This is the inaugural entry of Berenzweig Leonard’s newest blog, named “Riding the Rocket Docket”— intended to focus on the Alexandria Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, frequently referred to as “the Rocket Docket.”
In 2019, change came to the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, as it is always wont to do. For those of us who practice day-to-day in the Rocket Docket, the most regretted change may have been the closing of the courthouse cafeteria, which is not expected reopen. On a positive note, the most significant change was the investiture of Rossie D. Alston, Jr. to finally fill the seat left vacant due to Judge Gerald Bruce Lee’s retirement. A vacancy remains in the court, however, resulting from Judge James Cacheris’s retirement. The pressure for the judges at the Rocket Docket may also be increased due to the rumored retirement of Judge Leona Brinkema.
During 2019, former Chief Judge Albert V. Bryan, Jr. passed away. Chief Judge Bryan served on the court for two decades, and the Alexandria courthouse bears his father’s name, who also sat on the bench in the Eastern District of Virginia between 1947 and 1961.
Despite all these changes, some things seem to always stay the same. According to the most recent statistics issued by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, during the federal fiscal year that ended September 30, 2019, the Eastern District retained its place as one of the fastest-paced and efficient federal district courts in the country.
The AOC reported that, during fiscal year 2019, the median time from filing to disposition of civil cases increased slightly—from 5.3 months in the previous year to 5.9 months—but during that same period the disposition for criminal cases dropped from 5.4 to 5.2 months. For both civil and criminal cases, EDVA remained the speediest district in the Fourth Circuit in this regard, and the seventh most efficient district in the country.
The median time from filing to trial in civil cases increased slightly—from 12.4 to 12.7 months—the EDVA, however, retained its “rocket docket” status as the district in which civil cases proceed most quickly to trial. The AOC’s reports reflected that only 3.6 percent of civil cases in EDVA are more than three years old—down from a recent peak of 14.3 percent in fiscal year 2017 and 7.2 percent in fiscal year 2018.
The Rocket Docket continues to be a challenging but rewarding venue for litigation given the high quality of its jurists and the speed with which the court moves cases. The lawyers at Berenzweig Leonard are experienced with the practice in the Rocket Docket and known and respected by the judges in that Court. We look forward to discussing more about interesting cases, developments, and practice in EDVA in future blog entries.