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Last Modified 02/28/2005 05:15 PM
Cecilia M. Altonaga
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: Federal Courthouse Square
301 North Miami Avenue
4th Floor
Miami, Florida 33128
Phone Number: (305) 523-5510
Assigned Courtroom: Fourth Floor


1. STAFF:
    Scheduling Assistant/Secretary: Gladys E. Marrero

    Courtroom Deputy: Patricia Snead
    Phone Number: (305) 523-5515

    Court Reporter: Barbara Medina
    Phone Number: (305) 523-5518

    Law Clerks:
      (1): Darren J. Cohen (even numbered civil cases)
      Term Ending: September, 2005
      Law School: Yale University

      (2): Ross A. Oliver (odd numbered civil cases)
      Term Ending: October, 2005
      Law School: University of California - Hastings College of Law

    Policy regarding communication with staff, do you permit counsel to contact assigned law clerks?
    Yes_X_No___ As long as all attorneys are present on the phone.

    Docketing Clerk: Tammy Blakely
    Phone number: (305) 523-5239

    Is it 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_X_No___ As long as all attorneys are present on the phone.
2. PRETRIAL PROCEDURE (CIVIL)
    A. Preliminary Pretrial Hearings:
      Do you conduct preliminary pretrial hearings?
      Yes___No_X_

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

      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___No_X_

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

      If so, do you object to cases printed in “Westlaw” or CD-ROM format rather than copied from a reporter?
      Yes___No___

      Is it appropriate to cite unpublished opinions in motions or memoranda?
      Yes_X_No___

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

      If copies of cases are submitted, do you accept copies which have portions highlighted by counsel?
      Yes_X_No___ So long as opposing counsel has highlighted copy as well.

      Do you allow telephonic hearings?
      Yes_X_No___

      What can an attorney do to call attention to a pending motion of particular importance to expedite ruling?
      Send notice in writing.

      Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
      Yes_X_No___

      If you will consider motions in limine prior to trial, how far in advance should they be filed?
      The deadline is included in the Court's Scheduling Order.

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

      If YES, when is your normal hearing date/time?
      In the mornings.

      What are your procedures concerning ex-parte temporary restraining orders?

      Do you hear preliminary injunction motions yourself?
      Yes_X_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?
      As I would in a bench trial.

      What is your practice concerning oral arguments of dispositive motions?
      I will schedule these if the parties so request, or if I think oral argument would be helpful.

    C. Settlement:
      What is your policy/practice regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution devices such as court-annexed, non-binding arbitration and mediation?
      I require that all cases be mediated in a timely fashion.

      Do you personally conduct settlement discussions?
      Yes___No_X_

      If YES, under what circumstances?

    D. Discovery:
      Do you refer discovery matters to a U.S. Magistrate Judge?
      Yes_X_No___

      When a dispute arises during a deposition, is it appropriate to call the Magistrate Judge's Chambers to seek an immediate ruling?
      Yes_X_No___ It is best to check with the Magistrate Judge.

    E. Pretrial Conference:
      Do you personally conduct pretrial conferences in your cases?
      Yes_X_No___ If one is arranged.

      Do you have a standing order regarding pretrial conference?
      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, please attach a copy.
      (Order on pretrial procedures is attached.)
3. PRETRIAL PROCEDURE (CRIMINAL)
    A. Pretrial Proceedings (Criminal):
      Do you conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases?
      Yes_X_No___ If requested by the parties.

      If Yes, What matters do you typically discuss during the conference?
      All pending motions, scheduling, status of discovery, anticipated dates for trial.

      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?
      (Order scheduling a criminal trial is attached).

    B. Pleas:
      What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford pleas?
      I do not accept them.

      What is your policy concerning plea arrangements that involve sentencing recommendations pursuant to Fed. Rule Crim. P. 11(B)?; Pursuant to Rule 11(C)?
      I accept these and have a thorough colloquy with the defendant, including going over all provisions of the written plea agreement.
4. TRIAL:
    A. Trial dates:
      Do you grant trial dates certain?
      Yes___No_X_ I may advise parties in such cases that they will be the first case reached on the trial calendar.

      If YES, under what circumstances will you grant trial date certain?
      In extraordinary circumstances, such as multi-party litigation and in cases where the trial will exceed three weeks.

      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_

      If NO, what is your practice or procedure regarding rescheduling trials which are not reached on a trial docket?
      A separate order is issued, generally listing the next available trial date.

      What is your policy regarding notice of being called for trial during a trial docket? [e.g., 48 hours]
      One day standby.

    B. Trial briefs:
      Do you require trial briefs in jury trials?
      Yes___No_X_

      Do you require trial briefs in bench trials?
      Yes___No_X_

      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?
      Deadline is contained in the Court's Scheduling Order.

      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?
      Deadline is contained in the Court's Scheduling Order.

      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 ask questions during voir dire?
      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
      They are limited generally to 15 minutes and are not to be repetititive of matters already addressed.

      If judge conducts voir dire, can parties submit proposed voir dire questions?
      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, when should such questions be submitted?
      At calendar call.

      What are your preemptory challenge procedures?
      Each side alternates utilizing its peremptories, until all are exhausted. No back-strikes are permitted.

      In multiple party cases, do you grant each party three preemptory challenges?
      Yes___No___ It will depend on the case.

      If NO, do you limit each side [i.e., plaintiff/defense] a total of three preemptory challenges to be shared?
      Yes___No___

    D. Opening Statement:
      Do you have any standard time limits imposed upon counsel?
      Yes_X_No___

      If YES, what are the time limits?
      As they suggest they need.

      Can exhibits be used in opening statements?
      Yes_X_No___

      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___

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


    G. Procedure For Objections:


    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___

      If YES, under what constraints and restrictions?
      If the jurors or attorneys request. Questions are reduced to writing, the court and attorneys review them, and if allowed, the judge poses the question.
5. SENTENCING: (On Misdemeanors Only)
      Do you allow the submission of sentencing memoranda?
      Yes___No___

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

      Do you divulge the probation officer’s sentencing recommendation?
      Yes___No___
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?




Attachment 1.pdf Order Setting Trial Date

Attachment 2.pdf Order Setting Trial and Pretrial Schedule, Requiring Mediation, and Referring Certain Motions to Magistrate Judge.


© The Florida Bar - 2005 - Version 1.0.2