1. What are your preferred procedures regarding motion practice?
Motions are heard all days of the work week at 9:00 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. One courtesy copy of each party’s legal memorandum should be delivered to the court chambers at least two business days prior to the hearing. Generally, one half hour is set aside for civil motions with 15 minutes allocated to each party. If it is anticipated that more time may be needed, please inform the clerk when scheduling the hearing. Motions are heard in the courtroom with a court reporter. When the matter is a TRO, a hearing will generally be scheduled the same day or the next day with notice to the other side.
2. What are your preferred procedures regarding hearings?
Call if you will be late. Hearings are held formally in the courtroom with a court reporter present. Address your remarks to the court, not opposing counsel. The court expects civility and compliance with the rules of decorum.
3. What do you expect the attorneys to have ready at the pretrial conference?
Pretrials will be scheduled only at the request of the parties and generally only after ADR has been unsuccessful. Most, if not all discovery, should be completed. Attorneys should be fully knowledgeable about their case and have full settlement authority. All parties with authority to settle must be present or available by telephone.
4. At what point to you expect the parties to undertake ADR, if at all?
ADR is required on most cases and must be completed prior to the scheduling of a pretrial conference. A deadline for the completion of ADR is generally set four to five months from the issuance of the scheduling order. If the parties are unable to agree on an ADR process and/or neutral within 30 days of the scheduling order, the court will appoint a process and/or a neutral.
5. At what point, if any, do you encourage the parties to settle or to exchange settlement offers/demands? Does that vary by type of case (personal injury, family, criminal, etc?)
Early settlement is always encouraged.
6. Do you require that a person with ultimate authority to settle be present at settlement negotiations?
See No. 3.
7. How do you expect the parties to handle discovery disputes (including calling you for a ruling during a deposition)?
I believe most discovery disputes should be resolvable by the parties, with issues of relevance and/or admissibility to be determined by the court immediately prior to trial. No discovery dispute may be brought to the attention of the court unless the parties have conferred and made a good faith effort to settle their dispute. The party raising an unresolved discovery issue shall first arrange a telephone conference with the court to determine if the dispute can be resolved without a formal motion. No motion papers or other submissions shall be filed prior to the telephone conference. Only if the telephone conference does not resolve the dispute may a formal motion be scheduled.
Generally, these telephone conferences are not transcribed. I am open to being available for phone conferences, without a reporter, during depositions. On rare occasions, I have arranged for a conference room at the courthouse for the taking of depositions where the deponent is reluctant or hostile and frequent requests for court intervention are anticipated.
8. Do you conduct hearings and motions by phone? If so, please describe the procedures you would like attorneys to use to do so, including how testimony is to be transcribed and who puts the teleconference together?
Generally, other than discovery disputes, I do not conduct hearings or motions by telephone, unless circumstances of emergency or unavailability create the necessity. These rare telephonic hearings would be transcribed by a court reporter.
9. Do you have any preferences for courtroom decorum (including but not limited to cell phones, pages, passing notes, communicating with others at counsel table, water/beverages at counsel table, approaching the witness, courtroom attire)?
All electronic devices must be off in the courtroom. Communications and passing of notes at counsel table is acceptable as long as they are not disruptive. Water pitchers and cups are provided at counsel table. Generally, no children under the age of 17 are permitted in the courtroom while it is in session. Be on time.
Counsel should stand when addressing the court and confine their remarks to the court, rather than to opposing counsel. Counsel should be mindful of the court reporter by speaking clearly and slowly and in the direction of the court reporter. Objections should be stated in one or two words and never argued in front of the jury.
Proper court attire is expected, unless the hearing is an emergency.
10. When, if ever, would you consider issuing sanctions, formal reprimands, holding an attorney in contempt, or reporting an attorney for unethical behavior?
I have and will impose monetary sanctions to compensate an aggrieved party. So far, no situations have arisen during my judicial career that would justify finding an attorney in contempt and/or reporting an attorney for unethical conduct.
11. Under what circumstances do you accept ex parte communications from counsel? Do you consider an attorney’s communication with your clerk a potential ex parte communication?
Ex parte communications with either of my clerks is permissible for procedural and scheduling issues and other housekeeping matters. In the case of a default, waiver of appearance or no show without excuse, I may engage in ex parte communication on substantive issues with the party present usually on the record. E-mail communications with my clerks are also acceptable as long as all parties are included.
12. What is your practice with granting continuances and under what circumstances would you consider granting one?
Trial continuances are rarely granted except in emergency situations, even if the parties are in agreement. I try to accommodate counsels’ schedules by granting requests made in advance for a trial week or day certain. Continuances on motion hearings are generally granted if both parties are in agreement. Also, requests to extend deadlines contained in the scheduling order, including the discovery deadline, are generally approved, especially if the parties are in agreement and the dispositive motion date is still at least 60 days in advance of the trial block.
13. With respect to oral argument, do you prefer an attorney to assume you have read the supporting memorandum and exhibits and not reiterate written material?
Usually I have read all the motion papers and supporting memorandum prior to a hearing and will indicate that in court. I will let you know what issues are of particular interest or concern to me. Generally, one half hour is set aside for the entire hearing. When scheduling a hearing, please let my clerk know if you anticipate needing more time for the hearing so we can accommodate your request.
14. What do you consider to be the basic requirements of good oral argument (including the amount of time appropriate for oral argument)?
I prefer that oral argument be organized, succinct and to the point on the legal issues. I do tend to ask questions – acknowledging that I may not be as knowledgeable about the facts or the legal specialty of the case as the attorneys are.
15. What preferences do you have for jury trials? How do you prefer voir dire to be conducted?
Prior to trial, counsel should pre-mark all exhibits with consecutive numbers, provide witness lists, proposed jury instructions and special verdict forms, and a statement of the case to be read to the jury. I prefer to rule on all pretrial issues prior to beginning voir dire. I prefer an informal discussion on how we want voir dire to go and what, if any, questions the attorneys would like me to ask.
Generally, trial, whether a jury or court trial, is held between 9:00 a.m. and noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. with one 20 minute break in the morning and afternoon. If, during the trial, counsel wishes to put certain matters on the record outside the presence of the jury, please alert the court so a time can be arranged so the jury is not left waiting.
The court reporter does not usually report bench conferences. If counsel wishes their arguments to be on the record, I prefer to continue with the trial and put those arguments on the record during a break in the proceeding rather than ask the jury to step out.
16. What are the most common mistakes lawyers make in advocacy before you (written or oral)? What do the best advocates before you have in common?
The best advocates are prepared, on time, display a professional demeanor, are courteous to opposing counsel and respectful of the court and the court’s staff. Personally attacking opposing counsel, failing to acknowledge contrary law, and attempting to mislead the court as to the facts of the case or the applicable law are unacceptable behaviors.
We all, including the court, make mistakes and sometimes our life situations can cause us to become distracted or overwhelmed. Good attorneys and judges take responsibility for their mistakes, including being late, missing new or contrary law, and failing to timely respond.