In response to the growing public perception that civil justice in the U.S. is too costly and drawn out, Congress adopted the Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) of 1990, requiring each district court to implement a delay and cost reduction plan by the end of 1993.
Under the Act, the Northern District of Ohio was one of two districts required to "experiment with systems of differentiated case management that provide specifically for the assignment of cases to appropriate processing tracks that operate under distinct and explicit rules, procedures, and time frames for the completion of discovery and for trial." 28 U.S.C. § 482.
In accordance with the congressional mandate, as well as the Sixth Circuit's request that all district courts review their local rules, the Northern District of Ohio adopted new local rules effective January 1, 1992, which incorporated a differentiated case management plan along with a broad menu of court annexed ADR techniques. Because these rules were adopted at the beginning of 1992, the Court was also designated a CJRA Early Implementation District. The designations as both a demonstration district and an early implementation district focused the national spotlight on the Northern District of Ohio.
The Local Rules set forth the Differentiated Case Management (DCM) plan adopted by the Court.
DCM: a case management system that rejects first-in, first-out, and other forms of hands-off case processing in which all cases are treated as if they were alike. The plan formalizes and standardizes the active brand of case supervision long favored by the Judicial Officers of the Northern District of Ohio. DCM allows the Court flexibility in meeting hte unique aspects of each case.
GOAL: Reduce cost and avoid unnecessary delay without compromising the independence or the authority of either the judicial system or the individual judicial officer.
Methods of Implementation
- Provides early and continuing judicial intervention;
- Relies upon cooperation between bench and bar;
- Establishes "event date" certainty for case management conferences, status hearings, and trial;
- Establishes discovery cutoffs and motion deadlines;
- Limits discovery, promotes phased discovery, streamlines approach to resolving discovery disputes;
- Utilizes Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR);
- Assigns cases to one of five case processing tracks (expedited, standard, complex, mass tort, administrative).