed of the district to their advantage. Those who are unaware of the way the “Rocket Docket” operates will be at a serious disadvantage at trial, which is why we highly recommend seeking out skillful legal counsel in the EDVA, like the knowledgeable attorneys at Park Zeigler.
We understand and are well-versed in the unique nature of the various state courts rules and processes. We regularly participate in the journey that is known as the “rocket-docket”. We view our role as local counsel as an opportunity to help your legal team navigate the nuances of the Commonwealth’s procedural rules and work in the best interest of their clients.