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Bench Book

Judge W. Brent West

QUESTIONNAIRE FOR JUDGE’S BENCHBOOK

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. I usually conduct them 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: Yes. I require that litigants comply with URCP 26.

2. Motions Practice

Q: Do you appreciate courtesy copies of briefs being delivered to your chamber prior to hearing on a motion? If so, how early do you want them?

A: Yes, I appreciate 72 hours. I accept 24 hours.

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: I set hearings on motions automatically.

Q: Under what circumstances do you decline to grant a request for oral argument?

A: I decline to grant oral argument on almost all discovery issues, and on most if not all non-dispositive motions.

Q: What is your policy on allowing overlength memoranda?

A: I grant overlength, but prefer 10 pages only.

Q: What separates a useful brief from one that is unhelpful?

A: Brevity.

Q: Do you prefer that counsel provide copies of the relevant cases prior to a hearing?

A: No, unless they want a ruling at the hearing.

Q: What makes an effective motions argument?

A: Brevity and getting to the point.

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: No, except that I do not conduct full evidentiary hearings at the parties’ first court appearance.

3. Final Pretrial Conference

Q: In your view, what is the purpose of a final pretrial conference?

A: The purposes of a final pretrial conference are to finalize the issues to be tried, make a final effort at case settlement, and to go over trial practices and procedures.

Q: What topics or issues should counsel come prepared to discuss?

A: Issues, settlement, motions, evidence, practice and procedures, jury instruction.

Q: What steps do you take, if any, at a final pretrial conference to encourage settlement of the case?

A: I make efforts to settle it.

Q: Do you require clients to be present at final pretrial conferences?

A: Yes.

4. Jury Trial Practice

Jury selection:

Q: How is voir dire conducted in your courtroom?

A: By both me and the attorneys.

Q: Do you allow counsel to participate in voir dire? If so, to what extent?

A: Yes, quite a bit.

Q: What is your due date for requested voir dire questions?

A: The date of the final pre-trial conference.

Q: Do you allow or encourage the use of jury questionnaires?

A: Yes.

Requested instructions:

Q: When do you require requested instructions to be submitted?

A: At the final pre-trial conference.

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. Depends, if it is an unusual instruction or one never used in Utah, I prefer that you submit cases. Otherwise, it is acceptable to use the standard form.

Q: Do you have a set of stock jury instructions that you use?

A: Yes. Attorneys can obtain a copy from my clerk.

Q: Do you prefer to receive an electronic copy of requested instructions?

A: Doesn’t matter.

Trial procedures:

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: Nine to five, but will start at 9:30 a.m., in the winter, to accommodate lawyers who have to travel.

Q: What are your preferences with respect to motions in limine and other trial related motions?

A: Any time before day of trial.

Q: What are your preferences and/or procedures related to witness scheduling?

A: I have none, as long as the trial runs smoothly and counsel realistically coordinate their witnesses.

Q: What are your preferences with respect to trial exhibits?

A: Marked in advance and sequentially i.e., P 1-100, D 101-200.

5. Bench Trial Practice

Q: What are the major differences, in your courtroom, between bench trials and jury trials?

A: Bench trials can be less formal, but otherwise, there is not much difference.

Q: Do you appreciate or require proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law from counsel?

A: I appreciate them, but do not require them.

Q: Do you appreciate or require trial briefs from counsel?

A: Yes, I both appreciate them and require them.

6. Thoughts on Effective Advocacy

Q: What makes an effective advocate in jury arguments?

A: Don’t bore them. Don’t repeat and don’t beat a “dead horse.”

Q: What are the most common mistakes made in argument?

A: Spending too much time on minor issues. Giving the jury too much information.

Q: What are some techniques that do, or do not, work effectively in the examination of witnesses?

A: Have a plan and an outline. Organize both your direct and cross.

Q: Do you find the use of computer-assisted presentations (e.g., PowerPoint) effective and/or useful?

A: Yes, both.

7. Criminal Matters

Q: How do you handle requests for continuance on pretrials, arraignments or roll calls?

A: I prefer you appear in person. I hold law and motion every Wednesday morning. If both parties agree, my clerk can reset a case, but do not ask or expect my clerk to contact the other side. I expect the lawyer who needs the accommodation to contact the other side.

Q: When may the issue of bail best be addressed in your courtroom?

A: At the first appearance and after that, only when a motion is filed with notice to the other side. I don’t appreciate, nor will I address, requests for bail adjustments at each proceeding.

Q: What information do you want from counsel at the time of sentencing?

A: Anything that they think is relevant and material. Be prepared to address the weaknesses of your client’s case, not just the strengths of the case. Be realistic, don’t ask for probation when it is patently obvious that either jail or prison is called for. If you seek probation, come with alternatives to jail or specific programs. Do not expect me or Adult Probation and Parole to find creative ways to keep your client out of jail or prison.

Q: Are private pre-sentence evaluations useful or encouraged?

A: No.

Q: Do you have any standard sentences the bar should be advised about, i.e., DUI sentencings, acceptance of alcohol-related reckless?

A: Yes, but they are too numerous to list here.

Q: How should counsel on busy law and motion calendar handle calling a case?

A: Ask to have your case called and give me and/or my clerk the number of your case on the calendar. I try to take cases with private counsel first. I do take cases with inmates ahead of cases where the defendant is out of custody.

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: No.

Q: Do you have a policy on child interviews with respect to custody?

A: Yes, I generally interview, if asked, and if the child’s testimony is both relevant and material.

9. Discovery Practices

Q: What is your approach to resolving discovery disputes?

A: I resolve them, but usually without oral argument. Also, please do not ask me to enforce side agreements between the lawyers. I simply follow the Rules of Civil Procedure.

Q: What are your thoughts on imposing sanctions for discovery abuses?

A: I will impose them in appropriate cases.

Q: Are you generally available to solve problems that arise during a deposition?

A: Yes.

10. Thoughts on Courtroom Protocol

Q: Is civility ever a problem in your courtroom? If so, do you take steps to improve civility in your courtroom?

A: Rarely. I always intervene.

Q: Do you impose any limitations on courtroom movement (approaching witnesses, podium, etc.)?

A: No.

11. Other Miscellaneous Issues

Q: What are your opinions regarding courtroom dress?

A: I do not have a dress code, but I do discourage casual attire.

Q: Do you allow children in your courtroom?

A: I prefer not to have children under five years of age.

Q: Do you allow cellphones in your courtroom?

A: Yes, but if they go off, my bailiff confiscates them for the rest of the day.

Q: What, if anything, do you do to enforce promptness in your courtroom?

A: This is a tough one. I appreciate promptness, but, as the presiding judge in our county, I myself sometimes have a hard time starting promptly. There is always a phone call, a clerical problem, a meeting, or a crisis. So, I am tolerant and flexible.

12. Clerk’s Comments

Q: The name and phone number of my clerk(s) is:

A: Pamela Allen, 801-395-1136

Q: My clerk wants you to please do these things:

A: When court is in session, both she and I prefer that she be called Ms. Allen. In fact, I prefer everyone, during court, be referred to by their surname. It promotes civility.

 

Biographies of 2nd District Judges