Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Commissioner Christine Mulleneaux
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Pre-Trial Practice and Management IssuesMotion Practice • E-filing is not yet mandatory across the court system, but when it does apply to this assignment; litigants should understand all pleadings electronically filed will be routed to the trial judge. It is good practice for litigants to consider whether or not the materials e-filed, will reach the judicial officer assigned to their case. If not, hard copies should be delivered to the respective division.
• If you wish to have the Court consider a Motion to Modify Release Conditions or a Motion to Quash a Warrant a written Motion must be filed.
• With any Motion that you wish to have expedited, consider whether Victim’s Rights attach to the type of case and if so make sure that you address this issue in your Motion or Response to a Motion.
• Motions are reviewed before my Division sets oral argument. Efforts may be made to schedule oral argument as a stand-alone proceeding, or to incorporate oral argument into the initial pretrial conference, or comprehensive pretrial conference. Litigants should focus on special points, rather than a resuscitation of the pleadings during oral argument. Discovery or Disclosure Disputes and/or Sanctions • The parties are given a reasonable time to settle individual controversies and/or the matter itself. However, I will grant orders for disclosure with timelines when parties cannot work the issues out themselves.
• Placing a file under seal makes the file difficult to access for everyone. However, I will seal certain documents to protect a defendant who is cooperating, such as plea agreements in which there are cooperation agreements, or sentence reports regarding cooperation agreements.
• Sanctions will be issued as appropriate. The Court may always hold someone in contempt.
• The purpose of a master calendar is to keep counsel accountable through discovery. A defendant will have an initial appearance within twenty-four (24) hours of being taken into custody. Approximately ten (10) days later, arraignment is held, followed by an initial pretrial conference. Thereafter, during scheduling conference, trial dates are issued once the Court inquires about possible discovery disputes. A pretrial conference is held six (6) weeks later to check on the status of discovery. A final trial management conference is the last step, enabling a judicial officer to confirm discovery has been completed. Complex cases involving homicide, or complicated paper matters, may be granted longer timelines, and are typically routed directly to a trial judge. Other Pre-trial Practice Guidelines or Comments • Parties should confer about matters to which the other party would object. If the Court is not notified of party positions, hearings must be set to question the other side on record, causing delays in decision-making.
• If a defendant accepts a plea, and Defense wishes to then move to review release conditions… that should be part of plea discussions. If the State is not put on notice prior to the plea hearing, Defense runs the risk of the request to raise Modification being denied or postponed to a separate hearing.
• In the event a plea is entered, regardless of whether a settlement conference occurs, the State has the right to direct that sentencing get set with the assigned Case Management Judge. So if the Sentencing location matters to Defense, it should be part of plea negotiations.
• Depending upon whether or not a defendant accepts a plea, the case may be routed through a Grand Jury, the Regional Court Center, or Early Disposition Court for preliminary actions.
• Parties are required to participate in a settlement conference. The goal of Donald hearings is to advise the defendant of the plea offer, what could happen at trial, when the offer expires, and if a wavier is possible.
• Whenever a plea agreement is made, or sentencing is conducted, the judicial officer will ask counsel about compliance with victim’s rights. Litigants should answer this inquiry honestly.
• In light of technical difficulties associated with telephonic proceedings, parties should first attempt to file a stipulation, before requesting a telephonic hearing to resolve matters on the record.
Trial Practice and ProtocolTrial Schedule • Jury selection is generally accomplished in the afternoon, with trial testimony to begin the following afternoon.
• Attorneys should be prepared to provide solid time estimates upon Court inquiry.
• This Court will work with the parties on accommodation requests. Joint Pre-Trial Memo and/or Conference; Exhibits and Objections • The marking of exhibits must be done in accordance with the preferences of the court clerk. At a minimum, the clerk will prefer exhibits be submitted for marking prior to jury selection.
• Motions in Limine must be filed twenty (20) days ahead of trial, and be limited to small issues. Jury Selection • This Court follows the struck method.
• Attorneys may submit questions in writing, which they would like the Court to ask during voir dire, in advance of the selection process. After the Court’s voir dire, attorneys may ask follow up questions that were not initially addressed.
• Jurors may be challenged for cause.
• Alternate jurors will be selected as part of the jury panel.
• A certified set of jury instructions will be relied upon.
• This Court will have forms of verdict prepared initially at the time of jury selection. Attorneys are invited to review such early so that a record can be made on any issue with such. As well, Attorneys should review the final forms of verdict prior to the Court proceeding to final instructions. While it is this Court’s intention to ask and confirm that such has occurred, it is the Attorneys obligation to ensure that such and a record is made. Trial Practice and Procedure • At the end of a case, a defendant may wish to file a notice of appeal, if private counsel was retained for trial. The issue of whether the defendant wishes to and has the resources to retain counsel from appellate purposes should be raised. If the defendant does not have the funds for such, he/she may be found indigent, and counsel appointed, so as to protect the rights of the defendant and then the Court may relieve the trial attorney from being counsel of record. Courtroom Etiquette • Professional decorum is expected in the courtroom at all times.
• Please interact with court staff as you would interact with a judicial officer.