Virginia M. Hernandez Covington

United States District Judge


Welcome to the Honorable Virginia M. Hernandez Covington'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.


Biography:


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.


Contact Information:


801 North Florida Avenue
Chambers 14B
Tampa, Florida 33602

Chambers Telephone: (813) 301-5340


Chambers Email: Chambers_FLMD_Covington@flmd.uscourts.gov


For additional information, please visit the Middle District of Florida's website at www.flmd.uscourts.gov.


Staff:


  Shameeka A. Teasley
Courtroom Deputy
(813) 301-5348
 
Kelly A. Keller Landkammer
Law Clerk
Cases ending 0-33 & 97-99
(813) 301-5347
 
  Scott Gamertsfelder
Official Court Reporter
(813) 301-5898
 
Brittney Bell
Law Clerk
Cases ending 34-70
(813) 301-5346
 
    David Wright
Law Clerk
Cases ending 71-96
(813) 301-5344

Case and Trial Management Forms

  * Case Management Report

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  * Case Management Report for Fast Track Cases

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  * Case Management Report for Patent Cases

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  * Interested Persons Order

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  * Notice of Pendency of Other Actions

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  * Consent to Magistrate Judge Form

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  * Plaintiff’s Exhibit

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  * Defendant’s Exhibit

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  * Government’s Exhibit

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  * Joint Exhibit

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  * Middle District Discovery Manual

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  * Eleventh Circuit Jury Instruction Builder    
  * In re: Possession and Use of Personal Electronic Devices
  * Public Notice Re: Service to Persons with Communications Disabilities

General Matters

Local and Federal Rules


Many answers to frequently asked questions are found in the Federal Rules, 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.


Contacting Chambers


Counsel may telephone Chambers with procedural questions and for other assistance. However, the law clerks will not give legal advice, interpret the Rules, provide time estimates for the Court's written rulings, or discuss the merits of a case.


Requests for Extension of Time


Because the Middle District of Florida is one of the busiest trial courts in the country, extensions of Court-imposed dates and deadlines will be granted only for compelling reasons. The Court's permission is required to extend Court-imposed dates and deadlines.


The Court encourages the parties to work together in a collegial manner with respect to all pending matters; however, it is solely the Court's province to grant an extension of time. Notably, after a defendant has been served, if that defendant needs additional time to respond to the complaint, that defendant should file a motion requesting an extension of time, rather than informally seeking an extension of time from plaintiff's counsel. An informal agreement without the benefit of a Court Order is insufficient. If defense counsel is a member of the Florida Bar, but is not admitted to practice in the Middle District of Florida, defense counsel should reach out to Judge Covington's Chambers so that appropriate arraignments can be made. If defense counsel does not meet the requirements for being admitted to practice in this Court, defense counsel should retain local counsel and seek admission on a pro hac vice basis.


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, counsel must first confer with opposing counsel and then file a motion for an extension of time or continuance with the Court.

Electronic Case Filing Requirements

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.


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 availablein 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.


Courtesy Copy


When filing motions electronically, it is not necessary to submit a courtesy copy to Chambers unless the motion exceeds 100 pages in length, including exhibits and attachments. A courtesy copy should be mailed or delivered to Chambers as soon as practicable after electronic filing.


Proposed Order


A proposed order is not necessary unless the Court specifically requests 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.

Civil Case Management

Active Case Management


Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that became effective on December 1, 2015, respond to findings that early intervention by judges helps to narrow issues and reduce discovery. Litigation results are more satisfactory when a judge actively manages a case from the beginning and stays involved. The amendments do not break new ground; they emphasize the importance of early, hands-on, and continuing case management. The rules now recognize that live conferences are almost always the most effective way to identify the needs of a case and issue orders tailored to efficient resolution.


As such, the Court actively manages and oversees its assigned cases to keep 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.


Service of the Complaint


The Court recognizes that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow 90 days to effect service of process. However, the Court expects counsel for plaintiff to effect service upon all defendants as expeditiously as possible. Absent extraordinary circumstances the Court is disinclined to grant extensions of time beyond the 90-day period. The Court will from time to time order status reports regarding service of the complaint until service has been completed as to each defendant. In addition, after service has been completed, the Court directs counsel for plaintiff to file proof of service.


