Civil Trial Practice
The Court sets a date certain for the trial at the initial Scheduling Conference after consultation with counsel. Attorneys must bring their schedules to the conference to avoid conflicts. Because the Court consults with the attorneys before setting a trial date, adjournments are rarely granted.
If issues arise regarding the date set for trial, the Court is available to conduct a status conference, either by telephone or in person, by contacting the case manager.
The Court may conduct a status conference with the parties to discuss the structure and expectations in advance of the bench trial.
For bench trials, each party should submit, through the Utilities function in CM/ECF, proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law at least one week before the first day of trial. The proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law should be clearly numbered and contain only one fact or legal element per number. Findings of fact and conclusions of law should be clear and concise.
The Court may make findings of fact and law orally from the bench, or may take the matter under advisement and issue a written opinion and order at a later date.
Proposed Joint Final Pretrial Orders should not be filed on the docket. Rather, the proposed Joint Final Pretrial Order must be submitted through the Utilities function in CM/ECF on or before the date set forth in the scheduling order.
Counsel is directed to consult and strictly comply with Local Rule 16.2 governing the proposed Joint Final Pretrial Order.
If plaintiffs do not convene a conference or initiate the process of completing the Joint Final Pretrial Order, or if defendants fail to respond, either party may file a Notice of Failure to Complete the Joint Final Pretrial Order on or after the date the Order is due to be filed on the docket. The Notice must indicate that the party filing the Notice attempted to communicate with the other parties prior to filing the Notice. Counsel must separately submit, through the Utilities function in CM/ECF, its own proposed Final Pretrial Order.
The following persons shall personally attend the final pretrial conference:
Representatives must possess full authority to engage in settlement discussions and to agree upon a full and final settlement.
If a governmental entity is a party, then agency counsel or another person with settlement authority must attend along with counsel for the government, unless counsel for the government has settlement authority and has requested leave of the Court to attend without a client representative.
The parties must meet and confer before trial to discuss jury instructions. The parties must submit, through the Utilities function in CM/ECF, a single set of all stipulated proposed jury instructions and a verdict form no later than the date set forth in the Scheduling Order.
The parties must also submit any instructions they cannot agree on by the same date. All such instructions are to be submitted in Microsoft Word and each instruction shall contain references to authority.
The Court has its own standard introductory and concluding instructions.
Voir dire will be conducted by the Court with follow-up questions permitted by counsel. Counsel should submit proposed voir dire questions, through the Utilities function in CM/ECF or in person, at least five days in advance of the trial. Jurors will be excused without disclosing which side excused them.
Jurors will be permitted to take notes during trial. The Court will discuss this at the Final Pretrial Conference and any objections will be addressed at that time.
The Court specifically instructs the jury in advance on this issue. The Court will consider, on a case by case basis, whether or not jurors will be permitted to submit questions to be asked by the Court.
Although counsel is expected to raise foreseeable evidentiary issues by motions in limine before trial, if evidentiary problems arise during trial, counsel should raise them before or after the trial day, or during a break, to avoid jury down time while such problems are solved.
No later than one week before the Final Pretrial Conference, each party shall make available for inspection all exhibits the party anticipates introducing at trial. This provision shall not extend the time for disclosure and inspection of material previously ordered.
The time for trial each day will be set by the Court on a case-by-case basis. In general, however, jury trials begin at 9:00 and bench trials begin at 10:00 each day.