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Judge Polster's Civil and Criminal Practices and Procedures

A. Commencement of Civil Action - General Procedures
1. Case Management / Electronic Case Files System
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio is converting from its old Integrated Case Management docketing system to its new Case Management / Electronic Case Files System (CM/ECF) docketing system. The CM/ECF system provides the bench, the bar and the public with electronic access to up-to-the minute docket sheets as well as to the documents themselves.
It is the Court's expectation that, absent a showing of good cause, all counsel who regularly practice in this district will be prepared to file electronically and accept electronic notice of filings in any civil case before this Court no later than January 1, 2001. For those civil cases in which the Court determines that good cause is shown for not filing electronically, all documents that are filed on paper will be scanned by the Clerk's Office and placed into the CM/ECF system.
2. Case Management Conference (CMC)
Held approximately 30 days after an Answer has been filed. If a dispositive motion has been filed before the filing of an Answer, the CMC will generally be held approximately 30 days after the Judge issues his ruling on the motion. Occasionally, where the Judge deems it appropriate, a CMC will be scheduled after the briefing on the dispositive motion is completed but before a ruling is issued.
Follows Local Rule 16(b) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 regarding the agenda for the CMC, the parties' planning meeting and initial disclosures. Plaintiff's counsel is responsible for arranging the planning meeting and for faxing to Chambers, 3 days before the CMC, a jointly signed report of that meeting. Expects plaintiff to make a demand with a written description and monetary breakdown of the damages claimed, and defendant to respond with a counteroffer prior to the CMC. Their efforts are to be noted in the report of the parties' planning meeting.
Per Local Rule 16.3(b)(1), expects lead counsel and parties to attend the CMC unless they have been given leave to attend by telephone well in advance.
3. Case Management Plan
Includes deadlines for discovery and the filing of dispositive motions, the method for handling discovery disputes, page limitations for dispositive and other motion practice, and the date of the status hearing. Generally, standard time limitations on discovery are imposed in accordance with the track to which the case has been assigned.
4. Removed Cases
Issues a standing order on all removed cases requiring all parties to file a signed statement indicating: the date on which the defendants or their representatives first received or were served with a copy of the summons and complaint in the state court action; the name of any defendant served prior to the time of removal who did not formally join in the notice of removal and the reason; whether any defendants who have been served are citizens of the State of Ohio; the reason for untimely removal, if applicable. Plaintiff must submit a detailed monetary breakdown of damages.
5. Policy Concerning Contacts with Judges and Clerks
Judge Polster accepts no ex parte communications. Counsel may contact the courtroom deputy clerk, the judge's judicial assistant, or his law clerks with respect to procedural matters only.
6. Motions and Briefs
Follows Local Rule 7.1(g) regarding page limitations. Memoranda of law for dispositive motions are limited to 10 pages for expedited cases, 20 pages for standard and administrative cases, 30 pages for complex cases, and 40 pages for mass tort cases. Memoranda relating to all other motions may not exceed 15 pages. Leave to exceed these limitations must be sought well in advance of the deadline for filing a memorandum, and is rarely granted. Judge Polster believes these limitations benefit counsel as well as the court. There is no reason to provide the court with courtesy copies of motions or briefs, unless the court specifically requests them, because motions and briefs are now either electronically filed or scanned into the CM/ECF system and chambers has instant access to them.
B. Civil Pretrial Procedures
1. Motion Practice
Judge Polster rules on all motions based on the written briefs. He rarely hears oral argument of motions. Unopposed motions are not automatically granted, but are ruled on expeditiously. Because Judge Polster rarely grants emergency motions ex parte, he generally requires a party filing an emergency motion to notify the opposing party and/or counsel of the filing and provide them with a copy of it.
2. Settlement
Judge Polster believes that the attorneys and parties should view the litigation process as a vehicle to resolve a controversy. Accordingly, he expects counsel to earnestly engage in settlement discussions before the CMC and throughout litigation. He makes active use of the court's ADR program and, with the consent of the parties, frequently engages in mediation efforts himself. All pretrial conferences are also treated as settlement conferences, and the parties and counsel are required to attend these conferences prepared to discuss settlement. Judge Polster requires that each counsel fax to Chambers no later than 5 business days before each pretrial conference, a letter advising the Judge of the status of settlement negotiations. Plaintiff must provide a monetary breakdown of damages claimed.
3. Discovery Disputes
Follows Local Rule 37.1. The order for resolving discovery disputes under this rule is: (1) a good faith resolution effort by counsel, (2) a telephone conference call with the court, triggered by a short letter from counsel, (3) position letters, if solicited by the court, and (4) a formal Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 discovery motion. Does not usually refer discovery matters to a magistrate judge.
Follows the express limitations on the number of interrogatories and depositions set forth in the Local Rules, which limitations are dependent upon the track to which the case has been assigned.
