1. Do you have any prior personal or professional experience in family court?
2. What procedures are you following for emergency and/or ex parte motions (by phone or in person, representations as to efforts to notify the other side, go to the signing judge or a blocked judge)?
Depends on what is being requested, but we inquire as to what efforts have been made to contact the other side; we may have a joint telephone call to the other side, it varies from situation to situation.
3. How are you dividing the workload between judges and referees, in terms of types of cases and issues?
Judges and referees in Hennepin Family Court hear all cases/calendars except only judges hear the domestic abuse/Order for Protection calendars; referees handle the Paternity/County Attorney and Contempt calendars.
5. Are you using case management conferences, and if so, when in the process are they scheduled, who is present, who is conducting them (judge or referee), and are motions allowed to be considered?
We schedule initial case management conferences as soon as we can in dissolution, custody and paternity cases. All parties and counsel are present with the judge. Motions are generally not considered at that conference. Our focus is on ADR approaches and finding common ground to move people through the court in as little time with as little pain as possible.
6. Are you using and mandating any ADR, specifically including the settlement/arbitration program, judicial case management, early neutral evaluations, mediation, arbitration, or trials by private magistrates? What are the consequences of failing to do some type of ADR?
We use as many ADR procedures as work.
7. Are you imposing any timelines on Family Court Services for completion of their studies?
They currently complete custody studies in about 4 months; given the volume we have and the staffing limits, it would be difficult to impose any shorter timeframe.
8. What criterion are you using for the appointment of guardian ad litem, and is it any different for private guardians ad litem or guardians ad litem from the panel?
Our GAL office chooses the GAL depending on the case, the needs of the children and the availability of our guardians. We do not use private GALs.
9. Are you continuing to schedule trials on a day certain basis, or are you scheduling several trials at the same time for week certain consideration?
My trials are scheduled for Wednesdays and Thursdays; other days are unlikely to be available. They are scheduled for days certain.
10. Are you enforcing the timelines for motion paper filings, and if a violation occurs, what is your typical sanction?
That depends on the extent of the violation; I am likely to not consider the material.
11. What are your expectations of pro se litigants?
My expectation is that they do their best to comply with the rules and understand that I may rule against them on evidentiary issues, etc. due to their obligation to follow the rules even though they are not lawyers.
12. Do you have any policies or practices for controlling parties who continue to bring frivolous motions in the same case time and time again?
No, but I will develop one if it is needed.
13. Do you have any timelines that you enforce in moving a case from case management conference to temporary relief hearing to trial?
I try to avoid having a temporary hearing, and would rather move right to pre-trial and trial. We try to move cases through in 12 months or less, depending on the complexities involved.
14. Will you receive correspondence sent directly to the court from a neutral expert in the case?
Yes, so long as the parties are shown as copied on the correspondence (and they actually receive it as well, of course).
15. How would you characterize your willingness to award attorneys’ fees as a sanction in a case?
That depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.
16. What is your level of involvement in settlement discussions, and will you tell the parties what you would do in the case if the issue were then before you for decision?
I am happy to help the parties in any way that can accomplish a settlement, and would give a “preview” of my views, if helpful. Since we only have court trials, I am sensitive to the view of some lawyers that they do not want the judge involved in settlement.
17. What is your level of involvement in settlement discussions, and will you tell the parties what you would do in the case if the issue were then before you for decision?
Same question/same answer
18. Will you allow parties to have motions heard at pre-trial conferences?
That depends on the circumstances.