Sheri Polster Chappell
United States District Judge
Welcome to the Honorable Sheri Polster Chappell's website. In an effort to alert counsel and litigants on issues that frequently arise and the Court's practices and procedures, this website has been created to assist in the orderly and swift resolutions of civil and criminal cases. Keep in mind, the information on this website supplements the Federal Rules of Procedure and Local Rules for the Middle District of Florida. Counsel and litigants should carefully review the matters discussed below.
Judge Chappell has been serving the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in the Fort Myers Division since 2003, first as a Magistrate Judge and then a District Judge.
During her tenure on the federal bench, Judge Chappell has served on the Middle District of Florida's Executive Committee, Automation and Technology Committee, Bench Bar Fund Committee, Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, Case Management and Judicial Relations Committee, Congressional Relations Committee, and International Relations Committee. In addition, Judge Chappell has been involved with educating students in mock trial presentations and the Open Doors to the Federal Court’s Program. She is also a member of the Calusa Chapter of the American Inns of Court, the Southwest Florida Federal Court Bar Association, and the Lee County Bar Association.
Judge Chappell is also at the forefront of integrating the latest technology to the federal bench. She is an active member of the Federal Judicial Center's ("FJC") Information Technology Advisory Committee and delivers IT training nationally to fellow district judges, newly appointed magistrate judges, and other court personnel for both the FJC and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Judge Chappell has further authored several IT tutorials and other documents on efficient management techniques and procedures for judges using technology. She was recently named to the National District and Bankruptcy NextGen of CM/ECF Working Group.
Judge Chappell is a proud recipient of the William H. Hoeveler Judicial Professionalism Award from The Florida Bar.
In 1987, Judge Chappell began her legal career as an Assistant State Attorney for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit. She tried copious criminal cases involving drug offenses, property crimes, violent crimes against persons, child sexual batteries, and homicides. She also served on the Executive Council and became the first female to head the Hendry County, Glades County, and Charlotte County offices. In addition, Judge Chappell taught law at the Southwest Florida Criminal Justice Academy. After thirteen years as a prosecutor, Judge Chappell was appointed as a Lee County Court Judge in 2000.
Judge Chappell is a native of Kiel, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984. Three years later, she earned a juris doctor from Nova Southeastern University Law Center.
United States Courthouse & Federal Building
2110 First Street
Fort Myers, Florida 33901
Chambers Telephone: (239) 461-2060
Chambers Email: Chambers_FLMD_Chappell@flmd.uscourts.gov
For additional information, please visit the Middle District of Florida's website at www.flmd.uscourts.gov.
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Official Court Reporter
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|Case Management Report||Word|
|Case Management Report in Patent Cases||Adobe||Word|
|Interested Persons Order||Adobe||Word|
|Notice of Pendency of Related Cases||Adobe||Word|
|Consent to Magistrate Judge Form||Adobe|
|Instructions Regarding Statement of Material Facts for Motion Summary Judgment||Adobe|
|Witness List - Civil||Adobe||Word|
|Witness List - Criminal||Adobe||Word|
|Instructions Regarding Exhibit Lists, Marking Exhibits, Sensitive Exhibits, and Electronic Exhibit Binders||Adobe|
|Plaintiff Exhibit Tags - use blue paper||Adobe||Word|
|Defendant Exhibit Tags - use yellow paper||Adobe||Word|
|Government Exhibit Tags - use blue paper||Adobe||Word|
|Joint Exhibit Tags - use green paper||Adobe||Word|
|Juror Questionnaire - Civil||Adobe||Word|
|Juror Questionnaire - Criminal||Adobe||Word|
|Middle District Discovery Manual||Adobe|
|In re: Possession and Use of Personal Electronic Devices||Adobe|
|Standard Case Management and Scheduling Order||Adobe|
|Letter to Counsel Regarding Updates to Policies and Procedures||Adobe|
|LinkBuilder Add-In for MS Word||Adobe|
|2016 Trial Calendar|
|2017 Trial Calendar|
|2018 Trial Calendar|
Local and Federal Rules
Many answers to frequently asked questions are found in Federal Rules of Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence, the Local Rules for the Middle District of Florida, and the Middle District of Florida's CM/ECF Administrative Procedures for Electronic Filing. The Court expects counsel and pro se litigants to know and follow these rules. Frequent review of the rules is recommended as they are often amended.