Counsel are reminded that it is solely within the purview of the Court to grant an extension of time for the filing and service of a responsive pleading after the Complaint has been served. Agreements between the parties are ineffective without Court approval.


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 most 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. However, as explained below, the Court directs counsel to file special Case Management Reports for cases filed pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, cases filed pursuant to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, because of the unique needs presented by Patent infringement cases, the Court directs counsel to file a special Case Management Report for such cases.


Rule 16 Case Management Hearings


The Court holds a Case Management Hearing in most civil cases per Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. At the hearing, 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;
  • prospects of settlement;
  • length of trial;
  • the Court's case management practices and procedures.
  • scheduling of mediation; and
  • whether the parties consent to the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Judge assigned to the case.

The length of the conference depends on the complexity of the case and the scope of matters to be discussed. In most cases, 45 minutes is adequate to explore the matters. Case Management Hearings are substantive hearings in which the nuances of the case are discussed. As such, the Court requires lead counsel for the parties (as well as any pro se litigants) to attend the hearing in person. The Court will not entertain motions for telephonic appearances, absent compelling circumstances. 


Case Management and Scheduling Order


The Court will enter a "Case Management and Scheduling Order" after holding a Case Management Hearing. In some categories of suit (for instance, most ERISA cases), a Case Management Hearing is ordinarily not necessary and the Court will issue a Case Management and Scheduling order shortly after the filing of 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. It should also be noted that the Case Management and Scheduling Order may be modified only for good cause and with the Court’s consent.


Fast Track Cases


Judge Covington has placed the following types of cases on a "fast track" and enters specific scheduling orders for these varieties of cases: Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act ("FCCPA") and Americans with Disabilities Act (Title III) ("ADA").


Fair Labor Standards Act:  This Court implements a specific scheduling order for cases brought under the FLSA. As such, the Court suspends the requirement to file a Case Management Report as required by Local Rule 3.05(c)(2)(B) in FLSA cases. Instead, the Court will issue a "FLSA Scheduling Order" after the defendant's first appearance.


The FLSA Scheduling Order sets forth initial discovery requirements (for instance, responding to the Court’s interrogatories and the filing of a verified summary of all hours worked and wages paid to plaintiff). The FLSA Scheduling Order also requires the parties to mediate 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 for FLSA cases. The Court will then hold a Case Management Hearing with lead counsel to discuss case management deadlines and issue the Case Management and Scheduling Order, which will govern the remainder of the case. The Court will set FLSA cases for trial approximately 90 days from the date of the Case Management Hearing. It should be noted that, if a FLSA case is settled, the parties must seek Court approval of the settlement before the case can be dismissed.


Telephone Consumer Protection Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:  This Court implements a specific scheduling order for cases brought under the TCPA, FCCPA, and FDCPA. As such, the Court suspends the requirement to file a Case Management Report as required by Local Rule 3.05(c)(2)(B) in these cases. Instead, the Court will issue a special Scheduling Order tailored to meet the specific needs of the case after the defendant's first appearance.


The Scheduling Order sets forth initial discovery requirements (such as exchanging information about debt collection activities and telephone call logs) and requires the parties to mediate 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 for TCPA, FCCPA, and FDCPA cases. The Court will then hold a Case Management Hearing with lead counsel to discuss case management deadlines and issue the Case Management and Scheduling Order, which will govern the remainder of the case. The Court will set TCPA, FCCPA, and FDCPA cases for trial approximately 90 days from the date of the Case Management Hearing.


ADA Cases (Title III):  This Court implements a specific scheduling order for cases brought under the Title III of the ADA. As such, the Court suspends the requirement to file a Case Management Report as required by Local Rule 3.05(c)(2)(B) in these cases. Instead, the Court will issue an "ADA Scheduling Order" after the defendant's first appearance.


