Civil Practice Guidelines
- Professional behavior best serves your clients and the Court. Note that the "Introductory Statement on Civility" published at the front of the Local Rules for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio has universal applicability.
- Counsel and unrepresented parties are reminded that Court staff are unable, both legally and ethically, to engage in unilateral, or ex parte communications, or to provide advice regarding legal rights or duties. Counsel should set up conference calls with opposing counsel and unrepresented parties before calling the Court, or obtain opposing counsel’s approval, or at a minimum provide notice before contacting the Court ex parte. Opposing counsel and unrepresented parties should be "cc’d" on all emails with Court staff.
- The following guidelines are preferences for this court and are not meant to be exhaustive or inflexible. If special circumstances exist, the court will take those into consideration. All civil practice communication and submissions should be directed to the staff attorney, Michael Walton. Email is the preferred method of communication, but the staff attorney may also be reached at 614.525.4513.
II. Continuances or Amended Case Schedules
- Motions to amend the Case Schedule should be filed with the Clerk’s Office. Please be sensitive to the Local Rules governing presumptive time to trial for various types of cases, and invest your best effort to comply. Be certain to talk to all other counsel before approaching the court. If, as a result of the Civ.R. 26 Conference, the parties wish to amend the case management schedule, the parties shall provide a proposed entry modifying the case management schedule. The Court will not modify the case management schedule based only upon the Civ.R. 26 Conference report.
- Motions for continuance of a trial date, absent true emergency, must be in writing, and should be sought well before the Final Pre-trial Conference.
Any such Motion should affirmatively state:
- Whether, following consultation with all other counsel, the change is opposed
- Specific reasons supporting a continuance (and if applicable an amended Case Schedule).
- Proposed Entries should contain blank lines for both a new Final Pretrial date and a new Trial date, plus any other deadline changes anticipated. Normally, if the trial date is postponed a Final Pre-trial will be scheduled for two weeks before trial. If there is no opposition to the continuance or new Case Schedule, submit the time-stamped Motion and an Agreed Entry approved by all parties to enable the Court to make an immediate determination. If counsel would like input as to new trial or pre-trial dates, they should e-mail staff attorney Michael Walton or otherwise indicate their conflicting vacations or court assignments. Otherwise, new dates will be assigned at the Court’s discretion.
- Decisions regarding trial continuances or changes to the Case Schedule are made solely by the Judge, giving consideration to the complexity and age of the case, plus prior efforts of counsel to move the case to timely resolution.
III. Status and Pretrial Conferences
- Civil pretrial or status conferences may be conducted by either the Court, the Magistrate, or the Staff Attorney. Final Pre-Trial Conferences are in-person unless counsel have obtained prior approval to participate by telephone. Unless the Court otherwise orders, the Court requires only the attendance of counsel for represented parties. However, counsel should have their clients available by telephone.
- Pre-trial Statements in accordance with Local Rule 16.04 are required and must be filed three days prior to the Final Pre-Trial Conference.
- Topics to Confer Upon
- Prior to the Final Pretrial Conference trial counsel must confer about:
- Any Motions to be addressed prior to commencing trial
- Deposition transcripts or videotapes filed with the Clerk’s office that need to be retrieved, and for which evidentiary rulings must be made before presentation during trial
- The minimum number of days anticipated to conclude the trial, and whether time limits will be useful to keep matters moving
- The number of parties and witnesses participating in trial, and any special scheduling needs
- Their willingness to waive a jury and/or have the case heard by the Magistrate and a jury
- In the event of the failure of counsel to appear, failure to be prepared, or other non-compliance with Local Rule 41, the Court may dismiss the action for want of prosecution, enter default judgment, and/or impose sanctions.
- The court prefers parties try and resolve discovery disputes to their best ability before approaching the court. If a discovery dispute necessitates court intervention, however, the court prefers scheduling a status conference first to avoid unnecessary motion practice.
V. Motions and Memoranda
- Counsel shall include a working email address and phone number in the signature block of each motion filed.
- Agreed/unopposed motions should be accompanied by a proposed entry uploaded in Microsoft Word format through e-filing. Please indicate in the title of the motion and order that it is agreed/unopposed.
- It is necessary to obtain leave of court prior to filing a Motion or Memorandum out of rule or beyond the deadline set in the Case Schedule. Leave to file Motions late in a case may jeopardize the trial date and may be denied for that reason alone. Do not expect that a Stipulation among counsel will change any deadline absent court approval.
- Page limits (Local Rule 12 (PDF)) serve a salutary purpose given the heavy docket. Ordinarily, counsel should edit tightly and live within those page limits.
To assist in meeting page limits, unless otherwise advised in a specific case counsel should assume that no briefing is necessary on the legal standards for Motions filed under Civil Rules:
- In responding to a Civil Rule 56 Motion, it is most useful for the court to have counsel initially and specifically identify precisely what, if any, material disputes of fact are asserted to exist.
- The Court reserves the right to disregard pages of memoranda beyond the limits set in the Local Rules, absent prior leave to file longer documents.
- Except as provided in Local Rules 21 and 55, briefing of motions is controlled by Local Rule 21 (PDF). Accordingly, motions are generally not reviewed until 28 days after they are filed.
