Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Judge Kerstin LeMaire
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Specific Comments or Advice for LitigantsSpecific Requirements or Preferences It is always useful to know your audience. I spent the majority of my career, prior to the bench, practicing in juvenile court. Since taking the bench in 2013, I have handled probate, civil, family, and now criminal matters.
My courtroom operates under two rules which admittedly are not part of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, but are among the best rules ever written. First, Rule 6 of the Rules of Procedure for the Juvenile Court provides that proceedings "shall be conducted as informally as the requirements of due process and fairness permit..." Second, former Rule 80 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure provided, "Trials shall be conducted in an orderly, courteous and dignified manner.
Arguments and remarks shall be addressed to the court, except that by permission of the court, counsel may make proper inquiries or ask questions of opposing counsel."
All hearings are presumptively in-person. If you need to appear virtually, please contact my JA in advance of the hearing. Coverage counsel for the County Attorney's office may appear virtually, with the understanding that the Court may rescind this accommodation if there are issues with technology. If a defendant is in custody, their counsel must appear in person.
Motions to Continue: If a party files a motion prior to a hearing, it must indicate the opposing party's position if you want me to vacate instead of holding the hearing. If the motion is not received in time to ensure that in-custody defendants will not be transported, the hearing will not be vacated.
I expect proposed orders to be submitted with any filed motions.
Pre-Trial Practice and Management IssuesMotion Practice Double-space your motions.
Please start or end your motion by telling me EXACTLY what you are requesting. Often, the Court receives motions and while the Court wants to assist, the Court does not know what is being requested. In those cases, the Court is likely to deny the motions. This causes you unnecessary delay.
If you file a motion that is time-sensitive, please email the division with a copy and note the position of opposing counsel.
Starting September 12, 2022, all newly set CPTCs and CCMCs are appearance hearings and are presumptively in person. Although the Court understands the difficulty counsel have in juggling multiple hearings, with multiple judicial officers, in multiple buildings, these hearings are to be considered time-certain. If you will be late, please let my courtroom assistant know where you will be, how we can reach you, and what your expected arrival time will be. This is not only courteous to the bench, but allow the other attorneys and the parties in the case.
If you file a motion and wish to have an oral argument, please note the request in the caption or the Court will likely rule on the pleadings. Most oral arguments will be set for 30 minutes with each side receiving 15 minutes each.
The Court requires that all motions be single subject and not omnibus.
Trial Practice and ProtocolTrial Schedule The Court relies on the time the parties or attorneys estimate for trial and expects that trials will be done within the estimated time.
The morning calendar begins at 8:30 and, on days I am in trial, runs until about 10:25. On Tuesdays, the Court has a JTOP calendar from 10:00 to noon. Trials are from 10:30-12 noon and 1:30-4:30 p.m., except for Tuesdays when it begins at 1:30 p.m. Absent truly extraordinary circumstances, the Court will not run into lunch or after 4:30 as that is an imposition on court staff.
When I am in trial, I am very mindful of the jury's time. To that end, the Court expects counsel to be ready to go exactly at the scheduled time, to have the witnesses scheduled so that there are no gaps of time, and to have all final jury instructions, aggravation instructions, etc, turned into my JA by noon on the first full day of trial.
Joint Pre-Trial Memo and/or Conference; Exhibits and Objections Exhibits are due to the Clerk at least two business days prior to the start of trial unless permission has been given to bring them in later. Jury Selection The Court uses an electronic questionnaire in all trials. The Court does an initial cut for hardship and then the parties will meet and confer on any stipulated strikes for cause. The Court will resolve any disputes and begin in person voir dire with all remaining jurors if it deems it necessary. The lawyers are then permitted to question the panel. The Court does not impose time limits on voir dire but expects counsel to use their time efficiently.
Proposed questions for the jury questionnaires are due at 5:00 p.m. the evening before the Trial Management Conference.
Preliminary Jury Instructions are due by 8:00 a.m. on the morning of the Trial Management Conference and are to be explicitly spelled out. The Court will not accept a list of RAJI numbers.
Proposed Verdict Forms and proposed Final Jury Instructions are due by noon of the first full day of trial. These can be amended as necessary as evidence is presented at trial. Again, Final Jury Instructions must be fully spelled out, a list of RAJI numbers will not be accepted. Courtroom Etiquette The Court expects lawyers and litigants to treat each other, opposing parties, court staff and everyone with respect and in a professional manner when dealing with each other and with all court staff, be it by phone, email, in person or otherwise. Neither conversations with judicial staff nor the courtroom are places for the parties and/or their attorneys to launch personal attacks on each other. If you engage in such attacks, it suggests that your case is weak. Be courteous to one another. If there is something you really want the Court to hear, wait your turn. Don't talk over each other. I can only hear one person at a time. Address all comments to me and not the opposing parties and attorneys.
Counsel are generally free to move around the courtroom during trial, but should request permission to approach the witness. Objections should be made when standing. Objections should be short and succinct. There are no speaking objections allowed. If the Court wants a response to the objection or further discussion, the Court will ask for it.
There is electronic equipment in the courtroom that counsel may use. Please make an appointment before the trial to meet with court staff to talk about how to use the equipment.
Cell phones should be silenced in the courtroom. No taping of any sort is permitted within the courtroom unless permitted by the Arizona Supreme Court rules.
Appropriate attire is expected for all in my courtroom (including virtual hearings).
If a hearing is virtual, please conduct it from a location that is quiet and free from disruptions, and where you have a good WI-FI/cell phone signal. Counsel should kindly instruct their witnesses to do likewise. If the signal/service is poor, the Court may reset the hearing and require all to appear in person.
Litigants and attorneys may have covered beverages (i.e. bottle of water with a top or a beverage in a travel mug), at counsel tables during hearings.
If your case involves an interpreter, please allow the interpreter to finish translating before speaking or responding so that an understandable record is obtained. Other Courtroom Policies and Recommendations My staff will often communicate with attorneys and their staff by email for various reasons. If one of my staff members contacts you by email, please respond promptly, even if it is just to acknowledge the email and estimate when you will be able to respond substantively. While I understand email etiquette frowns on a reply to all, in the case of emails from the Court it is essential to avoid ex parte communications. We will never contact just one side and the parties must make sure that everyone is copied on all communications to the Court.
On a related point, the parties or their lawyers should not copy the court on their email spats. The court will not consider them and it just makes everyone look less professional.
I try to make myself as accessible to the parties as possible. Attorneys may contact my judicial assistant if a problem arises that I would likely be able to address through a brief status conference.
If something has been pending and you have waited for a reasonable amount of time but have not heard from us, please reach out to my staff. Keep in mind, however, that we often have to allow time to pass before we act, to give the opposing party a chance to respond or for a variety of other reasons.
My staff works very hard. Be courteous to them.