The ADA Scheduling Order sets forth initial discovery requirements (including the exchange of expert reports) and requires the parties to mediate 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 for Title III ADA cases. The Court will then hold a Case Management Hearing with lead counsel to discuss case management deadlines and issue the Case Management and Scheduling Order, which will govern the remainder of the case. The Court will set Title III ADA cases for trial approximately 90 days from the date of the Case Management Hearing.


ERISA Cases


In cases brought pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), the Court will enter an ERISA Scheduling Order after the Defendant’s first appearance. That Order requires the parties to file a Case Management Report. Upon receipt of that report, the Court will issue a Case Management and Scheduling Order based on the parties’ Case Management Report. The Court does not routinely hold Case Management Hearings in ERISA cases, but reserves the right to do so if warranted.


Mediation


Mediation is required in almost all civil cases. The Court requires mediation at different phases of the case depending on whether the case is a fast track case. In fast track cases, the mediation takes place prior to the Case Management Conference. In non-fast track cases, the parties are directed to complete the mediation prior to the dispositive motions deadline, as discussed in the Case Management and Scheduling Order.


If the parties need to reschedule the mediation for a date that is within the Court’s mediation deadline, they must file a Notice setting forth the new mediation date. However, if the parties seek to reset the mediation for a date that is outside of the Court's mediation deadline, they must file a motion setting forth good cause. The Court is reluctant to reschedule the mediation to a date outside of the mediation deadline.


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 three weeks before the firstday of the applicable trial term.


Matters discussed at the final pretrial conference usually include:


  • facts to be resolved at trial;
  • the remaining legal issues and defenses to be resolved at trial;
  • pending motions
  • 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 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, 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.

Closing Cases


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.


Civil Motions

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. 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 movingparty 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. Thus, placing a phone call or sending an email is not sufficient. 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 will result in the Court denying or striking the motion.


Motions for Summary Judgment


1.  Number of Motions

The filing of multiple motions for summary judgment by any one party is prohibited, absent permission of the Court.


2.  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 sectioned titled, "Response to Statement of Material Facts." The opposing party's response must mirror the statement of material facts by admitting 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 motions for summary judgment, the Court has no independent duty to search and consider any part of the record not otherwise referenced in the statement of material facts and response thereto. See 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.").


3.  Deposition Transcripts as Exhibits

If depositions are filed in support of a motion for summary judgment, the Court requires the deposition be filed in its entirety (condensed version is fine) with exhibits.


4.  Exhibit Index

Counsel filing a document 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:



Number Title
1

Affidavit of John Smith

2

Jane Doe's Deposition

3-A

Contract Between XYZ Company and ABC Company (Part 1, Pages 1-15)

3-B

Contract Between XYZ Company and ABC Company (Part 2, Pages 16-24)

4

XYZ Company General Ledgers

Criminal

Status Conferences


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 the status conference, the Court will move forward with trial. Counsel should not expect the failure of a plea to be grounds for a continuance.


The Court allows lead counsel to send another attorney to the status conference to "stand in" for them in the instance that lead counsel is unavailable to appear at the status conference. However, "stand in" counsel must have the authority to waive speedy trial and request a continuance. In addition, if lead counsel is unavailable to appear in person at the status conference, the Court also permits telephonic appearance at criminal status conferences. Please make the appropriate arraignments by contacting the Court Room Deputy at least three days before the scheduled conference.


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 established plea deadline, unless otherwise permitted by the Court.


Discovery


Discovery issues are referred to the assigned Magistrate Judge.


Sentencing


Counsel must promptly notify the Court if a sentencing hearing is expected to last longer than 45 minutes so appropriate arrangements can be made. Sentencing memoranda should be filed at least three days before the sentencing date so that the Court has sufficient opportunity to review the material.


The Court will NOT consider, absent extraordinary circumstances, motions to continue that are not filed at least ten days before the sentencing hearing.


Trials

Trial Term and Calendar


All cases set for trial are scheduled for a monthly trial term. That is, a case will be called for trial on a Monday in the month the case is set. A date certain for a trial is 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 with several days' notice.


