Thomas A. Varlan, Chief United States District Judge

Judicial Preferences

1.  Written correspondence from counsel to the court.
Judge Varlan discourages written correspondence from counsel. However, if correspondence is written, copies should be sent to counsel for all parties.
2.  Communication between counsel and the Judge's law clerks.
Judge Varlan permits communication with his law clerks so long as there is no discussion about the merits of the case or any pending motions.
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.
Final pretrial conferences will be generally conducted in person. For other conferences, out-of-town attorneys desiring to participate by telephone should contact Judge Varlan's judicial assistant at least one week before the conference date. The use of telephone conferences may also be initialized by the Court for other matters.
4.  Preference regarding pro hac vice admissions.
See Local Rule 83.5.
5.  Preference regarding oral arguments on motions.
Judge Varlan considers requests for oral argument on a case by case basis and may set a motion for oral argument even absent a request by the parties.
6.  Preference for courtesy copies of motions, briefs, and other writings for chambers.
Unless the Court instructs otherwise, courtesy hard copies shall not be mailed or hand delivered to chambers. To the extent the Court requests a courtesy hard copy, such copy should be printed out after being electronically filed so that the copy contains the "ECF Header/Footer" reflecting the filing information, i.e. case number, document number, filed date, page number and PageID number.
7.  Standard form for scheduling order(s).
Judge Varlan's standard form scheduling order is on the Eastern District web site.
8.  Preferences regarding Federal Rule 16.
No preferences.
9.  Preferences regarding Federal Rule 26.
No preferences.
10.  The extent to which counsel may influence the length of the discovery period, extensions, trial dates, etc.
Any change in the scheduling order may be made only by the Court upon motion of a party. Parties should submit a proposed agreed order with such motion.
11.  The average amount of time allowed for discovery in a standard case.
Judge Varlan generally allows six (6) to eight (8) months for the completion of discovery in most cases.
12.  Preferred approach and procedures for handling discovery conferences and disputes.
Judge Varlan's scheduling order outlines a three-step process for the resolution of discovery disputes as follows: (1) the parties are to meet and confer among themselves in an effort to resolve; (2) an informal conference is to be arranged with the magistrate judge assigned to the case; and (3) the filing of written motion with the court.
13.  Preferences regarding the handling of confidentiality agreements.
No preference.
14.  Preferences regarding requests for additional pages in excess of the page limitations set forth in Local Rule 7.1(b).
The page limitations established by Local Rule 7.1(b) should ordinarily be followed. Reasonable requests to exceed the page limitations in complex cases, however, may be granted.
15.  Preferences and procedure regarding scheduling trials, including whether a date certain for trial is assigned; if so, the amount of time prior to trial that such a date certain is assigned; and the extent to which it may be moved during the month in which it has been scheduled.
A certain trial date is typically set in the scheduling order issued by Judge Varlan. Once set, continuances are granting only upon a showing of cause. Successive resettings require compelling necessity.
16.  How needs of out-of-town parties, attorneys, or witnesses are accommodated.
Judge Varlan expects the attorneys who will be trying the case to be present at the final pretrial conference. For other conferences, out-of-town attorneys desiring to participate by telephone should contact Judge Varlan's judicial assistant at least one week before the conference date.
17.  Preferences regarding the delivery of written reports to the court by expert witnesses who are scheduled to testify.
Written reports by expert witnesses who are scheduled to testify need not be filed with the court unless a party files a motion requesting a Daubert hearing. In that event, written reports of the expert witnesses being challenged should be filed with the court at least five (5) days prior to the Daubert hearing.
18.  Preferences regarding the submission of trial briefs by counsel.
Per Judge Varlan's scheduling order, trial briefs should be submitted to the Court at least seven (7) days before trial.
19.  Counsel participation in voir dire.
Judge Varlan will conduct preliminary voir dire in both civil and criminal cases but allows counsel to conduct additional voir dire. Counsel shall be given latitude in conducting the voir dire so long as the voir dire does not become repetitious or overly intrusive. Once voir dire is completed, counsel submit their challenges to the Court on a form provided by the courtroom deputy. "Back-striking" is not permitted.
