Judges Bucklo, Coar, Gettleman, Kennelly and Lefkow are instituting a joint trial call in 2007 (the N.D. Ill.’s statement about it is here). Each judge is contributing cases to the call, apparently at the judge’s discretion. The cases in the call will be tried in order by one of the five judges, although not necessarily the judge originally assigned the case. Each trial is expected to last no longer than five days and the attorneys and parties for a case on the call are expected to be ready for trial, including producing witnesses, on 48 hours notice. I suspect that the five day trial limit will remove the typical patent case, although plenty of trade secret, trademark and copyright cases could end up on the joint call. The judges on the call also intend to use suggestions from the Seventh Circuit Bar Association Jury Project Commission to speed the trials (more on the Commission’s recommendations here).
This practice will make the Northern District, at least for some cases assigned to the participating judges, more like the Eastern District of Virginia, which randomly assigns judges to each new motion or trial throughout a proceeding. It may also make it harder to delay a trial, turning up the heat on pre-voir dire settlement negotiations.