What Does It Mean If My Court Notice Says My Case Is A “Backup” to Another Case?

March 10, 2023

I had a client recently ask this question. Here’s an excerpt from my email explaining it:

We are a “backup” to another case that is specially set. The challenge the Court has in managing its docket is that cases get scheduled for hearings and then those hearings are cancelled at the last minute. Happens all the time, in all sorts of situations. For example, the calendar we were on the other day actually had four cases on it – but one of the cases was dismissed the day before, and in another one I think only one side showed up.

When that happens with a larger, more fluid calendar, it’s not a big deal – the Court can schedule 10 cases that all need short hearings, and if only 7 of them go forward, the Court still gets a full day’s work in. But for something that is “specially set” – meaning, that’s the only thing the Court is going to do with that day or those days – if that hearing/trial does not happen, then the Court can be left with nothing scheduled, notwithstanding that there may be dozens or hundreds of other cases that need attention.

To alleviate that, the Court will schedule a “backup”, which is what happened in our case. There is a two-day specially set trial for [dates redacted], and I think I heard the staff attorney say she thinks there is actually a decent chance that case settles. If they don’t settle, and they go forward, we are on a two-hour call to come in and have our trial (which is a little draconian but the Court usually does a good job trying to give as much notice as possible), but of course if they take most or all of that time, then we won’t be reached and we’ll be given a new date. But if they do settle, or if for some other reason they can’t go forward (let’s say one of the lawyers gets COVID), then we would go forward at that time.

It’s more than a little stressful, which everyone involved understands. But it’s the Court doing the best it can to manage the most limited resource available – time in front of the judge – to maximize how it is used for all cases pending before it.