Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Judge Rodrick Coffey

Specific Comments or Advice for Litigants

Specific Requirements or Preferences

Juvenile Court calendars are very busy. Accordingly, it is imperative that counsel and parties be on time for all hearings.  
Substantive meetings between counsel and their clients should occcur days or hours before a hearing rather than at the time at which a hearing is set in order to avoid unnecessary delays for all other parties and the Court.  
The primary purpose of an initial pre-trial conference is to determine whether a trial is necessary. Whenever possible, decisions about whether to proceed to trial should be made before the pre-trial conference in order to avoid setting trials that wind up not going forward. The Court's trial calendar is very full, but all too often, trials are scheduled and then vacated too close to the trial date to allow the Court to schedule another trial on those dates. Counsel should discuss alternative options to trials with their clients before pre-trial conferences along with the applicable burdens of proof and the evidence that can reasonably be expected to be presented at trial so that parents can make an informed decision at the pre-trial conference.  
All reports that any party wants the Court to consider must be delivered to this Division by no later than two days before a scheduled hearing to ensure that I have sufficient time to read the report before the hearing. Sanctions may be imposed if reports are not timely delivered to this Division.

Pre-Trial Practice and Management Issues

Motion Practice

Division copies of all motions and pleadings are required. The most important thing a litigant can do to advance their case is to provide materials to the division in advance of a hearing.  
Oral arguments may be requested, and will be granted if helpful to the Court. If oral argument is deemed necessary, a minute entry will be issued setting the date and time for the hearing. Because the purpose of oral argument is to promote a dialogue between the Court and the parties, litigants should come prepared to present their case and to answer questions of the Court.

Discovery or Disclosure Disputes and/or Sanctions

• Litigants trying to settle discovery disputes should contact my judicial assistant to schedule a conference call, before filing a motion to compel. I will endeavor to resolve the dispute informally with a conference call within five days if possible. If I am unable to resolve the dispute informally, I will set a briefing schedule for the parties to brief the issues in their dispute.  
• Filings under seal are discouraged, simply because it makes file access difficult for the Court, and the parties. This Court will place a file under seal as a last resort.  
• The Court will create a discovery timeline and set a case status conference shortly after discovery is scheduled to close. The purpose of that status conference will be to set either a hearing on any dispositive motions that have been filed or to set a final contested hearing.

Other Pre-trial Practice Guidelines or Comments

• Parties in almost all contested matters may be required to participate in a settlement conference or a mediation.  
• While I am empathetic towards requests to expedite/extend proposed deadlines, I want to understand the reasons why such action is necessary. It is good practice for counsel to provide background to the Court when making such requests.  
• Telephonic appearances can be scheduled to accommodate the needs of the litigants. However, parties may not use a cell phone, or speaker phone when participating in hearings. The parties are responsible for calling into the proceeding on one land line, thus ensuring proper participation in the proceeding, and an accurate record is kept. This may require one party to arrange for a conference call for all parties to use. Motions for telephonic appearances must be filed in advance.  
• If I have indicated that an award of attorneys’ fees is appropriate, I will issue an order denoting such fees should be awarded, and direct the litigant to file an application setting forth the amount of fees that are requested. The Court expects the other side will respond to that application if they have any objection to the Court’s order.  

Trial Practice and Protocol

Trial Schedule

• Attorney time estimates will be solicited, and relied upon. The Court assumes counsel will complete their hearing within the time allotted as a result.  
• Party accommodations, such as a court reporter, or language interpreter, must be requested through my judicial assistant several days in advance of a hearing.

Joint Pre-Trial Memo and/or Conference; Exhibits and Objections

• My division will provide litigants with forms outlining Rule 16 requirements, and other applicable details (e.g. format of required documentation, deadlines, etc.), at a pretrial management conference. It is expected the parties will adhere to this direction.  
• Any exhibit intended to be used in a hearing must be marked five (5) business days in advance of the hearing. Please deliver exhibits to my clerk, and coordinate the marking process, which benefits from having each exhibit separated by colored dividers. Bench copies of all exhibits are required and should be provided in a three-ring binder, with corresponding exhibit numbers to make for an efficient proceeding for the Court and all participants.  

Trial Practice and Procedure

• If litigants wish to use technology during their proceeding, they are responsible for providing the equipment, and ensuring it functions appropriately. The courtroom is not otherwise equipped in this regard.

Courtroom Etiquette

• Counsel and parties are permitted to bring water bottles, reading materials and access personal electronics, as long as such items are not disruptive to a proceeding, but counsel must turn cell phone ringers off and take calls outside of the courtroom.  
• Attorneys are expected to dress in professional attire, appropriate for court.