Improving Accessibility to The Court: Standing Order in Marshall Division of Eastern District of Texas Regarding Status Conferences

The Marshall Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has issued the following Standing Order Regarding Readiness for Status Conference:

“The Court ORDERS the Plaintiff in each civil case file a notice that the case is ready for scheduling conference when all Defendants have either answered or filed a motion to transfer or dismiss.  The notice shall be filed within five days of the last remaining Defendant’s answer of motion.  The notice shall include a list of any pending motions.  For patent cases, the notice shall also include:  (1) a list of any related cases previously filed in the Eastern District of Texas involving the same patent or patents; (2) the patent numbers for this case and any related case; and (3) the dates of any future Markman Hearing and/or Trial for related cases.”

This new Standing Order issued by Judge Gilstrap marks a departure from the procedure used previously under Judge Ward in which cases were taking as long as ten months or more from the date they were filed before a scheduling conference would be conducted.  Under the new Standing Order, plaintiffs who want to see their case proceed more quickly will have the opportunity to inform the Court that they are ready for the Court to hold a scheduling conference and move the case forward on its docket.  Conversely, in certain other cases –particularly patent cases where a number of defendants may have been sued on the same patent or patents — where the plaintiff may be attempting to negotiate settlements with a group of defendants, a plaintiff may be able to postpone a scheduling conference by agreeing to multiple extensions of time for a defendant or group of defendants to answer while the parties attempt to resolve their disputes by negotiating license agreements.  Time will show how effective the new Standing Order will be at moving forward those cases that plaintiffs really want to litigate, while keeping those cases in which plaintiffs hope to obtain early settlements without engaging in active litigation parked on the sidelines of the Court’s docket.

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