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Status Conferences - What are your thoughts?

What is your practice regarding the scheduling of periodic status conferences with the counsel in an arbitration proceeding? What circumstances warrant such periodic conferences, or do you schedule them as a matter of course?

Please provide your thoughts/comments below.

Comments (18)

I've never felt the need for them. In each case, I've used the occasion of the preliminary hearing to set dates for all the various tasks and the parties have met them. I suppose that if I sensed during the Preliminary Hearing that one of the parties was recalcitrant and uncooperative then I might schedule a status conference.

Norman Rosen:

In most of my cases I leave it up to the parties to request an additional conference call before the hearing. However, in complex cases I schedule a follow up conference call prior to the hearing in my scheduling order. Of course I may have a conference call at any time I feel the need for one.

Mary Austin:

I allow for at least one in the initial order by setting aside a date and time, so that if the parties want one, there are no scheduling difficulties. If the parties are on track and don’t feel they need one, I generally wouldn’t insist on it.

Anonymous:

There should be at least one before the hearing. It can be cancelled if everything is on track. There can be more if circumstances require it.

The only status conference I insist on is pretrial -- to make sure we are still headed to a trial.

Otherwise, I routinely hold no hearings on the case unless requested by counsel. The exception to that rule would be any circumstance where I need something from the parties, i.e confirmation of a hearing location or even an opportunity to shorten or reschedule the final hearing.

Edwin H. Stern:

I always schedule the next event after any conference and upon entry of an order. And I schedule periodic conferences to assure that the matter is proceeding “on track.” I have learned to do that over the years as a means of making sure that the matter is progressing and not unduly delayed. The date of a periodic or status conference can always be adjourned in another order or email when advised of the status or progress being made, but having the next date set, and the parties’ knowledge of same, is of enormous significance to me and assures appropriate case processing.

Edwin H. Stern:

I always schedule the next event after any conference and upon entry of an order. And I schedule periodic conferences to assure that the matter is proceeding “on track.” I have learned to do that over the years as a means of making sure that the matter is progressing and not unduly delayed. The date of a periodic or status conference can always be adjourned in another order or email when advised of the status or progress being made, but having the next date set, and the parties’ knowledge of same, is of enormous significance to me and assures appropriate case processing.

I do not schedule status conferences as a matter of course. I do schedule them reluctantly when requested by a party or parties. My experience is that they are usually canceled because no need exists for the status conference scheduled months in advance. I also believe that pre-scheduled status conferences encourage parties not to bring unresolved discovery issues to my immediate attention for resolution. On occasion a party who waited for a pre-scheduled status conference will use the stale but unresolved discovery or other dispute as an attempted "good cause" or "sufficient cause" for a requested postponement of the final hearing. I also am concerned that non-specific or generic pre-scheduled status conferences welcome party complaints about unnecessary costs.

I have utilized periodic status conferences in the few large matters I've had to make sure everything moves as expected. It is my hope that those scheduled status conferences are not needed as the parties are to discuss the week before and send me a note if there are no current issues and there is no reason to expect to alter the timetable for the evidentiary hearing. The status conference is cancelled (no charge) if I receive such a note jointly from the parties.

Margarita Echevarria:

To date, I have not seen the need for scheduling a status conference in advance although I can forsee that in a very complex case I would probably avail myself of that opportunity just to ensure that the hearing will proceed as expected.

I use periodic status conferences regularly in three instances:
1. In large complex cases every 6 weeks between the preliminary hearing and the final hearing.

2. In cases where there will be significant discovery issues and/ or motion practice.

3. Where the final hearing is scheduled more than 4 months after the preliminary hearing; a status conference at least three weeks before the final hearing to go over ground-rules.

Carlos Bianchi:

It is my universal practice to schedule a status conference at least two weeks before the evidentiary hearing, to discuss in some detail the logistics for the hearing (starting and closing times for each day of hearing, order of and attendance of witnesses, who may attend the hearing, videoconferencing, opening statements, etc.). I follow this up with a draft procedural order and invite the parties' comments within a short time-frame, before finalizing it. I thus allow the parties ample opportunity to have reasonable input on the conduct of the hearing.

During the preliminary hearing I almost always set a status conference call to resolve discovery issues or any other problems that should occur. I advise the parties this is on an as needed basis and they are to advise the case administrator 2 days prior to the scheduled call if it is needed. This is included in the scheduling order.
This serves the purpose of providing the parties with a set date to resolve problems and gives me an idea of the case progress and if the hearing will go forward as scheduled.

My practice is to be available to the parties as needed. If the parties need a decision or guidance, we can usually schedule a telephone conference for later the same day.

William Pastor:

Status conferences: yes, if requested by either or both parties or if I see the need (e.g., complex case, case where the parties have agreed to a hearing scheduled many months in the future, or one where a party appears to drag their feet and intentionally seeks to delay). The latter situation fortunately is rare in my experience (much less common than in litigation).

I generally set a preliminary conference call near the beginning of the case wherein I set future dates when preliminary tasks need to be completed; and I try to resolve any discovery or other issues that might cause a serious delay or a waste of time. If I see or learn about a problem as time goes by, I insist on a conference call so I can understand the issue and try my best to resolve it.

I set hearing dates well in advance (usually during the first conference call) so they know well in advance when they must be ready to proceed with a hearing. Occasionally, I might need to give a reasonable postponement of the hearing date or dates if fairness so dictates.

Sometimes - when I see or sense an excessive amount of contentious behavior during the discovery phase - I will schedule one or more interim conference calls to keep the case moving at a reasonable and civil pace. Both/all parties and attorneys need to know that I will not waste their time and their money to arrive at a fair and appropriate resolution, and I tell them that - usually during the very first conference call - and sometimes beyond - but in rare instances (one might not be surprised to learn) repeatedly.

While I served on the bench, I made it a point to ask the lawyers how long they expected their case would take. My experience showed me that lawyers most often would underestimate the length of time their trial would take, so I always scheduled some extra days - especially when I was about to start a jury trial and needed to know all the jurors would not be absent due to any job or personal commitments. So, I would tell them before the trial started to tell me if they had any such issues that would keep them away from the trial.

I usually do the same now that I am an arbitrator as I still find that the lawyers most often underestimate the hearing's length. If I accept their initial estimate, I find it becomes very difficult to find extra nearby dates to finish their hearing in a reasonable time.

Anonymous:

Status conferences may not be necessary with frequency as long as counsel on either side of the dispute is compliant with motions and discovery requests in a timely manner and the overall process is running smoothly. In these cases it may be less disruptive for the arbitrator to take on the role as a monitor watching over the actions of the parties and stepping in only when they veer off course.
It may be necessary for the use of statuts conferences to scheduled with more frequency when one or both of the parties becomes difficult or overly adversarial. Such behavior may result in delayed arbitration and ballooning costs. Given the nature of arbitration as a less expensive and more efficient option for dispute resolution compared with litigation, it is the arbitrator's responsibility to ensure that these goals are met and not corrupted by overly adversarial counsel. One method of doing so is through the use of status conferences where the arbitrator can remind the parties of what is expected of them and remind them of his or her ability to assert authority as necessary. The Supreme Court has affirmed arbitrators' discretion in deciding disputes when parties enter into arbitration agreements in advance (see Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter) and arbitrators could remind unruly parties of this in order to reset cooperation.

In a large accounting ,malpractice case, we had SFSU’s conferences mainly to figure out witness availability and discovery issues. In general, i would prefer not to have one unless things start to drag, that is when one side wants extensions to comply with discovery, etc.

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