Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Judge James Drake

Specific Comments or Advice for Litigants

Specific Requirements or Preferences

The single most important thing you can do is to be kind and respectful to the wonderful folks who keep this division afloat.  
It is useful to know your audience. In this regard, I did not arrive on the bench via an often-traveled path. I spent twenty years serving the Arizona Legislature in a wide variety of nonpartisan capacities and six years at the Secretary of State’s Office.  
In all of my prior governmental work experience I’ve lived by the phrase “It is ok to disagree, but there is no need to be disagreeable.” In Family Court I’ve found this to be particularly true. The best interests of the child are harder to discern if parties or their attorneys are needlessly sniping at each other. Telling me all about opposing counsel’s antics or engaging in attacks does not endear you to me.  

Pre-Trial Practice and Management Issues

Discovery or Disclosure Disputes and/or Sanctions

Meet and confer: I expect the parties to take the “meet and confer” requirement seriously. It does not mean exchanging nasty letters or e-mails; it means that counsel (or self-represented parties) shall have a civilized discussion about the issues. I have found that counsel can often work out discovery issues if each will not only voice their own concerns, but actually listen to the other side’s concerns with an open mind. Please don’t contact the court until you have made a good-faith effort.  
Generally, I am not a big fan of sealing documents. When something is filed under seal, it isn’t just kept from the public; it’s also a time-consuming headache for the judge to get access to it and can be a nightmare for the parties later on.  
Rule 2. There is a reason that an exception exists in the family realm. I have yet to see this work in any way that proved helpful to the Court. The core function in family oftentimes revolves around the best interest of a person (or persons) who is (are) not part of the proceedings! Indeed, when invoked, it seems to have worked to further frustrate the proceedings.  

Trial Practice and Protocol

Trial Schedule

I inherited a very busy but organized calendar. Out of desire to assist everyone, I offered many a trial date right up front. That practice had to change. I would like to see all represented parties make a run at settling before a neutral of some sort before coming back to ask for a trial date. There are always exceptions to this request, but I’ve seen a great deal of success with mediation, ADR or conciliation services.  
Out of necessity, I impose time limits on litigants. If you have a three-hour hearing (i.e., 9:00 to noon or 1:30 to 4:30), you should anticipate dividing the time equally after allocating 10 minutes for a break and 10 minutes for any questions I may have.

Trial Practice and Procedure

I feel that RMC’s, Status Conferences, and some short evidentiary hearings can be handled well virtually. I recognize that taking the day off of work, driving downtown and trying to find nonexistent parking, imposes quite a burden on Family Court litigants. Trials, however, are another matter and I feel that having everyone together should be the norm.