A trial calendar is distributed for the upcoming trial term approximately one to two 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 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 jury cases, the Court will assess jury costs to the parties if they fail to inform it of settlement before the jury is called.


Hours


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.


Jury Selection and Voir Dire


Jury selection is typically set for the Monday morning of the week a trial is set to begin. The Court conducts voir dire. Counsel are allowed brief follow-up questions depending on the nature of the case. Eight jurors are seated for civil cases, with all eight jurors deliberating. For criminal cases, twelve jurors are selected, normally with one or two alternates.


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, citing 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. The parties should utilize the Eleventh Circuits jury instruction builder, which is included in this Court's website.


Witness Lists


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 required 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 three copies of its final witness list to the Courtroom Deputy.


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).


Exhibit Lists


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 with three 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 by both (all) party's witness lists. Each party's individual exhibit list should include only additional exhibits to which objections have been asserted.


Marking Exhibits


In advance of trial, counsel for each party must mark exhibits using the exhibit tags found on this website. Counsel must staple the appropriate 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
Government

Gov. 1, Gov. 2, Gov. 3, etc.

Plaintiff

Pl. 1, Pl. 2, Pl. 3, etc.

Defendant

Def. 1, Def. 2, Def. 3, etc.

Multiple Defendants

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 Exhibits

Joint 1, Joint 2, Joint 3, etc.

Composite Exhibits


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 with 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.


Deposition Testimony


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 five days before the beginning of the trial term. Unresolved objections to videotape depositions should be submitted to the Court ten days prior to the trial term.


Bench Trials


After the conclusion of the bench trial, the Court will direct counsel for each party to file proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law (usually 60 days after the trial). The proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law must be emailed to the Chambers' inbox in Microsoft Word® format.

Courtroom Technology and Equipment

General


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 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.


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 14B consists of:


  • computer audio and video connection cables (3.5 stereo and a video cable (VGA only);
  • 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, such as DisplayPort or Thunderbolt, for their laptop computer or iPad, if not equipped with VGA 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 Internet


The Courtroom has wireless internet access, provided and paid for by the Bench Bar Fund. The Courtroom Deputy has the username and password.

Frequently Asked Questions

Contacting Chambers


Does the Court permit counsel to contact Chambers?

Answer: YES. However, counsel should review all orders in the case, the Local Rules, the Federal Rules, and this website before contacting Chambers.


Is it appropriate to call Chambers regarding questions of procedure on pending matters?

Answer: YES. However, law clerks will not provide legal advice or discuss the merits of any case.


Rule 16 Preliminary Pretrial Conference (AKA Case Management Conference)


Does the Court conduct the Rule 16 preliminary pretrial conference?

Answer: YES


May counsel appear telephonically at the preliminary pretrial conference?

Answer: NO, absent compelling circumstances. The Court requires lead counsel to attend the Case Management Hearing in person. The Court will discuss the details of the case at this hearing and expects counsel to come prepared to discuss substantive issues.


What matters are discussed at a preliminary pretrial conference?

Answer: The alleged facts of the case, unique issues anticipated by counsel, the Court's case management practices and procedures, pretrial deadlines to govern the case, prospects of settlement, pending motions, scope of discovery, need for expert witnesses, length of trial, calendar conflicts, scheduling of mediation and selection of mediator, and whether the parties consent to the jurisdiction of the assigned Magistrate Judge.


Motion Practice


Should courtesy copies of pleadings and motions be forwarded to Chambers?

Answer: NO, unless a pleading or motion exceeds 100 pages, including exhibits and attachments. A courtesy copy should be mailed or delivered to Chambers as soon as practicable after filing.


Should copies of cases cited in motions and memoranda of law be forwarded to Chambers?

Answer: NO. However, the Court encourages counsel to consider inserting hyperlinks to cited legal authority located on recognized electronic research services like Westlaw, LexisNexis, FindLaw, and official government websites in documents filed electronically.


Does the Court accept proposed orders?

Answer: NO, unless requested by the Court. In the limited cases in which the Court requests a proposed order, it should be emailed to the Chambers' inbox in Microsoft Word® format.


