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Program Speeds Civil Litigation in Western District of Pennsylvania

On August 30, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania held a town hall in Pittsburgh, PA, introducing attorneys to a new pilot program aimed at expediting the relatively simple cases on the court’s civil docket.

Clerk of Court Robert Barth says these cases will be primarily employment and insurance related. “These are the types of cases that do not require lengthy and expensive pretrial and trial proceedings,” said Barth. “Frequently these are cases where only a few witnesses are expected to testify.”

Judge Cathy Bissoon, who serves on both the district’s case management committee and the rules committee, spearheaded the pilot. “We saw that the Northern District of California had an expedited program for civil cases,” said Bissoon. “I asked our court’s board of judges and a cross section of our district’s attorneys to explore the option for our district and there was strong interest by both groups.”

Bissoon recruited defense and plaintiff attorneys to work with her to develop the pilot. The result was a program modeled loosely on the California program, but designed for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “This is just another option for litigants,” said Bissoon. “Our purpose is to offer parties in these types of cases abbreviated, efficient, and cost-effective litigation and trial.”

Both parties must consent to submit the cases to the pilot program for expedited civil litigation. The program’s rules restrict motion practice and a party’s right to discovery. For example, unless otherwise ordered by the Court or both parties agree, discovery is limited, as are the hours of depositions per side. No motions for summary judgment may be made and parties may not request the judge to rule that certain evidence may not be introduced. Unless otherwise ordered, the trial is held no later than six months after the initial case management conference. At trial, six jurors are seated. There are no findings of fact or conclusions of law in non-jury trials. Each side has three hours to present evidence. With few exceptions, the parties waive their right of appeal.

The court’s mandatory alternative dispute resolution program does not apply to cases on the expedited docket. Class action and patent cases are not eligible for the program.

For more information about the pilot program, contact: Clerk of Court Robert Barth at

Related Topics: Case Management, District Courts