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Trial Calendars

Trials and trial calendars in Georgia courts are strange mechanisms.  The following is a brief explanation as to how a trial calendar works to the extent it can be explained. 

A trial calendar is a numbered list of cases that a court has scheduled for trial during a given period. A trial calendar typically lasts for 2 weeks.  They are sometimes 1 week and sometimes 3 weeks.  Rarely any longer.  If your case is not tried during the trial calendar it will be placed on a trial calendar during the next month or as many as 6 months later. 

Trial calendars typically contain many cases, sometimes as many as 60 or more and rarely less than 20.  That means that there are 20 to 60 or more sets of lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses waiting, just like us in your case, to have their case heard.

Each case has a place on the calendar.  Your case may be first, 17th, or 49th on any given calendar.  Generally the first case on the calendar will be tried and then the judge will move down the trial calendar list.

Even if your case is the 43rd on the trial calendar that does not mean that your case will not be tried. And if your case is 5th on the calendar it does not necessarily mean it will be tried.  Obviously if your case is first on the calendar it has a very high likelihood of being tried.  However, nothing binds a judge to follow the order of cases on his trial calendar.  A judge may try the 7th case on the trial calendar before the 5th case.  This often happens if the projected length of a trial fits into the remaining time on a trial calendar. 

Generally if a case is not tried during a given trial calendar it will receive a higher position on the next trial calendar.  However, this is not always the case.  Generally a case that has been pending for a longer time will have a higher place on the calendar.

Continuances are often misunderstood.  Continuances may only be granted for cause.  This essentially means that if a subpoenaed witness, attorney or party is not going to be available for trial due to illness or otherwise, a postponement to a date later in the trial calendar or to another trial calendar can be obtained, otherwise a continuance will not generally be granted. 

Attorneys sometimes are on more than one trial calendar in different courts at a time.  In such circumstances the attorneys are supposed to notify the courts and the opposing lawyers of the potential conflicting trial schedules.  There are rules which govern which case is to be tried first.  These rules are detailed and beyond the scope of this document, it is sufficient for these purposes here to understand that your lawyer may have another case to try or the opposing lawyer may have another case to try which causes your case to be tried later during the trial calendar or to be postponed to another trial calendar. 

It is very common for many cases on a trial calendar to end in settlement, continuance, or otherwise not be tried during a trial calendar.  Courts place many cases on a trial calendar because they know that many of the cases will not be tried for one reason or another.  This is one of the reasons a case that is far down on the trial calendar may be reached during a trial calendar. 

While a case is on a trial calendar, you, your lawyer, the opposing lawyer, and all witnesses are sometimes placed on as short as a 2 hour call.  The parties, attorneys, and witnesses in each case are not asked to wait while the higher cases on the trial calendar are tried, but you are expected to be ready to try your case essentially on a moment's notice when the court is ready to try your case.  This is one of the most difficult aspects of trying a legal action.  You, your attorney, and the witnesses must spend hours preparing for trial, subpoenas must be issued, extensive preparation is necessary, and the typical result is that your case is not reached for trial and is put off to the next trial calendar.  This is one of the most frustrating examples of the "hurry up and wait" problem known in our culture.  However, this is the system and we must live with it until it is improved. 


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Last modified: December 05, 2006