Tuesday, June 12, 2012

At the Speed of Court or How Long Things Take

In my duties as a lawyer I am often asked the common question:

How long is this thing (this legal thing) gonna take?

My quick answer "it depends" which (by the way) is an answer that they teach over and over in law school. To give an accurate answer we would need to know a great many things, some of them not even legal. The timing of civil and criminal matters hinge on knowing more than just the facts of a case.

1. What is the Judge's, the Court's, and the Prosecutor's schedule.

Are any of them taking a break or on a vacation or going to a seminar? Some Judges take month long breaks in the summertime, some Courts are only part-time (once per week), and some Prosecutors (Assistant District Attorneys) only make a monthly appearance in various courts. City Courts are generally much faster than a town or a village court because they are full time Courts with lawyer Judges. Think about this, What could take a few days or weeks in the City could take months in the country.

2. Is your case or situation going to require motions, hearings, and potentially a trial?

There are generally two main tracks: trial and non-trial (plea). I like to also consider a third track, can I get leverage by use of motions or hearings to persuade a more favorable plea. How long will it take to file the motions? Then every motion requires time for a response by the Judge. Kinda like a big ping pong game accept the time between the ball's motion is delayed by weeks to months. Some Judges even have hearings to decide if we are going to have a hearing and to decide the extent and the scope of those hearings, whew! It can go on and on.

3. Is this a County District Attorney that gives full discovery and early?

You don't really appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of a criminal case until you have everything the government plans to use against you. The trouble is that in some counties throughout the state of New York the DAs are less open with their files. Is this legal? Yes. They do not have to reveal their whole case (all the evidence) until late in the game. Some have given me police reports at the hearing, just prior to police testimony, talk about working on the fly.

4. What type of case is it, and how are they normally handled in this area?

If you know the history of an area (county, city, town) legally you are better prepared to deal with a future issue. That is why people asking me a question about an Albany case or a Brooklyn case are not figuring in this huge and important factor. If you are not conversant with the location, ie. you're not from around here?, then you my friend are at a disadvantage. You don't know what that ADA does, or Judge, or what's usual for this area.

Knowing the answers to the above questions places an attorney in a better position to answer the question how long is this thing going to take. Every one of the above factors or how to best circumnavigate them can mean the difference not only in the result but also in the timing.

Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., Esq.

Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850