In the event that the matter requires more urgent attention, counsel shall promptly notify staff attorney Michael Walton. The Court strongly encourages advance discussion with opposing counsel prior to filing time-sensitive motions to seek agreements/stipulations on both the subject of the motion and any briefing deadlines.
- Upon the filing of a Motion for Restraining Order, Counsel shall contact the Staff Attorney to alert the Court to the filing and to be given a date and time as to when the Motion will be heard. Counsel is then required to notify the opposing parties, as well as their attorney if such representation is known, of the date and time that the Motion will be considered. Counsel shall file a certification setting forth all efforts made to provide notice to the opposing parties.
- If counsel desire to submit their case to mediation with Magistrate Hunt, simply e-mail the Staff Attorney and advise that counsel are in agreement. The court also encourages use of private mediators whose schedules may be more accommodating.
VII. Trial Procedures
- If you have a case that genuinely appears likely to require a trial, alert chambers as soon as you know so that we can do our best to allow enough time for pretrial proceedings, to attempt to avoid scheduling conflicts, and to try to assign a "firm" trial date.
- Ordinarily trials commence at 9:00 a.m. and recess for the day around 5 p.m. These hours can be altered somewhat to accommodate witness schedules. Pleas in criminal cases or other business of Courtroom 7F is sometimes conducted during the noon hour, but once a jury is sworn we make it a priority to keep jury trials moving to completion. Please plan accordingly.
- Trial witnesses can be taken out of sequence for the convenience of the witness, subject to objection by opposing counsel.
- Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, Motions in Limine must be filed at least 14 days before trial absent a showing of extraordinary circumstances. Responses are due 7 days after the motion in limine is filed. Copies should be e-mailed to the Staff Attorney. They may only be filed after discussion in good faith among counsel, and after counsel certify they have met and exhausted efforts to resolve the issue(s).
- Trial briefs are not required. Counsel may submit short memoranda addressing novel legal issues, or highlighting specific statutes or appellate decisions deemed central to deciding the case.
- Trial Exhibits must be pre-marked, copied, and exchanged prior to the Final Pretrial Conference. Trial counsel are responsible for eliminating duplicate exhibits (and should consider appropriate use of "Joint Exhibit" designations) and discussing formal matters such as authenticity well before the start of trial.
Please bring a separate list and copies of trial Exhibits for the court’s use during trial.
The court reserves the right to exclude Exhibits not pre-marked and exchanged among trial counsel.
- The final jury charge ordinarily is submitted in writing in all cases.
The court uses a standard set of "boilerplate" instructions covering the burden of proof, credibility of witnesses, rules for deliberating, and other matters common from case to case. However, trial counsel are required to discuss and prepare the case-specific portions of the charge. Identify any changes from OJI or other standard form instructions.
Counsel shall confer and attempt to agree upon joint jury instructions, interrogatories, and verdict forms and send them to the staff attorney in Word Format via email three days before trial. If counsel do not agree upon joint jury instructions, one draft shall be submitted to the staff attorney via email, with differences highlighted, three days before trial. The Court requires one draft so that the differences are easily discernable and so that edits are easily accomplished.
- Review Local Rule 27.13(F) (PDF) for the "Rules on Voir Dire." Because juror questionnaires are available, lengthy voir dire is unnecessary. Thirty to forty minutes per side normally is adequate.
The court usually empanels 8 jurors plus 2 alternates in civil cases.
Challenges are normally exercised outside the presence of the jury.
- Examination of witnesses beyond re-direct or re-cross is not permitted.
- Stipulations should be presented as early as possible during trial to avoid unnecessary questioning thereafter. Stipulations of fact are valuable tools for both civil motions and civil trials. Stipulations of uncontested facts are strongly encouraged and aid the court and jury in learning about a case with unnecessary delay, and without prejudice to any party’s rights.
- Juror note taking is permitted.
- Questions from jurors during trial are not permitted.
- The court does not rule on the qualification of expert witnesses absent specific objection to specific questions. If there are Daubert issues counsel should address them with each other and, barring agreement, with the court at the Final Pretrial Conference.
- Display of Exhibits to the jury in opening statement, or before formal admission is permitted absent objection by opposing counsel. Again, be certain to share all such matters with all other counsel before displaying any exhibit.
- Trial counsel are expected to be available on ten minutes notice during jury deliberations. Always leave your cell phone number with the bailiff.
- The court reserves the right to impose time limitations on the presentation of evidence where counsel are unable to manage the anticipated duration of their presentations. The court discourages presentation of duplicative expert witnesses.
- Refer to participants, including your own client(s), as "Mr." or "Ms." or other appropriate title such as "Dr." rather than by first names in open court.
VIII. Notices of Settlement
- Consistent with Local Rule 22 (PDF) Counsel must call or e-mail the Staff Attorney or Secretary as soon as possible to advise when a case has been settled.
- This Court normally has multiple trials scheduled every day and such notice will enable the Court and attorneys in other pending cases to plan appropriately. Furthermore, prompt notice avoids unnecessary work on a case by the court after the matter has already settled.
- Normally a formal notice will be sent by chambers confirming settlement, and advising counsel of the deadline to file a final entry or stipulation of dismissal. In matters requiring approval from the Probate Court or other unusual circumstances, more time will be allotted. If the final entry or stipulation is not timely received, the Court will dismiss the case from the active docket, pursuant to Local Rule 25.03 (PDF).