Civil Docket Control Order
Effective January 1, 2013, the Court will be using a new Docket Control Order for civil cases. The Order will specify a trial date as well as a Pre-Trial Conference date. Prior orders which only specified a Pre-Trial Conference date will be honored unless another order has been entered changing that Order.
Docket Control Orders will be entered after a Status Conference held by the Court Coordinator. Those conferences are scheduled for this Court on Thursdays at 9:00 AM. The date will be assigned by the District Clerk at the time the case is filed, usually about 90 days after that filing.
At the Status Conference, the attorneys will be given a Docket Control Order with the trial date and Pre-Trial Conference date. They will then be expected to agree on the remaining dates. The Court will not normally get involved in the preparation of the Docket Control Order, unless there is a serious disagreement between counsel on some terms or dates.
Counsel can avoid attending the Status Conference by submitting an agreed Docket Control Order by 4:00 PM on the date preceding the Conference. Prior to attempting to negotiate the Order, counsel should contact the Court Coordinator for the Pre-Trial Conference and Trial dates. Those dates will not be selected by the parties or their counsel, but by the Court and Court Coordinator.
All counsel are cautioned to procrastinate at their own risk once the Docket Control Order has been signed and entered.
Criminal Docket Control Order
A Docket Control Order will be signed by the Court when counsel for the State or the defendant ask to have the case placed on the trial docket. At that time, an Agreed Discovery Order will also be signed.
The Docket Control Order will include a deadline by which the case is to be mediated. The Court encourages the parties to agree on a mediator, and the Court will only appoint a mediator when the parties cannot agree. A mediator will either be agreed to or appointed at the time of the Status Conference.
Mediation is not mandatory, but is strongly encouraged. Before being excused from the requirement for mediation, the approval of the Court will be required.
Motions and Hearings
Contested motions are to be filed with the Galveston County District Clerk, and should include a Certificate of Conference, except for dispositive motions such as motions for summary judgment. A proposed order should be included with the motion. A request for hearing, if a hearing is necessary, should also be included. The Court Coordinator will schedule a hearing and advise Movant’s counsel of the date and time. Movant’s counsel is then responsible for advising all other counsel of the date and time in a timely manner, and to provide proof of notice to the Court
A motion may be submitted to the Court on the Submission Docket, without the necessity of a hearing. The Submission Docket will be Thursday at 4:00 PM after proper notice has been given. The party submitting a motion on the Submission Docket must file a Notice of Submission and serve that on all other parties. If the respondent or any other party requests an oral hearing, the Court will review the motion and any response to determine if a hearing is needed or warranted.
Agreed motions do not have to be set for hearing. They should be submitted through the District Clerk, and they will be considered by the Court.
Knowledge of the Rules and Precedent
The Court will expect all attorneys appearing before it to have a reasonable knowledge of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure or the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, as well as the Texas Rules of Evidence. The same expectation will be apply to cases and statutes involved in the issues presented by the particular case before the Court. Reasonable disagreements and interpretations of the Rules and cases are to be expected, but misrepresentation of any will not be tolerated.
Telephone conferences are encouraged to resolve discovery disputes, especially at the time of depositions. If counsel cannot resolve the issue, they should contact the Court Coordinator to schedule such a conference, and the Court will make every effort to accommodate the counsel at that time or a soon as possible. Counsel are responsible for setting up the phone call or conference call.
Trial notebooks for the Court are not required, but are considered helpful in complex or involved cases, or on issues which could be pivotal or dispositive to the outcome of the case.
Motions In Limine
The Court has entered a Standing Order In Limine, with which counsel should make themselves familiar. Do not duplicate items covered by that Order in any Motions In Limine filed prior to trial. Counsel are to exchange Motions In Limine as soon as practical, and to come to agreement on those matters about which they can agree. Counsel are expected to comply with the Standing Order and any other rulings which the Court may make, and to explain and discuss those orders with their clients and witnesses prior to the start of trial.
Counsel should confer prior to the day of trial to determine the length of time each party anticipates it will need to present its case or defense. Counsel should advise the court prior to the start of trial of any problems with the schedules of witnesses, as well as any lengthy examinations or cross-examinations anticipated.
Trial exhibits should be pre-marked to the extent possible before the start of trial. Counsel are to exchange exhibit lists and copies of exhibits, and confer to determine the admissibility of any exhibits, and counsel are to advise the Court of the number of any exhibits to which there is no objection. Objections to any exhibits will be taken up by the Court as a part of any pre-trial matters before the start of the trial.
Counsel should be prepared to discuss the voir dire process with the Court, and to have a reasonable estimate of the time they will request for voir dire. The Court will decide how much time is allotted to each side. A podium will be placed in front of the venire for the use of counsel during voir dire. It is not required that counsel stand behind the podium the entire time, but counsel should use the podium and limit their movements in front of the venire to those necessary to question individual members of the panel.
After the entire panel has been generally questioned, individual members can be called to the Bench for questioning to determine strikes for cause. No motions to strike for cause should be made prior to that Bench conference.
Permission to Approach
It is not necessary to ask permission of the Court to approach the witness, the exhibits or the audio-visual stand. The Court considers that formality a waste of valuable time. Counsel are expected to conduct the majority of their examination of a witness from the counsel table, and to avoid needless wandering around the Courtroom. Microphones are at each counsel table to assist the Court, Court Reporter and Jury in hearing the proceedings.
The Courtroom is equipped with a computer projector, DVD player, document projector (“Elmo”) and screen. Connections for the use of computers which tie into the projector are available at counsel tables.
Motions to Withdraw Exhibits
The custody and storage of exhibits introduced during trial is the responsibility of the Court’s Official Court Reporter, and ultimately, the District Clerk. However, if there is no reason for those exhibits to be retained (settlement or other resolution after verdict or no appeal), the Court strongly encourages counsel to file a Motion to Withdraw Exhibits, which will be readily granted. Fill-in-the-blank motions and orders will be available through the Court Coordinator and on the Court’s website.