Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Judge Michael Valenzuela
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Specific Comments or Advice for LitigantsSpecific Requirements or Preferences Judge Valenzuela’s Division can be contacted by phone at 602-372-2961.
The Division’s email address is: DRJ20@JBAZMC.Maricopa.gov.
The Judicial Assistant is Chrystal Castro and the Courtroom Assistant is BriAnne Lange.
Court Staff is not permitted to give legal advice.
Treat Court Staff with Respect: This is placed first for a reason. You are expected to treat Court staff in the same courteous and respectful way you would treat the Judge.
Treat Each Other with Respect: I expect attorneys and litigants to treat each other and the Court with respect and proper decorum.
Always remember that this is a court of law that deserves all the respect and courtesies of such an institution. The Court will treat the litigants and their attorneys with the same level of respect and courtesy that it expects from them.
The Court understands that a Family Court proceeding is stressful on both parties, whether they are represented by legal counsel or not. Nonetheless, unrepresented litigants must remember that they are held to the same standards as attorneys in regard to familiarity with required procedures and notice of statutes and local rules.
However, the Court will do its best to explain the Court process and answer any procedural questions you may have. Please note that the Court cannot give legal advice.
Be on time for your court hearing. The Court will start the clock at the scheduled time, whether the parties are present or not.
Budget your time and finish on time. Except in extraordinary circumstances, you will be held to your allotted time, even if you are in the middle of cross-examination. You will know beforehand how much time has been allotted to you. The Court will occasionally notify you of your remaining time, but you may ask at any time for a time check.
The Court will not accept non-emergency pleadings by email. Except in true emergency situations, the Court will rule only on properly filed pleadings. Neither the Court nor Court Staff are allowed to give legal advice to any person, so please do not contact Court Staff to ask legal questions.
Pre-Trial Practice and Management IssuesMotion Practice If you hand-file a pleading, make sure the Court gets a conformed copy. Otherwise, we may not know that you have filed something, which will contribute to a delay in ruling on your pleading. Please place a copy of your pleading in the Division’s mailbox or email a copy to the Division.
Motions, responses and related pleadings shall comply with the page length, font type, and other requirements of the Rules. If an extension of response or reply time is necessary, try to reach agreement among the parties, and then submit a stipulation. If you file a motion for leave to exceed the page length of a pleading, you will need to provide specific reasons. A generic statement that you need more pages may result in denial of your motion.
This Division requires that all motions, responses, replies and other Court requested filings in this case must be submitted individually. A party shall not combine any motion with a responsive pleading. All motions are to be filed separately and designated as such. No pleadings will be accepted if filed in combination with another. Motions or stipulations shall be e-filed or hand-filed with proposed orders.
If a proposed order is applicable to the motion, and it is not submitted with the motion, the Court reserves the right to reject your motion until it is accompanied by a proposed order.
Motions to Strike: Motions to strike are strongly discouraged and often are not even countenanced by the Rules. Make your point in your responsive pleading.
Scheduling Hearings: The Court requires a written motion or stipulation to schedule, reschedule, or vacate hearings. The Court will not schedule or reset hearings without the filing of a pleading. In regard to any substantive evidentiary hearings or oral arguments that are not set during an RMC or other hearing, the Court will usually set a short virtual status conference in order to schedule a date and time for the substantive hearing.
Oral Argument: If the Court believes that oral arguments may assist in making a decision, the Court will schedule them. The court sets oral arguments for a specific period of time, and the parties will usually receive equal time within that period. I will keep time and provide you with notice of your remaining time. Discovery or Disclosure Disputes and/or Sanctions Meet and Confer: Counsel must try in good faith to resolve a discovery dispute before bringing it to the Court, pursuant to Rule 9(c). It is not enough to say you tried; the Court takes very seriously your duty to meet and confer in person or by telephone and will expect you to demonstrate that you have done so.
Dispute Resolution: If the parties want to expedite the dispute, they may file a Joint Statement of Discovery Dispute pursuant to Rule 26(d) of the Rules of Civil Procedure. Otherwise, the dispute must commence with a motion to compel, or other appropriate discovery or disclosure motion. The Court will not set a discovery dispute hearing based on a telephonic or email request.
Deposition Disputes: The Court generally does not accept impromptu telephonic hearings during depositions, although there may be exceptions. If the parties find it absolutely necessary to contact the Court during a deposition, the parties will first need to notify the Judicial Assistant of the dispute and email a brief summary of the dispute.
Other Pre-trial Practice Guidelines or Comments The Court will set a Resolution Management Conference (RMC) in all cases, including after unsuccessful Early Resolution Conferences (ERC).
