Criminal attorneys who practice in both federal and state court regularly experience the differences between the two systems. In the federal system, hearings are scheduled by specific date and time. In other words, the attorneys receive dates and times from the court staff telling them when they are to appear for their hearing. Typically, nobody else is present in the courtroom. The hearing is held, the judge either issues a decision or further instructions, and everyone moves on from there.
The state system is very different. Criminal judges have lists of matters that are scheduled for a given date, most often a Monday or a Friday. Most of these matters consist of arraignments, sentencing hearings, and relatively simple status conferences. Any given judge could have several dozen matters scheduled for the same time slot on one of those days, usually 9:00 am. The courtrooms and hallways are crowded with attorneys and defendants waiting to be heard, while the judge makes their way through the list. Many judges complete their list by the 12:30 lunch break. Matters unheard in the morning are held over until the afternoon, or given a new date. This means that attorneys, many of whom have to tend to other matters in other counties, are therefore detained in that court until they are heard or rescheduled, leaving other clients in other courts to simply sit and wait, and preventing the judges in the other counties from properly managing their list.
Numerous changes were implemented in the state system at the start of the pandemic with an eye toward meeting COVID safety requirements. Probably the most revolutionary change was the implementation of Zoom for court hearings. Zoom changed many things. It enabled state court staff to break up a long and congested calendar into specific time slots, each of which contained a relatively small number of matters. Defense attorneys and prosecutors had a better idea of when their appearance in court was actually necessary. Attorneys could sit in their offices and transact other business while waiting for their matter to be called, rather then wasting time sitting in the back of a courtroom, or driving between counties. Further, defense attorneys no longer had to devote large blocks of time to travel significant distances to cover a hearing that typically lasted between five and ten minutes.