New York attorney Frederic Abramson of Law, Current Events and Culture asks here whether a judge’s refusal to postpone a jury trial notwithstanding that the attorney handling the case was already engaged in a conflicting trial in another jurisdiction. Apparently, the judge refused a continuance even after Mr. Abramson, who was covering for his colleague produced an affidavit of engagement documenting that the attorney was in trial in another jurisdiction.
Abramson suggests that the judge’s ruling evinces bias towards solos since a large firm could send another lawyer to cover the matter. I’m not so sure, however, that a large firm would risk sending in another attorney who might not be as prepared.
To me, the judge’s ruling reflects more of a lack of consideration against attorneys and their clients, generally. Certainly, if a judge became engaged in a trial that ran longer than expected, the judge would not transfer the case or work longer hours to accomodate the displaced trial but would simply reschedule. Even more maddening, I’ve had several matters set for hearing or trial several months in advance that were later cancelled because of the judge’s vacation. If I can set my schedule several months in advance, why can’t the judge – and simply calendar cases around it?
I’m also not so sure what the solution is for solos who handle trial work. The attorney who Abramson described already seems to be doing his best in arranging for back-up as evidenced by having retained Abramson to make an appearance to seek a continuance. A solo can’t be expected to have an understudy on hand to step into a case just as a large firm wouldn’t be expected to offer up an understudy for a major matter.
Part of the problem, I think, could be solved through technology. If court calendars were widely available on line, like a giant, universal PDA schedule, attorneys could look for gaps or contact other counsel and perhaps arrange to trade dates. Yes, this would require more cooperation between members of the bar and the courts, but if it helps to speed trials along and minimize conflict, then it’s something to be considered.