RMC, Pre-Hearing, and Pre-Trial Statements: RMC statements and pre-trial/pre-hearing statements are required, because they are important to the Court. The only pleadings the Court usually has are the Petitions and Responses, which may not contain the current status of the case. Your statements need to inform the Court of any settlements, and provide the current positions being taken by the parties.
Know the Applicable Factors for your Case: The Court must consider statutory factors to support its findings on many areas. It is vitally important, especially for unrepresented litigants, to read these statutes, so that they will know what they should present during a trial. These statutes list the factors for the Court to consider in determining decision-making and parenting time (A.R.S. Sec. 25-403); spousal maintenance (A.R.S. Sec. 25-319); child support (A.R.S. Sec. 25-320); temporary orders (A.R.S. Sec. 25-404 & Rule 47, (Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure - "ARFLP"; and ARFLP Rule 91 (modification or enforcement of a judgment).
Virtual Hearings: Pursuant to Rule 8(b), the Court will continue to conduct virtual hearings through Court Connect (Microsoft Teams) on RMCs, Temporary Order Hearings and Status Conferences unless there is a valid objection. The Court may also conduct trials, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments through Court Connect or in-person, depending on the circumstances and requests of the parties. The Microsoft Teams Meeting link to join the virtual courtroom is: https://tinyurl.com/jbazmc-drj20 To join by phone please call: (1) 917-781-4590, Conference ID: 715-440-995#
Trials and Evidentiary Hearings: As to all trials and evidentiary hearings, Rule 8(c), (d), (e), and (f) will apply. Any virtual trial or evidentiary hearings that was set prior to April 1, 2022, will remain virtual unless otherwise ordered by the Court.
Hybrid Hearings: The Court has the capability of conducting a "hybrid" hearing, such that some participants can be in the courtroom, and others can be participating remotely. The parties will need to comply with Rule 8(c) and (d) to effectuate such a request. Upon approval by the Court, the party or parties shall coordinate with the Court's staff to ensure that the parties know how to use the electronic equipment for a hybrid hearing.
Settlement: The Court expects the parties to have attempted settlement prior to trial.
Mandatory Mediation: In all cases involving legal decision-making or parenting time, in which at least one side has an attorney; and in all post-decree petitions involving legal decision-making or parenting time in which both parties are unrepresented, the Court will not schedule a trial or final evidentiary hearing until the parties have participated in some form of mediation, pursuant to Rule 91(d), A.R.F.L.P. If at least one party is represented in a pre-decree petition, be advised that ADR will not schedule mediation until all discovery is complete.
In a pre-decree petition, if both parties are unrepresented, they will participate in an Early Resolution Conference (ERC), which satisfies the mediation requirement.
In all cases, a further prerequisite to setting a trial or evidentiary hearing is that all discovery shall be completed. Completion of discovery includes resolution of all discovery disputes.
If you settle your case, please notify the Court immediately and send the JA an email with your stipulated notice of settlement, so the Court can vacate any upcoming hearings.
Trial Time: Typically, when scheduling a trial, the Court will defer to the parties concerning the amount of courtroom-time the parties require to adequately present their respective cases for trial. The Court still reserves its discretion to set the amount of trial time. Generally, each side will be allotted half of the time to present their case. This allocated time will be reduced by ten minutes for the Court to rule. For three-hour periods or more, the allotted time will be reduced by a ten-minute break per three-hour period. The Court will not deduct time for its ruling, if it believes that it will take the matter under advisement.
The Court will then expect the parties to complete the trial within the time allotted. Generally, the Court will deny a request for additional trial time on the day of trial unless the parties have acted in good faith, made appropriate use of the time allotted, and still require additional time to fairly present evidence to the Court. If additional time is granted, the trial may likely be continued to a later date, thus delaying the decision.
Trial Practice and ProtocolTrial Schedule The Court conducts hearings, conferences, and trials between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The Court is unavailable from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. for lunch. No calls or deliveries to the Court will be addressed during the lunch period. Three-hour trials will generally occur in the morning from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Joint Pre-Trial Memo and/or Conference; Exhibits and Objections Objections for Untimely or Non-Disclosure: In the event evidence or testimony is objected to on the basis of non-disclosure or untimely disclosure, the parties must be prepared at a hearing or trial to demonstrate compliance or non-compliance with Rule 26.1. This is usually done by showing disclosure statements, emails, or any other relevant documents. The parties must have them available in the courtroom. A party defending against a disclosure challenge must be prepared to immediately show the Court where and when that party disclosed the relevant subject matter. If a party asserts that the disclosure came in a deposition, then that party must be prepared to point to the relevant portion of the deposition. The Court may overrule an objection for untimely disclosure or non-disclosure if no documentary evidence is provided. The Court may sanction a party that makes unfounded disclosure objections as well.
