Judicial profile: Manish Shah
District Judge Manish Shah has been on the bench for almost two years, after being unanimously confirmed by the Senate in April of 2014. The Standing Committee on Federal Civil Practice continues its tradition of introducing you to our new judges and brings you a profile of Judge Shah.
Judge Shah graduated from the Stanford University in 1994, and he received his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1998. He served as an associate at Heller, Ehrman, White and McAullife in San Francisco from 1998 to 1999 when began his two year clerkship to Judge James Zagel on the United States Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Following his clerkship, Judge Shah joined the United States Attorney’s Office in Chicago in 2001, serving first in the General Crimes section. After serving ably in both the Narcotics and Public Corruption sections, he became Deputy Chief of General Crimes, followed by Deputy Chief of Financial Crimes and Special Prosecutions Section. He served as Chief of Criminal Appeals, ultimately being appointed to Chief of the Criminal Division.
Because Judge Shah came to the bench directly from the United States Attorney’s Office, he was not on the criminal wheel until a year into his tenure. He inherited civil cases (randomly assigned from other judges) and began receiving new civil filings for a total of about 300 cases.
At two years on the bench, Judge Shah has conducted over a dozen civil trials and his criminal docket continues to grow. Understandably, the judge has found that criminal sentencing is the most difficult part of his job – a sentiment shared by many judges.
The court’s docket is quite diverse, from patent cases to diversity tort cases and Title VII to Section 1983 actions, and everything in between. Surprised by the volume of prisoner litigation, the judge has become accustomed to pro se litigation that he had not experienced as a federal prosecutor. Judge Shah recruits pro bono counsel when necessary, including appointing settlement conference counsel. The judge generally handles his own discovery, referring only specific cases to the assigned Magistrate Judge. While he has done several settlement conferences himself, he finds that the experienced magistrate bench often provides the parties an insight that the judge who ultimately will rule on the merits may not be able to provide.
Having served on the 7th Circuit E-Discovery Pilot Program, the judge follows the Principles developed by the committee. He requires that persons with technical knowledge of any electronic discovery issue be present at hearings on ESI and conduct discussions with the other side.
Not surprisingly, the judge expects that attorneys are prepared and able to talk about the case at a status hearing. He prepares for the status hearing and expects the same from attorneys, enabling cases to move along. Judge Shah also reminds practitioners how small the legal world can become and suggests collegiality at all times.
Judge Shah has three law clerks, who mostly work on civil cases. His clerks have practiced prior to their clerkships and help the well-oiled machine of Judge Shah’s chambers. Even with a full staff, the volume of cases and press of other business (like trials, discovery, and criminal matters) increases the amount of time it takes to issue a ruling on substantive, dispositive motions in civil cases.
When asked for any final tips to pass along to lawyers, Judge Shah reminds lawyers how much paper comes through chambers on the approximately 300 cases assigned to him. He reminds attorneys to consult his web page about the form the pleadings. He warns against the insertion of argument and non-responsive information in Rule 56.1 statements. He notes that while he is open to extensions of time, attorneys must give reasons for not being able to meet previously set dates. Trial dates are firm except under extenuating circumstances. In terms of civil trials, he sits eight or more jurors.
The Committee thanks Judge Shah for sharing his tips of the trade!