Judge: K. Nicole Mitchell
Holding: Plaintiff's Scheduling and Case Management Proposal Denied
I was over at the Tyler courthouse at a few days ago for a hearing, and the word that I heard over and over both inside the courtroom and elsewhere was "creative". What could the parties and the court do to be creative in finding a way to manage a particular case more efficiently? Which is, of course is a hallmark of the Eastern District of Texas going back to then-Chief Judge Robert Parker's Civil Justice Expense and Delay Reduction Plan in 1991. They may have been creative before then, of course, but at that time there wasn't much of a record being kept. As Milton Gould and Edward Weinfeld observed in The Hero Judge in 1992, "the accomplishments of the trial judges are written in water.... Like the heroes Horace described who lived before Agamemnon: 'They are all unmourned, and consigned to oblivion because they had no bards to sing their praises.'" Things have changed a bit since then, haven't they?
Of course while creative is a good thing, it still may not actually work in practice. For example, in this case the plaintiff came up with an undeniably creative proposal, but not until the scheduling conference. In order to consider this last-minute proposal, Judge Mitchell delayed the case to allow briefing, and issued this order regarding the proposal.
Plaintiff proposed an "expedited bench trial" that involved just one of the asserted patents, and one of its claims, and limited the relief sought to injunctive relief only. All other patents and claims asserted in the complaint would be bifurcated and stayed (or alternatively dismissed without prejudice). The plaintiff proposed a trial date in six months, and a consolidated claim construction, evidentiary, and dispositive motion hearing, at which the parties would also receive manicures, the courtroom carpet would be cleaned, and one of the court's law clerks would learn how to play piano. (Okay, I may be exaggerating slightly but the proposal does appear to provide for a rather ambitious proceeding).
The defendant opposed the proposal, noting that the case was filed more than a year ago, and questioned why an additional seven months to try the case would result in irreparable harm. It also asserted that its Seventh Amendment rights would be impaired by allowing the Court first to determine equitable claims that share common factual issues with legal claims, and would result in the Court deciding common issues of fact relevant to the other patents and claims in suit. The Court agreed, noting that the proposal "does not truly simplify the case, but instead risks duplicative litigation," noting that the asserted patents and claims shared common facts and should be litigated together in the interest of judicial economy.
But bonus points for creativity from this bard. Wonder what would have happened if they'd jst filed on that one claim, and sought only injunctive relief?