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Last Modified 05/26/2004 05:17 PM
Donald M. Middlebrooks
U.S. District Judge


The following information has been secured by voluntary questionnaire from the judiciary. This information is not binding on any judge or court official and may not be relied upon for precedential purposes.

Location of Chambers: 701 Clematis Street #257
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
Phone Number: (561) 514-3720
Assigned Courtroom: 7

1. STAFF:
    Courtroom Deputy: Valerie Thompkins
    Phone Number: (561) 514-3725

    Court Reporter: Roger Watford
    Phone Number: (561) 514-3728

      Law Clerks:

        Administrative Law Clerk: Sylvia Wenger
        Term Ending: Career
        Law School: University of Miami

        (1) Law Clerk: Maia Fisher
        Term Ending: August 2004
        Law School: Harvard

        (2) Law Clerk: Dolly Davis
        Term Ending: August 2004
        Law School: University of Miami

    Policy regarding communication with staff [i.e., Do you permit counsel to contact assigned law clerks?]:
    Allows counsel to contact assigned law clerks.


    What is your policy regarding communication with staff? Do you permit counsel to contact assigned law clerks?
    Yes_X_No___

    Is is appropriate to telephone Chambers regarding questions of procedure on pending matters?
    Yes___No_X_

    Is it appropriate to telephone Chambers regarding the status of pending matters?
    Yes___No_X_

    Docketing Clerk: Pat Alcalde
    Phone Number: 561- 802-3402
2. PRETRIAL PROCEDURE (CIVIL):
    A. Preliminary Pretrial Hearings:

      Do you conduct preliminary pretrial hearings?
      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, what matters do you typically discuss during preliminary pretrial hearings?

      Witnesses, exhibits, length of trial, time limits on opening and closing statements, etc.


      If NO, do you refer preliminary pretrial hearings to a United States Magistrate Judge?
      Yes___No_X_

    B. Motion Practice:

      Should courtesy copies of pleadings and motions be forwarded to Chambers?
      Yes_X_No___ Only through Clerk's office.

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

      If so, should copies be attached to the motions or memoranda?
      Yes_X_No___

      If copies of these cases are submitted, do you accept copies which have portions highlighted by counsel?
      Yes___No_X_

      Do you allow telephonic hearings?
      Yes_X_No___

      What can an attorney do to call attention to a pending motion of particular importance to expidite ruling?
      File a motion drawing attention to the outstanding motion.

      Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
      Yes_X_No___ Occassionally

      If you will consider motions in limine prior to trial, how far in advace should they be filed?
      2-3 weeks

      Do you regularly set aside time during a given week/month for hearings on motions?
      Yes___No_X_

      If YES, when is your normal hearing date/time?

      What are your procedures concerning ex-parte temporary restraining orders?
      Require service upon opposing counsel in all but limited circumstances.

      Do you hear preliminary injunction motions yourself?
      Yes_X_No___

      If NO, do you routinely refer preliminary injunctions for report and recommendation by a U.S. Magistrate Judge?

      Yes___No___

      If YES, do you limit the hearing to argument of counsel?

      Yes___No_X_

      If NO, what are your procedures for the receipt of evidence during a hearing on a preliminary injunction?

      Evidence shall be pre-marked and indexed. Copy shall be filed and provided to Judge.

      What is your practice concerning oral arguments of dispositive motions?
      Ordinarily will grant in appropriate circumstances.

    C. Settlement:

      What is your policy/practice regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution devices such as court-annexed, non-binding arbitration and mediation?
      Mediation is mandatory.

      Do you personally conduct settlement discussions?
      Yes___No_X_

      If YES, under that circumstances?

    D. Discovery:

      Do you refer discovery matters to a U.S. Magistrate Judge?
      Yes___No_X_

      When dispute arises during a depositon, is it appropriate to call the Magistrate Jedges chambers to seek an immediate ruling?
      Yes___No_X_ Not Applicable

    E. Pretrial Conference:

      Do you personally conduct pretrial conferences in your cases?
      Yes___No_X_ Ecept for initial scheduling conferences in civil cases.

      If YES, do you have a standing order regarding pretrial conference?

      Yes___No_X_ (If YES, please attach a copy.)
3. PRETRIAL PROCEDURE (CRIMINAL)
    A. Preliminary Pretrial Hearings:

      Do you personally conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases?
      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, what matters do you typically discuss during a preliminary pretrial conference?

      Scheduling, time limits, number of witnesses, likelihood of a plea argreement, length of trial, motions to suppress.

      If NO, do you refer preliminary pretrial conferences to U.S. Magistrate Judges?
      Yes___No___

      Do you have a policy regarding the timing of disclosure of Jencks Act material?

      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, what is your policy?

      Preference is that such material be exchanged early, but will not require compliance beyond the terms of Act.

