October 2015 Bar Bulletin
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October 2015 Bar Bulletin

Case Setting (in the Olden Days) Second of Two Parts

The Memoirs of John N. Rupp


When last we left you in September, Mr. Rupp was reminiscing about a typical day of case setting at King County Superior Court in the 1940s.

IAn interesting, if somewhat illogical, part of the procedure was "the one-pass rule". I don't know whether it was written anywhere, but we all knew that, if a case had not been called before, you were "entitled" to have it passed. You would say, "First call, Your Honor, please pass it". Sometimes you could get one passed more than once, especially if your opponent didn't holler, but the court's patience was not inexhaustible and the judge would likely say, "This is the third call of this case. It will be set today. Any suggestions?"

I shan't try to set down in extenso all the permutations and combinations that would be presented to the court about the setting for trial of McGraw v. McGillicuddy or any other case. We all knew the actors and about what to expect from each, and we'd exchange whispered comments and even a bet or two on what would happen. Here are some discrete examples.


"Plaintiff asks for May 23, Your Honor."

"That's impossible, Your Honor; Mr. McGillicuddy is out of the country until the middle of June. We ask for July 13."

"But that's not a jury week, Your Honor. We suggest he cut his vacation short and come back for May 23."

"Mr. McGillicuddy is in Argentina on business and not for a vacation. We suggest September 13."

And so it would go, back and forth, and eventually the case would be set. An analogy lies in the remark once made to me when I was suffering with a balky marine engine. "Well, captain", said the mechanic, "if there's gas going in there, and if there's electricity going to the spark plugs, we know damn well that pretty soon something will happen!"


"May 29, Your Honor."

"We can't possibly try it then, Your Honor. Mr. McKelvy's calendar is set solid until October."

Court: "Mr. Betts, Mr. McKelvy isn't the only lawyer in your big firm. This case has been passed twice, and unless you can give me a good reason for not setting it for May 29, that will be the date."


Another one was the "Federal Court ploy".

"June 10 is quite out of the question, Your Honor; we have a case in Federal Court that week, and we don't know how long it will take".

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