FINAL TRIAL (JURY AND NON-JURY)

PROCEDURES FOR SETTING A TRIAL/PRE-TRIAL HEARING

Mediation is required in all civil cases before you can receive a trial setting.


Bench Trial that is anticipated to last 4 hours or less: 

Counsel/parties must file a Setting Request for Jury or Non-Jury Setting along with a Certificate of Conference indicating the parties have attempted/discussed setting dates and agreed dates, if any, are included in the Request. Parties my use the Court's online calendar to select potential trial dates.  If parties are unable to agree upon setting dates or fail to communicate with one another, a Pre-trial setting will be required.  Once the Court  sets the trial, the Court will also enter a Trial Preparation Order.  All Counsel and parties are expected to be familiar with and comply with that order.


Bench Trials anticipated to take more than 4 hours, bench trials where counsel/parties cannot agree to setting dates or Jury Trials: 


The following procedures must be followed:


1. PRE-TRIAL SETTING: File a setting request for a PRE-TRIAL SETTING using the Setting Request For Jury or Non-Jury Trial Setting with the Clerk to be forwarded to the Court Coordinator.  Your setting request should allow sufficient time at the Pre-Trial Setting to discuss:


  • requirements for trial; 
  • to ensure discovery is complete or will be completed before trial;
  • to narrow issues;
  • to set deadlines for any additional discovery, mediation and submission of documents;
  • discuss dates for trial, time requirements/constraints;
  • any remaining issues to be addressed;
  • what issues will be addressed at trial, and; 
  • any other matters needed to be resolved before a trial can be heard.


The Court will enter a Trial Preparation Order at the Pre-Trial Hearing.  A Scheduling Order may, at the request of counsel or on the Court's own motion, be entered at the pretrial setting.


2.  All requests for trial settings must be in writing on the Trial Setting Request form. Before the Pre-Trial Hearing the parties should discuss mutually agreeable trial dates.  You may select potential dates from the Court's online calendar or communicate with the Court Coordinator to select potential dates to be included in the setting request.  By signing the Setting Request, you are certifying the prerequisites for setting a case for trial have been met as outlined on the Trial Setting Request Form including time estimates for trial and the names and mailing addresses of opposing counsel, ad litems or pro se parties. 

 

3. File the form with the District Clerk/do not email it to the coordinator.   


4. Only an attorney of record/attorney in charge or the pro se party may file the trial setting request. 


A request for a pretrial raises a presumption that the requesting party will be ready for trial on the trial date. All attorneys and pro se litigants shall appear for the pre-trial setting with their calendars and shall be prepared to discuss the issues. Failure to appear at the pre-trial setting may result in dismissal for want of prosecution and a default judgment being entered.  Mediation must occur before the trial date. The jury charge shall be submitted to the Court on a CD and in writing.  YOU MUST READ AND BE PREPARED TO FILE THE ITEMS LISTED BELOW BEFORE TRIAL.  By filing a setting request for trail, you are certifying you are prepared to file all necessary documents as set forth below within the required timelines.  


In all contested custody matters, social studies, if required, and mediation are to be completed or scheduled prior to obtaining a trial date.  In addition, the parties must file sworn inventories and a proposed property division before trial. 


BEFORE TRIAL:

In ALL CIVIL CASES, the parties must submit to the Court the following information prior to trial:


1. All Exhibits shall be pre-marked and exchanged with opposing counsel (or "party" if pro se) not later than three (3) days prior to trial;


2. Counsel shall prepare an Exhibit List  listing each exhibit to be admitted and file same with the Court on the day trial begins and, counsel shall, not later than three (3) days prior to trial, communicate with opposing counsel to determine which of those exhibits to be offered are without objection;


3. Counsel shall prepare a Witness List  listing each witness who may be called to testify (rebuttal witnesses may be excluded from this list, however, experts must be designated according to the rules) and file same with the Court on the day of trial;


4. Counsel shall notify the Court not later than three (3) days prior to the beginning of a jury trial if there are any Daubert/Robinson challenges and schedule the hearings prior to the jury selection process;


5. A "courtesy copy" of exhibits, documents and reports to be offered in trial shall be provided to the Court on the day of trial;


6. Motions in Limine shall be filed in aand heard prior to the beginning of the trial on the merits; and


7. For all jury trials, if an additional pretrial hearing is needed, notify the Court at the time of the initial Pretrial hearing and it will be set for hearing prior to trial;


8. All parties must provide the Court with a written copy of their requested relief prior to the start of the Hearing or Final Trial;


9. If the matter is to be tried to a jury, the parties must submit a proposed jury charge to the Court and the other parties three (3) days prior to trial.  The proposed charge shall be in WORD format and editable.


In ADDITION to the above, in all Family Law cases, the parties must submit to the Court the following information prior to trial commencement:


1. Current Inventory and Appraisement shall be filed three (3) days prior to trial;


2. Current and signed Financial Information Statement shall be presented to the Court on the day of trial;


3. Counsel shall prepare a Proposed Property Division for submission to the Court on the day of trial;


4. Counsel shall prepare a Proposed Parenting Plan in cases where custody is an issue for submission to the Court on the day of trial;


5. File proof of completion of For Kids Sake Course, or an equivalent parenting program on the date of trial;


If settled prior to trial date, immediately give notice of settlement to the Court. 


