What's the average response time for a Federal District Court?

For a district court located in a populated district.

Also, is there a maximum time? I don’t see how someone seeking injunctive relief would ever get that relief if the courts take years to respond.

When I worked for the federal courts a while back, there was a concerted effort to dispose of motions within six months to avoid a negative report to the Administrative Office under the Civil Justice Reform Act, but that’s been a while, so don’t hold me to that. If you don’t mind my asking, if this for a specific legal case you’re involved in or for general information? You’ve asked a lot of law related questions recently, fairly specific ones.

Response to what? You need to specify.

If you mean from the time you file a complaint till the court picks up the papers and “does something,” that will likely be a few months (the “something” will be in the nature of a scheduling conference).

If you mean time to trial and disposition after you file a complaint, a couple years likely.

If you mean response to a particular motion, likely a few months.

There are no maximum times generally for courts to do anything (under Article III they serve “during good behavior,” which has generally made it hard to treat judges as anything other than self-regulating absent overt corruption).

If they are taking a ridiculously long amount of time (years) to do something simple, you could always seek a writ of mandamus from an appeals court (note: “always” could be overstating the procedural ease at various stages of the case). N.B. people generally don’t do that even in cases of long, long delay, because the remedy is for the appeals court to remand the case with instructions to the district judge to expedite X – in which case you may have a P.O.d judge making a swift but angry-at-you decision on the substance of X.

You mention injunctions. If you really, really think you need immediate injunctive relief (there’s a multi-factor showing you have to make, turning mainly on irreparable harm and inadequacy of money damages), you apply for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order. If you’re super desperate, you request hearing on an expedited basis or ex parte (without waiting for the other side’s answer). There’s still no guarantee it will be heard on any particular schedule, but it will likely be heard somewhat to very faster, depending on the circumstances. If you make a compelling showing on the injunctive requirements (i.e. you’re suing to preserve a historic building that’s about to be demolished; the launch of your key product is being threatened by a cheap Chinese knockoff that could doom it from ever succeeding; etc.), you probably will get a reasonably urgent response from the court (meaning, it could be within days). People can and do seek preliminary injunctive relief for things that they think are urgent but that the court believes aren’t super urgent (i.e., generally, the court determines that if you turn out to be right, they can make you whole by upping the damages, which is often the case), your preliminary injunction request may not be ruled upon for a good while, sometimes for sufficiently long that the failure to schedule a hearing on it amounts to a de facto denial of it (which might be noted as a footnote in some other order).

You can find the government’s own statistics about the federal courts here. I have no idea whether any of it will be helpful to you.

And is this along with the standard complaint/petition or is it a side-application?
How does one go about applying for a preliminary injunction?

The realistic answer is that there is no practical way to cause a federal judge to issue a decision with any promptness. As was mentioned, there is really no way to discipline a tardy judge, much less fire them because they are appointed for life.

Some judges are better than others, but even the fastest judges can take months and months to decide a complex motion.

Judges are usually faster on preliminary injunction motions, because by definition there has to be a claim of some immediate harm, but not always. I’ve had a district judge sit on an injunction motion for well over a year without scheduling oral argument. (What the judge was doing was, in effect, a pocket veto, forcing the parties have expedited discovery on some of the issues before addressing the injunction. Ultimately the case settled before the judge had to decide on the injunction.)

The courts have streamlined their procedures for discovery disputes, generally addressing them in conferences after brief letter applications, but for substantive motions, the judge’s chambers can turn into a large black hole.

Technically I don’t see a reason one couldn’t file a complaint on Monday and a motion for preliminary injunction on Friday, but in most cases you would see someone (who wanted a preliminary injunction) filing a complaint in which the prayer for relief included a request for preliminary injunction, but they might concurrently file a separate or attached “motion for preliminary injunction and expedited/ex parte hearing” (or whatever). Different courts might have different preferences for how the papers get bunched and filed (for instance, some courts/bars consider the “motion” to be only a single page of paper saying “A respectfully moves for an Order that X be done, for the reasons more fully set forth in the accompanying Complaint and concurrently-filed Brief In Support of Motion For X.” Other times you will see that the paper labeled “Motion” also includes the legal arguments in support thereof (which you’ll certainly need to spell out, with persuasive facts, to ever hope to get a preliminary injunction). Filing the preliminary injunction request/motion at the same time as the complaint makes a lot of sense because (a) if you delay, your opponent will say “well, it can’t be that urgent if it took them three weeks to file the motion,” and (b) the court staff (Clerk) will be given the heads up (assuming they are diligent and solicitous of truly urgent cases but also of the Judge’s schedule) that you want to speed up the normal pace that the case would otherwise take, and can schedule hearings, etc. accordingly.

The relevant numbers, which should be in there, are things like district-to-district comparisons of time-to-trial/.time-to-disposition. I doubt there will be time-to-decision-on-preliminary-injunction.

Judges do look at those numbers and care about (some of them). Naturally (despite their de facto immunity from discipline for sloth), they have a baseline interest in being seen as efficient and effective, so they can be a little competitive/boastful about keeping their key statistics, such as time to trial, competitive with other judges in the district or other districts. Other times though they might (for example) have an interest in portraying their court as overly swamped in, for example, a bid to have a new judge’s seat authorized or some other form of increased resources from the federal court administrators. A cynic might further speculate that the statistics that aren’t tallied at all (like I don’t know – time to enter a judgment after completion of trial, or time to hear post-trial motions) are the ones the judges might really drag their feet on. Not sure if motions for prelim. injunction fall into that camp.

To be fair, in cases that are truly urgent, or would truly screw things up or make the requested relief moot if preliminary hearing weren’t granted (my example of demolishing a historic building, labor disputes where you’re threatening to cancel an entire NFL season, whether Obamacare can go into law), judges and support staff can and do act very, very expeditiously (matter of days or even hours) – you’ll also hear anytime there is a last-minute capital appeal with an execution date pending that the Supreme Court clerks are poised with their hands over the phone as Midnight or whatever approaches, ready to alert the Justices if a plausible last-minute petition comes across their desk. It’s just that most litigation is civil litigation, usually commercial, and most judges have sufficient business background to know that business is bureaucracy and most business disputes can be adjusted on the back end with damages and going-forward injunctions.

The OP’s user name and the fact that he’s a guest indicate that this is for a specific case.

Fortunately the nature of the question means it has been pretty easy, in fact necessary, for anyone to avoid speculating or giving anything that would purport to be legal advice as such . . . .