The Honorable Sheri Polster Chappell

United States District Judge


Ft. Myers Division
TEL: 239-461-2060
FAX: 239-461-2139


Biography:

Judge Sheri Polster Chappell was confirmed by the United States Senate to Serve the Middle District of Florida as a United States District Court Judge on May 21, 2013 and sworn in on May 28, 2013.  Chappell was nominated by President Barack Obama on June 25, 2012, and again on January 3, 2013.  She was unanimously reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 6, 2012, and March 7, 2013.


Judge Chappell was appointed on April 21, 2003, to serve as a United States Magistrate Judge in the Fort Myers Division of the Middle District of Florida.  Judge Chappell is active in delivering IT training nationally for the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the US Courts to newly appointed Magistrate Judges, Chambers, Trainers, and other Court Staff.  She has authored IT tutorials and documents providing useful tips to judges on efficient management techniques and procedures using technology. She is a member of the FJC’s IT Advisory Committee and has served on numerous committees within the Middle District of Florida including the Automation Committee, Case Management and Judicial Relations Committee, Bench Bar Fund Committee, Congressional Relations Committee, and Security Committee.  Judge Chappell also educates students during mock trial presentations and the Open Doors to the Federal Court’s Program.  She is currently a member of the Calusa Chapter of the American Inns of Court and the Lee County Bar Association.


Chappell was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush as a Lee County Court Judge in April of 2000.  She served as an Assistant State Attorney for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit from 1987 – 2000.  During that time, Chappell served on the Executive Council and was named the first female office head of the Hendry and Glades County Offices as well as the Charlotte County Office.  She tried numerous cases involving drug offenses, property crimes, violent crimes against persons, child sexual batteries, child homicide, and homicide cases.  During her tenure with the State Attorney’s Office, she began teaching Law at the Southwest Florida Criminal Justice Academy.  Chappell received her J.D. from Nova Southeastern University Law Center (1987) and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984).  She is a native of Kiel, Wisconsin.


Chambers Staff:


  Leslie M. Friedmann
Courtroom Deputy
239-461-2068
 
Douglas D. Kemp
Law Clerk
Digits 4 - 6
 
  Lori Bundy
Official Court Reporter
239-461-2064
 
Casey M. Cosentino
Law Clerk
Digits 7-9
 
  Chambers Phone
239-461-2060
Anitra F. Raiford
Law Clerk
Digits 0 - 3
 
  Chambers Email:
Chambers_FLMD_Chappell@flmd.uscourts.gov

 


Case and Trial Management Forms:

  * Case Management Report

Adobe

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 Word
  * Exhibit List Adobe Word
  * Pre-Marking of Exhibit Instructions 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
  * 2014 Trial Schedule Adobe  
  * Middle District Discovery Manual Adobe  
  * In re: Possession and Use of Personal Electronic Devices Adobe  


CASE AND TRIAL MANAGEMENT PREFERENCES:

COURT ATTIRE: 
Litigants and witnesses are expected to conduct themselves with reserve and courtesy, and when appearing in Court, must dress appropriately to preserve the dignity of the Court. Proper attire includes, at minimum, shirt and tie for men and similarly appropriate attire for women. No shorts, jeans, polo shirts, or sneakers.



PERSONAL ELECTRONIC DEVICES IN THE COURTHOUSE:
Parties are directed to In re: Possession and Use of Personal Electronic Devices in Federal Courthouses in the Middle District of Florida, 6:13-mc-94, for the Court's general policy concerning the possession and use of personal electronic devices in the federal courthouses in the Middle District of Florida. With regard to attorneys, the Order specifies that any attorney permitted to practice law in the Middle District of Florida may bring any personal electronic device beyond the courthouse's security checkpoint by presenting a valid Florida Bar identification card or pro hac vice order. Further restrictions on the permissible use of the device once inside the courthouse are included in the Court's policy, which counsel is encouraged to review. Judge Chappell specifically requires that all personal electronic devices must be placed in the silent mode upon entering the United States Courthouse. Cellular telephones or “smartphones” must be turned OFF upon entering the courtroom. Personal electronic devices may not be used: (a) directly outside of the courtroom when court is in session, (b) may not be shared with anyone, (c) may not be used in a manner that disrupts any judicial proceeding, and (d) may not be used to search for information about a potential or seated juror.



PRELIMINARY PRETRIAL CONFERENCES:
The Court holds a preliminary pretrial conference in most civil cases after the case management report is filed. The purpose of the preliminary pretrial conference is to set dates that will govern the case, for the Court to inform counsel of its practices and procedures, and to discuss any unique issues anticipated by counsel.