Counsel may telephone or email Chambers with procedural questions and for other assistance. However, the law clerks will not give legal advice, interpret the Federal and Local Rules, provide time estimates for the Court's written rulings, or discuss the merits of a case ex parte. When contacting Chambers, counsel and pro se litigants must notify the opposing party to avoid any appearance of ex parte communications.
The Court does not reserve a set time for informal matters (e.g., discovery or deposition disputes); however, the Court is available most days to hear informal matters. In such situations, both parties may call Chambers to schedule a time for an in-court or telephone conference. The Court will then hear arguments on the issue and, to the extent possible, issue a ruling. Depending on the complexity of the issue, the Court may ask for a succinct briefing (usually not to exceed 5 pages in length).
Requests for Extension of Time/Adjournments
Since the Middle District of Florida is one of the busiest trial courts in the country, extensions and adjournments of Court-imposed dates and deadlines will be granted only for compelling reasons. The Court's permission is required to extend or adjourn Court-imposed dates and deadlines.
Notice of Unavailability of Counsel
A "Notice of Unavailability of Counsel" has no force or effect in this Court. Counsel should not rely on filing a notice of unavailability to excuse his/her failure to appear before the Court or to comply with deadlines or other procedural rules.
If counsel needs to extend a deadline or reschedule a proceeding or deposition, counsel must first confer with opposing counsel and then file a motion for an extension of time or continuance with the Court.
CM/ECF Administrative Procedures for Electronic Filing
The Middle District of Florida mandates electronic filing through the Case Management/Electronic Case Files ("CM/ECF") system. Counsel and pro se litigants must review and follow the Middle District of Florida's CM/ECF Administrative Procedures for Electronic Filing when electronically filing on CM/ECF.
Judge Chappell strongly encourages counsel to insert hyperlinks in documents filed electronically. When filing a document containing hyperlinks, counsel must:
- hyperlink to other portions of the same document;
- hyperlink to other documents electronically filed with the Court (or to any other federal court’s e-filing system); and
- hyperlink to cited legal authority located on recognized electronic research services like Westlaw, LexisNexis, FindLaw, and official government websites. Hyperlinks to cited authority do not replace standard citation format. Although hyperlinks are convenient mechanisms for accessing material cited in a document filed in CM/ECF, neither a hyperlink nor any website to which it refers will be considered part of the record.
The CM/ECF LinkBuilder add-in for Microsoft Word ("LinkBuilder") automates the creation of cross-document hyperlinks between filings in the Court's CM/ECF system. LinkBuilder will search a Microsoft Word document for citations to CM/ECF filings and insert a hyperlink to the corresponding file in the CM/ECF system. LinkBuilder can recognize and link to attachments to the record, as well as to page specific references to create pinpoint access to specific information in the case.
For instructions on installing the LinkBuilder add-in to Microsoft Word program, review the document titled, "LinkBuilder Add-In for MS Word," in the Case and Trial Management Forms tab. To download the LinkBuilder add-in, click the following link from the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska and download the attachment: http://www.ned.uscourts.gov/internetDocs/cmecf/LinkBuilderforMSWord.pdf.
Optical Character Recognition
When possible, counsel who files a document on CM/ECF should scan the document with Optical Character Recognition ("OCR"). OCR converts scanned images into text and provides the ability to "text-search" and "copy and paste" in a document. OCR is available in most scanning and PDF creation software packages. OCR is most effective on primarily text-based documents, and is generally not beneficial for maps, photographs, charts, graphs, financial statements, and other non-text documents. Counsel using OCR are responsible for verifying reasonable accuracy and readability of the document.
When filing motions electronically, it is not necessary to submit a courtesy copy to Chambers unless the motion exceeds 25 pages in length, including exhibits and attachments. A courtesy copy should be mailed to Chambers as soon as practicable after electronic filing.
A proposed order is not necessary unless the Court specifically requests one, a party requests permission from the Court to file one, or the Local Rules require one. When submitting a proposed order, counsel must email it to the Chambers' mailbox in Microsoft Word® format. Counsel must include the case name and number in the email subject line.
Active Case Management
The Court actively manages and oversees its assigned cases to maintain focus on the matters truly in dispute, alleviate unnecessary costs and delays, and facilitate speedy and just resolutions of the cases. However, the Court shares case-management responsibility with the parties. The parties exercise first-level control and are the principal managers of their cases, but they do so under a schedule and other limitations established by the Court. When the parties are unable to manage or manage in a way that is disproportionate to the needs of the case, or otherwise frustrate the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of the case, the Court will not hesitate to intervene in order to impose effective management.