Exhibits: The Court encourages exhibits to be filed electronically. The parties shall submit any exhibits they intend to use at the time of the hearing/trial electronically to the Clerk of Court for marking, and exchange with the opposing party, by no later than seven days prior to the hearing. Any untimely exhibits may not be considered. For electronic exhibit submission, please visit: https://www.clerkofcourt.maricopa.gov/services/exhibits-submission. Trial Practice and Procedure NOTE: Although this section pertains to "Trial Practice," these protocols apply to any trial or evidentiary hearing.
Trial Objections: Objections should be stated only as legal objections (e.g. "hearsay," "rule 403") and not as speaking objections. If the Court needs clarification of an objection, it will ask. If the Court deems the speaking objection to be unduly long, it may assess time against the objecting party.
Trial Practice and Procedure: This court is not an e-courtroom. Therefore, if you want to present a video or audio recording during a hearing or trial (virtual or in-person), you will need to offer the exhibit, and, if admitted, provide the necessary equipment to play those recordings during the trial or hearing. If you do not play the recording during the trial or hearing, the Court will not admit the exhibit, and will not consider the recording.
Admission of Exhibits: The Court will not grant blanket admission of all exhibits, even if you stipulate to their admission. You will need to separately offer any exhibits that are relevant to your case. This is important to remember, so you can include this factor when you are budgeting your time.
If the Court admits lengthier exhibits, such as bank statements, medical records, etc., the Court will only consider those specific portions of the exhibits that you reference during the hearing or trial. The Court will not review the entire exhibit to try to locate a relevant portion. You will have to tell the Court where you want it to look. This applies equally to depositions that have been submitted but not filed as exhibits. The Court will only consider those portions of a deposition to which the party has specifically referred during the trial or hearing. This requirement is supported by Best Choice Fund, LLC v. Low & Childers, P.C., 228 Ariz. 502, 508 n.3 (App. 2011). The trial court should not be required "to perform counsel's work by searching the record to attempt to discover facts which establish or defeat [the party's position]... These are tasks which must be left to counsel.” Mast v. Standard Oil Co., 140 Ariz. 1, 2 (1984).
Although the Clerk will permit the admission of a thumb drive as an exhibit, the party will have to play the thumb drive on its own device during the hearing. Because of security issues with inserting thumb drives into the Court's computer system, this Court will not listen to or watch a thumb drive on its system at any time. The Court may listen to or watch admitted exhibits on its system if the recording is on a CD. Even then, the party must still play the CD during the trial or hearing in order for the Court to consider it.
Redirect Examination of a Witness: Pursuant to Rule 611(a) of the Rules of Evidence, the Court limits redirect examination of a witness to issues that were raised during cross-examination of that witness. Other Courtroom Policies and Recommendations No Children: Children under 18 years of age (minors) are not allowed to be present in the courtroom. Minor Children must be left at home (with appropriate supervision) or supervised in the permitted waiting areas of the courthouse. It is not in a child's best interests to hear the parents argue in Court. It is best to not involve a child in family court cases unless it is absolutely unavoidable.
No Photographs or Recordings: Anyone who records or photographs court hearings without prior approval of the Court may be subject to involvement with Court security and/or contempt proceedings.
Digital Recording System (FTR or Microsoft Teams): The record of hearings is made using the For the Record "FTR" audio/video recording system. Even if a court reporter is present the FTR will continue to operate. When no court reporter is present, it is essential that everyone be at a microphone when speaking, otherwise the digital recording system may not record what was said. If the Microsoft Teams recording system is employed, the same rules apply. To order a copy of the audio/video record after the hearing, please contact Electronic Record Services at: 602-506-7100, or through email at: ERS@superiorcourt.maricopa.gov. The FTR Player software can be downloaded at: www.fortherecord.com.
The FTR/Microsoft Teams system is in place to avoid the need, expense and additional administrative steps of hiring a Court Reporter. However, if a party prefers the presence of a Court Reporter in addition to the FTR, a Request for Court Reporter must be filed not less than 10 days before the hearing, and the party must pay the Court Reporter's deposit (usually the cost of the first day) no later than two judicial days before the hearing. The cost for a minimum half day and for a full day are available on the Court's website.
Special accommodations: Requests for reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities must be made five (5) days before your hearing. Requests for an interpreter for persons with limited English proficiency must be made ten (10) days in advance of your hearing.