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Court and Trial Procedures for the 157th Civil District Court

Judge Wilson's Court Procedures:  

Electronic filing is strongly encouraged but not mandated.

MOTIONS

Motions in General.  If time is short you should file your motion directly with the clerk of the 157th Court.  With the exception of dispositive motions such as summary judgments, you must confer with opposing counsel prior to filing a motion and include a certificate of conference.  Always include a proposed order with the motion.  

Discovery motions.  You must attach a copy of the discovery response at issue or state verbatim the request and answer in the body of your motion. Proposed orders should list each discovery issue separately.

Responses.  If time is short before a hearing, please file your response directly with the court clerk so that the judge will be able to read the response before the hearing date. Include an order denying your opponent’s motion.

Special exceptions.  Attach a copy of the pleading you are excepting to (unless the exception is only to the amount of damages sought) or state verbatim the paragraph to which you except. Proposed orders should list each exception separately.

Sanctions.  Sanctions should not be requested unless the opponent has violated a previous order. Instead ask for your costs in the form of attorneys’ fees.

Severance.  The party requesting the severance must tab and paperclip all pleadings that you need copied for transfer to the new file. You must obtain certified copies of all pleadings.  Coordinate with the clerk on the procedures. A cheaper alternative in some cases is to ask for abatement of one cause of action or separate trial on a cause of action.

Trial Continuances.  Continuances should be filed early and should state that the client consents to the requested continuance. Joint motions will not necessarily be granted. The earlier and the more detail in your motion, the better the chance for granting.  Motions should contain a certificate of conference.  All cases 36 months and older filing a trial continuance (agreed, unopposed or opposed) will require a phone conference with the Court.  Contact the Trial Coordinator if you have any questions.

Agreed Motions.  Agreed Motions do not have to be placed on the court’s docket. Simply file them with the court for consideration. If an agreed motion is denied without a hearing, you can request a subsequent oral hearing on the motion.

Motions to Withdraw as Attorney of Record.  Because motions to withdraw as attorney of record usually impose the burden of a pro se case on opposing parties and the court, they will be granted only where absolutely necessary.  The following must be filed before any such motion will be considered: 

1.     Notice of hearing or submission.  

2.     A statement of the particular circumstances and disciplinary rules requiring withdrawal.  A general statement such as “irreconcilable conflicts” is not enough.  Matters which are confidential may be filed under seal.

3.     A certificate by the attorney of record of the client’s name, address, and telephone number, whether such information is current, or if not current, when it was last known to be correct. 

4.     A copy of a letter from the attorney of record to the client giving notice: (a) that the attorney is withdrawing; (b) that the client is deemed to have knowledge of and is required to abide by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure if the client proceeds pro se; (c) that all notices from the court to the client’s current address will be deemed to have been received unless the client notifies the court of any change of address; (d) that no continuances or extension will be granted to the pro se client in order to obtain other counsel; & (e) notice of submission or  hearing at which the motion to withdraw will be considered. 

5.     In addition to the items described in #4 above, if the client is a corporation, the attorney must notify the client that a corporation cannot proceed pro se and if the corporation has not obtained new counsel within 30 days, a default judgment may be entered against the corporation if it is a defendant or its claims will be dismissed if it is a plaintiff.

6.     A signed acceptance of the terms of the letter described in item 4, if the client has agreed to the withdrawal.  If the client has not agreed to the withdrawal, proof of service of the letter described in items 4 & 5 must be filed.

Rule 106 Motions for Substituted Service.  All motions for Substituted Service under Rule 106 must be accompanied by an affidavit that includes the following information:

Efforts taken to verify that defendant actually lives or works at the subject address
Each attempt at service, with date and time
Identity of persons who were present at the subject address and what was said
Identity of cars in the driveway or other indications that defendant resides at the subject address.  

Hearings

 

Emergencies.  If both sides agree to an emergency hearing, call the court clerk and set up a phone conference with the judge. If only one side thinks it is an emergency, file a motion for emergency hearing. File it directly with the court clerk who will then give it to the judge to set a hearing time.

Oral Docket.  Any party requesting an oral hearing should call the court clerk for a date and time. No formal request for oral hearing is required. Once you call the clerk and obtain a hearing date, file a notice of oral hearing and serve it on all counsel or pro se parties. The court’s oral docket is usually on Friday. The docket starts at 9:00 for most motions, 10:00 for summary judgments, and 11:00 for hearings where evidence is put into the record.  The court requires 10 days notice to opposing counsel for an oral hearing, unless shortened by agreement of all parties or by order of the court or unless the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure require different deadlines, e.g., motions for summary judgment & motions to transfer.

