Civil Practice Guidelines
I. Case Scheduling
- Stipulations or "Agreed" Entries are not sufficient to postpone case deadlines or trial dates in Courtroom 5F.
- Motions to amend the Civil Case Schedule should either be submitted in person at a conference with the court, or filed with the Clerk’s Office. Consult all other counsel before approaching the court.
- If a case genuinely appears likely to require a trial, alert chambers as early as possible so that a firm trial date may be assigned.
- When urgent attention is sought, please deliver copies of motions along with a proposed Entry for the Judge’s signature to Chambers 5F. E-Filing does not ordinarily provide instantaneous copies for the court.
II. Status and Pretrial Conferences
- The court does not routinely hold pretrial conferences or oral argument on motions. However, in cases of complexity or matters likely to actually go to trial the court will hold status conferences and a Final Pretrial Conference. Similarly, upon request the court will hear oral argument on significant motions. To assist in giving newer lawyers experience in court, requests for oral argument are more likely to be granted if a newer lawyer (five years or less at the bar) will argue the motion.
- Normally the court expects out-of-town (including pro hoc vice) trial counsel to attend all court proceedings in person, rather than by telephone or using only local counsel. Unless otherwise ordered, clients and insurance representatives need not attend pretrial proceedings in person.
- Local Rule 47.01 (PDF) requires counsel to make every effort to resolve discovery disputes prior to involving the court. This obligation is enforced in Courtroom 5F.
IV. Motions and Memoranda
- Counsel must obtain leave of court prior to filing a Motion or Memorandum out of rule or beyond the motion deadline in the Case Schedule. A Stipulation among counsel will not alter any deadline absent express approval by the court.
- Page limits (Local Rule 12 (PDF)) serve a salutary purpose. Ordinarily, counsel should edit tightly and live within the limits. To assist in meeting page limits, unless otherwise advised counsel may assume no briefing is necessary on the general legal standards applicable under Civil Rules 12, 26, 37, 56, 60(B).
- In responding to a Civil Rule 56 motion, it is very valuable to have counsel specifically identify precisely what, if any, material disputes of fact are asserted to exist. Citations to witness depositions or other parts of the record that demonstrate such disputes are, of course, essential.
- Stipulations of fact are valuable tools. Counsel should discuss stipulations before filing Civil Rule 56 motions, and whenever possible before significant pretrial discovery to reduce cost and delay.
- Even when agreed upon by counsel, Judge Frye does not favor "boilerplate" confidentiality/protective orders, particularly those that seek to place virtually all discovery material under some nondisclosure status. Recognize that material used for case-dispositive pretrial rulings or at trial is, ordinarily, a matter of public record.
- The court is pleased to assist in setting mediation conferences with a Magistrate, so long as they are not requested at the last minute, or delay a long-scheduled trial.
VI. Trial Procedures
- Ordinarily trials commence at 9 a.m. and recess for the day around 4:30 p.m. These hours can be altered somewhat to accommodate witness schedules. Once a jury is sworn we make it a priority to move trials to completion. Please plan accordingly.
- Motions in Limine are discouraged. They may be filed only after good faith discussion by counsel, and upon certification that reasonable efforts to resolve the issue(s) were exhausted.
- Trial briefs are not required. Counsel may submit copies of key cases or very short memoranda addressed to novel legal issues.
- Marking Exhibits during trial wastes time. The court reserves the right to exclude Exhibits not pre-marked and exchanged among counsel prior to trial. Whenever appropriate, counsel should use "Joint Exhibits;" marking duplicate exhibits for each side greatly confuses the record.
- Prior to opening statements, the court gives an oral charge to orient jurors to their role. The final jury charge is submitted to each juror in writing in all cases. The court has a standard set of "boilerplate" instructions covering burden of proof, credibility, rules for deliberating, and other matters common from case to case. However, trial counsel must consult and prepare case-specific portions of the final charge. Merely saying "we’ll just use OJI" leaves far too much work to complete and may delay trial.
- Local Rule 27.13(F) (PDF) sets out "Rules on Voir Dire." Because the court does preliminary questioning and juror questionnaires are available, lengthy voir dire is usually unnecessary.
- Challenges are normally exercised outside the presence of the jury.
- Stipulations should be presented as early as possible during trial to minimize confusion and avoid unnecessary questioning thereafter.
- Juror note taking is permitted.
- Questions from jurors during trial are not permitted.
- This court does not affirmatively "qualify" witnesses as "expert" in front of the jury because it suggests some endorsement of them by the court. Please do not ask during trial. If there is a Daubert challenge under the evidence rules on admissibility, counsel should raise the issue(s) as early as possible. If the issue arises late in the case, alert the court to voir dire the witness as to admissibility outside the presence of the jury.
- Display of Exhibits to the jury in opening statement, or before formal admission is permitted absent objection by opposing counsel. However, counsel are expected to share all such material with all other counsel before displaying it.
- Counsel should stand when addressing the court or jury on the record.
- Trial counsel are expected to remain available for jury questions or other developments on ten minutes notice during deliberations.
- The court sometimes imposes time limits on opening statements, voir dire, closing argument and the overall presentation of evidence where counsel are unable to reach stipulations of essentially undisputed facts or otherwise closely manage the anticipated duration of their case. Duplicative expert witnesses are, ordinarily, not permitted to testify at trial. Jurors in this court are ordinarily summoned for a one-week/one trial period. Hence, staying within a tight time frame is essential in all but the most complex trials.
- Refer to all adult witnesses or participants, including your own client(s), as "Mr." or "Ms." or use other appropriate titles such as "Dr." First names shall not be used.
- Consistent with Local Rule 22 (PDF), Counsel must call the Bailiff or Staff Attorney as soon as possible to advise when a case is settled. This Court normally has multiple trials scheduled every day; notice enables the Court and attorneys in other pending cases to plan appropriately. Furthermore, prompt notice avoids unnecessary work on motions after a matter already is resolved by the parties.