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Court Procedures

 Court Procedures:   

   
Pre-trial Procedures and Motion Practice 

 

Discovery and other Non-evidentiary Motions:  Parties are to confer and narrow their areas of disagreement in advance of any hearing.  The Court typically holds a motion docket once a week on Mondays.  However, there are occasions when the motion docket is on a different weekday or when more than one motion docket occurs per week.  THE COURT DOES NOT HAVE A SUBMISSION DOCKET.  These types of motions may be set for oral hearing on the 9:30 a.m. docket only by calling the Court Clerk.  Any party requesting oral hearing must call the Court Clerk to schedule the hearing, and must give at least 10 days written notice to all parties of the hearing.  Please call the Court Clerk and all counsel when any hearing is passed.  Appearances by telephone and hearings by teleconference may be arranged through the Court Clerk.  The Court strongly urges that an order be filed along with any and all motions.

 

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 when absolutely necessary.  The following must be filed before any such motion will be considered:


         1. Notice of hearing.

 

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

 

3. A certificate by the attorney of record of the client's name, address, and telephone number, and the statement 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 extensions will be granted to the pro se client in order to obtain other counsel; and (e) notice of the hearing at which the motion to withdraw will be considered.

 

5. 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 item 4 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;

     ·    Any other information that will give the Court assurance that the defendant will receive notice through the requested substituted service.

 

Additionally, the following must be referenced and attached as an exhibit to the order:

 

 

EXHIBIT A

 

It is further

                   ORDERED that service shall also comply with the following provisions:

 

(a) a copy of the citation and petition shall be mailed by both certified mail, return receipt requested, and regular mail to the Defendant at the same address at which service is authorized above;

(b) the return of service shall not be made until 30 days after mailing or until the process server receives back the green card from the post office, whichever is earlier;

(c) the return of service shall include a statement setting out the date of mailing and the result of the mailing by certified mail and the date of mailing and the result of mailing by regular mail (i.e., whether the envelope was returned by the post office, or the green card came back signed, or whatever happened as a result of the mailing); and

(d) a copy of any envelope or green card returned by the post office shall be attached to the return of citation.

 

The return of service of the person executing service pursuant to this order shall otherwise be made in accordance with Rule 107 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

 

Service will be complete upon compliance with this Order regardless of whether Defendant signs the certified mail receipt. 


Motions for Default Judgment:  The Court does not have a submission docket.  Therefore, all Motions for Default Judgment must be set for oral hearing, unless the Court directs an attorney to proceed on a Motion for Default Judgment via submission.  The Court typically holds a motion docket once a week on Mondays.  However, there are occasions when the motion docket is on a different weekday or when more than one motion docket occurs per week.  Motions for default judgment may only be set for oral hearing on the 10:15 a.m. docket, and may only be set by calling the Court Clerk.  Any Motion for Default Judgment that is noticed by an attorney without first calling the Court Clerk will not be heard, and will be passed. 

 

The Court requires the movant to give the defaulting parties (as well as any other parties who may have made an appearance in the case) 10 days notice of the hearing and of the default motion by regular and certified mail, and to certify that this has been done in a certificate of service.
 

 

If the defaulting party was served at an address other than the address for which the citation was issued, the Court requires the movant to file a Motion to Amend Citation, requesting that the citation be amended to reflect the address at which valid service was actually accomplished, along with a proposed Order to Amend Citation.


Motions for Summary Judgment:
  Motions for summary judgment are heard on Mondays at 11:00 a.m.  The Court typically holds a motion docket once a week on Mondays.  The Court does not have a submission docket.  However, there are occasions when the motion docket is on a different weekday or when more than one motion docket occurs per week.  Motions for summary judgment may be set for oral hearing on the 11:00 a.m. docket only by calling the Court Clerk.  Motions should be filed sufficiently in advance of the trial setting to be heard before the case is called to trial.  “No evidence” summary judgment motions should not be set for hearing more than 30 days before the first trial setting, unless the non-moving party does not contest that an adequate time for discovery has passed.  If a motion for summary judgment involves complex issues or lengthy debate, ask the clerk to set the motion for a special setting to allow additional time for oral argument.  Provide courtesy copies of any response or reply papers directly with the clerk of the 234th on the 13th floor if the hearing is less than a week away.  Copies of relevant cases are appreciated.  Highlighting is acceptable as long as highlighted copies are provided to all counsel.  Please call the Court Clerk and all counsel when any hearing is passed.