20.  Time limits for opening and closing statements at trial.
Judge Varlan typically has no set time limits for opening statements but expects attorneys to be reasonable with respect to the consumption of time. The Court will establish a limit on closing statements at trial.
21.  Preference for counsel to examine witnesses from counsel table or elsewhere, including whether you prefer counsel to remain seated while examining witnesses.
See Local Rule 83.3.
22.  Whether more than one attorney may handle trial for a party.
Yes; however, only one attorney for a party should examine or cross-examine a particular witness.
23.  Preference for handling sidebar conferences.
Such conferences should be kept to a minimum. Counsel should strive to raise matters that may require a sidebar in conjunction with breaks during trial, when the jury is out of the courtroom, and should also notify the courtroom deputy as the need to address an issue approaches.
24.  Preference or requirements for introducing videotaped testimony.
The courtroom deputy clerk should be given advance notice that a party intends to introduce videotaped testimony so that the equipment will be available as needed.
25.  Pre-marking of documentary and photographic exhibits and other demonstrative evidence for trial and the date upon which exchange of exhibits is to take place, if any.
See Judge Varlan's scheduling order.
26.  Preference for the moving of exhibits into evidence at trial.
Counsel should stipulate to the introduction of as many exhibits as possible in order that the trial will not be unduly delayed. In the event that the admission of documents is stipulated, counsel need not move the introduction of each individual exhibit. For exhibits which are not stipulated, counsel should move their admission if and when the documents are presented at trial.
27.  Allowance of examination of witnesses beyond redirect and recross.
Judge Varlan generally does not permit examination of witnesses beyond redirect and recross.
28.  Special requirements for reading of depositions or other material onto the record at trial.
No special requirements other than as addressed in the scheduling order.
29.  Preference for written motion and/or brief for judgment as a matter of law or judgment on the pleadings when such motion is made during trial.
Not required.
30.  Approach to in limine motions.
Judge Varlan's procedure for filing of in limine motions is set forth in his form scheduling order. Generally, such motions will be considered at the final pretrial conference.
31.  Practice for the receipt of proposed jury instructions, including the form of jury instruction.
See Judge Varlan's form scheduling order and Local Rule 51.1.
32.  Note-Taking by jurors.
Note taking by jurors is allowed, except during opening statements and closing arguments.
33.  Whether the jury may take exhibits into the jury room for deliberation and, if so, any limits.
Yes, except firearms and illegal narcotics.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee uses the Jury Evidence Recording System (JERS) to capture evidence electronically during a trial. Evidence released to the jury can be played back by the jury in the deliberation room. A training session on the use of this equipment can be requested through the courtroom deputy.
34.  Preference regarding the submission of written verdict forms (in the form of interrogatory questions) to the jury.
Judge Varlan routinely submits written verdict forms to jurors. Counsel should submit proposed verdict forms for consideration.
35.  Written jury instructions provided to the jury.
Judge Varlan will submit a written copy of the charge to the jury.
36.  Requirements as to counsel's whereabouts during jury deliberations.
Counsel who leave the vicinity of the courtroom during jury deliberation must notify the courtroom deputy of his or her whereabouts (including specifically a telephone contact number) and must be able to return to court within ten (10) minutes of being notified to do so.
37.  Whether counsel may speak with the jurors after a verdict has been rendered and recorded and, if a jury is polled, who conducts the polling.
Judge Varlan adheres to Local Rule 48.1 with regard to interrogation of jurors after a trial has concluded. If the jury is polled, Judge Varlan or his courtroom deputy will conduct the polling.
38.  Jury requests for review of testimony or recorded evidence.
Such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.
39.  Handling requests for temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, and other emergency relief.
See Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
40.  As to injunctions, whether expedited discovery and briefing is allowed and, if so, whether briefing is allowed before or after any preliminary injunction hearing, and whether proposed findings of fact or conclusions of law in such cases are required.
Briefing is allowed as in other cases. Expedited discovery may be ordered upon appropriate motion to the court.
41.  Prefer to receive copies of appellate filings when an appeal has been taken from an order.
No.
42.  General approach to settlement in non-jury cases and use of magistrate judges.
Judge Varlan encourages the use of mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods. Magistrate judges may be involved on a case-by-case basis.
43.  Procedures as to magistrate's reports.
See 28 U.S.C. Sec. 636.