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December 06, 2004

The wheels of justice

Today's front page of the New York Times identifies a federal district judge in Manhattan whose caseload seems to be hidden under some musty old law books -- "there is one unchallenged king of delayed decisions: Judge George B. Daniels of Federal District Court in Manhattan, who, the latest statistics show, had 289 motions in civil cases pending for more than six months, by far the highest total of any federal judge in the nation."

I'm not here to mock Judge Daniels, although lawyers love to mock judges (generally out of earshot). But I was reminded of a story told by a partner at the firm I used to work at in New York. The partner had a case before Judge Constance Baker Motley, formerly a judge in the same federal district court. There was a summary judgment motion that Motley had sat on for nearly a whole year. The partner was in her courtroom for a status conference on the case, and when Judge Motley looked at the docket, she said to the lawyers, "There's a summary judgment motion that's been pending for eleven months." The lawyers confirmed this. Then Motley bellowed, "Why hasn't it been decided?"