Trials & Litigation

Federal Judge to Time Lawyers in 9/11 Trial ‘Like a Speed Chess Match’

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A federal judge in Manhattan doesn’t want the last Sept. 11 wrongful death trial to drag out for too long, so he is placing strict time limits on the lawyers.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein will give both sides in the suit against United Airlines the same number of hours to present their cases, the New York Times reports. To ensure compliance, he will “time the trial like a speed chess match,” the newspaper says.

Current estimates are that each side will get 50 to 60 hours. The plaintiffs, the family of passenger Mark Bavis, contend United was negligent when it allowed hijackers to board in Boston.

The time limit is unusual, but not unprecedented. Hellerstein said he once imposed the same kind of limits in a patent case. U.S. District Judge Pierre Leval also imposed time limits in the libel suit by Gen. William Westmoreland against CBS. According to Westmoreland lawyer David Dorsen, Leval “had the stopwatch in his hand” and “you could see him click it.”

In yet another case, time limits imposed by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan were cited in an appeal. Lawyer Barry Gedan had protested during the trial that the time limit “is killing me,” but his appeal was unsuccessful.

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