The Honorable Virginia M. Hernandez Covington
United States District Judge
Virginia M. Hernandez Covington graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tampa in 1976 and in 1977, Judge Covington received the degree of Master of Business Administration, also from the University of Tampa. Judge Covington then attended Georgetown University Law Center, where she received her Juris Doctor degree in 1980.
Judge Covington began her career as a trial attorney for the Federal Trade Commission and thereafter became an Assistant State Attorney for Hillsborough County, Florida. In 1983, Judge Covington joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. On September 25, 2001, Judge Covington was appointed to Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal by Governor Jeb Bush. She served on that court until receiving her commission as a United States District Judge on September 10, 2004.
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Case & Trial Management FAQs
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?
PRETRIAL PROCEDURE (CIVIL)
Preliminary Pretrial Hearings:
Do you conduct preliminary pretrial hearings?
Do you refer preliminary pretrial hearings to a United States Magistrate Judge?
Should courtesy copies of pleadings and motions be forwarded to Chambers?
Answer: No, unless it exceeds 100 pages (including exhibits) in length. Courtesy copies need not be provided simultaneously with the electronic filing of the document. However, they should be submitted as promptly as possible and may be provided via United States Mail or other reliable service. Courtesy copies should be directed to the attention of the law clerk assigned to the case.
Should copies of cases cited in motions and memoranda be forwarded to Chambers?
Is it appropriate to cite unpublished opinions in motions or memoranda?
Answer: Yes. Copies of unpublished opinions need not be attached, but please provide a copy of less accessible materials, such as administrative agency decisions.
Do you allow telephonic hearings?
What can an attorney do to call attention to a pending motion of particular importance to expedite ruling?
Answer: The attorney may contact the assigned law clerk with any concerns. If the motion is an emergency motion, it should be styled as such.
How far in advance of the trial should motions in limine be filed?
Answer: The motion in limine deadline will be provided in the Court's Case Management and Scheduling Order.
Do you regularly set aside time during a given week/month for hearings on motions?
Answer: No, unless there are unusual circumstances.
What are your procedures concerning ex-parte temporary restraining orders?
Answer: TROs will normally be treated on an emergency basis. A courtesy copy should be emailed to Chambers.
Do you hear preliminary injunction motions?
Answer: No, unless there are unusual circumstances.
If yes, do you limit the hearing to argument of counsel?
If no, does the Court routinely refer preliminary injunctions for report and recommendation by a United States Magistrate Judge?
If no, what are your procedures for the receipt of evidence during a hearing on a preliminary injunction?
What is your practice concerning oral arguments on dispositive motions?
Answer: Dispositive motions are normally not set for oral argument.
What is your policy/practice regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution devices such as court-annexed, non-binding arbitration and mediation?
Answer: Mediation is required in substantially all cases.
Do you personally conduct settlement discussions?
Do you refer discovery matters to a United States Magistrate Judge?
When a dispute arises during a deposition, is it appropriate to call the Magistrate Judge’s Chambers to seek an immediate ruling?
Do you personally conduct pretrial conferences in your cases?
If yes, do you have a standing order regarding pretrial conferences?
PRETRIAL PROCEDURE (CRIMINAL)
Preliminary Pretrial Hearings:
Do you personally conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases?
Answer: No. However, Judge Covington personally conducts status conferences on a monthly basis. Matters such as the possibility of a plea, length of trial, and whether the case is ready for trial are typically discussed.
Do you refer preliminary pretrial conferences to United States Magistrate Judges?
What is your policy concerning nolo contendre or Alford pleas?
Answer: Generally speaking, 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.
Do you grant trial dates certain?
Answer: No, 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?
What is your policy regarding notice of being called for trial during a trial docket?
Answer: Parties are generally provided at least several days notice before their case is called for trial.
Do you require trial briefs in jury trials?
Do you require trial briefs in bench trials?
What are your requirements for trial briefs?
Answer: There are no specific requirements for trial briefs.
Do you require proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed in bench trials?
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 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. Chambers e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
When do you require parties to file proposed jury instructions?
Answer: The jury instruction deadline for civil cases is provided in the Court's Case Management and Scheduling Order. For criminal cases, jury instructions are due ten calendar days prior to the beginning of the trial term. The Court utilizes the 11th 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?
Should jury instructions also be submitted to Chambers on a computer disk?
Answer: No, but proposed jury instructions must be emailed to Chambers in Word or WordPerfect format. The Court will not accept proposed jury instructions in PDF format.
Do you permit counsel to perform voir dire?
Answer: Yes, for limited questioning.
If yes, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
Answer: Each side will generally have ten minutes for voir dire. Counsels’ questions will follow the judge’s voir dire.
If the Court conducts voir dire, can parties submit proposed voir dire questions?
If yes, when should such questions be submitted?
Answer: In criminal cases, voir dire questions must be submitted by the jury instruction deadline. In civil cases, the court will set the deadline for voir dire questions during the final pretrial conference. Questions are typically due three days before trial.
What are your preemptory challenge procedures?
Answer: Preemptory challenges are handled outside the presence of the jury.
In multiple party cases, do you grant each party three preemptory challenges?
If no, do you limit each side [i.e., plaintiff/defense] to a total of three preemptory challenges to be shared?
Do you allow back striking during jury selection?
Do you have any standard time limits imposed upon counsel?
Answer: No. However, in most cases thirty minutes per side should be sufficient.
Can exhibits be used in opening statements?
Answer: Yes, but only with leave of Court.
Do you allow plaintiffs to make a rebuttal during opening statements?
Use of Expert:
Do you conduct Daubert hearings prior to trial?
Procedure for Use of Videotapes, Trial Graphics, Depositions, and Demonstrations:
What, if any, procedural requirements to you have relative to the use of videotapes, trial graphics, depositions, and demonstrations?
Answer: Contact the courtroom deputy for details on the requirements.
Procedure for Objections:
What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial?
Answer: Counsel is to stand and state the reason for the objection. No Speaking objection.
Do you permit jurors to take notes?
Do you permit jurors to ask questions either orally or in writing?
Answer: In civil cases, jurors are permitted to ask questions in writing.
Do you allow the submission of sentencing memoranda?
If yes, under what circumstances do you allow such submission?
Answer: Sentencing memoranda should be submitted at least three days before sentencing.
Do you divulge the probation officer’s sentencing recommendation?
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 five days before the scheduled sentencing date.