What’s Taking So Long?
Factors that make the process feel slow
Moving a case through the legal pipeline can be complicated, tedious, and time-consuming, which leads many people to ask the question “What’s taking so long?”
Joe Cargile, an attorney with Whitehurst, Blackburn & Warren in Thomasville, Georgia, hears that question from time to time. “What I want people to know is that it’s normal,” says Cargile. “There are lots of phases in getting a case to trial, from gathering information and documentation, to working through the mediation process, to simply waiting for our turn on the judge’s schedule.”
Although every case is different, there are generally a few chunks of the litigation process that are the most time-consuming.
At the beginning of most lawsuits, the discovery phase will begin. Discovery is a crucial part of litigation where the parties have the opportunity to exchange information about witnesses and evidence they may use at trial. It can indeed be long but practicing diligence in this phase of a lawsuit prepares you for the best-case scenario ahead. You can obtain, among other things, statements from the opposing party that will help you analyze your own case and prepare to attack theirs.
Six months of discovery is mandatory. Occasionally, discovery disputes can extend this phase out even longer. Still, spending the necessary time in this portion of your case means that you will be best prepared to deal with any hang-ups you might face down the road.
Another phase in the legal process which may prolong the lawsuit’s timeline is mediation. Many judges require a neutral third-party to host mediation with the goal of resolving the parties disputes outside of court, or at the very least, getting both parties on the same page in order to move forward. This can happen in face-to-face meetings or via teleconference if both parties agree. Social distancing and other pandemic-related restrictions have postponed mediation efforts in cases where one or both parties demand in-person services.
Mediation in and of itself is a process. Typically, in a mediation setting, the mediator visits with each party independently, then begins moving back and forth between rooms with hopes of bringing everyone to consensus. Mediation may not bring resolution in one sitting either, so plan for multiple sessions. Although it can be a lengthy process, mediation often results in a resolution that everyone can live with.
Once a case does reach the trial phase, simply getting on the trial calendar requires patience. Scheduling may be slow in normal times, but during the current COVID-19 pandemic, scheduling has halted some cases altogether. In an 11th extension order filed on February 7, 2021 by the Supreme Court of Georgia, a statewide judicial emergency declaration continues to prohibit jury trails throughout the state through at least March. The result? Most criminal cases and many civil cases remain in a stalemate. As you would expect, once the order is lifted, a backlog of cases will be waiting to get to trial, further decelerating the process for newer claims. Patience will continue to be key in the months ahead as the court system plays catch-up.
Don’t Worry Though – We Stand Ready
Your feelings of anticipation and worry are normal, but don’t be concerned. We continue to look for creative ways to push your case forward. WBW understands that your case is always on your mind, from the time you wake up in the morning to the time you close your eyes at the end of the day. You can rest assured that your case remains in our thoughts, too.
“We’re looking out for your best interests – and that not only takes time, it deserves time,” says Cargile.
WBW also encourages clients to have confidence in their decisions thus far. Just because a case feels sluggish doesn’t mean it’s worth abandoning. With the right attorney working hard on your behalf, what feels tiresome and drawn out today will allow you to rest easy when you do reach a resolution down the road.