Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Commissioner Wendy Morton

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Specific Comments or Advice for Litigants

Specific Requirements or Preferences • All litigants should be prepared for Court. Being prepared entails respecting proceeding time limitations, keeping to the subject matter for which the proceeding is set, organizing materials associated with your arguments, and so forth.  
• Telephonic conferences may be set if the parties need clarification about a general matter. I will also ask my judicial assistant to arrange telephonic conferences if I need clarification from parties on a non-contested issue prior to ruling or scheduling. My goal is always to try to save the parties’ time and avoid court appearances if possible. If there is something that I can do to assist the parties in this goal, I would be happy to do so.  
• I will not communicate with parties via email; ex parte communications are prohibited between parties and judicial officers.

Pre-Trial Practice and Management Issues

Motion Practice • Commissioners generally address single subject motions, while judges handle omnibus motions.  
• Counsel are required to file a notice of appearance regarding the underlying Family Court case, keeping in mind there may be an internal delay in processing.  
• Oral argument is generally granted, but not always. During oral argument, parties should expect to be interrupted by the Court with directed questioning.
Other Pre-trial Practice Guidelines or Comments • Settlement conferences are held twice a week, based on referrals from other divisions. The Court expects both parties will file settlement conference memorandums in a timely fashion, pursuant to minute entry guidelines. If not so filed, the matter may not be considered by the Court.  
• Telephonic appearances are not permitted for settlement conference, or orders of protection, as it is difficult to assess credibility. For all other matters (e.g. child support), a party should file a motion in advance of a hearing to solicit a telephonic appearance, and notify the other side accordingly. When this process is followed, the Court will consider the request. If the motion is not filed timely, and the other side is not give notice, telephonic appearances will not be permitted. Counsel should request telephonic appearances to accommodate a valid need (e.g. a party is incarcerated; a witness would have to commute to the proceeding from out of state, general hardship).  
• Counsel should comply with time limits set by the Court for the particular hearing. If additional time is required, counsel should notify the Court in writing, well in advance. Time allocations are tracked during a proceeding with a dual timer.  
• Sanctions are imposed as appropriate.  
• Requests for Attorney’s Fees should be made on the record during the proceeding. The party should then follow up with a written motion and a China Doll affidavit. The other party will have an opportunity to respond in writing to the motion.

Trial Practice and Protocol

Trial Schedule • Schedules are set in conjunction with the Family Court Presiding Judge, court administration, and the respective commissioner.  
• Proceedings are recorded on the courtroom’s FTR system. As a result court reporters and/or interpreters must be requested in advance of a hearing. Interpreter proceedings will be given priority. If a party does not appear for a hearing in which an interpreter has been secured, sanctions may be imposed. Other special accommodations will be made upon request when possible.
Joint Pre-Trial Memo and/or Conference; Exhibits and Objections • Excessive or duplicate exhibits are not helpful. Exhibits must be marked with the courtroom clerk prior to the hearing, and counsel shall provide a courtesy copy to the other side. Attorneys should not expect the Court to make photocopies for them. The Court will limit the number of exhibits to be marked on the date of the hearing to five (5), and will not take time from the hearing to mark exhibits.  
• Stipulations are encouraged; the parties should notify the Court when they reach agreement. I will consider stipulations to vacate hearings, however, if there is an issue for which the hearing has been set that has not been covered by the stipulation, I may request a telephonic conference with the parties prior to vacating the hearing.  
If the parties are stipulating that an Order of Protection be dismissed, I am required make inquiry of the Plaintiff on the record and to issue certain findings on the record before dismissing the Order. Therefore, I will not accept a stipulation to vacate the hearing. Please note that if neither party appears for the hearing, the Order will remain in place until the Plaintiff personally appears to request a dismissal.  
I will accept a stipulation to vacate the hearing if the parties state, in writing, that they are also agreeing that the Order of Protection remain in place.
Trial Practice and Procedure • Technology is limited in the courtroom. The Court will not accept personal electronics (e.g. cell phones, digital cameras) into evidence. Anything that is captured on a personal electronic device must be printed in hard copy, and submitted to Court as an exhibit. Additionally, the Court cannot access exhibits that are saved on a disk or thumb drive in courtroom. If the Court is able to play and capture an audio recording of good sound quality via the courtroom’s sound system, it may be added to the record. However, if parties wish to preserve the record further, then a saved copy of the recording should be provided to the Court as an exhibit. Exhibits may be admitted into evidence provided the proper foundation is laid, and the exhibit is relevant. Courtroom Etiquette • Courtroom decorum is necessary.  
• Items that are not permitted in the courtroom include cell phones, hats, and gum.  
• Please make child care arrangements, as children under the age of eighteen (18) are not permitted in the courtroom.  
• Counsel may utilize their personal computers during a proceeding.  
• Counsel are permitted to present from the counsel table, or the podium, if they so desire.