Analytics Reveal the Fastest Federal Courts in the Nation

The Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) is famously known as the “Rocket Docket,” a nickname that dates to the 1950s when Judge Walter E. Hoffman decided to hold court on Saturdays and holidays, fine lawyers for tardiness, and prohibit trial continuances, according to a 2017 practitioner article. Since then, the EDVA has consistently been one of the fastest trial dockets of any federal district in the U.S.

This article explores the ‘why’ aspect of those two points.

MSJs in the Last Ten Years

Docket Alarm ranks MSJs as third behind motions to dismiss and motions for judgment in federal courts. By volume, the Northern District of California takes the cake, followed closely by the Eastern District of Michigan.

The infographic shows that the slowest average disposition time is held by the District Court for the District of Columbia (DDC), with a 289 day average, and the fastest average disposition time is held by the Southern District of Florida (SDFL), with 131 day average. A closer look suggests that case type and volume are among factors that dictate the speed of resolution for MSJs.

Comparing the case types between DDC and SDFL, shows that DDC receives an outsized number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request lawsuits, which take an average of 362 days to resolve.

SDFL on the other hand, sees insurance cases more than any other. The average resolution time for these disputes is just 99 days.

Preliminary Injunctions

The Northern District of Illinois (NDIL) tops courts that have received the most PI motions in the last ten years, followed by two Florida districts and the Southern District of New York. NDIL is vastly ahead of other courts, perhaps explaining why its average days to decision is among the highest.

A Docket Alarm Federal Motion Analytics search reveals that NDIL’s PI numbers are anomalously high relative to its sister districts due to a sharp rise in trademark lawsuits or “Schedule A” filings in the last ten years.

According to a March 2023 research paper by Santa Clara University School of Law professor Eric Goldman, the hike is part of “a sophisticated but underreported system of mass-defendant intellectual property litigation called the ‘Schedule A Defendants Scheme’ [], which occurs most frequently in the Northern District of Illinois as a way to target Chinese online marketplace vendors.”

The rise in PIs accompanies such suits because plaintiffs rely on injunctions, either PIs or more commonly, temporary restraining orders, to stop counterfeiters, many of whose businesses are based abroad. High fashion and professional sports league merchandise is a prime target for counterfeiters, and in turn, Schedule A lawsuits, as Law Street Media has previously reported. However, in at least one instance, a Chinese surgical mask manufacturer sought to halt alleged infringement by Amazon and several Amazon third-party sellers.

Professor Goldman “speculate[s]” that the surge of NDIL trademark cases could be the result of their success in the district and/or local practitioners’ proven track record.

In addition, a favorable ruling by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2022 could be another draw card. There, the court held that if an overseas company makes even one sale of products that infringe American trademarks, domestic courts have personal jurisdiction over alleged counterfeiter.