Time Limits on Trials

I’m a little like a broadcaster for a small-market sports team, in that I’m a relentless “homer,” always impressed with the efforts of the School of Government faculty. With that disclaimer in mind, my colleague Michael Crowell has just published a terrific paper, available for free here, about courts’ authority to impose time limits on trials. It’s smart, short, and practical, so it’s definitely worth a look. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a homer!

Apparently, the practice is more common in federal court than in state court, and more common in civil cases — particularly domestic cases — than in criminal ones. But in light of the ever-increasing volume of criminal cases in the North Carolina courts, and the ever-decreasing resources allocated to the courts (a topic recently addressed by former Chief Justice Lake here), it’s at least worth thinking about whether time limits could work for criminal cases. A presumptive limit of an hour for DWI cases? Of two days for drug felonies? A time limit on capital trials? (Except for closing argument, which can’t be limited under G.S. 7A-97.) The possibilities are endless and interesting.

I’m curious about whether there are districts or judges already using formal time limits in criminal cases (as opposed to informal limits of the “move along, counselor” variety). If you know of instances where time limits have been imposed, please post a comment.

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