Case Management Report
As soon as practicable after the filing of a civil case, the Clerk will designate the case on one of three tracks for future management purposes. For Track Two cases, which are the majority of civil cases, parties must file the standard "Case Management Report" form in accordance with Local Rule 3.05.
Rule 16 Preliminary Pretrial Conference
The Court holds a preliminary pretrial conference in most civil cases per Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. At the conference, the Court and counsel will discuss the pretrial needs of a case and construct a tailored case management and scheduling order addressing the following with counsel:
- the alleged facts of the case;
- unique issues anticipated by counsel;
- pretrial deadlines to govern the case;
- need for expert witnesses;
- scope of discovery (e.g., proportionality, preserving discoverable information, discovery of electronically stored information);
- prospects of settlement (e.g., status of initial settlement discussions, scheduling a settlement conference with a magistrate judge);
- pending motions;
- length of trial; and
- the Court's case management practices and procedures.
The Court usually holds preliminary pretrial conferences on Monday afternoons. The length of the conference depends on the complexity of the case and the scope of matters to be discussed. In most cases, 20 to 30 minutes is adequate to explore the matters. Counsel and pro se litigants must appear in person at the preliminary pretrial conference, however, the Court will entertain motions for telephonic appearances.
Case Management and Scheduling Order
The Court will enter a "Case Management and Scheduling Order" after holding a preliminary pretrial conference. In some categories of suit, a preliminary pretrial conference is not necessary, and the Court will issue a case management and scheduling order shortly after the parties file the case management report.
Please review the case management and scheduling order carefully. Calendar all dates to ensure timely submissions. The parties should make every effort to comply with the case management and scheduling order and are discouraged from filing motions for extensions of time.
Fair Labor Standards Act Cases
The Middle District of Florida implements a specific scheduling order for cases brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and suspends the requirement to file a case management report as required by Local Rule 3.05(c)(2)(B). Instead, the Court will issue a "FLSA Scheduling Order" after the defendant's first appearance.
The FLSA Scheduling Order sets forth initial discovery requirements and requires the parties to meet and confer in person in a good faith effort to settle all pending issues, including attorney's fees and costs. If the case does not settle, the parties must immediately file a case management report. The Court will then hold a preliminary pretrial conference to discuss case management deadlines and issue the case management and scheduling order, which will govern the remainder of the case.
Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act Cases
The Middle District of Florida implements a specific scheduling order for cases brought under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act and suspends the requirement to file a case management report as required by Local Rule 3.05. Instead, the Court will issue an "ADA Title III Scheduling Order" after the defendant's first appearance.
The ADA Title III Scheduling Order sets forth initial discovery requirements and requires the parties to attend mediation in a good faith effort to settle all pending issues. If the case does not settle, the parties must immediately file a case management report. The Court will then hold a preliminary pretrial conference to discuss case management deadlines and issue the case management and scheduling order, which will govern the remainder of the case.
Mediation is required in almost all civil cases. Parties should complete mediation 4 to 6 months prior to the scheduled trial term. Parties can stipulate to a mediator in their case management report, or within 14 days of the Court issuing the Case Management and Scheduling Order. Failure to do so will result in the Court appointing the mediator.
The Court may refer a case for a settlement conference before the non-assigned Magistrate Judge when it will benefit the parties or the parties request such a conference. This may occur before or soon after the preliminary pretrial conference.
Final Pretrial Conference
The Court conducts a final pretrial conference in each civil case. The final pretrial conference must be attended in person by at least one attorney who will conduct the trial for each party and by any unrepresented party. Telephonic appearances are not permitted.
A final pretrial conference is initially scheduled approximately 3 weeks before the first day of the applicable trial term. Experience shows, however, that the conference is often rescheduled to a mutually agreeable time and date for the parties and the Court.
Matters discussed at the final pretrial conference include:
- facts to be resolved at trial;
- the remaining legal issues and defenses to be resolved at trial;
- pending motions, including motions in limine;
- evidence-related matters (e.g., witnesses who may be in the courtroom during trial, mode of questioning, and identifying exhibits);
- trial witnesses (e.g., number of witnesses each side intends to call and may call if the need arises, scheduling issues, calling witnesses out of order, witnesses that will be presented by deposition transcript or videotape);
- exhibit lists;
- the Court's trial practices and policies (e.g., voir dire process, whether jurors are permitted to take notes, expectations for conduct of trial counsel, marking and presenting exhibits, use of courtroom technology, etc.);
- any problems that might disrupt, delay, or unnecessarily complicate the trial; and
- stipulations to facts, law, and admissibility of evidence.