    B. Pleas:

      What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford?
      Such pleas are accepted only in extraordinary circumstances

      What is your policy concerning plea arrangements that involve sentencing recommendations?
      Such pleas are accepted in all but the most extraordinary circumstances.
4. TRIAL:
    A. Trial Dates:

      Do you grant trial dates certain?
      Yes___No_X_

      If YES, under what circumstances will you grant trial date certain?


      If a case is not reached during the scheduled trial term, will the trial date be automatically rescheduled on your next trial docket?
      Yes___No_X_ In my experience we have been able to reach all matters on our calendar.

      If NO, what is your practice or procedure regarding rescheduling trials which are not reached on a trial docket?

      See above.

      What is your policy regarding notice of being called for trial during a trial docket? [e.g., 48 hours]
      24 hours, but will provide as much notice as possible.
    B. Trial Briefs:

      Do you require trial briefs in jury trials?
      Yes___No_X_

      Do you require trial briefs in bench trials?

      Yes_X_No___

      What are your requirements for trial briefs?

      When are trial briefs due?

      Do you require proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed in bench trials?

      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, when do you require the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed?

      At least one(1) week prior to trial

      Should findings of fact and conclusions of law filed in connection with a bench trial also be submitted to Chambers on a disk?
      Yes_X_No___

      When do you require parties to file proposed jury instructions?
      Always

      Where standard jury instructions are available, do you prefer that attorneys submit condensed versions of the standard instructions?
      Yes___No_X_

      Should jury instructions also be submitted to Chambers on a computer disk?
      Yes_X_No___

    C. Voir Dire:

      Do you allow counsel to conduct voir dire?
      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
      The Court will impose only time limits depending on the nature of the case.

      If judge conducts voir dire, can parties submit proposed voir dire questions?
      Yes___No_X_ See above.

      If YES, when should such questions be submitted?


      What are your preemptory challenge procedures?
      In criminal cases, they are handled at side bar, having examined the entire venire, jurors by juror challenges accepted one by one, government first, until a full panel is selected with no back striking.

      In civil, we follow the same procedure, but alternate who announces first between the plaintiff and defendant.

      In multiple party cases, do you grant each party three preemptory challenges?
      Yes___No_X_

      If NO, do you limit each side [i.e., plaintiff/defense] a total of three preemptory challenges to be shared?
      Yes_X_No___ Generally unless there are substantially divergent interest.

      Do you allow back striking during jury selection?
      Yes___No_X_

    D. Opening Statement:

      Do you have any standard time limits imposed upon counsel?
      Yes___No_X_ However, time limits will be established after discussion with counsel.

      If YES, what are the time limits?

      Can exhibits be used in opening statements?

      Yes_X_No___ Generally only with agreement among counsel.

      Do you allow plaintiffs to make a rebuttal during opening statements?
      Yes___No_X_

    E. Use of Expert:

      Do you conduct Daubert hearings prior to trial?
      Yes_X_No___ Only if necessary.

    F. Procedure For Use Of Videotapes, Trial Graphics, Depositions and Demonstrations:

      What, if any, procedural requirements do you have relative to the use of videotapes, trial graphics, depositions and demonstrations?
      Parties must submit a motion and proposed order in compliance with local rules. Substantial latitude is accorded in cases of agreement between counsel. Editing of video taped deposition needs to be accomplished prior to trial, unless opposing counsel has been notified prior to trial, very little lattitude is given in use of such demonstration evidence.

    G. Procedure For Objections:

      What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial?
      Objections should be made by rule number or brief description only. ie. "hearsay," "leading," without argument. Responses are not appropriate unless requested. Side bars rarely considered necessary, so notice of anticipated evidentiary issues should be provided before the jury is seated.

    H. Jury Procedures:

      Do you permit jurors to take notes?
      Yes_X_No___

      Do you permit jurors to ask questions either orally (writing)?
      Yes_
      X_No___ Orally, no.

      If YES, under what constraints and restrictions?

      In certain instances, we have permitted written questions to be submitted, Such questions are provided to counsel for their use in trial.
5. SENTENCING:
      Do you allow the submission of sentencing memoranda?
      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, under what circumstances do you allow such submission?
      When requested.

      Do you divulge the probation officer's sentencing recommendation?
      Yes_X_No___ Generally, but not always.
6. OTHER QUESTIONS:
      What are your “pet peeves,” for the information of the lawyers appearing before you?

      What, if any, other observations or suggestions do you have for members of the Bar appearing before you?
      Courtesy between counsel, timliness, and preparation are appreciated. Last minute and/or boiler plate motions for continuances are unlikely to be granted. Attorneys should notify the Court regarding vacation plans and/or conflicts as early as possible in order to have them accomodated consistent with the effective scheduling of cases.




Attachment 1.pdf Biographical Information


Attachment 2.pdf Order Setting Pretrial Conference, Pretrial Procedures and Date for Civil Jury Trial


© The Florida Bar - 2005 - Version 1.0.2