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Judge should rule in 90 days

You’ve briefed and argued your Virginia circuit court case. Weeks go by and the judge still has it under advisement. Your client wants to know what’s taking so long.

The remedy under the Virginia Code: tell it to the Chief.

That’s right. Under Virginia Code § 17.1-107, if Chief Justice Leroy Hassell, or his designee on the high court, believes a circuit or appellate judge is taking “an unreasonable length of time” to rule in a case, he “shall inquire into the cause of such delay” and can designate another judge to help out.

Now we have a number for “reasonable.” It’s 90 days.

This year the General Assembly amended the statute to provide that if a circuit judge holds a civil case under advisement for more than 90 days after its final submission, the court has to tell the parties or their counsel, in writing, when they may expect a decision.

If the trial judge fails to report to the parties, or to issue a decision within the promised time frame, any party can notify the Chief, who then can apply the “reasonableness standard” and assign help for the slow-poke.

Richmond litigator Ben Ackerly, who mentioned the statutory change at the June 19 “Recent Developments in the Law” update at Virginia Beach, said he’s “not sure this solves the problem.”

If you’re waiting for the trial judge to presumably make a decision in your client’s favor, you don’t want to harass the judge.

But under the statute, the trial judge probably is going to know who gave the nod that led to a nudge from the Supreme Court.

By Deborah Elkins

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