 
Submission Docket.  If you do not require an oral hearing, you may set the matter for the submission docket to be decided on the papers.  The submission docket is Mondays at 8:00 am after proper notice.   If the matter is set on the submission docket, file a notice of the submission and serve it on all counsel or pro se parties and the court. If the movant places the matter on the submission docket and the respondent requests an oral hearing, the respondent may object to consideration of the motion by submission and file a motion to have the matter heard at an oral hearing.

Appearance by phone.  Out of town counsel can appear by phone for any scheduled hearing. If more than one person wants to appear by phone at a scheduled hearing, the attorneys must all conference in through the Harris County Conference line.  Contact the Clerk to arrange the conference call. 

Depositions

Scheduling.  To the extent possible, depositions should be scheduled by agreement.  Generally, the party who requests the first deposition is entitled to take the first deposition.  Thereafter, unless the parties agree otherwise, depositions should be alternated.

 

Deposition Exhibits.  Exhibits should be sequentially marked Ex. 1, Ex. 2, etc. regardless of the identity of the deponent or the side introducing the exhibit.  These same exhibit numbers will be used throughout pretrial and trial.

 

Trials

 

Trial settings.  Parties must call the trial coordinator to get docket positions.  The positions on the JWEB/internet screens are not accurate.  The trial coordinator's phone number is 832-927-2410.

Trial Notebooks. Notebooks are not required but are extremely helpful for the court.

Pre-Trial Orders.  Pre-trial orders are due at the time of trial. This can be extended by agreement. The notice from the court sets out the requirements.

Pretrial Order

Challenges to Experts
.  If you anticipate a challenge to an expert’s qualifications that will take more than 15-30 minutes to hear, do not wait until the first day of trial.  Discuss scheduling of the challenge with the court at an earlier status conference or with the Trial Coordinator.

Voir Dire.  Time for voir dire depends on the complexity of the case. After the general voir dire, individual jurors can be questioned at the bench for cause. Do not bring a proposed jury questionnaire to the first day of trial. Discuss this with opposing counsel and the court at an earlier status conference.  Opening statements should be reserved for opening, and attorneys should not question jurors as to opinions on the facts of the case. 

Exhibits.  At least seven days prior to trial date, exchange exhibit lists and make exhibits available for inspection and copying on request.  Eliminate duplicate exhibits.  Mark an 8x11 size exhibit for any blowup used.  Be prepared to advise judge of exhibit numbers for which you have no objection. 

Depositions.  Provide page/line for any witness anticipated to testify by deposition at least seven days prior to trial date.  Opposing counsel must promptly advise of any objections.  Any objections not agreed to must be presented to judge prior to commencement of voir dire examination.  Questions may be repeated as necessary to lay foundation on cross-examination.

Audio-Visual Equipment.  All courtrooms have state of the art audio-visual eqipment, including an ELMO (document camera), computer jacks, projectors, TV screens, VCR & DVD players.  Counsel are encouraged to use the ELMO to present exhibits to the jury.  If you are unfamiliar with its use, come to the courtroom early and learn.  The Court has prepared detailed instructions on use of the audio-visual equipment.  Please refer to the attached weblink.

http://www.justex.net/Courts/Civil/CivilTechnology.aspx

Motions in Limine.  Attorneys should exchange motions prior to trial.  Attorneys will be expected to abide by rulings and approach the bench prior to exploring a subject covered by an order in limine.  This court has adopted a standing order in Limine applicable to all cases.  Do not duplicate these items in your motions in limine.  Rather, your motion should be limited to items peculiar to the facts of your case. 

Standing Order in Limine

Limine Order

Time for trial.  Be prepared to advise the judge of amount of time necessary to present your case in chief and any lengthy cross-examinations.  

Court’s Charge.  Jury questions and instructions should be exchanged prior to trial.  Proposed instructions should be in word format filed with the clerk, and e-mailed to the court at: 157court@justex.net.

Findings of Fact/Conclusions of Law.  In a non-jury trial, proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law are to be filed at the time of trial.  Additionaly, propsed findings of fact and conclusions of law should be e-mailed to the court at: 157court@justex.net

Trial Settings.  All cases are automatically set for trial after the answer of a defendant. Most cases are reset within 2 to 4 months if not reached at the first setting. 

Temporary Injunctions. Please call the court clerk before your scheduled hearing. TIs are automatically set on Fridays at 11:00 a.m. It is imperative that we know whether or not you are ready to proceed with the hearing and how long the hearing will take. We may need to reschedule your hearing and extend the TRO until a convenient time for the court. Do not bring your witnesses to court until you have spoken to the court clerk!

Mediations. Generally, all cases are required to be mediated before trial.  If you believe that your case is not appropriate for mediation, file an objection to the mediation and set it for a hearing or put it on the submission docket. 

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