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Civil Cases - Courtroom and Trial Procedures


1. Continuances

The trial date set at the case management conference is intended as a firm date. Where circumstances give rise to a compelling need for a continuance, a motion to vacate the trial date should be filed promptly. Delayed motions for continuances are strongly disfavored.

Counsel are not permitted to stipulate to continuing a trial date or other substantive adjustments in the schedule. Modest changes that do not significantly disrupt either filing deadlines or affect the trial date are permissible; notice should be given to the Courtroom Deputy in advance. Otherwise, counsel should contact chambers requesting setting of a scheduling conference.

In the event that another case is set for trial on the date that your case is also set for trial, one of the cases will be tried by another District Judge from this Division or District or from another District, or, if the parties consent, by the United States Magistrate Judge.

2. Motions in Limine

Motions in limine are to be filed not later that two weeks prior to the trial date; opposition is to be filed one week before the trial date.

3. Exhibits and Witness Lists

Witness lists are to be exchanged one week prior to trial. The anticipated order in which the witnesses will be called should be indicated on the witness list.

All exhibits are to be marked and exchanged not later than one week prior to trial.  JERS Order

All exhibits are to be numbered (i.e., no letters for exhibits). Counsel should consult and give each party a range of numbers for each side or party.

As a general rule, mark each exhibit with its own number or letter (i.e., avoid multiple sub-exhibits under a single number or letter).

The court is equipped with a document camera for displaying documents, etc. Counsel are encouraged to use that machine. Alternatively, counsel are to provide exhibit books for each juror and the court.

If counsel intend to use other technologies or have special needs re. exhibits, equipment, etc., notify the Courtroom Deputy not later than two weeks before trial, so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

Before displaying an exhibit to a witness or juror, show a copy to opposing counsel, or otherwise make certain that opposing counsel is fully aware of which exhibit you will be displaying, and that he or she has no objection to its display.

If you will be presenting evidence about a group of documents, give all the documents in the group to the witness at the outset.

Counsel are responsible for keeping track of their exhibits and making certain that all admitted exhibits are sent to the jury, extraneous material is redacted, and any excluded exhibits are extracted.

4. Trial briefs

As a general rule, counsel need not prepare trial briefs unless specifically asked to do so.

5. Voir Dire

If the parties consent, a Magistrate Judge conducts voir dire.

Counsel are permitted to participate in voir dire; though there are no rigid time limits, jury selection usually takes about a half day.

All jurors receive a questionnaire with the summons. They are to complete and return the questionnaire before reporting to court for voir dire. The Clerk’s office emails the completed questionnaires the Friday afternoon before trial.

If counsel desire to prepare their own juror questionnaire, they should notify the court at the final pretrial. If counsel cannot agree on the content of such questionnaire, they may ask the court to resolve their differences, time permitting.

Where a lengthier questionnaire is prepared by counsel, the jurors may be asked to report at 9:00 a.m. to fill out the questionnaire, which then will be scanned and given on a disc to counsel for before commencement of voir dire.

As a general rule, few limits are set on voir dire questions.

Challenges for cause should be asserted immediately after questioning of the challenged juror is completed. Challenges should be made and argued only at sidebar.

Peremptory strikes are exercised outside the presence of the jury, and are exercised alternatively until each side has exhausted its peremptory challenges.

As a general rule, twelve jurors will be empaneled, and all will participate in deliberations.

6. Trial Day

Trials normally are conducted on Tuesdays through Fridays. Voir dire is usually conducted on the Monday afternoon prior to the start of the trial.

Jurors are asked to be available by 8:15 a.m.; counsel should be available by then as well. Once counsel and jurors are present, trial will begin and continue, with breaks as desired or needed, until 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. Sometimes, jurors willing, the trial day will be extended to avoid continuing the trial into the following week.

On recessing at the completion of each trial day, counsel are to inform the court and opposing counsel of the witnesses to be called and exhibits to be offered the following day and the anticipated length of examination.

To the maximum extent possible, objections are to be made known at that time, so that, likewise to the maximum extent possible, evidentiary disputes can be resolved that afternoon without making the jurors wait.

7. Court reporters

Court reporting usually will be real time. Counsel are to make arrangements directly with the reporter if they desire to have real time or daily copy provided to them.

Voir dire normally will not be real time, because the reporters receive the jurors' names shortly before the proceeding and do not have an opportunity to enter the jurors' names in their realtime dictionaries

Provide the court reporter at the earliest opportunity with a copy of the witness list and a list of novel or unusual terms, spellings, etc.

8. Examination; Objections

Before each witness is called, counsel will be asked to summarize briefly the witness's anticipated testimony and indicate its relationship to the issues in the case

Counsel may address the court, jury, and witnesses from counsel table, the fixed lectern or a small portable lectern. Please stand when addressing the court, jurors, or witnesses.

Address all witnesses by the surname (Mr., Mrs., Ms.) and, where appropriate, by title (Agent, Officer, Doctor, etc.)..

When a document is first brought to the juror's attention, either state, or have the witness state, its exhibit number or letter, date, author, recipient, and general subject matter.

When a witness is testifying about a conversation, have the witness state the date, time, place, participants, and general subject matter.

State objections in the presence of the jury as briefly as possible to inform the court and opposing counsel of the grounds for the objection, preferably by citation to the applicable evidentiary rule or doctrine.

Speaking or argumentative objections in the presence of the jurors and witness are not permitted. All argument on objections will be conducted at sidebar and on the record.

Offers of or requests for stipulation should be made at sidebar, or otherwise outside the presence of the jury.

Jurors will may take notes and refer to the notes during deliberations.

If all counsel agree in civil cases, jurors may ask questions, which court and counsel will screen before being asked of the witness.

In cases where such may be appropriate (i.e., protracted, or multi-issue cases, etc.), counsel may, from time to time, on agreement, summarize in a narrative and objective manner the evidence presented thus far during the trial.

9. Non-Jury Cases; Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law are not required in all cases. Counsel should determine whether such materials needs to be filed at the settlement/final pretrial conference.

10. Jury Instructions

Counsel are to submit proposed jury instructions and any proposed special verdicts not later than one week prior to trial.

The proposed instructions should relate only to the substantive issues in the case; it is not necessary to submit opening and closing boilerplate.

Proposed instructions should indicate their source.

Counsel may obtain copies of instructions from prior cases from the court’s website.

As a general rule, instructions will follow (in order of preference): 1) Sixth Circuit pattern instructions, 2) Devitt & Blackmar, or Sand. Instructions on Ohio law will be based on O.J.I.
Before submitting proposed jury instructions, counsel are to have exchanged the instructions, and discussed and sought in good faith to resolve their differences. Agreed instructions should be submitted as such.

Every effort will be made to prepare initial jury instructions (including instructions on the elements of claims and defenses) and charge the jury before opening statements. The jury always will be charged prior to closing arguments. Jurors will have copies of the instructions when being charged (though not to retain until the case is concluded).

Counsel may refer to the instructions and law recited therein in opening statements and closing arguments.

11. Videorecording of proceedings

If counsel and the parties consent, civil trials will be videorecorded.

Counsel are encouraged to consent to this process. Cameras in Courts Pilot