A calendar call is a pre-trial meeting that a judge holds with the attorneys in a case to set a date for trial, as well as to arrange certain pre-trial details. Calendar calls are facets of the common law system. The common law system originated in England, and is used in various forms there and in the United States, Canada, and Australia, among other countries. The calendar call is an administrative meeting that is meant to be purely functional. Some attorneys attempt to exact strategy in calendar call meetings, however, by vying for an early or late trial date, depending on the perceived strength of their client’s case.
Filing a lawsuit sets a legal case in action, but nothing will happen in a courtroom without certain administrative tasks. Most of these happen, or at least begin, at the calendar call. When a court receives legal filings and the initiation of a lawsuit, the first thing the court will usually do is assign the matter to a judge. That judge will then contact the representatives of both the plaintiff and the defendant to schedule a calendar call in order to fit the matter into the judge’s docket.
A trial number is assigned at the meeting, and a trial date is set. Attorneys can sometimes negotiate the trial date. Attorneys who have other cases or trials that could conflict usually get preference in making scheduling requests.
Sometimes, attorneys will attempt to manipulate the trial date, requesting it either earlier or later as a strategy. A lawyer with a weak case may want more time to build his evidence, while a lawyer who perceives the other side’s case to be weak may want to move things along more quickly. Trial date manipulation is typically not allowed, but sometimes happens regardless.
Calendar calls are perhaps most important in criminal trials. In the common law system, certain rights are afforded to criminal defendants and the accused, including, in most countries, the right to a speedy trial. Quick calendaring of a trial date after an arrest assures that criminal defendants are not held in custody or required to pay bail for longer than a certain reasonable amount of time. The rights of the accused are typically taken seriously, and can be grounds for damages and court sanctions if not properly protected.
Calendar calls are standard legal procedure for almost any court matter, whether it is a full-fledged criminal trial or something as minor as a traffic hearing. Many minor matters are heard the same day they are scheduled. In these instances, a judge will typically hold a mass calendar call first thing in the morning, and everyone with a claim or a petition will appear, in turn, to receive a trial appointment time.
The manner in which calendar calls are held and the flexibility that may exist in scheduling varies by court, and even within courts by judge. All trials and hearings must be scheduled, but how that scheduling happens is usually a matter of discretion. Similarly, there are always consequences for failing to abide by the dates and requirements set at a calendaring meeting, but the specifics of what those consequences are vary.