Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Judge Margaret R. Mahoney
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Pre-Trial Practice and Management IssuesMotion Practice • E-filing is not available in Juvenile. Hard copies of all filings should be delivered to my Division.
• Counsel should make every effort to file written motions, rather than making oral requests during a proceeding. Oral requests are inefficient, time consuming, and often create a poor record. Most importantly, oral motions on significant matters put the Court and the parties other than the movant at the disadvantage of not having had prior notice and the opportunity to consider the issues raised orally.
• Page limitations must be respected. If counsel believes a page limit needs to be exceeded, a written motion should be filed requesting the Court’s permission to exceed the limit. Do not file a motion requesting leave to exceed page limits along with the over-length pleading because you are in effect granting your own motion.
• Citation links are appreciated.
• Oral argument is not always granted when requested. Oral argument determinations turn on whether the argument would be helpful to the Court. Straight forward matters rarely warrant oral argument, while matters of dispute may benefit from further discussion. Counsel will be asked for time estimates, which the Court takes into account in setting the length of oral argument. Counsel are expected to adhere to the time limits once scheduled. In all proceedings, the Court will announce what materials have been received and read, in an effort to identify and reconcile with the parties any materials which have not been received, and thus not considered. The purpose of oral argument is for the Court to ask questions. Please briefly summarize the highlights of your pleadings, and identify anything that is new or additional. The Court will ask questions as appropriate. Other Pre-trial Practice Guidelines or Comments • Stipulations are encouraged. Whether a case involves delinquency or dependency, severance or guardianship matters, litigants must confer with each other about their case, enabling all possible agreements as to facts and exhibits to be reached in advance of a proceeding. Counsel should provide the Court with written notification of any stipulations reached. It is important that litigants clearly state what is being stipulated, so as to avoid misunderstandings. It is unprofessional for litigants to interrupt a proceeding to devise a stipulation, or to expect the Court to clarify and/or mediate proposed stipulations on the record. Stipulations should accelerate the matter before the Court, not cause delay.
• An attorney’s failure to alert the Court timely to an issue does not create an emergency deserving of expedited consideration. Counsel is responsible for bringing matters before the Court in a timely manner.
• Generally, the Court expects all proceedings to be held in person and in the courtroom. Non-evidentiary proceedings may at times be held telephonically, if requested, and if approved by the Court in advance. If a party is incarcerated at the time of a proceeding, advance notice and planning will be required for a telephonic conference to materialize. When a telephonic appearance is permitted, parties should participate via a land line, and not cell phone, to ensure the call successfully translates into a proper record. Parties and witnesses are required to appear in person for evidentiary proceedings, so as not to deprive the Court of a full opportunity to gauge credibility of testifying witnesses.
• Sanctions will be issued as appropriate and when warranted.
Trial Practice and ProtocolTrial Schedule • Proceedings are scheduled and held Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm, with lunch break between 12:00pm-1:30pm. This Court will not be in session through lunch, or proceed past 5:00pm, out of respect for court staff.
• As noted, attorneys should give serious thought to time estimates; such estimates will be both solicited and relied upon. Once established, this Court’s calendar is built around the time line developed in conjunction with counsel. If an unusual, unexpected event arises, beyond counsel’s control, I will work with the parties on scheduling matters (e.g., time zone differences, witness falls ill, etc.) Litigants should adhere to the time table established, and not expect trial schedules to change, as this unfairly impacts other litigants’ rights to their day in Court as scheduled.
• There are no court reporters in Juvenile Court; proceedings are recorded by video and audio, via FTR. If a party requires a court reporter, or if an interpreter is necessary, attorneys and litigants are obligated to request such accommodation(s) well in advance of a proceeding to allow time to secure the coverage. Joint Pre-Trial Memo and/or Conference; Exhibits and Objections • There are two (2) things counsel should remember about exhibits. The first is to submit exhibits well in advance of a proceeding as required by the Rules. Secondly, bench copies should be provided. Exhibits must be delivered to the clerk, and identified for list purposes, at least five (5) days before trial. This time enables the clerk to properly identify the exhibit, mark it, and enter it into the court system. If hearing time is spent on exhibit coordination, time will be deducted from the offending party’s time allotted to present their case. Without exception, a bench copy of all exhibits should be provided to the Court. As the trier of fact, I must be able to follow witness testimony, and make notes as needed.
• Speaking objections will not be recognized, as such objections are improper and waste the Court’s time. An objection should be stated with a 1 to 2 word legal basis, ex., “Objection; hearsay.” The Court will give opposing counsel the opportunity to respond, and make a record. The Court will advise if more information or argument is required, otherwise a ruling will be announced.
• The purpose of a motion in limine is to enable the Court to make a pretrial ruling on the admissibility of evidence, thus preventing prejudice that may result if a jury hears inadmissible evidence. In Juvenile Court, where there are no juries and the judge considering the motion in limine is also the fact finder; motions in limine are encouraged only in exceptional instances, when case matters are particularly complex and the movant wants to alert the Court to such a matter. Courtroom Etiquette • Juvenile Court proceedings are facilitated in a manner that is as informal as due process allows. However, counsel are wise to distinguish between behavior that is due process informal and conduct that is unprofessional and disrespectful to the participants and the Court. Although informal, Juvenile Court proceedings are not conferences where participants should feel free to chat at will, interrupt one another, finish one another’s sentences, and behave as they might in the hallway in a casual discussion. Nor is the courtroom a place for socializing. All commentary should be directed to the Bench, not to another party, or to other counsel or to court staff. Additionally, only water is permitted at counsel table; other food and drink items are out of line. Personal electronics must be turned off, not set to vibrate, or even to silence. Court proceedings are interrupted every day by noisy and distracting cell phones, which the owner thought was on silence. Counsel are expected to educate their clients on appropriate courtroom demeanor, advising that interaction is best accomplished during recess or via a note or a quiet discussion if a comment must be exchanged during a proceeding. In sum, anything that is disruptive to a proceeding will not be permitted. Counsel should at all times remember that a record for appeal is being made and it is everyone’s responsibility to protect the record.
• Juvenile attorneys commonly have another attorney “cover” a proceeding for them. As a matter of professionalism, it is the responsibility of the assigned attorney, whose name appears on the Court calendar, to have provided advance notice to Court staff as to who the coverage attorney is so that staff does not waste time searching for the wrong attorney. It is also not the function or responsibility of the Court or Court staff to track down attorneys missing from a scheduled proceeding. Rather, attorneys are responsible for being present when a matter is called or they must have provided advance notice to Court staff as to where they are and how long they will be detained elsewhere. It is unreasonable for an attorney to expect the Court to delay the start of a proceeding when the attorney has not given advance notice as to their whereabouts and the reason for their absence.