Calendaring Systems

Several district courts have current case management crises. Some common features of these courts are that (1) they assign asbestos cases to a single judge; (2) there are at least several hundred asbestos cases on that judge’s docket; (3) the court follows an indi­vidual trial calendaring system; and (4) few, if any, trials have been scheduled or completed, In two or three other districts, there are large asbestos caseloads that seem to command a great deal of the courts’ attention, yet appear to be under control in the sense that cases are being terminated as rapidly as new cases are being filed. Finally, several courts with moderately high filings (one hun­dred to three hundred cases) have eliminated any initial backlog and continue to reduce the number of pending cases.

The cause of the severe crisis in several districts is not clear. However, whether the cause is a lack of judicial resources, lack of support personnel and equipment, lack of an effective case management system, or some combination of these and other factors, the effects are clear. The backlog is growing in these courts, and cases have not been scheduled for trial. Participants at the Center’s as­bestos conference focused on two types of solutions to the most seri­ous problems. Both solutions relate directly to the consensus of  participants that scheduling firm, credible trial dates is essential to re­duction of the backlog. The solutions are to (1) increase the number of judicial personnel available to try asbestos cases and (2) adapt the system of calendaring of cases so that it will bring large numbers of cases to a firm and early trial date.