For statistical purposes, the Court will close civil cases after the entry of final judgment following a jury verdict, court decision, parties' stipulation, or settlement. This will not affect the disposition of post-trial motions or the assessment of fees and costs as appropriate.
Form of Motions
All motions and cross-motions must include a concise statement of the precise relief requested, a statement of the basis for the request, and a memorandum of legal authority in support of the request, all of which the movant shall include in a single document not more than twenty-five (25) pages. See M.D. Fla. Local R. 3.01. All motions and responses must be typewritten, double-spaced, and at least 12-point font. See M.D. Fla. Local R. 1.05.
Hearings on Motions
The Court does not regularly provide for oral argument on motions, dispositive or otherwise. If needed, the Court will schedule oral arguments on selected pending motions as time permits on its calendar. The Court will also consider a request by either party for oral argument.
Local Rule 3.01(g) Certification
Counsel and pro se litigants are reminded of Local Rule 3.01(g), which requires a moving party to confer with opposing counsel in a good faith effort to resolve the issue to be raised in a motion before filing a motion in a civil case. The rule also requires the moving party to file a statement certifying the conference and stating opposing counsel's position on the motion. The importance of Local Rule 3.01(g) in helping needless litigation cannot be overstated; therefore, failure to comply with the rule may result in the Court denying or striking the motion.
Contacting Chambers about Discovery Disputes
The Court expects the parties to make good faith efforts to resolve all discovery issues without the Court's intervention. When those attempts prove unsuccessful, the Court is available to hear discovery disputes informally (e.g., via a telephone conference or short memoranda) before the parties file formal discovery motions and briefs (e.g., motions to compel or for sanctions). Counsel should call the assigned law clerk to schedule a telephone conference. Depending on the complexity of the dispute, the Court may require each party to file a brief memorandum of law outlining the issue. If, however, the issue requires extensive briefing, the matter will be referred to the assigned Magistrate Judge.
Motions for Summary Judgment
1. Statement of Material Facts
Each motion for summary judgment must include a specifically-captioned section titled, "Statement of Material Facts." The statement of material facts must list each material fact alleged not to be disputed in separate, numbered paragraphs. Each fact must be supported by a pinpoint citation to the specific part of the record relied upon to support that fact. For example, a reference to "Deposition of Jones" is insufficient. The page and line number of the deposition transcript must be included. The record includes depositions, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, and interrogatory answers; however, it does not include attorney's affidavits. When preparing the statement of material facts, the moving party must reference only the material facts necessary for the Court to determine the issues presented in the motion for summary judgment. Legal argument should not be included in the statement of material fact. Failure to submit a statement of material facts constitutes grounds for denial of the motion.
Each response in opposition to a motion for summary judgment must include a specifically-captioned section titled, "Response to Statement of Material Facts." The opposing party's response must mirror the statement of material facts by admitting and/or denying each of the moving party's assertions in matching numbered paragraphs. Each denial must set forth a pinpoint citation to the record where the fact is disputed. Although the opposing party's response must correspond with the paragraph scheme used in the statement of material facts, the response need not repeat the text of the moving party's paragraphs. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court will deem admitted any fact in the statement of material facts that the opposing party does not specifically controvert, provided the moving party's statement is supported by evidence in the record. Additional facts which the party opposing summary judgment contends are material shall be numbered and placed at the end of the opposing party's response and include a pinpoint citation to the record where the fact is established.
When resolving a motion for summary judgment, the Court has no independent duty to search and consider any part of the record not otherwise referenced and pinpoint cited to in the statement of material facts and response thereto. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3) ("The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.").
2. Deposition Transcripts as Exhibits
If depositions are filed in support of a motion for summary judgment, the Court prefers the deposition be filed in its entirety (condensed version is fine) with exhibits.
3. Exhibit Index
A motion for summary judgment or a response thereto with exhibits totaling more than ten pages must include an index to the exhibits that lists the exhibit number and title of the exhibit. Counsel must file the index as the first attachment to the parent document. See "Exhibit Index" below for a sample exhibit index.