TRIAL MANAGEMENT PREFERENCES:
Attorneys are encouraged to be familiar with the Codes of Pretrial and Trial Conduct promulgated by the American College of Trial Lawyers and to conduct themselves accordingly. The Codes can be found on the American College of Trial Lawyers website under Publications, All Publications. - Code of Pretrial and Trial Conduct 2009

A trial calendar will be distributed to all counsel of record for the upcoming trial term approximately two weeks prior to the commencement of the term. Normally, criminal cases are tried first, civil jury trials are called up next, and then civil non-jury trials. Cases are listed in the order in which they will be tried, although experience indicates that at times cases may be called out of order.  Cases not reached during this trial term will be placed at the beginning of the following month’s trial term after all criminal cases have been tried. For the convenience of counsel, the names and telephone numbers of all counsel are furnished so that counsel may keep themselves informed of the progress of the cases listed prior to their own. Trial dates certain are usually not granted unless there are exceptional circumstances (lengthy case, numerous out-of-town witnesses).

Counsel and their witnesses are expected to be available on twenty-four hours’ notice.

Counsel are reminded to advise the Court promptly of any development subsequent to the entry of the trial calendar which would in any way affect the trial of the case.  Changes of pleas must be entered with the Magistrate Judge assigned to the case by the last day of the month prior to the trial term.  Defendants will be required to plead to the indictment without regard to any agreement with the Government.  In civil jury cases where the Court is not notified of settlement before a jury is called, the parties will be assessed jury costs.

In criminal cases, proposed jury instructions, verdict forms, and voir dire should be filed three (3) business days prior to jury selection. In civil cases, proposed jury instructions, verdict forms, and voir dire should be filed with the Court on the date specified in the case management and scheduling order. In both instances the jury instructions and verdict form must be emailed to the Court in Word format to: Chambers_FLMD_chappell@flmd.uscourts.gov, unless excused by the Court.

The Court will conduct the jury voir dire, giving due consideration to questions proposed by the parties. The Court may permit counsel for each party to briefly supplement the Court's voir dire examination.

The Court will normally be in session from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. each day with one hour and fifteen minutes for lunch. However, this schedule may change as circumstances require.

Witnesses
Ten (10) days prior to trial, the parties will exchange a list of those witnesses whom they will definitely call at trial (the "A" list), and a list of those witnesses they may call at trial (the "B" list). By the conclusion of the proceedings each day, the party presenting its case shall advise the opposing party and the Court of those witnesses whom it intends to call the following day.

Exhibits
Ten (10) days prior to trial, the parties shall exchange a list of those exhibits they definitely intend to introduce in evidence at trial (the "A" list), and a list of those exhibits they may seek to introduce at trial (the "B" list). Bench books containing the "A" exhibits shall be supplied to the Court (these are the original exhibits which include the appropriate colored exhibit tags stapled to the upper right hand corner of the first page - tags can be found at the bottom of this web-page), for the Judge and Witness Box at the outset of the trial, together with an index and matrix reflecting any objections thereto. The bench and witness sets do not require the exhibits tags however counsel shall use number tabs to tab out the exhibits for quick reference. All exhibits on the "A" list of the presenting party which are not objected to shall be introduced and admitted at the outset of that party's case. All exhibits shall be numbered consecutively, preferably with the "A" list exhibits being numbered first.

To avoid duplication of exhibits and to prevent confusion in the record, the parties are encouraged to submit all stipulated exhibits as joint exhibits in a single list rather than individually marked by each party. For example, if medical records or contract documents are being stipulated into evidence they should be marked as a Joint exhibit and not listed separately by both (all) parties. Each party’s individual exhibit list would then include only those additional exhibits to which objections have been asserted with the specific objection noted on the exhibit tag.

Deposition Testimony
Five (5) days prior to trial, the 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. Unresolved objections to videotape depositions shall be submitted to the Court ten (10) days prior to trial.

CASE MANAGEMENT PREFERENCES:

Notice of Unavailability of Counsel
The rules of this Court do not provide for filing a Notice of Unavailability as a method to avoid abiding by deadlines and schedules established by the Court or to extend the time for responding to motions. Counsel may notify opposing counsel of his or her unavailability and request that his or her schedule be accommodated. With respect to deadlines for filing documents with the Court, attending hearings, or otherwise, counsel must file a motion for an enlargement of time or a continuance of a hearing or deposition date, as appropriate. It is impractical for the Court to be required to search the docket of each case for notices of unavailability before setting hearings and response deadlines. Accordingly, counsel may not rely upon the filing of the notice as a basis to excuse his or her appearance before the Court as required or to comply with a deadline established by the Court or governing rules of procedures.

