Christopher H. Steger, United States Magistrate Judge
1. Written correspondence from counsel to the court.
The preferred method of communication with the Court is always a formal written motion, filed on the Court's electronic case filing system. Any information obtained by any means other than a court order - including, but not limited to, telephone or e-mail messages transmitted by employees of the Clerk's Office or chambers staff - is not a part of the record and in no way binds the Court.
2. Communication between counsel and the Judge's law clerks.
Judge Steger strongly discourages ex parte communication between counsel and his law clerks. Any communication that does occur shall not address the merits of the case or any pending motion.
3. Preference for the use of telephone conferences rather than in-person conferences for any category of conferences that you schedule in connection with a case.
Telephonic motion hearings may be allowed if there are attorneys involved whose offices are a significant distance from the court UNLESS the number of lawyers, or the subject matter of the hearing would, in the Court's judgment, make a telephonic hearing impractical. Attorneys are welcome to request telephonic hearings by contacting the Court's Judicial Assistant.
4. Preference regarding pro hac vice admissions.
No preference beyond what the Local Rule requires. Note that the Local Rule presently requires admission in a United States District Court. Admission to a state supreme court is NOT sufficient for pro hac vice admission in this Court.
5. Preference regarding oral arguments on motions.
Usually, non-dispositive motions are set for oral argument. The Court will notify counsel as to the date and time of the hearing. If the parties intend to present evidence at the hearing, they must notify the Court in advance so that arrangements can be made to have an official court reporter present.
6. Preference for courtesy copies of motions, briefs, and other writings for chambers.
Copies of all proposed orders, as well as other documents upon specific request, should be furnished in Word format via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Standard form for scheduling order(s).
A copy of Judge Steger's form scheduling order is on the court's web site.
8. Preferences regarding Federal Rule 16.
None, except that it be read and followed.
9. Preferences regarding Federal Rule 26.
None, except that it be read and followed. The Court will endeavor to give favorable consideration to requests for reasonable extensions of deadlines supported by good cause. Absent such requests, deadlines are enforced. All written discovery requests should be served sufficiently in advance of the discovery deadline so that responses will be due prior to the deadline. Parties may agree to conduct discovery after the discovery deadline has expired; however, the Court generally will not involve itself in discovery disputes that arise following the expiration of such deadline.
10. The extent to which counsel may influence the length of the discovery period, extensions, trial dates, etc.
The input of the attorneys is given great weight in setting discovery deadlines and trial dates. The time allowed for discovery in a standard case depends primarily upon its complexity. The trial date will be set so as to allow adequate time for discovery in light of the nature of the case.
11. The average amount of time allowed for discovery in a standard case.
The Court will generally establish a discovery deadline approximately 13 weeks prior to the trial date. The amount of time allowed for discovery and trial preparation depends upon the complexity of the case, input from the attorneys, and the Court's schedule.
12. Preferred approach and procedures for handling discovery conferences and disputes.
Lawyers should: (1) confer with each other in a civil manner and use their best efforts to resolve discovery disputes promptly; and (2) if unsuccessful in such efforts, bring such disputes to the attention of the Court promptly, preferably in the form of a motion specifying the relief requested.
13. Preferences regarding the handling of confidentiality agreements.
The parties may agree to any reasonable confidentiality terms between or among themselves; however, the parties' designation of materials as confidential does not automatically merit the filing of those materials "under seal." To file a document under seal, the parties must move for leave to do so pursuant to the applicable rules. The parties should be mindful of the high value placed on public access to judicial records, and should be guided by the provisions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 26c, Local Rule 26.2, and Proctor & Gamble Co. v. Bankers Trust Co., 78 F.3d 219 (6th Cir. 1996). Such motions will be closely scrutinized.
14. Preferences for Rule 56 Motions
In keeping with Fed. R. Civ. P. 56c, motions for summary judgment and responsive briefs shall include factual assertions that are supported by citations to evidence in the record (e.g., affidavits, depositions, exhibits, etc.). The parties must cite to "particular parts of materials in the record" (such as specific page numbers) to support all factual assertions. The Court will disregard all unsupported factual assertions.
15. Preferences regarding requests for additional pages in excess of the page limitations set forth in Local Rule 7.1(b).
When submitting briefs, the parties should follow the page limitations established by Local Rule 7.1(b). The page limitations established therein do not include: cover sheet, table of contents, table of authorities, or certificate of service. Reasonable requests to exceed such page limitations will be considered; however, absent compelling reasons, such requests are not routinely granted. Failure to comply with page limitations may result in the Court disregarding the noncompliant brief or summarily denying the underlying motion.
