Blawgletter believes trial judges should set a limit on how long each side can take to try a case. Any time a lawyer for Side A has the floor as the jury sits in the box counts against Side A. The same applies to Side B. Our firm in fact includes a pact on trial time in the standard set of agreements we ask our adverse friends to agree to.
But 7.5 hours per side strikes us as harsh and more than a little odd. The limit seemed that way to the Third Circuit also, but the court ruled that the district judge in Pittsburgh had not gone beyond the bounds of his discretion. The panel said:
In denying mandamus relief, we emphasize that we are not ruling on the propriety of the time-limit order. We appreciate that this is a complex case, that the Committee has sued sixteen individual defendants, and that many of the defendants may need to testify to present their own defenses, even if some of their testimony is duplicative. Because 7.5 hours may ultimately be too little time for the Lemington Defendants to adequately present their case, we do not conclude that the time-limit order is permissible or valid. We hold only that a post-judgment appeal is adequate to assure meaningful review of the propriety of the time-limit order.
In re Baldwin, No. 11-447, slip op. 14 (3d Cir. Nov. 26, 2012). Then, in a footnote, the panel said how it really felt:
It is difficult to conceive how either side in this complex case could possibly present the necessary evidence to a jury in 7.5 hours of trial time. Although the Committee has not sought immediate review of the time-limit order, it did make clear at oral argument that it was not willing to concede that the order was a proper exercise of discretion. Instead, the Committee asserted that it was not waiving its right to challenge the time-limit order if it does not prevail at trial. It is also difficult to understand the District Court’s rationale in allocating to the entire defense side of the case 7.5 hours of evidence presentation time given the fact that there may be different liability rules and defenses applicable to defendants who were members of the board of directors versus defendants who were officers of the non-profit entity. 15 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5712(a)-(b) (standard of care for directors of a nonprofit corporation) with 15 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5712(c) (standard of care for officers of a nonprofit corporation). We therefore urge the District Court to re-examine the time-limit order to avoid the necessity of a re-trial. We trust that if, at any time, the District Court is persuaded that any time limits it has set are not sufficient to allow for a fair presentation of the case, the Court will take appropriate steps to see that due process is satisfied.
Id. at 14 n.5.
We suspect the Third Circuit judges held out hope that their seemingly petulant colleague on the district court bench would see the error of his time-limiting ways. And we've hard of instances in which circuit judges would get on the phone with such a colleague in an effort to give him or her a chance to hear how nutty he must sound to everybody else.
Bonus: You can see our post on an earlier Third Circuit ruling that sent the case back for trial here.