CRIMINAL
The Court will NOT consider, absent extraordinary circumstances, motions or memoranda that are not filed at least 7 business days before sentencing hearing.

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, if it comes after status conference, counsel are advised that they will need to be prepared to go to trial and not expect the failure of a plea to be grounds for a continuance.

Change of Plea
Judge Chappell refers changes of plea to the assigned magistrate judge.

Sentencing
Judge Chappell regularly conducts sentencing hearings Monday through Thursday, as time on her calendar permits. Counsel should promptly notify Chambers if a sentencing is expected to last longer than thirty (30) minutes so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

Discovery
Discovery issues are generally referred to the assigned magistrate judge.


CIVIL
Scheduling Order
As soon as practicable after the filing of any civil action, the Clerk will designate the case for future management on one of three tracks. For civil cases designated as a track two case, the plaintiff is directed to access the case management form and to file the completed case management form in accordance with Local Rule 3.05.

The Court will enter a scheduling order within 14 days of the filing of the Case Management Report or will schedule a preliminary pre-trial conference. With prior approval, the parties may appear telephonically.

Final Pre-Trial Conference
Judge Chappell normally conducts a final pre-trial conference in each civil case approximately four weeks prior to trial. Motions in limine will be heard at that time. Pre-trial conferences are usually scheduled at 9:30 a.m.

Fair Labor Standards Act cases
The Court does not initially require the parties to file a case management report during the initial phases of the case pursuant to Local Rule 3.05(c)(2)(B). The court will issue a FLSA scheduling order after the defendant appears in the case.  In the event the matter does not settle, the Parties will be directed to immediately file a case management report.  The Court will thereafter hold a preliminary pretrial conference to discuss case management deadlines prior to the Court entering a case management and scheduling order. 

Miscellaneous
The standard form for case management reports is to be used by the parties, and is provided to them by the Court with the Notice of Track designation shortly after the case is filed.


Electronic vs. Paper Copies of Pleadings:  When filing motions electronically with the Clerk, it is not necessary to provide the Judge’s staff with separate “courtesy” copies. If, however, a motion exceeds 25 pages in length (including exhibits and attachments) a courtesy copy is required. It need not be provided simultaneously but should be submitted promptly and may be provided via United States Mail or other reliable delivery service. However, if a motion is filed in open court, a separate copy should be provided to the Judge for her review.

Mediation is required in substantially all cases, and should be completed 4-6 months prior to the scheduled trial date. The parties can stipulate to a mediator in their case management report. If they fail to do so, the Court will appoint a mediator.

Witness Rooms:   Witness rooms are located on either side of the vestibule area prior to entering the courtroom.

Courtroom Technology: Counsel are directed to make an appointment with the Courtroom Deputy prior to their trial/hearing to become familiar with the availability, operation, and compatibility of the courtroom technology systems, should they wish to utilize it. Failure to do so may result in the equipment not being available for use.


Closing Cases: Counsel shall be advised that the Court will close civil cases for statistical purposes after the entry of a final judgment following a jury verdict, court decision, or stipulation of the parties. This will not affect the disposition of post-trial motions, or the assessment of fees and costs as appropriate.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is your policy regarding communication with staff [i.e., Do you permit counsel to contact assigned law clerks?
Answer: YES, law clerks may be contacted.

Is it appropriate to telephone Chambers regarding questions of procedure on pending matters?
Answer: YES

Is it appropriate to telephone Chambers regarding the status of pending matters?
Answer:  YES


PRETRIAL PROCEDURE (CIVIL):
A) Preliminary Pretrial Hearings:
Do you conduct preliminary pretrial hearings?
Answer: YES

If YES, what matters do you typically discuss during preliminary pretrial hearings:
Answer:  All matters which may affect the trial, including length of trial, settlement possibilities, and calendar conflicts.


B) Motion Practice:
Should courtesy copies of pleadings and motions be forwarded to Chambers?
Answer: YES. Courtesy copies (paper) of motions/filings in excess of twenty (25) pages are appreciated. If depositions are filed in support of a dispositive motion, Judge Chappell prefers the deposition be filed in its entirety (condensed version is fine) with exhibits.

