Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Judge Lisa Ann VandenBerg
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Specific Comments or Advice for LitigantsSpecific Requirements or Preferences • The best place to begin the family court process is on line at http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/SuperiorCourt/Self-ServiceCenter or by going in person to the self help center located in the law library at 101 West Jefferson.
• Almost all of the forms you need for family court are online or at the self help center.
• This Division does not accept bench books PRIOR or AT THE TIME of trial. On the other hand, if counsel believes it to be helpful at the conclusion of the trial or that day of trial Counsel may offer a bench book of the exhibits admitted at trial or that day of trial.
• To Young Lawyers, be on time and prepared, and courteous to opposing counsel/party and Court Staff. Also, be prepared to educate the Court with either controlling Rules or Case law and issues that you care about. As well, you are not expected to have an answer for everything, but are expected to tell the truth. It is okay to not know an answer, and inform the Court accordingly.
• To Pro Per Litigants, be careful what you ask for… by electing to represent yourself you have chosen to be held to the same professional standard for ethics and decorum as an Attorney and the Court will expect such. You are to remain calm, and patient, throughout the course of the case. While rules and motions and hearings can be overwhelming, frustration can impact the outcome of a case.
• To Litigants, read your paperwork and the Courthouse/ Courtroom signage. It is common for folks to be in the wrong location, to either bring unapproved items such (as gum) or have inappropriate attire (such a halter top) when entering the Courtroom. As well, a good rule of thumb for attendance at a hearing is “early is on time”.
• To All Litigants, please recognize the Courtroom Staff play an important role; these persons deserve your respect and can help you.
Pre-Trial Practice and Management IssuesMotion Practice • Do not attempt to contact the Court Staff via email, as email is not the appropriate vehicle. Motions are to be filed with the Clerk of the Court; a faxed version that is not conformed is not an appropriate substitute. As well, consider whether your call or fax interaction with Court Staff could be considered an ex parte communication or might violate an ethics rule for you or the staff member.
• If Counsel is using e-filing, the Court does not consider a pleading "filed" until the Clerk of Court has issued a second communication which indicates the document "ACCEPTED" (not the first communication labeled "RECIEVED"). It is only once this second notice has been issued that the Clerk of Court has indicated that the pleading has been docketed and conformed. Only once that has occurred will the Division consider the document filed and will be able to see it in e-filing for the Division. This process may take some time, even days. so if you have an emergency or expedited pleading for the Court to consider, it is recommended that you or your runner file the document physically at any court location and obtain a conformed copy and the conformed copy can then either be delivered to the Division or faxed to the Division. Discovery or Disclosure Disputes and/or Sanctions • Attorneys should avail themselves of the opportunity to work through case difficulties among themselves; this Court is reluctant to settle controversies that can be handled via professionalism. Attorneys practice a craft.
• Before filing a Motion to Compel Discovery, confirm that you have complied fully with Rule 9C of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. If you have, the Court prefers that counsel contact opposing counsel/or pro per on a conference call and then contacts the Division between the hours of 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday or Thursday and indicate that the call is to resolve a discovery dispute. So long as the requesting party indicates that Rule 9C has been complied with, the Judicial staff will interrupt me to take the brief call. This is a service that the Division offers to keep the costs reduced and ideally to resolve the issue expeditiously.
• Historically, I have been slow to give sanctions for discovery disputes and this has worked well for my division. Yet, if there is a problem I will strictly enforce the rules. Additionally, the Court may always hold someone in contempt. Other Pre-trial Practice Guidelines or Comments • Do not contact the Court Staff via email, before calling Court Staff consider if such is the appropriate vehicle. Motions are to be filed with the Clerk of the Court; a telephonic communication is not an appropriate substitute. As well, consider whether your interaction with Court Staff could be considered an ex parte communication or might violate an ethics rule for you or the staff member.
Trial Practice and ProtocolJoint Pre-Trial Memo and/or Conference; Exhibits and Objections • The marking of exhibits MUST be done in accordance with the preferences of the Courtroom Clerk. Please note, the Clerk is not part of the Division's Staff but rather part of the Clerk of Court which has its own protocols designed to maintain the integrity of the record. Please review the relevant Minute Entry or Order to Appear issued by the Court setting the evidentiary hearing for specific guidance.
• Pursuant to the standard minute entry setting a trial on a Petition, proposed exhibits are to be hand delivered to the Division for marking by the Courtroom Clerk a MINIMUM of 5 business days prior to the scheduled evidentiary hearing. As well, this minute Entry requires a joint or separate pre-trial statement be filed and a conformed copy delivered to the Division at least 7 days prior to the scheduled evidentiary hearing. Trial Practice and Procedure • Counsel must bring their own equipment to be used during the trial as the court has none to lend out (such as laptops to play CDs or DVDs).
• I do not have particular protocol for how attorneys must examine a witness (e.g. at a podium, seated, or at counsel table), as long as they do not question the witness in a manner that obstructs the other party's view of the witness.
•If the matter settles, the Court appreciates a heads up but will await a formal filed pleading indicating such and requesting to vacate the trial prior to the Court vacating the matter from the Court's calendar. Courtroom Etiquette • The attorneys treat opposing counsel with respect. When they are in my courtroom, this means being courteous and professional at all times, even if outside the courtroom they have personal differences with opposing counsel.
• If it is hot in the courtroom, and wearing a jacket is too uncomfortable, counsel may remove the jacket without seeking court permission.
• Court staff must be respected, as they are an extension of the Bench. Please make every effort to make their lives easier via common courtesy. For example, notify staff if you are running late. Your consideration will be both appreciated and remembered. Other Courtroom Policies and Recommendations • Read the Order to Appear document or the Minute Entry scheduling a hearing with this Division carefully as it will provide "homework" orders for the parties to complete so that the Court can best prepare for the hearing and use your time in the Courtroom as effectively as possible.
For example, prior to a Resolution Management Conference ("RMC") the parties are order to meet and confer regarding all elements of the pending litigation and identify any/all areas of agreement and if such meeting hasn't occurred prior to the day of the RMC the parties are ordered to appear one hour prior to the RMC to do just that.