Updated with possible 10 January 2014 ruling date in 8th paragraph

The US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) challenge of American Airlines and US Airways’ proposed merger is moving forward, with a district court judge setting additional hearing dates ahead of the 25 November trial.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly set dates for various pre-trial motions and status updates in the case during a hearing at the US District Court for the District of Columbia today. She did not comment on a DOJ request to delay the trial while the US government remains shutdown.

The agency requests that all deadlines be extended “day-for-day with the duration of the lapse in appropriations”, in a court filing today. It is funded by the US federal budget, which expired on 30 September with no new budget passed by the US congress.

The district court says that it will remain open until at least 15 October before it will "reassess" the situation and provide further guidance.

John Majoras, a partner at Jones Day who represents American, says that they do not anticipate a delay. “You heard the judge today and the dates she set,” he says, referring to her focus on squaring away all of the pre-trial necessities before the 25 November date.

“We haven't filed a response and we don't intend to file a response,” says Majoras when asked whether American would respond to the DOJ’s delay request.

The government had previously requested a 3 March 2014 trial date for the case.

Kollar-Kotelly says that she hopes to rule on the case by 10 January 2014, which is more than a week before the merger agreement is scheduled to expire.

“I don’t know if I can do it but I look at it as a goal,” says Kollar-Kotelly on the January date. She anticipates a 12 to 15 day trial, meaning that it could wrap up as late as 16 December with scheduled federal holidays.

She is expected to take a few weeks to deliberate on the case before issuing a ruling.

Majoras says that he is glad that Kollar-Kotelly is aware of the deadline but declines to comment on whether her comments impact the airline’s case.

“We’re in this to try it,” he says.

Source: FlightGlobal.com