On March 23, 2016, the Honorable Judge James Flannery, the Presiding Judge of the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, handed down a General Administrative Order 16-2 that specifies a new procedure for the setting of trial dates relative to cases pending in the Law Division. All cases currently pending in the Law Division in the Circuit Court of Cook County which are not yet on the prior Black Line trial call will be included in what is referred to as the “Master Calendar System”. Motion practice for Master Calendar Cases continues to exist the way that it did before. As before, cases will be assigned a Motion Judge who is tasked with addressing all discovery issues that occur prior to trial. Motion Judges will not be allowed to hear motions to set a trial date or continue a case for trial. Motion judges will not be able to certify cases ready for trial until all discovery is complete, including expert discovery.
Previously, the Circuit Court of Cook County Law Division determined trial dates for cases pending in the Law Division via the Black Line Trial Call. Once a case had been pending for a specified time period in the Circuit Court, the case would appear on the Black Line Trial Call and parties would go to court to receive a trial date. The Black Line Trial Call will remain in effect for all cases currently in the Black line system until those cases receive trial dates. Then the Black Line system will be discontinued and the new “Trial Setting Call” will begin.
Pursuant to the new Trial Setting Call, and of note to cases alleging personal injury related to a construction project, for newly filed cases, a trial date will be set automatically by the court approximately twenty eight (28) months from the date the lawsuit is filed. Parties to the suit will receive a postcard from the Clerk of the Circuit Court twenty four months (24) after the suit is filed, advising of a court date approximately 120 days out, referred to as a “trial setting date”. Parties will be required to appear in courtroom 2006 in the Circuit Court, Law Division, on that trial setting date to receive the official trial date for the case. All cases on the trial setting call will receive trial dates including pending cases. Therefore, all parties are encouraged to discuss potential trial dates that comport with everyone’s schedules prior to appearing on that date. Agreed upon dates can then be suggested to the court. At any time during the course of litigation, if parties agree that a case is ready to be set for trial, a motion may be presented in Courtroom 2005 for immediate trial assignment.
With the above mentioned changes, the parties will gain more control over the issuance of trial dates and in turn, motions to alter trial dates will be reduced. We believe the above changes will better allow us to increase our trial preparation time and ensure clients are fully advised of potential trial dates. With many construction projects, key personnel have oftentimes moved on to the next project, and sometimes have relocated to other parts of the country. The new trial setting system will allow us to gain the utmost lead time to ensure a smooth transition into trial.