Judge Michael G. AllphinQUESTIONNAIRE FOR JUDGE’S BENCHBOOK
JUDGE: Michael G. Allphin - Second District Court
1. Scheduling Conferences
Q: Are scheduling conferences needed or used in your court? If so, are they conducted in person or by telephone?
A: Yes. By telephone.
Q: What are your preferences regarding Case Management Orders/Scheduling Orders? Do you require that specific things be included in such orders?
A: Follow the rule. Submit them timely. Follow the schedule. I want cases moved along.
2. Motions Practice
Q: Do you appreciate courtesy copies of briefs being delivered to your chambers prior to hearing on a motion? If so, how early do you want them?
A: Yes, 1 week.
Q: Do you schedule hearings on motions automatically upon receiving notices to submit, or do you prefer or require that counsel call to schedule hearings?
A: My clerk calls the lawyers and schedules a time. If contact cannot be made she schedules the hearing and sends notice.
Q: Under what circumstances do you decline to grant a request for oral argument?
A: I grant very few requests. Most attorneys just want to recite what’s in their briefs. If I am unsure of facts, I will hear to clarify.
Q: What is your policy on allowing overlength memoranda?
A: Allow sparingly—only grant for a very good reason.
Q: What separates a useful brief from one that is unhelpful?
A: Clearly and precisely tell me what the facts are and the law that applies.
Q: Do you prefer that counsel provide copies of the relevant cases prior to a hearing?
Q: What makes an effective motions argument?
A: Clearly state the facts and tell me what law applies. Tell me why the opposing party’s position is not correct based upon the law as you believe it to be.
Q: Is there anything about the way you handle requests for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions that you think the bar should be aware of?
A: Follow the law—give appropriate notice and be aware of possible bond requirement.
3. Final Pretrial Conference
Q: In your view, what is the purpose of a final pretrial conference?
A: To determine if the parties have done everything possible to try to settle the case. Set parameters for conducting trial.
Q: What topics or issues should counsel come prepared to discuss?
A: Settlement, anticipated motions in limine.
Q: What steps do you take, if any, at a final pretrial conference to encourage settlement of the case?
A: If it’s a jury trial, I am more aggressive and will often offer to help facilitate settlement.
Q: Do you require clients to be present at final pretrial conferences?
4. Jury Trial Practice
Q: How is voir dire conducted in your courtroom?
A: By the court with input from lawyers.
Q: Do you allow counsel to participate in voir dire? If so, to what extent?
A: Only through the court.
Q: What is your due date for requested voir dire questions?
A: 1 week prior.
Q: Do you allow or encourage the use of jury questionnaires?
A: Allow on very limited basis.
Q: When do you require requested instructions to be submitted?
A: One week prior I require counsel to have met and agreed upon a set of instructions. Those not agreed to should be accompanied by supporting law.
Q: What form do you prefer requested instructions to take (e.g., do you prefer instructions accompanied by supporting cases, etc.)? Is a citation to MUJI sufficient legal authority?
A: Yes, unless it is contested.
Q: Do you have a set of stock jury instructions that you use?
A: Yes, but if counsel agree upon a set I will normally use agreed-to instructions.
Q: Do you prefer to receive an electronic copy of requested instructions?
Q: What is your preferred trial schedule (e.g., 9 to 5 with an hour for lunch, 8 to 2 with no lunch, etc.)?
A: 9 to 5 with 1-1/2 hours for lunch.
Q: What are your preferences with respect to motions in limine and other trial related motions?
A: Know what they are at pretrial and schedule hearing prior to trial.
Q: What are your preferences and/or procedures related to witness scheduling?
A: Counsel should attempt to work out schedule—I will take witnesses out of order.
Q: What are your preferences with respect to trial exhibits?
A: Have them marked prior to start of trial.
5. Bench Trial Practice
Q: What are the major differences, in your courtroom, between bench trials and jury trials?
A: In bench trials, I will often ask questions.
6. Thoughts on Effective Advocacy
Q: What makes an effective advocate in jury arguments?
A: Treat them as if they are an equal and intelligent. There is a happy medium to speaking down to them and speaking over their heads.
Q: What are the most common mistakes made in argument?
A: Talking down to the jury. Repeating arguments. Being derogatory about the other side.
Q: What are some techniques that do, or do not, work effectively in the examination of witnesses?
A: Does not work to become too aggressive with witness.
Q: Do you find the use of computer-assisted presentations (e.g., PowerPoint) effective and/or useful?
7. Criminal Matters
Q: How do you handle requests for continuance on pretrials, arraignments or roll calls?
A: After having contacted prosecutor, call my clerk, and give a reason—she will ask me—and follow up with order.
Q: When may the issue of bail best be addressed in your courtroom?
A: Usually only once after arraignment. Other side must have notice.
Q: What information do you want from counsel at the time of sentencing?
A: Anything they think will be helpful to their client.
Q: Are private pre-sentence evaluations useful or encouraged?
A: Not usually.
Q: Do you have any standard sentences the bar should be advised about, i.e., DUI sentencings, acceptance of alcohol-related reckless?
A: If convicted of DUI—general rule: do jail time.
Q: How should counsel on busy law and motion calendar handle calling a case?
A: I will take private counsel before PD at the beginning of the calendar—after that if you will stand I will call on you. I don’t require you wait to the end of the calendar.
8. Special Issues for Domestic Cases
Q: Are there any special issues that arise in your courtroom in domestic cases of which you would like the bar to be aware?
A: Preparedness! – Preparedness!
Q: What do you want to have on temporary order issues?
A: Documentation with proffers.
Q: Do you have a policy on child interviews with respect to custody?
A: I will interview on the record in chambers but without parties or counsel.
9. Discovery Practices
Q: What is your approach to resolving discovery disputes?
A: Telephone conference.
Q: What are your thoughts on imposing sanctions for discovery abuses?
A: Counsel need to be reasonable—but if there is clear abuse, sanctions are possible.
Q: Are you generally available to solve problems that arise during a deposition?
10. Thoughts on Courtroom Protocol
Q: Is lack of civility ever a problem in your courtroom? If so, do you take steps to improve civility in your courtroom?
A: Not generally. I will not allow lawyers or parties to speak derogatorily to each other.
Q: Do you impose any limitations on courtroom movement (approaching witnesses, podium, etc.)?
A: Speak from the podium—ggeneral rule. Ask to approach a witness only once with request to approach thereafter without asking. This lets witnesses know they are being protected.
11. Other Miscellaneous Issues
Q: What are your opinions regarding courtroom dress?
A: Coat and tie for men. Business dress for women.
Q: Do you allow children in your courtroom?
Q: Do you allow cell phones in your courtroom?
A: Only if turned off.
Q: What, if anything, do you do to enforce promptness in your courtroom?
A: I start court when I say I will start.
12. Clerk’s Comments
Q: The name and phone number of my clerk(s) is:
A: Teri Sparrow, 447-3850
Q: My clerk wants you to please do these things:
A: –State your name in Court.
–Mark Exhibits in advance.
–Call for continuance of hearings with the other parties on the phone.
–Phone messages—lleave name, name of case and case #.