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Multiple Adjournment of Hearing Date - What are your thoughts?

How would you handle multiple requests for adjournment of the Arbitration Hearing date, made by both sides, which repeatedly comes a week or two before the scheduled commencement date?

Please provide your thoughts/comments below.

Comments (10)

I let them know I'm only granting the request because both sides agree. As they say, it's the parties' process.

Paul Peter Nicolai:

I require that any such request be signed by the parties themselves, not just counsel.

Jeremy M. Goodman:

Depending on the reasons expressed for the adjournments, this is often a perfect opportunity for a conference where the arbitrator insists on the present of clients in addition to counsel. Clients have repeatedly indicated they want arbitration to be an efficient and timely process--and forcing counsel to explain the repeated delays in front of their clients often moves the process along.

Multiple adjournments of hearing dates are usually disruptive. Getting everybody to agree to new dates and finding availabilities may become problematic. Arbitrators, attorneys, witnesses and parties have other obligations and maybe unavailable for long periods of time. However, adjournments do not occur in a void. on many occasions they are justified: a personal reason such as a family matter, a conflict with a court appearance or an urgent matter comes up and may require an adjournment. They also often happen because the parties have reached a phase of the arbitration where they need to pause and perhaps consider a settlement. At some points of the discovery the parties may and perhaps should take stock in where they are and consider the best way forward. The arbitrator should grant requests for adjournments without hesitation when the request is a joint request by both parties. When the request is made by one party then the arbitrator should seriously consider the reason for the request and rule accordingly.

Anonymous:

On a conference call, I would postpone all scheduled hearings for a couple of months and issue an Interim Order, setting forth new hearing dates agreed to by the Parties, with understanding that time is of the essence

Anonymous:

You have described a situation that I have thankfully never encountered. I would ask for a conference call with counsel in which I would try to learn what is going on. The most likely reason for something like this is that the parties are trying to settle the case and keep getting close but not to an agreement.

I would remind counsel that sooner or later, the case will have to be tried if there is no pre-hearing solution, and that the continual adjournments are not fair to witnesses, and are costing the parties money, as trial preparation must be done over and over.

If settlement negotiations is the reason, I would suggest mediation and remind them that mediators are available through the AAA or other forum provider.

Ruth Raisfeld:

One adjournment on consent; second adjournment is final; third request is denied. The case will either settle or the lawyers will miraculously get organized.

Christine Whitney:

I request a showing of good cause for first delay, with oral argument, and set a time limit for the second, depending on the nature of the cause. Then it's time for the hearing.

In my experience, the answer is always fact dependent. The illness of a principal of one party is certainly a reason to reschedule and additional changes in the schedule may be required in such cases. I've had multiple requests for postponement where the parties were in agreement to reschedule because they were continuing with direct settlement negotiations. Such postponements are in the interest of a fair and expeditious process. Unilateral requests intended to disrupt the process are another thing entirely.

The core principle is that the arbitral parties own the process; if both sides consent, I will grant the request. If there appears to be an issue with joint consent, such as agreeing to adjourn but not agreeing until when, I will schedule a pre-hearing conference and ask that parties and counsel attend so that I can assure myself that everyone is fully informed as to what is happening. I would give my standard statement that arbitration is designed to be fair, efficient, and expeditious and we seem to be falling down — perhaps with good reason — on the third prong, but if everyone is on board, let’s find new dates.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 4, 2019 4:54 PM.

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