A Pretrial Conference may, at the Court's discretion or on motion of a party, be scheduled prior to trial to discuss any final trial questions, narrow legal issues, discuss the  Court's charge, etc.

HOURS

Typical trial hours are from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with lunch from 12:00 Noon to 1:30 p.m. The courthouse closes at 5 p.m. If it is anticipated that the trial will need to go past 5 p.m., counsel should notify the Court at least one day in advance to allow for additional court and security resources.

Time limits for voir dire, opening statements, closing statements, and trial will be determined at pre-trial on a case-by-case basis.    c

NOTE TAKING

Jurors will be allowed to take notes. Appropriate instructions will be given by the court to the jurors.

WITNESSES

Witness List: 

Witness lists shall be provided to the court with an extra copy for the court reporter on the day of the trial. 


Witness 

Witnesses are required to remain seated in the witness stand during their testimony. The Court may grant permission for the witness to move to some other location while testifying. If a witness is allowed to move about the courtroom, the witness will be so situated so the court reporter can clearly hear the testimony and the jurors can see and hear the witness. 


Due to the poor acoustics in the district Courtroom, the witness must use the microphone provided in the witness stand. Avoid having the witness step away from the witness stand and away from the microphone. A witness who fails to speak clearly and use the microphone may be interrupted and reminded to use the mic and speak clearly.


Non-Responsive Witnesses 

The Court expects witnesses to be responsive to questions, particularly on cross-examination. Witnesses who persist in evasive, non-responsive answers unduly prolong trials and waste the time of both the Court and jury. Counsel should advise their witnesses that they should answer the question propounded. The Court will allow a brief explanation after the witness answers the question propounded but redirect or re-cross is the time for detailed explanations of previous answers. A witness who persists in making nonresponsive answers will be considered contumacious. 


Avoiding this situation is in the best interests of your client, since jurors tell me that a witness’ credibility suffers when they won’t answer questions. Expert witnesses are probably the worst offenders, and it is money wasted to pay an expert to provide opinions and testify if the jury will not give their testimony the weight that it may deserve simply because they refuse to respond to questions when the answer is obvious.

VOIR DIRE

Time Limits:

Time for voir dire depends on the complexity of the case. Generally, it is advisable to stay in time limit of 45 minutes a side. The Court does not generally place “hard” time limits for voir dire or opening statements, but may impose restrictions if counsel becomes repetitive, argumentative, or wasteful of time. Please notify the Court before trial if you believe your voir dire will exceed 1 hour. 

Procedures:

1. The Clerk shall align the Juror Information Cards in numerical order and seat the panel in numerical order. The Judge will qualify the panel and accept or reject any excuses. After the final panel is determined, the attorneys must make their decision on whether or not a shuffle will be requested. The court will recess the panel to give the clerk time to copy the jury cards and to make a new list of names of jurors, either in shuffled order or in numerical order. When the new list is completed, and cards copied the clerk will re-seat the jury according to the list and voir dire will begin. The attorneys and judge will be furnished a copy of the list and jury information cards.


2. Do not unilaterally bring a jury questionnaire to the first day of trial. Discuss this with the Court at the pretrial conference or before the day of trial. No jury questionnaire will be permitted unless agreed by all counsel. 


3. If trying a case with co-counsel, unless approved with the Court before hand, only one lawyer may conduct voir dire, which includes discussion with Court regarding challenges for cause.


4. Challenges for cause will be made after all parties are completed with their voir dire examination of the panel. After all counsel have completed their voir dire examination, the attorneys will be asked to approach the Bench. Counsel will be asked in turn for the Juror Number of the jurors whom they wish to challenge for cause. If, in the opinion of the Court, sufficient evidence has been adduced to support a ruling, the challenge will be granted or denied without further questions. Otherwise, the panel member will be called to the Bench and each counsel will be allowed a few questions. The panel member will then be excused to return to their seat, and the challenge will be ruled on outside the presence of the panel member. 

If any panel member responds to questions during voir dire examination in a manner which makes it clear that they possess such strong opinions that a challenge for cause will clearly be good, and there exists a possibility that further responses may “poison” the entire panel, counsel should diplomatically terminate the inquiry and avoid further inquiries in the presence of the panel. If adverse counsel has a good-faith belief that the panel member can be rehabilitated, it will be pursued on an individual basis after the general voir dire examination. 


Counsel will be allowed to tell the panel what their contentions are in order to provide a context for their voir dire examination. Detailed recitations of facts should be reserved for opening statements. 


If panel members ask counsel about the existence of insurance or any other specific factual matter, counsel should direct the question to the Court. 

Reported Voir Dire:

Counsel must request voir dire to be reported. If voir dire is reported, counsel should ensure that a panel member is identified for the record and before their comments.

Power Points or Visual Aides:

If counsel intends to use a PowerPoint or similar presentation during voir dire, the presentation should be presented to the Court and opposing counsel at the pretrial conference or it may be prohibited from use.