Counsel filing a motion or response thereto with exhibits totaling more than ten pages must create an index to the exhibits, including the exhibit number and title of the exhibit. File the index as the first attachment to the parent document. Below is a sample exhibit index:
Affidavit of John Smith
Jane Doe's Deposition
Contract Between XYZ Company and ABC Company (Part 1, Pages 1-15)
Contract Between XYZ Company and ABC Company (Part 2, Pages 16-24)
XYZ Company General Ledgers
The Court holds monthly status conferences in all pending criminal cases. The Court will discuss scheduling issues, possibility of a plea, length of trial, and whether the case is ready for trial.
The parties are not excused from the status conference unless the plea agreement has been executed, the change of plea hearing has been scheduled, and a notice of cancellation of the status conference has been docketed prior to the status conference date. If a plea is not accepted for whatever reason, or if a plea comes after status conference, the Court will move forward with trial. Counsel should not expect the failure of a plea to be grounds for a continuance.
Change of Plea
A change of plea is referred to the assigned Magistrate Judge. A change of plea must be entered with the assigned Magistrate Judge by the last Wednesday of the month prior to the trial term, unless otherwise ordered by the Court. A defendant is required to plead to the respective indictment without regard to any agreement with the Government.
Discovery issues are referred to the assigned Magistrate Judge.
Jencks Act Material
All parties must comply with the Jencks Act and Rule 26.2 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure with respect to producing a witness statement after the witness has testified on direct examination. The parties may agree on, but the Court does not order, an earlier time to exchange or produce witness statements.
Final Pretrial Conference
The Court holds a final pretrial conference in most criminal cases. The defendant and counsel must be present in person. Telephonic appearances are not permitted. Topics usually discussed at the final pretrial conference include:
- factual issues to be resolved at trial
- disputed legal issues and defenses that must be resolved at trial;
- pending motions, including motions in limine;
- evidence-related matters (e.g., which witnesses may be in the courtroom during trial, mode of questioning, and identifying exhibits);
- trial witnesses (e.g., number of witnesses each side intends to call and may call if need arises, scheduling issues, calling witnesses out of order, witnesses that will be presented by deposition transcript or videotape);
- the Court's trial practices and policies (e.g., voir dire process, whether jurors are permitted to take notes, expectations for conduct of trial counsel, marking and presenting exhibits, usage of courtroom technology, and need for interpreters);
- any problems that might disrupt, delay, or unnecessarily complicate the trial; and
- stipulations to facts, law, and admissibility of evidence.
The Court regularly conducts sentencing hearings on Mondays. Counsel must promptly notify the Court if a sentencing hearing is expected to last longer than 30 minutes so appropriate arrangements can be made.
The Court will NOT consider, absent extraordinary circumstances, motions, or memoranda that are not filed at least 7 days before the sentencing hearing.
Trial Term and Calendar
All cases set for trial are scheduled for a monthly trial term. A date certain for trials are not granted absent exceptional circumstances. However, if the parties consent to the Magistrate Judge, a date certain will be given. During the assigned trial term, counsel must be prepared to proceed to trial within 24 hours of notice.
A trial calendar is distributed for the upcoming trial term approximately 1-2 weeks prior to the commencement of the term. Cases are listed in the order in which they will be tried, although experience indicates that cases may be called out of order. Generally, criminal cases are tried first, followed by civil jury trials, and then civil non-jury trials. Cases not reached during the trial term will be placed at the beginning of the following month's trial term after all criminal cases have been tried.
Parties must immediately inform the Court of any development that may affect trial after the trial calendar is distributed. In civil cases, the Court will assess jury costs to the parties if they fail to inform it of settlement before the jury is called.
The Court typically holds trial from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM with two 15-minute breaks and a lunch recess. This schedule may change as circumstances dictate. For trials expected to last more than 1 week, the trial will generally resume on the following Tuesday as the Court conducts a full calendar of other hearings on Monday.
Jury Selection and Voir Dire
Jury selection is typically set for the morning of the first day of trial. The Court conducts voir dire. Counsel are allowed brief follow-up questions depending on the nature of the case. The Court typically selects 8 jurors for civil cases, although it may seat additional jurors in lengthier cases.
In accordance with the applicable case management and scheduling order, counsel must file and serve proposed voir dire questions specific to the case. The Court will give due consideration to the parties' proposed questions when conducting voir dire. Counsel must email the proposed questions in Microsoft Word® format to the Chambers' inbox. Include the case number and case name in the email subject line.
