Effective November 1, 2011, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York implemented a “pilot program designed to improve judicial case management” of complex civil cases. The pilot program was the result of the work of an advisory committee comprised of thirty-two attorneys and a number of district court judges from the Southern District of New York, including Judge Shira Scheindlin.

For purposes of the pilot program, class actions, multi-district litigations, and certain other types of complex commercial cases, including, among others, stockholder contract suits, certain product liability actions, antitrust cases, patent and trademark actions, and securities cases, filed after October 31, 2011 will be assigned to the pilot program.

To signal to the parties that a case has been assigned to the pilot program, the court will file a copy of the SDNY Standing Order M10-468 (the “Standing Order”) (click here for link) on the case’s docket, and a notation will appear in the upper right portion of the first page of the docket.

Under the terms of the pilot program, the parties are expected to file a joint initial report addressing the applicable topics contained in the court’s “Initial Pretrial Conference Checklist” seven (7) days before the initial Rule 16 conference. The form of the checklist is appended to the Standing Order. The report must address: (1) whether the parties believe Rule 26(a) disclosures should be made in whole or in part and whether there is some readily identifiable document or category of documents that should be produced immediately in lieu of initial disclosures; (2) any recommendations for limiting discovery; and (3) whether the parties propose to engage in settlement discussions and what discovery should precede such discussions.

Judges are to use best efforts to hold an in-person, initial pre-trial conference within 45 days of service of the complaint. Lead counsel for each party must attend this conference and should be prepared to: (1) address the contents of the Initial Report; and (2) provide an overview of the essential issues of the case and the importance of discovery in resolving these issues.

The pilot program also seeks to change how discovery is conducted by:

  • Allowing discovery of documents and electronically stored information and tangible things during the pendency of a motion to dismiss, but staying all other discovery pending the court’s decision on the motion.
  • Requiring parties to submit discovery disputes via letter briefs and making its best effort to render a decision no later than fourteen (14) days after receipt of the final letter.
  • Allowing submission of a small sample of privileged documents to the court for an in camera review, and noting that the court will make its best effort to rule on the asserted privilege within 14 days after the matter is fully submitted.
  • Presumptively excluding certain documents from inclusion on privilege logs and requiring that e-mail chains be condensed into a single entry with the beginning and ending dates and the list of all recipients.
  • Presumptively limiting parties to 50 requests for admission pursuant to Rule 36(a)(1)(A) with each request limited to 25 words. (The total and length of the requests for admission can be altered by stipulation or order of the court.)
  • Providing a form “Joint Electronic Discovery Submission and Proposed Order.

Parties are also required to file a joint preliminary trial report 14 days after the close of fact discovery, and judges are to use their “best efforts to hold a case management conference” within 14 days of the filing of the joint preliminary trial report. In addition, the parties must file a “Joint Final Trial Report” at least 28 days before the commencement of trial.