16. Preferences and procedure regarding scheduling.
All deadlines and the trial date are established at the scheduling conference. Upon a showing of good cause, those deadlines, including the trial date, may be rescheduled; however, the parties should be aware that requests for successive re-settings will not be granted absent compelling necessity.
Pre-trial briefs on evidentiary and legal issues are not required unless specifically ordered by the Court. Parties shall make every effort to resolve and reduce to writing any stipulations before trial, particularly regarding the admissibility of exhibits. Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law are required in non-jury trial, and Judge Steger typically will require post-trial briefs upon the conclusion of a bench trial.
Where possible, motions in limine should be presented to the Court in advance of the trial. Judge Steger prefers to rule on motions in limine before trial; however, it may be necessary to reserve ruling until the issue arises at trial in order to gain context.
Judge Steger allows counsel to participate in voir dire to the extent it advances the goal of selecting a fair and impartial jury. The Court will conclude voir dire by counsel when their questions stray from that purpose. Once voir dire is completed, counsel will submit their challenges to the Court on a form provided by the courtroom deputy. The jury will consist of panel members who remain after counsel submit their challenges. "Back-striking" is not permitted during jury selection.
Judge Steger will set appropriate time limits for opening and closing statements on a case-by-case basis with input from counsel.
Counsel must stand and examine witnesses from the lectern. Counsel must never approach a witness in a jury trial without permission of the Court and are never allowed, under any circumstances, to stand near or lean against the jury box or to have any close contact with jurors in the jury box. Judge Steger does not permit jurors to pose questions to witnesses.
Judge Steger permits more than one attorney to handle a trial for a party, but only one attorney for a party may conduct the examination of and raise objections during the testimony of any given witness.
Sidebar conferences are discouraged and should be kept to a minimum. To the extent possible, counsel should raise such matters in conjunction with other breaks during trial or after the conclusion of the day's work, when the jury is out of the courtroom.
No preference. Judge Steger expects counsel to discuss this issue in advance of trial and reach an agreement on the method.
Exhibits should be pre-marked according to the exhibit list the parties prepare.
Counsel should stipulate to the admissibility of as many exhibits as possible. For exhibits that are stipulated, counsel need not move for the introduction of each individual exhibit. For exhibits that are not stipulated, counsel should move for their admission if and when the documents are presented at trial.
Judge Steger typically does not permit examination of witnesses beyond re-direct and re-cross, absent compelling circumstances.
Briefing on motions for judgment as a matter of law are not required, but encouraged, particularly on more complex issues of fact or law.
The procedures and deadline for filing proposed jury instructions are governed by the scheduling order. When crafting its jury instructions, the Court refers to the Sixth Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions, Sixth Circuit case law, and, to the extent consistent with applicable precedent, pattern jury instructions for other circuits. When submitting proposed instructions, the parties shall ensure that their proposed instructions follow the form of the pattern instructions. Local Rule 51.1 requires counsel to share their proposed instructions with each other, and Judge Steger requires the parties to confer and to certify that they have attempted to resolve any differences before submitting their proposed instructions to the Court. n. Preference regarding the submission of written verdict forms (in the form of interrogatory questions) to the jury.
Special verdict forms may be utilized when necessitated by the nature of the particular case.
Judge Steger typically permits jurors to take notes.
Exhibits properly introduced into evidence may be taken into the jury room during jury deliberations unless the Court specifically directs otherwise.
Judge Steger will provide one written copy of the final instructions to the jury.
Counsel are requested to stay in reasonably close proximity to the courthouse during jury deliberations, and should notify the courtroom deputy as to how they can be reached so that they can return promptly to courthouse when notified to do so.
Local Rule 48.1 prevents counsel from post-verdict communication with jurors without Court permission. Judge Steger will grant such a request only in extraordinary circumstances. When requested, polling of jurors is conducted by the courtroom deputy.
Such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis, but will be granted only sparingly.
18. Temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, and other emergency relief.
The parties must comply with all relevant provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65. If an expedited hearing is sought, the parties should file a motion with the Court. Briefing is allowed as in other cases. Expedited discovery may be ordered upon appropriate application to the Court. Proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law are encouraged, but not required.
In all cases, the parties are urged to try to settle the matter, using mediation or another alternative dispute resolution method if helpful. Magistrate judges may be involved on a case-by-case basis as provided for in Local Rule 68.3.
20. Media communications.
This matter is controlled by Local Rules 83.2 and 83.12, which counsel are required to follow.