Jury Instructions and Verdict Forms
In accordance with the applicable case management and scheduling order, counsel must file and serve proposed jury instructions and verdict forms based on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions. If a pattern instruction is not available for a certain type of instruction, counsel must submit a proposed instruction and cite to case law that supports the requested non-pattern instruction.
In addition, counsel must email proposed jury instructions and verdict forms in Microsoft Word® format to the Chambers' inbox. Include the case number and case name in the email subject line.
In accordance with the applicable case management and scheduling order, counsel for each party must file and exchange a list of all witnesses who may be called at trial. Counsel must use the Witness List form found on this website. When completing the Witness List form, counsel may ignore the column titled, "Date(s) Testified," as that column is reserved for the Court. In addition, on the morning of the first day of trial, counsel for each party must provide 3 copies of its final witness list to the Courtroom Deputy Clerk.
Absent good cause, the Court will not permit the testimony of unlisted witnesses at trial over objection. This restriction does not apply to true rebuttal witnesses, i.e., witnesses whose testimony could not have been reasonably foreseen as necessary.
In accordance with the applicable case management and scheduling order, counsel for each party must file and exchange a list of exhibits that may be introduced at trial. Counsel must use the Exhibit List form found on this website. In completing the Exhibit List form, counsel must provide a descriptive notation sufficient to identify each exhibit.
In addition, on the morning of trial, prior to jury selection, counsel must provide the Courtroom Deputy Clerk with 3 copies of their respective exhibit lists and email the lists in Microsoft Word® format to the Chambers' inbox. Include the case number and case name in the email subject line.
To avoid duplicate exhibits and confusion in the record, counsel must submit all stipulated exhibits as joint exhibits. Counsel must identify joint exhibits on a single exhibit list rather than separately list the joint exhibits on their individual exhibit lists. For example, if photographs or medical records are being stipulated into evidence, they should be marked as a joint exhibit and not listed separately on each party's witness list. Each party's individual exhibit list should include only additional exhibits to which objections have been asserted.
In advance of trial, counsel for each party must mark exhibits using the exhibit tags found on this website. Counsel must staple the appropriate colored, party-specific exhibit tag to the upper right corner of the first page.
In completing the exhibit tags, the parties must use consecutive numbers to mark exhibits. For example:
|Type of Exhibit||Examples and Instructions|
||Gov. 1, Gov. 2, Gov. 3, etc.
||Pl. 1, Pl. 2, Pl. 3, etc.
||Def. 1, Def. 2, Def. 3, etc.
||Number exhibits in the same order as the defendant's name appears on the indictment: D-1 Ex. 1, D-2 Ex. 1, etc.
||Joint 1, Joint 2, Joint 3, etc.
||Mark each exhibit in the composite separately using a number and lower case letter, e.g., Gov. 1a, Gov. 1b, Gov. 1c, etc.||And, identify each exhibit in the composite on a separate line in the exhibit list.
Electronic Exhibit Binder
On or before the morning of trial, prior to jury selection, counsel for each party must provide the Court an Electronic Exhibit Binder that contains all individual exhibits and joint exhibits each party intends to introduce at trial. The exhibits must be saved as PDF documents and complied into a single PDF file. Counsel must identify each exhibit separately using PDF bookmarks.
If an exhibit is physical evidence (e.g., drugs, ammunition, firearm), counsel should insert a placeholder exhibit that states, "Exhibit [Number] is [description of exhibit]." If an exhibit contains child pornographic images, counsel should either (a) provide a redacted version of the exhibit, or (b) insert a placeholder exhibit that states, "Exhibit [Number] contains child pornographic images."
The Electronic Exhibit Binder must be emailed to the Chambers' inbox. Include the case number and case name in the email subject line. If the file containing the Electronic Exhibit Binder is too large to email, counsel should provide the Court with a single CD or DVD of the binder.
Parties shall file with the Court color-coded copies of deposition transcripts (preferably mini-script versions), reflecting, in different highlighted colors, the deposition excerpts designated by each party to be read at trial, with objections noted in the margin 5 days before trial. Unresolved objections to videotape depositions shall be submitted to the Court 10 days prior to trial.
Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
For a non-jury trial, counsel for each party shall file proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law must be emailed to the Chambers' inbox in Microsoft Word® format. In addition, the parties must also submit trial memoranda of law – not to exceed 25 pages in length – that identify the issues, outline the claims and defenses remaining for trial, summarize the facts and applicable law, and address any evidentiary issues.
Attorneys are encouraged to know, subscribe to, and observe the Code of Pretrial and Trial Conduct published by the American College of Trial Lawyers. Litigants and witnesses are also expected to conduct themselves with reserve and courtesy when appearing in Court.
When appearing before this Court, counsel must also adhere to the following rules:
- Stand as Court is opened, recessed, and adjourned.
- Stand when the jury enters and exits the courtroom.
- Stand when addressing the Court or being addressed by the Court.
- Stand at the lectern while questioning any witness and arguing before the jury and the Court. Counsel may approach the witness only with the Court's permission. When hearing a complex motion, the Court may allow counsel to argue from counsel table.
- Counsel shall not repeat or echo the answer given by the witness during direct or cross-examination.
- When a party has more than one attorney, only one attorney may examine or cross-examine each witness. The attorney objecting during direct examination will be the attorney recognized for cross-examination.
- When objecting, counsel should only state the objection and the legal ground for the objection, without argument, e.g., "Objection. Hearsay," or "Objection. Leading." Speaking objections are prohibited, unless the Court requests further information from counsel.
- Any exhibit offered into evidence should be handed to opposing counsel at the time of such offer. At the end of trial, counsel must ensure they have all of their exhibits. The Courtroom Deputy Clerk is not responsible for them.
- With the Court's permission, hand or tender any document for the Court's review to the Courtroom Deputy Clerk.
- Address all arguments, responses, and remarks to the Court, not to opposing counsel.
- Avoid disparaging remarks toward opposing counsel and remain detached from any ill feeling between the litigants or witnesses.
- Counsel and all persons at counsel table are prohibited from manifesting through gestures, facial expressions, audible comments, or the like either approval or disapproval of the Court's rulings, a witness' testimony, or counsel's arguments.
- In opening statements and in arguing to the jury, counsel shall not express personal knowledge or opinion concerning any matter at issue.
- Sidebar conferences should be requested minimally.
Courtroom Dress Code
Appropriate business attire is required of all litigants, witnesses, jurors, and observers when appearing in court. Casual attire such as tee shirts, shorts, jeans, and flip-flops are not allowed. Since the courtroom is generally very cool, participants may wish to bring a sweater or light jacket.
The Court mandates counsel to use the technology and equipment available in the courtroom and expects counsel to be familiar with the equipment prior to any trial or hearing. Counsel should contact the Courtroom Deputy Clerk to test and/or be trained on the equipment well in advance. Failure to do so may result in the equipment not being available for use.
Personal Electronic Devices
Parties must review the Middle District of Florida's policy on possessing and using personal electronic devices (e.g., cellular phones, laptop computers, iPads, and tablets) in the Courthouse. See In re: Possession and Use of Personal Electronic Devices in Federal Courthouses in the Middle District of Florida, 6:13-mc-94-Orl-22. Under this policy, attorneys permitted to practice in the Middle District of Florida may bring personal electronic devices beyond the Courthouse's security checkpoint by presenting a valid Florida Bar identification card or pro hac vice order.
This Court specifically requires all personal electronic devices to be placed in silent mode upon entering the Courthouse. Cellular telephones must be turned off upon entering the courtroom. In addition, personal electronic devices may not be:
- used directly outside of the courtroom when court is in session;
- shared with anyone;
- used in a manner that disrupts any judicial proceeding; or
- used to search for information about a potential or seated juror.
The Court cautions that any attorney who allows an unauthorized individual to use the attorney's electronic device will forfeit his/her privilege to have electronic devices in the Courthouse.
Evidence Presentation System
The Courtroom is equipped with an evidence presentation system. This system allows counsel with their laptop computer, iPad, or tablet to present evidence simultaneously in the courtroom through a system of interconnected video LCD displays. Specifically, the evidence presentation system allows attorneys to:
- connect the attorney's laptop computer, iPad, or tablet and simultaneously share scanned documents, present animations, display graphics, and play audio and video files; and
- use a digital camera to zoom in and out on portions of a paper document, a photograph, or a small piece of physical evidence.
The evidence presentation system in Courtroom 5D consists of:
- computer audio and video connection cables (3.5 stereo, a video cable ("VGA"), full size HDMI);
- digital document camera;
- LCD touchscreen control panel for annotations; and
- LCD displays for the judge, witness, and counsel tables.
