Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Judge Michael KEMP
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Specific Comments or Advice for LitigantsSpecific Requirements or Preferences • All litigants must be dressed appropriately, be on time, be prepared, and be respectful of the courtroom.
Pre-Trial Practice and Management IssuesMotion Practice • Original copies of filings must be filed with the Clerk’s office and copies submitted to the Court and distributed to the other party.
• Reasonable positions should be concisely outlined in all written documents submitted to the Court.
• In Family Court, hearings generally speak for themselves rending oral arguments unnecessary. Should an oral argument be requested and set, it will be a brief proceeding. I vow to listen to oral argument and can be persuaded. Discovery or Disclosure Disputes and/or Sanctions • I am not adverse to informal discussions with counsel to resolve disputes. Pro per litigants will be directed to discuss matters in dispute in the courtroom.
• Requests for in camera inspection to review materials in question may be made, however I tend to favor disclosure.
• Filings under seal may be appropriate in rare circumstances; but again, I favor disclosure as the public has the right to know almost everything.
• It is uncommon for serious sanctions to be imposed by this Court. Most sanctions are given verbally.
• Any date set regarding discovery must be followed in furtherance of judicial economy. Other Pre-trial Practice Guidelines or Comments • Temporary orders occur frequently within Family Court. Evidentiary hearings are not favored for temporary orders, as trials are quickly scheduled. However, such a hearing will be set if a particular case requires.
• Because settlement is encouraged, parties must go through some mediation or arbitration effort with a neutral third party. Trials will not be set unless settlement has been attempted.
• Time limitations are set for every proceeding, are tracked, and thus enforced. Consideration of expedited requests will be honored under extraordinary circumstances. Requests for continuances not encouraged and are routinely denied.
• The Court generally accepts stipulations agreed to by the parties.
• Proceedings may be conducted via telephone conference to accommodate party schedules. Telephone conferences are appropriate for non-complicated matters such as resolution or status conferences. Evidentiary hearings will not be conducted by phone, as the veracity of the witness cannot be ascertained.
• Attorney fees will be granted in cases when a party has been significantly unreasonable or has a considerable financial advantage. Such fees are not awarded often.
Trial Practice and ProtocolTrial Schedule • Family Court trials are scheduled within sixty days, because I have excellent staff. The Court will make an effort to accommodate counsel time estimates for trials; however once a time limit is set, it is strictly followed. Trials set for two hours or more are scheduled in the afternoon. When a trial is scheduled for three hours, the maximum amount of time reserved for a proceeding, a ten minute break will be taken at the mid-way point. Lunch is scheduled between 12pm, through 1:30pm daily.
• The Court is flexible on matters counsel agrees to, for example order of witnesses, in an effort to be accommodating. Joint Pre-Trial Memo and/or Conference; Exhibits and Objections • Joint pre-trial statements are very important. Judges read these statements carefully, as it provides an outline of the issues in controversy. Like any other written material submitted to the Court, this document should be brief and to the point.
• Motions in Limine are encouraged and will be considered because they aim to advance a case in an efficient manner.
• Parties are strongly encouraged to communicate about their case and stipulate to matters that are not at issue.
• The marking of exhibits has presented the Court with ongoing problems; it is important for exhibits to be marked in advance of a proceeding.
• All litigants should stand upon objection and base their concern in legal reasoning. No speaking objections.
• Occasionally, counsel may be asked to further brief an issue.
• Motions to reconsider or for a new trial should be rare requests, highlighting legal defects or significant changes in circumstance. Trial Practice and Procedure • Technology is not generally used in Family Court; however it is a possibility if it could serve as a time saver, given time limitations are enforced. An attorney may use technology within the courtroom if advanced notice is provided to the Judge.
• Examination consists of direct, cross and re-direct, but not re-cross examination. Courtroom Etiquette • All persons within the courtroom must be professional at all times.
• Counsel is advised to work with their client to set reasonable expectations and in turn present reasonable positions. Though difficult, settlement generally requires honest assessment, flexibility and compromise. Attorney/client conversations may take place in the courtroom, so long as it does not disrupt the proceeding.
• Attorneys may use personal computers in the courtroom, yet cell phones must be turned off.
• Water bottles, containing water, may be brought into the courtroom. No other food or beverages.
• Tables and a podium are provided in the courtroom from which counsel may opt to speak.
• The Court, including its competent staff, should be shown respect and decorum.
• Bench conferences are generally not held, as there is no jury.