 

Motions to Sever:  Motions to sever may be granted after dispositive Court orders if accompanied by the following:

1.  Notice of Oral Hearing

2.  Motion stating the basis for the severance.

3.  Order of severance, with a blank in the body of the order to fill in the new cause number for the severed action.  The order should be filed with the motion, and must include a list of the pleadings and date of which documents are to be included in the severed case file, and should state which parties will be in the new severed case, and which will remain in the main case.  The order should also state against which party the costs of the severance are to be assessed.

Special note regarding bankruptcies.  Severance are not granted merely because of bankruptcy filings.  In such cases, the opposing party should either dismiss the bankrupt party in this Court and proceed in Bankruptcy Court, or move for relief from the bankruptcy stay in Bankruptcy Court and proceed in this Court.

 

Emergency Motions:  Emergency motions may be scheduled through the court clerk with good cause shown.

 

Trial Settings:  All cases are automatically scheduled for trial pursuant to a docket control order.  If your case is a Level 3 case and you need special scheduling consideration  (e.g., a longer discovery period, a shorter trial setting), prepare an agreed scheduling order and submit it to the Court.  If you need to amend any deadline in the docket control order (except joinder, pre-trial conference, or trial setting), you may do so either by Rule 11 agreement or by moving for leave of Court.  Preferential settings will be granted only upon a showing of good cause (e.g., parties or witnesses reside outside the United States) and, absent other considerations, should be set for trial during the summer months with all parties waiving any vacation letters on file.

 

Continuances:  First continuances may be granted for good cause or upon agreement of the parties if a motion for continuance is filed sufficiently in advance of the trial setting.  If agreed, first continuances will not require a hearing unless after reviewing the motion the Court deems one necessary.  The proposed order granting the continuance shall provide a space for the new trial date to be inserted by the Court.  If the parties would like to amend the docket control order in addition to continuing the trial date, please note your request in the Motion for Continuance and include the statement that a new scheduling order shall be issued by the Court in the proposed order.  Alternatively, an amended scheduling order may be submitted.  Continuances after the first continuance must demonstrate substantial need for a delay of the trial setting and must be set for oral hearing whether agreed or opposed. 

 

Pre-trial Conferences:  A pre-trial conference is typically held before trial begins.  The Court Coordinator will telephone counsel with the day and time to appear for the pre-trial conference.  The Court will entertain requests to hold the pre-trial conference farther in advance.  Cases generally will have at least one day’s notice before being called in for trial.  Docket positions are available by contacting the Court Coordinator.

 

Jury Trials:  Before trial, parties should exchange the actual exhibits as well as exhibit lists, motions in limine, and proposed charge issues.  Have a copy ready for the judge as well.  All exhibits should be pre-marked, and an 81/2 x 11 size duplicate exhibit should be provided for any blowup exhibit.  Review the exhibits, exhibit list, and motion in limine filed by opposing counsel before trial and be prepared to advise the judge as to which exhibits and limine requests you have no objection.  Deposition excerpts must be provided to opposing counsel the week before trial.  Excerpts should be reviewed and objections made in writing by the day of the pre-trial conference.  Be prepared to advise the Court of your witness list and anticipated schedule.  The Court has a DVD player and VCR available for viewing videotaped depositions.  Other audio/visual equipment is also available.  If the Court is not in session, you may call to arrange a time to inspect the audio/visual equipment.  The Court Coordinator will telephone all parties at least one day in advance of trial to schedule the pre-trial conference.  Voir dire may begin immediately after the pre-trial conference in some cases, so be ready to pick a jury when called for the pre-trial conference.  Jurors are allowed to take notes during the trial and to use their notes during deliberations.