How should counsel or a pro se litigant 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.


Does the Court set aside time in a given week or month to hear oral arguments on pending motions?

Answer: NO. If needed, the Court will schedule oral arguments on selected pending motions as its trial calendar permits.


Does the Court require a statement of material facts in support of a motion for summary judgment?

Answer: YES. (See "Motions for Summary Judgment" section under "Civil Motions" tab).


Does the Court refer discovery matters to the assigned Magistrate Judge?

Answer: YES.


Does the Court conduct Daubert hearings prior to trial?

Answer: YES, if necessary.


Does the Court entertain motions in limine?

Answer: YES. The Case Management and Scheduling Order sets the deadline for motions in limine.


Settlement


What is the Court's policy on alternative dispute resolution such as court-annexed, nonbinding arbitration and mediation?

Answer: Mediation is required in almost all civil cases.


Does the Court conduct settlement conferences?

Answer: NO.


Criminal Pretrial Procedures


Does the Court conduct status conferences in criminal cases?

Answer: YES. (See "Status Conference" section under "Criminal" tab).


What matters are discussed at a status conference?

Answer: Scheduling issues, the possibility of a plea, length of trial, and whether the case is ready for trial.


What pretrial criminal proceedings are referred to the assigned Magistrate Judge?

Answer: Arraignments, change of pleas, bail proceedings, and detention hearings. Motions to suppress may also be referred to the assigned Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation.


Does the Court accept nolo contendere or Alford pleas?

Answer: NO.


What is the Court's policy on plea arrangements that involve sentencing recommendations?

Answer: Although the Court will consider a sentencing recommendation proposed by the United States Attorney, the recommendation is not binding on the Court.


Trials


1.  Calendar

How are civil and criminal cases set for trial?

Answer: All cases are scheduled for a monthly trial term. Throughout the assigned trial term, counsel and their witnesses must be available with several days’ notice. 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.


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?

Answer: YES. A trial calendar will be distributed for the upcoming trial term approximately one to two 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 to maximize trial time. Generally, criminal cases are tried first, followed by civil trials.


2.  Jury Selection and Voir Dire

Does the Court conduct voir dire?

Answer: YES. The Court conducts voir dire examination. Counsel will have an opportunity to conduct brief follow-up.


Can parties submit proposed voir dire questions to the Court?

Answer: YES.


Does the Court have any procedures on peremptory challenges?

Answer: YES. The Court does not allow back-striking..


In multiple party cases, does the Court grant each party three preemptory challenges?

Answer: NO. The Court generally limits each side to a total of 3 preemptory challenges to be shared.


3.  Jury Procedures

Are jurors permitted to take notes?

Answer: YES.


Are jurors permitted to ask questions to a witness?

Answer: YES. In civil cases the Eleventh Circuit permits juror questions. The Court requires that the jurors submit all questions in writing. The Court will go over the questions with counsel and will allow only appropriate questions to be asked after consideration from both sides. 


4.  Opening Statements

Does the Court impose any time limits for opening statements?

Answer: YES. Counsel for each party are generally allotted 30 minutes, but the Court will adjust that time depending on the length and complexity of the case.


Can counsel use exhibits during opening statements?

Answer: YES, but only provided the parties have reviewed and agreed to exhibits in advance of trial and with leave of the Court.


Does the Court allow the plaintiff or Government to make a rebuttal during opening statements?

Answer: NO.


5.  Objections

Does the Court have any procedures regarding objections at trial?

Answer: YES. When objecting, counsel must stand and only state the objection and legal ground for the objection without argument – "Objection. Hearsay," or "Objection. Leading." Speaking objections are prohibited, unless the Court requests further information from counsel. When a party has more than one lawyer, only one lawyer may conduct the examination of a given witness and that lawyer alone may make objections concerning that witness.


Sentencing


Does the Court allow sentencing memorandum to be submitted?

Answer: YES. When a party feels a sentencing memorandum will benefit the Court imposing a sentencing, they must file it at least three days before the sentencing date.


Does the Court disclose the probation officer's final 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.