Should copies of cases cited in motions and memoranda be forwarded to Chambers?
Answer:  NO

Do you accept proposed orders?
Answer: The parties should not submit proposed orders unless requested by the Court or a party requests permission from the Court to do so.  Any proposed orders should be emailed to the chambers inbox in Word format at chambers_FLMD_chappell@flmd.uscourts.gov.  A proposed order should not be filed in CM/ECF.

Do you allow telephonic hearings?
Answer:  YES, but only if necessary or with court permission. Arrangements must be made a minimum of 24 hours prior to the hearing.

What can an attorney do to call attention to a pending motion of particular importance to expedite ruling?
Answer:  If the motion is a true emergency, it should be styled as such.

Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
Answer:  YES, it is preferred.

If you will consider motions in limine prior to trial, how far in advance should they be filed?
Answer:  3 weeks prior to the final pre-trial conference.

Do you regularly set aside time during a given week/month for hearings on motions?
Answer: YES, schedule permitting.

What are your procedures concerning ex-parte temporary restraining orders?
Answer:  Temporary restraining motions are generally handled by Judge Chappell. Counsel shall submit a proposed temporary restraining order in Word format to Chamber’s e-mail account:
chambers_FLMD_Chappell@flmd.uscourts.gov.


Do you hear preliminary injunction motions yourself?
Answer:  YES.

What is your practice concerning oral arguments of dispositive motions?
Answer: If required, Judge Chappell will hear oral arguments on selected pending motions as time permits on his calendar. Hearings are generally scheduled for no more than 60 minutes.

When a dispute arises during a deposition, is it appropriate to call the Magistrate Judge’s Chambers to seek an immediate ruling?
Answer:  YES.


C) Settlement:
What is your policy/practice regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution devices such as court-annexed, non-binding arbitration and mediation?
Answer:  All cases are sent to mediation.

Do you personally conduct settlement discussions?
Answer:  Settlement Conferences are scheduled before the Magistrate Judge.  However, with the parties consent, Judge Chappell will entertain discussions which assist in moving the case along.

IF YES, under that circumstances?
Answer: If the parties stipulate that it will not disqualify me from the case.

Do you have any special procedures for settlement of FLSA cases?
Answer:  YES.  Once the matter has settled and the parties have filed a notice of settlement with the Court, the Court will direct the parties to file the appropriate dismissal documents with the Court.  The parties will be required to provide the Court with the settlement documents for review and sufficient information regarding the settlement in order for the Court to determine whether the settlement is a “fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute.”  See Lynn’s Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350 (11th Cir. 1982).  The assigned Magistrate Judge will issue a Report and Recommendation regarding settlement approval. 


D) Discovery:
Do you refer discovery matters to a U.S. Magistrate Judge?
Answer: YES


E) Pretrial Conference:
Do you personally conduct pretrial conferences in your cases?
Answer: YES.


PRETRIAL PROCEDURES (CRIMINAL):
A) Preliminary Pretrial Hearings:
Do you personally conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases?
Answer:  YES, as needed.

What matters do you typically discuss during a preliminary pretrial conference?
Answer: Scheduling issues. Matters such as the possibility of a plea, length of trial, and whether the case is ready for trial are typically discussed.

Do you have a policy regarding the timing of disclosure of Jencks Act material?
Answer: NO


B) Pleas:
Who handles pleas in criminal cases?
Answer:  Judge Chappell generally refers change of plea to the assigned Magistrate Judge.

What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford?
Answer:  Such pleas will not be accepted.

What is your policy concerning plea arrangements that involve sentencing recommendations?
Answer:  While the Court will take into consideration any sentencing recommendations proposed by the United States Attorney, those recommendations are not binding upon the Court.

TRIAL:
A) Trial Dates:
Do you grant trial dates certain?
Answer:  Not unless extraordinary circumstances exist.

If a case is not reached during the scheduled trial term, will the trial date be automatically rescheduled on your next trial docket?
Answer:  YES.

What is your policy regarding notice of being called for trial during a trial docket? 
Answer: A minimum of 24 hours to several days. We attempt to give as much notice as possible. Cases may or may not be tried in the order they are listed on the trial calendar.


B) Submissions for Civil Trials:
Do you require trial briefs in jury trials?
Answer:  NO.  Only if there has been no motion for summary judgment or partial summary judgment, and only then if a unique or difficult issue is expected to arise at trial.

Do you require trial briefs in bench trials?
Answer: NO. The Court will request briefs from counsel if necessary, but may be filed if the parties wish.

What are your requirements for trial briefs?
Answer: That they be brief.

