For most people, Fridays are the wind-down day of the week, or the lead-in to the weekend. That might also be the case for the Travis County dockets! There are no Friday afternoon settings on the central docket. Hearings on the morning docket are limited to fifteen minutes each. After what I’m sure is an exhausting week of listening to us argue, nitpick, and possibly complain, I don’t blame the judges in making the Friday docket a light one. (Actually, many administrative appeals are set for oral argument on Friday afternoons to an assigned judge, the Child Protective Services docket is sometimes handled on Fridays, and many bench and jury trials that started days and weeks earlier may carry through a Friday. I’m only referring to the central docket.).
Settings on Friday mornings can be risky on their own. If you have a matter that needs to be heard, and you want the time to present your arguments, Friday morning may not be the docket for you. Pursuant to Chapter 5 of the Local Rules, Friday morning hearings are limited to fifteen minutes. That’s fifteen minutes for the entire hearing – you and your opposing counsel. That’s 7 1/2 minutes per side. That’s possibly 5 minutes for movant, 7 1/2 minutes for response, and 2 1/2 minutes for rebuttal or reply. Seriously?
I know many of us think we are the most skilled at our art of wordsmithing and can persuade a judge to our side in a matter of minutes. And we might well be experts at it! But with too many things out of our control, I’m not so sure it’s worth the risk. Even if opposing counsel tells you fifteen minutes is enough for the entire hearing, what if he or she takes up too much time? Then your expertly crafted arguments will be more frantic than persuasive. Also, don’t assume a judge will side with you when the opposing counsel agreed to the time limit, and is also the cause of the time overage. Assuming just – well, you know.
The Local Rules are clear. The Judges are required to limit the parties to fifteen minutes pursuant to the Rules. You might get lucky and get a judge that will allow you to continue to argue over the time limit. But how will you ever know until you get assigned the judge, or for that matter, until you actually get cut off? Why take the risk?
Finally, what do you tell the client when they ask why you didn’t make those fabulously crafted arguments they paid good money for you to write and prepare? The Rules are the Rules. It’s not the Judge’s fault your opposing counsel talked too long. Why not press the easy button and set your matter on a docket that allows more than fifteen minutes? Be the lawyer that looks efficient when you only take thirty minutes of your one-hour time announcement! Then you can get your adrenaline rush another way – rather than in a stressful way. Who wants that, anyway?