4. Status Hearing/Settlement Conference
Pursuant to the Case Management Plan, counsel are required to fax to Chambers at least 5 days before the status hearing/settlement conference, a status/settlement report indicating a brief overview of the facts, the status of discovery, the status of settlement discussions, and any other matters counsel feel should be addressed by the Judge at the conference. The Judge expects the parties to discuss settlement in specific terms prior to faxing the report to chambers, and to include the end result of those discussion(s) in the confidential faxed report.
5. Final Pretrial Conference/Trial Order
Judge Polster has a standard trial order form. The order sets forth requirements for a joint statement of the case, a joint statement of undisputed facts, witness lists, stipulations, exhibit lists, depositions and other discovery material to be used at trial, a single joint submission of jury instructions agreed upon by all parties, and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.
C. Criminal Pretrial Procedures
1. Bail Procedures
Judge Polster determines bail and handles his own arraignments whenever possible. A Magistrate Judge determines bail for those defendants arrested on a warrant pursuant to a complaint filed by the United States Attorney's Office.
2. Discovery Procedures
Unless there is a well-founded concern for the safety of the witness, the parties are strongly encouraged to provide Jencks and reciprocal Jencks material no later than the close of proceedings the day before the witness is expected to testify.
3. Pleas
Strongly prefers that pleas be written. Does not object to plea arrangements that involve sentencing recommendations, and does not object to binding agreements under Fed.R. Crim. P. 11(e)(1). At the arraignment, establishes a change of plea deadline approximately two weeks before trial beyond which no plea agreements will be accepted.
4. Sentencing Practices
Sentencing recommendations of the probation officer are not divulged. Counsel must raise any objections to presentence investigative reports, guideline computations, and other such matters in writing prior to sentencing.
D. Trial
1. Trial Date
Provides notice of trial at the status hearing in civil cases and at the arraignment in criminal cases. Rarely grants continuances. Requests for continuances in civil cases must be made by motion signed by the parties themselves. Trial schedule is from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break, one midmorning 15-minute break, and one midafternoon 15-minute break. Expects counsel to be present in the courtroom at 8:30 a.m. to address matters outside the presence of the jury.
2. Trial Briefs
Requires counsel to file trial briefs in all cases and to send all other counsel a copy of all briefs. Trial briefs must include a synopsis of the facts, discussion of the controlling law, and discussion of any evidentiary issues likely to arise at trial.
3. Jury Instructions
Provides boilerplate instructions. Requires counsel to provide only instructions regarding the applicable law. Requires counsel to confer with one another to reach consensus on those instructions and file a single, joint submission of proposed jury instructions (on paper and computer diskette) no later than three business days before the final pretrial conference.
4. Voir Dire
Judge Polster conducts an extensive voir dire which includes standard questions and may incorporate some of the parties' proposed questions. After he completes his questioning, he will allow counsel approximately ten minutes per party to ask supplemental questions if the parties are not numerous. Counsel may submit proposed voir dire questions to the court at least three business days prior to the final pretrial conference.
Judge Polster uses an "informed strike" method for peremptory challenges. The entire panel is questioned and qualified. The peremptory challenges are then made by round. A sheet of paper is exchanged by counsel upon which they alternately write in the names and juror numbers of those they are challenging. If a party passes on a peremptory challenge, it loses that challenge. If the plaintiff and defendant consecutively pass on their peremptory challenges, the challenges are concluded and the jurors in the box are seated. After the peremptory challenges are completed, the names of the members of the jury are read and the jury is sworn.
5. Opening Statement
Judge Polster will discuss time limits on opening statements with counsel before trial commences. He expects counsel to keep their opening statements brief, for the benefit of counsel as well as the jury. Any exhibits that will be used in opening statement must be shown in advance to opposing counsel.
6. Decorum
Does not require counsel to conduct examinations at the lectern. Counsel should request permission from the judge to approach a witness.
7. Jury Procedures
Permits jurors to take notes during trial. Permits jurors to submit written questions during the course of trial, which are then given to counsel. The judge accepts no communications from jurors except in a signed writing transmitted through the foreperson and given to the courtroom deputy.
After the parties have presented their cases, Judge Polster provides all jurors with a written copy of the jury instructions so that they may follow along with him while he reads them and for the jurors' use during deliberations.
8. Stipulations
For the jury's use during deliberations, Judge Polster requires that all stipulations must be in writing signed by counsel, and by the defendant in criminal cases. Expects the parties to stipulate to as many undisputed facts as possible so as not to waste the court's or the juries' time.
9. Marking Exhibits
Requires that all trial exhibits be pre-marked and a copy provided for his use
10. Reading of Depositions
Permits counsel to utilize third parties for reading depositions in court.
11. Use of Experts
Qualifications of expert witnesses should be confirmed either by stipulation or by direct testimony. Parties are required to notify the Judge of possible Daubert challenges well in advance of trial.
12. Use of Videotapes
Allows counsel to present videotapes in court. However, requires a complete written transcript of videotaped depositions, with any objections specified in writing well before trial.
13. Daily Transcripts
Requires the parties to arrange for daily transcripts.
14. Closing Statements
Limits closing statements to a reasonable amount of time upon which the parties have agreed in advance and the Judge has approved.