When are trial briefs due?
Answer: At least three (3) days prior to the start of trial.

Do you require proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed in bench trials?
Answer: YES.

If YES, when do you require the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed?
Answer:  Proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law should be filed after the conclusion of the trial.

Should findings of fact and conclusions of law filed in connection with a bench trial also be submitted to Chambers on a disk?
Answer: NO.  Findings of fact and conclusions of law filed in connection with a bench trial should be emailed to chambers in Word format at chambers_flmd_Chappell@flmd.uscourts.gov

When do you require parties to file proposed jury instructions and verdict form?
Answer: The parties should file proposed jury instructions three weeks before the final pretrial conference. The Court utilizes the Eleventh Circuit pattern jury instructions. If a pattern is not available for a certain type of instruction, the parties must submit a memorandum of law in support of their request for the non-pattern instruction.

Where standard jury instructions are available, do you prefer that attorneys submit condensed versions of the standard instructions?
Answer: NO.

Should jury instructions also be submitted to Chambers on a computer disk?
Answer:  Proposed jury instructions must be e-mailed in Word format to Chambers at chambers_flmd_Chappell@flmd.uscourts.gov.
Exhibit and Witness Lists (original and three copies) shall be provided to the Courtroom Deputy on the morning of trial, prior to jury selection.


C) Voir Dire:
Do you permit counsel to conduct voir dire?
Answer: YES, but limited.

If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
Answer: The Court will advise the parties of their time limits depending upon the complexity of the case.  Counsels’ voir dire will follow the judge’s voir dire.

If judge conducts voir dire, can parties submit proposed voir dire questions?
Answer: Yes

If YES, when should such questions be submitted?
Answer: Three days prior to trial.

What are your peremptory challenge procedures?
Answer: Peremptory Challenges are handled outside the presence of the jury.  The Court will entertain challenges of the entire panel for cause first.  The Court will then tender the number of jurors and alternates needed for the trial to the attorneys to exercise their challenges.  (e.g., civil jury usually 6 jurors plus 2 alternate jurors – the first 8 jurors from the panel will be tendered for strikes) with limited backstriking allowed prior to acceptance.

In multiple party cases, do you grant each party three preemptory challenges?
Answer: NO

If NO, do you limit each side [i.e., plaintiff/defense] a total of three preemptory challenges to be shared?
Answer: YES, generally.


D) Opening Statement:
Do you have any standard time limits imposed upon counsel?
Answer: No, time limits will be established after discussion with counsel, however, thirty minutes per side should be sufficient.

Can exhibits be used in opening statements?
Answer: Yes, as long as the parties have reviewed and agreed to exhibits in advance and with leave of Court.

Do you allow plaintiffs to make a rebuttal during opening statements?
Answer: NO


E) Use of Expert:
Do you conduct Daubert hearings prior to trial?
Answer: Yes, if necessary.  Daubert hearings may also be referred to the assigned Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation.


F) Procedure for Use of Videotapes, Trial Graphics, Depositions and Demonstrations:
What, if any, procedural requirements do you have relative to the use of videotapes, trial graphics, depositions and demonstrations?
Answer: Contact the Courtroom Deputy for details on the requirements.


G) Procedure for Objections:
What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial?
Answer: Counsel shall stand and state the objection and legal grounds only. Speaking objections are discouraged.


H) Jury Procedures:
Do you permit jurors to take notes?
Answer: Not unless both parties agree.

Do you permit jurors to ask questions either orally or in writing?
Answer: NO.


SENTENCING:
Do you allow the submission of sentencing memoranda?
Answer: YES

If yes, when do they need to be submitted?
Answer: Sentencing memoranda should be submitted at least three days before sentencing.

If YES, under what circumstances do you allow such submission?
Answer: When the parties feel it is necessary.

Do you divulge the probation officer's sentencing recommendation?
Answer: NO

Is there a deadline for filing motions to continue sentencing?
Answer:  Yes, absent an emergency, all motions to continue sentencing must be filed no later than ten days before the scheduled sentencing date.

Judge Chappell regularly conducts sentencing hearings Monday through Thursday, as time on her calendar permits. Counsel shall promptly notify Chambers if a sentencing hearing is expected to last longer than thirty (30) minutes so that appropriate arrangements may be made.


GENERAL OBSERVATIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS:
What, if any, other observations or suggestions do you have for members of the Bar relative to appearing before you in federal court?
Answer: Stand when addressing the Court.  Keep arguments brief.