 

Non-Jury Trials:  Follow the above guidelines for jury trial, but prepare and exchange proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law with all counsel and provide them to the judge.  In addition, prepare a proposed form of judgment.

 

Instructions for Trials in the 234th District Court

 

Pretrial Conference

 

     In jury trials, a pretrial conference will usually be held a few days before the actual trial begins.  Before the pretrial conference (PTC), the following must be completedItems 1 (including the actual exhibits to be tendered to the Court Reporter), 3, 4 and 6 must be brought with you to the PTC:

 

1.  Exhibits.  All exhibits must be (i) premarked, (ii) redacted (e.g., insurance), and (iii) exchanged with opposing counsel prior to the PTC.  Opposing counsel must review the actual exhibits prior to the PTC to determine whether there are objections.  Any objections must be discussed with opposing counsel prior to the PTC.  An exhibit list must also be brought to the PTC.  

 

2.  Witnesses.  Be prepared to name witnesses who will actually testify, and discuss the necessity for each.  Undesignated, cumulative, and unnecessary witnesses will be struck at this time.

 

3.  Motions in Limine.  Be sure to exchange motions in limine with opposing counsel before the PTC to determine whether there are objections.  Any objections must be discussed with opposing counsel prior to the PTC.

 

4.  Draft Jury Charge.  Draft Jury Charges must be exchanged with opposing counsel before the PTC.  Modifications may be submitted as the trial progresses.

 

5.  Deposition Excerpts. Page/line designations must be exchanged before the pretrial conference to determine if there are any objections.  Any objections must be discussed with opposing counsel prior to the PTC. 

6. Timeline. Each party must prepare a 1 page chronological summary of the key case facts.

 

Failure to comply with the foregoing may result in exclusion of exhibits, witnesses, or motions.  Failure to review items tendered by opposing counsel may result in waiver of objection thereto.

 

Voir Dire

 

1.  Introduction.  The judge will give introductory remarks, including expected length of trial, differences in civil and criminal cases, identity of all attorneys and parties, as well as the Rule 226a instructions.

 

2.  General Voir Dire.  Voir dire is limited normally to 30 minutes per side.  In complex cases, more time may be allowed. The rules of proper voir dire are strictly enforced (e.g., no opening statement, no argument).  Questions attempting to learn how jurors will vote based on an assumption of the facts, or to commit jurors to a specific finding, are strictly prohibited.

 

3.  Voir Dire at Bench.  Voir dire that anyone wishes to have conducted outside the hearing of the jury panel is postponed until the end of all other voir dire.  The panel will then be excused to the hallway, and individual jurors may be called in for questioning. 

 

4.  Strikes for Cause.  Motions to strike are taken at the end of all voir dire.  Comments regarding the acceptability of a juror should never be made in a juror's presence.
 

Settlements

 

          You do need not appear in court to announce a settlement; a phone call to the court coordinator is sufficient.  However, a plaintiff who announces settlement without an enforceable Rule 11 agreement does so at his/her own risk.  Cases are dismissed for want of prosecution if no judgment is filed within 14 days after the court is notified of settlement (this time may be extended where necessary).  Failure to obtain an enforceable settlement agreement will not be good cause to avoid dismissal or to reinstate the case.

Settlements Involving Minor Children 

 

          A Guardian Ad Litem will be required for all settlements involving  minor children.  The parties are to submit an Agreed motion and order for appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem.  The Court will then select the Guardian Ad Litem for that case, and will inform the parties of the Court's decision.  Once a Guardian Ad Litem has been appointed, the parties may contact the Court Clerk in order to obtain a Minor Settlement hearing date.  At the time of the hearing, the parties are to present the proposed Judgment, as well as the Supreme Court ad litem fee report.

 

 

 

 

 

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