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At first, the concept seems like a simple solution. But is it??

Chess Clocks To Keep Trial Moving Along

Determined to keep it short, lawyers for Merck & Co. and two men suing the painkiller’s manufacturer have agreed to time limits on testimony and will use tabletop clocks — activated manually, each time one side or the other puts a witness on the stand — to keep track.

When the trial testimony begins March 6, lawyers for plaintiffs Thomas Cona and John McDarby will have 40 hours to present their cases, not including opening statements and closing arguments. Lawyers for Merck will get 35.

The idea for the clocks came after state Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee — who presided over a Vioxx trial that took seven weeks last fall — asked the lawyers for ideas on how to limit the next one’s length.

“In my 36 years experience, I’ve never been under any kind of clock, chess or otherwise,” Alan Klein of Philadelphia said. “Judges move cases along, that’s their function. But I’ve never heard of having to punch a clock.”

The first problem that pops to mind: What does it mean to get into time trouble in the courtroom? If the judge can give you more time, what is the point of the clock? If the judge does not give you more time, can you imagine the implications of your side having to finish up in five minutes regardless of what is going on in the case? This seems like madness!



  1. Kevin says:

    I can foresee big problems. No matter what happens the loosing party can say the trial wasn’t fair because they needed more time to present their case.

  2. I envision a time scramble, in which a lawyer starts asking questions faster and faster, and the witness replies equally fast.
    – Precision Blogger

  3. doug says:

    Kevin – if the lawyers on both sides agreed to the clock, whoever loses is pretty much stuck with it. If the judge imposed it without their consent, then it would be grounds for appeal by the losing side. in the latter case, the objecting party would have to make an “offer of proof,” putting on the record the questions (and the witnesses answers) that he would have done if he was not on the clock. this, of course would take at least as long as doing the actual Q&A in front of the jury, so the judge would not have saved any time.

  4. Mr Fusion says:

    This could be the first in a new wave of speeding up trials to unclog the courts. I don’t think this is the best way of doing it though.


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