To use the evidence presentation systems, counsel must bring necessary connection adapters for their laptop computer or iPad, if not equipped with VGA or full size HDMI connections. The Court’s evidence presentation system native video resolution is 1024 x 768. Typically, the system will automatically scale the video input on counsel's laptop computer to match the system. However, sometimes the resolution of counsel's laptop computer may need to be set at 1024 x 768 prior to connecting to the evidence presentation system. Third party presentation software like Sanction, Trial Director, and PowerPoint are compatible with the evidence presentation system.
The Court does not provide any equipment to present scanned documents, animations, graphics, audio and video files from VHS, CD, DVD, Blu-ray, or external drives like a USB thumb drive. All files must be presented from counsel's laptop computer. Counsel is responsible for operating the evidence presentation system, and court employees are not authorized to operate counsel's laptop computer.
Wireless InternetThe Courtroom has wireless internet access, provided and paid for by the Bench Bar Fund. The Courtroom Deputy Clerk has the username and password.
Does the Court permit counsel to contact Chambers?
Is it appropriate to call Chambers regarding questions of procedure on pending matters?
When a dispute arises during discovery, is it appropriate to call Chambers to seek an immediate ruling?
When a dispute arises during a deposition, is it appropriate to call Chambers to seek an immediate ruling?
Rule 16 Preliminary Pretrial Conference
Does the Court conduct the Rule 16 preliminary pretrial conference?
When are preliminary pretrial conferences held?
May counsel appear telephonically at the preliminary pretrial conference?
What matters are discussed at a preliminary pretrial conference?
Should courtesy copies of pleadings and motions be forwarded to Chambers?
Should copies of cases cited in motions and memoranda of law be forwarded to Chambers?
Does the Court accept proposed orders?
How should counsel or a pro se litigant call attention to a pending motion of particular importance to expedite ruling?
Does the Court set aside time in a given week or month to hear oral arguments on pending motions?
Does the Court require a statement of material facts in support of a motion for summary judgment?
Does the Court refer discovery matters to the assigned Magistrate Judge?
Does the Court conduct Daubert hearings prior to trial?
Does the Court entertain motions in limine?
What is the Court's policy on alternative dispute resolution such as court-annexed, non-binding arbitration and mediation?
Does the Court conduct settlement conferences?
Criminal Pretrial Procedures
Does the Court conduct status conferences in criminal cases?
What matters are discussed at a status conference?
Does the Court have a policy on the timing to disclose Jencks Act material?
What pretrial criminal proceedings are referred to the assigned Magistrate Judge?
Does the Court accept nolo contendere or Alford pleas?
What is the Court's policy on plea arrangements that involve sentencing recommendations?
How are civil and criminal cases set for trial?
A date certain for trials is not granted absent exceptional circumstances. However, if the parties consent to the Magistrate Judge, a date certain will be given.
Does the Court send a trial calendar?
2. Jury Selection and Voir Dire
Does the Court conduct voir dire?
Can parties submit proposed voir dire questions to the Court?
Does the Court have any procedures on peremptory challenges?
In civil cases, 8 jurors will typically be selected. Thus, the first 8 jurors from the panel will be tendered for strikes with limited, if any, back-striking allowed prior to acceptance.
In multiple party cases, does the Court grant each party 3 preemptory challenges?
3. Jury Procedures
Are jurors permitted to take notes?
Are jurors permitted to ask questions to a witness?
4. Opening Statements
Does the Court impose any time limits for opening statements?
Can counsel use exhibits during opening statements?
Does the Court allow the plaintiff or Government to make a rebuttal during opening statements?
Does the Court have any procedures regarding objections at trial?
Does the Court allow sentencing memorandum to be submitted?
Does the Court disclose the probation officer's final sentencing recommendation?
Is there a deadline for filing motions to continue sentencing?
Court staff includes one permanent and two term law clerks. Unless otherwise noted, there are no upcoming vacancies for term law clerks.
Judge Chappell welcomes intern/extern assistance at all times of the year. Positions are limited to those students who have completed their first year of law school, are ranked in the top 15 percent of their class, and are members of law review or moot court. Judge Chappell is currently accepting applications for judicial internships/externships for Spring 2016 and Summer 2016.
To apply, please submit a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and transcript to the Chambers' mailbox.