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Going to Trial: Court Dates and the Trial Docket

When a personal injury or criminal trial is scheduled for a certain date, it does not necessarily mean that the trial will actually occur on that date – it might, but this will depend on the case’s position on the trial docket. A trial docket is a listing of cases which are before the court on a certain day.  When you are given a court date, your case is assigned a number on the day’s trial docket. gavel in a courtroom

In Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, a criminal trial docket on a certain date may have as many as 70 cases listed.  Now if my client’s case is #41 – in all likelihood, another case will go before my client’s. If this is only a one week docket – that is, the cases must be tried within that one week period — my client will likely be bumped to another trial docket. On the next trial docket, he or she may move up the list, perhaps to #26, and would have a better chance of actually going to trial.

Usually if you are low on the docket, there is a good chance you will not go to trial and your lawyer will use this time to prepare for the next trial date, where you will presumably be higher up the list. However, just because you are low on the docket does not automatically mean that your case will not go to trial. It is a well established fact that most cases settle or enter into a plea agreement prior to the trial date. At my first personal injury trial in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1987, my client’s case was 18th on a trial docket on a Friday afternoon and when I showed up in court on Monday morning, my case was 1st on the docket. We tried the case in front of a jury the following day.

Wherever you are on the trial docket, it is important to hire an experienced trial lawyer who will be prepared to go to trial that day if you suddenly move up the docket.