Sometimes, justice takes a long time. But the old saying, "justice delayed is justice denied" isn't just a rallying cry of civil rights plaintiff lawyers, it's truth according to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
And for the Fifth Circuit, a panel of judges had the unfortunate duty to essentially chastise a district court judge for taking too long to rule on a duo of motions. And if you think you have the right to complain because some judge made you wait a couple months to get a hearing or ruling, think again; the parties in the underlying matter had waited four years for a ruling on two motions.
Discretion Has Its Limits
Even after the parties requested relief from the appellate court over the years long delay, Judge Lynn Hughes of Texas's District Court for the Southern District didn't issue a ruling on the motions. Not so surprisingly, Judge Hughes didn't even respond to the appellate court when he was requested to file a response to the appellate briefs.
As the appellate court noted, the type of mandamus relief requested was unusual, particularly given the fact that judges are given quite a bit of discretion when it comes to controlling their dockets. Unfortunately for judge Hughes, as the order explains, "discretion has its limits."
What's Actually Ordered?
The appellate court's order requires Judge Hughes to hear and issue an order on the pending motions within 30 days. And while ordinarily a movant wouldn't want to antagonize a judge by going over their head before ruling on a motion, an attorney can only withstand so many Tom Petty jokes about waiting.