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Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Judge Bruce COHEN << return to previous page
Specific Comments or Advice for Litigants Specific Requirements or Preferences I have profound respect for the court as an institution as well as for the professionals who appear in this court. I strive to show that respect to all who appear before me and ask for the same from the professionals. It is my firm belief that when any of us as professionals show a lack of respect to the institution or each other, we undermine the authority of the court and the rule of law in the eyes of those who appear before us.  
 
I also strongly maintain that everyone involved in the judicial system plays a key role, from judicial officer to counsel to clerk to court reporter, etc. It is therefore my belief that court staff and personnel are entitled to a similar level of respect as is due to any judicial officer or professional appearing before the court.  
Pre-Trial Practice and Management Issues Motion Practice Continuances: I place great faith and trust in the lawyers who appear before me. If an attorney maintains that time is needed to complete certain tasks or for other purposes, I am likely to grant relief for extensions. However, I tend to draft detailed minute entries that set forth tasks that remain to be completed as well as reasonable deadlines for the completion thereof. It is therefore important to follow through on identified tasks within identified time frames to maintain your credibility with the court.  
 
Communication between Counsel: When attorneys appear before me to address specific procedural or substantive issues, I will actively participate in the discussion to identify the precise issue as well as means to address the issue. It is therefore not only appropriate, but best practice, for counsel to confer before the scheduled court appearance so that at a minimum, there is a clear understanding of what is at issue.  
 
Inquiries from the Bench: I strive to be an active listener during oral arguments or other presentations to the court and will take liberties in asking questions. While I will do my best to allow for all presentations to be completed as seen fit by the presenting attorney, I appreciate direct answers to any direct questions I might pose.  
 
Specific Relief: If there is specific relief that is being sought, please make it clear early in your presentation as to precisely what you are seeking. This allows me to consider your arguments in context.  
 
Productivity: I am of the belief that all court appearances are potentially “irritating events” for litigants, victims, witnesses or any other people who appear in our courts on any case. It is my role to ensure that those appearances become “meaningful irritating events” so that the number of appearances and potential for delays are reduced. I ask that counsel be prepared to be as productive as possible at each scheduled court appearance, whether that relates to discussion of substantive issues, procedural matters or case planning/scheduling.  
 
Victims or Family Members: There are many who have a vested interest in the proceedings beyond the professionals involved or the defendant. I appreciate knowing when victims or family members of a defendant are attending so that I may at a minimum acknowledge their presence. When appropriate, I will also strive to coordinate scheduling with those individuals.  
 
Coordination: I do not focus on form over substance. As such, if there is a matter to be addressed for which my staff can assist in scheduling or coordination, I suggest that a phone call be placed to my judicial assistant, Jim (602-372-0686), in an effort to determine how we can assist in streamlining the scheduling of any matters of importance. If the request is supported by the opposing attorney, such is valuable information for my staff in attempting to meet the needs of any professionals who have matters scheduled in our division.  
 
Timely Appearances: Our division recognizes that professionals who appear before our division are often required to appear in multiple courts at or near the same time. Therefore, we will not make that more difficult for the professionals provided the professional keeps my staff and opposing counsel informed of any scheduling conflicts and provides updates as to the expected time of arrival (within reason). When this division is in trial and more timely appearances are required from counsel, court staff will attempt to contact counsel at least the evening before the scheduled appearance to request that the appearance by counsel occur as early as possible.  
 
Courtroom Presentation: The Court Reporters and Interpreters in our court are among the best of any court system. They have the arduous task of ensuring that information is properly communicated and recorded. PLEASE be mindful of their presence and speak clearly and at a reasonable pace to ensure that they can continue to provide the exceptional service they are known for in our court.
Discovery or Disclosure Disputes and/or Sanctions If there is a dispute as to discovery or disclosure, sanctions are the last course of action. My preliminary focus shall be on identifying the issue and attempting to develop a plan that will resolve the dispute fairly for both parties. Be prepared to work toward finding solutions to disputes of this nature rather than focusing on the findings of fault.
Trial Practice and Protocol Trial Schedule Schedule: Regular days and hours for trial are from 10:30 am until 4:30 pm, Monday through Thursday. There is a 90 minute lunch break between 12:00 and 1:30. When required, trials may be conducted on Fridays or may commence earlier on a given day.  
 
Time Allocation: I place great reliance on the time estimates from attorneys as to the length of any phase of the trial. I ask for realistic expectations rather than hoped-for parameters. It is my further belief that if there is a consistent short-coming as it relates to trial presentation, it is in the area of failure to edit. While all information may be relevant, that is not the same as concluding it to be necessary. Recordings of interviews or viewing of video portrayals of events can and should be edited to eliminate extraneous portions that are not needed by the jury. This is best accomplished by disclosing to the opposing party in advance of trial not only the full recorded version, but the edited version that is intended to be used at trial. This allows for any issues as to editing to be addressed at the start of trial and not during the trial when jury time is involved. Additionally, significant time can be preserved by the conferring between counsel before the start of any trial day to discuss exhibits that may be sought for introduction during that day’s proceedings. This routinely results in stipulations as to admissibility of numerous exhibits as well as a clear understanding of the basis for any objection.  
 
Preliminary and Final Jury Instructions: My staff and I will do our best to provide an initial draft of jury instructions as early in the trial process as practical. In most circumstances, the first drafts will be e-mailed to counsel well in advance of when the instructions are due to be finalized. They are provided solely to serve as a starting template and the inclusion or omission of any specific instruction at this stage is not a reflection of any inclination of the court for the final versions thereof.  
 
Bench Conferences: I have a fairly liberal view as to the granting of a request for a bench conference. All I ask is that the frequency of requests not be abused and that during a bench conference, only one attorney speaks at a time so that a clear record may be made. It is likely that this will require the attorneys to speak into the one microphone that exists at the bench so patience and coordination is critical.
Jury Selection I do not use “strike and replace.” The entire potential panel is asked general questions that relate to availability, understanding of the law (such as reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence) as well as personal experiences with the law and judicial system. Each time a break is taken, I confer with counsel and identify any specific jurors who may be considered to be struck for cause or excused. If there is no objection, the juror is struck or excused at that time. If either party objects, the juror remains at least through the next phase of the selection process. The questions on the back of the juror card are not asked until those jurors who clearly will not serve on this case are excused.  
Other Courtroom Policies and Recommendations My staff and I can better meet the needs of those who appear in our division by knowing whether what we are doing is effective. Please feel free to provide us with feedback or ideas as to how we can better meet our common objectives or the needs of the professionals and litigants who appear before us.
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