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Judicial Practice Survey

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Richard Smoak

District Judge


The following information was provided in response to a survey prepared by the Federal Court Practice Committee of The Florida Bar. This information is not binding on any judge or court official and may not be relied upon for precedential purposes. Further information may be found in the attachments (sample orders, etc.) referenced at the end of this Guide entry or on the court's website noted below.


JUDGE

Court: Northern District of Florida

Location of chambers: 30 West Government Street, Panama City, FL 32401

Assigned courtroom: 201

Phone: (850) 691-0704

Email address (only for proposed orders or jury instructions):


CHAMBERS

Staff:

Judicial Assistant/Secretary: Lisa Hallisey, JA

Phone: (850) 691-0779

Email address: [email protected]


Courtroom Deputy: Kristin Cowdell

Phone: (850) 691-0764

Email address: [email protected]


Court Reporter:

Phone:

Email address:


Docket Clerk:

Phone:

Email address:


Law Clerk phone number(s), only if you permit law clerk(s) to receive calls: Elizabeth Joiner (850) 691-0706 even numbered cases and Johnathan Lott (850) 691-0705 for odd number cases


Communication with chambers:

Do you permit contact with chambers


      regarding questions of procedure? Yes


      regarding the status of pending matters? No


May counsel contact chambers to speak with your law clerks(s)


      on procedural matters? Yes


      on the status of pending matters? No


Comments:


USE OF CELL PHONES, LAPTOPS, AND OTHER ELECTRONICS IN COURT

Other than procedures adopted by the U.S. Marshal's Service relating to access to a federal courthouse, do you have any additional procedures to be followed for the use of cell phones, laptops, or other electronics? Trial counsel may bring computers and tablets into the courtroom and conference room, during trial and pretrial conference, so long as the electronic equipment is used only for the presentation of evidence or for the preservation of a record and does not create a distraction. Pursuant to the N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 77.1, the parties shall file any motions regarding the use of any photographic, broadcasting, television, sound or recording equipment of any kind not covered by the pretrial order not later than 10 days prior to the pretrial conference.


Is there a designated court staff person to contact relating to the use of electronic media or other audiovisual needs? Jeremy Wright (850) 691-0707


*Always verify with the Clerk of Court or the U.S. Marshal's Service as to any procedures relating to the use of cell phones or other electronic devices at the courthouse.

CM/ECF PROCEDURES

(in addition to Local Rules or CM/ECF procedures applicable in the District)

Do you have a preferred method for counsel to correct an electronically filed document that inadvertently contains personal information (as prohibited by Fed.R.Civ.P. 5.2)? No


Do you have a preferred method governing the filing of sealed documents? No


Do you prefer that (non-trial) exhibits be filed as separate docket entries (instead of filing them as attachments to the document they support)? No


When filing documents with multiple attachments, do you prefer that the document be filed such that it is displayed with bookmarks within the PDF image? (This question only applies if such filing is available as a format for filing attachments in your District.) No


Do you prefer that (non-trial) exhibits and depositions be filed conventionally as well as on CM/ECF? No


      If YES, do you require more than one copy to be filed?


Do you prefer to have proposed orders (other than those required to be filed in the case) submitted as an attachment to documents filed in CM/ECF, or do you prefer to receive them by email or another method? Proposed orders should be filed as an attachment on CM/ECF and by email to the law clerk assigned to the case in Microsoft Word format.


Should proposed orders be submitted in a format which can be edited, or is a PDF version acceptable? They should be submitted in Microsoft Word format.


Comments:


PRETRIAL PROCEDURE (CRIMINAL)

Do you conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases? No


      If YES, what matters do you typically discuss during a preliminary pretrial conference? Preliminary pretrial conferences are conducted only in unusual circumstances. I conduct any such conferences myself.


Do you require the defendant to be present at status conferences? No


      If YES, do you have the same policy for defendants in custody and for defendants on bond?


Do you conduct suppression hearings or do you refer them to a Magistrate Judge? I conduct them.


Do you conduct hearings on pretrial motions to dismiss or to sever? Yes


Do you take the plea or do you regularly refer plea hearings to a Magistrate Judge? I take the plea.


If you regularly refer plea hearings to a Magistrate Judge, what circumstances would permit the parties to have a plea hearing before you?


Do you have a regular plea deadline? No


      If YES, when is that deadline?


      If NO, is a plea deadline set at pretrial conferences? No


What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford pleas? Case by case.

Do you have any special procedures regarding plea agreements for individuals who are cooperating with the government, e.g., sealed plea agreements, etc.? No.


What is your policy as to plea agreements that involve sentencing recommendations? The U.S. Attorney in this district does not enter such arrangements.


Comments:


PRETRIAL PROCEDURE (CIVIL)

Do you issue a standard pretrial order? (Please attach a copy at the end of this survey.) Yes


Do you conduct preliminary pretrial hearings, e.g., pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 16? No


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


Do you have any requirements, beyond those found in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules, as to motions for extension of time or motions for continuance? No


      If YES, what do you require?


Other than as required by Local Rules, do you prefer that the moving parties submit proposed orders along with non-dispositive motions? No


Do you have any requirements, beyond those found in the Federal Rules and the Local Rules, as to ex parte temporary restraining orders? Considered in accordance with applicable law only if there is an appropriate reason for proceeding ex parte.

Do you generally hear preliminary injunction motions? Yes


      If YES, do you permit evidence to be introduced? Yes


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


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


      copies of published cases? No


      copies of unpublished opinions? No


If copies of cases are submitted, do you accept copies that have portions highlighted by counsel? Yes


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


      If YES, when is your normal hearing date/time? Second and fourth weeks in the month.


Under what circumstances do you allow telephonic hearings? Whenever it would save time or effort and would not compromise quality. The motion must be unopposed.


What is your practice concerning oral arguments on dispositive motions? Allowed only in discretion of court.


Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial? Yes

      If YES, how far in advance should they be filed? Motions in limine shall be filed not later than 15 dcays prior to the pretrial conference.


Comments: Motions in limine are disfavored.


DISCOVERY

Other than those discovery schedules contained in Local Rules, do you have special discovery deadlines or procedures for certain types of cases (ERISA, FLSA, etc.)? No


      If YES, what types of cases and what are the deadlines or procedures?


Do you routinely refer discovery matters to a Magistrate Judge? Yes


When a dispute arises during a deposition, is it appropriate to call your chambers or the Magistrate Judge's chambers (depending on whether the case has been referred for discovery) to seek an immediate ruling? Yes


Comments: Attorneys should present the dispute first to the Magistrate Judge.


SETTLEMENT

What is your preference regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration or mediation? Absent a compelling reason, mediation is required in every case.


Do you require counsel to submit a proposed order referring the case to mediation? No


Do you have a procedure for counsel to request referral to a Magistrate Judge for settlement conferences? No.


Do you have any special procedures for the settlement of FLSA cases? Parties shall file a joint motion to approve settlement with the agreement filed as an attachment.


Comments:


TRIAL

Do you automatically set civil cases for trial or do you wait for counsel to propose a time period in which a case should be scheduled for trial? Counsel proposes


Do you grant specially set trial dates (dates certain)? Yes


      If YES, under what circumstances will you grant trial dates certain? Demonstrated needed


      IF NO, what is your policy regarding notice for trial during a trial docket (e.g., will you give at least 48 hours' notice)?


What is your practice or procedure regarding rescheduling trials that are not reached on a trial docket, e.g., will the trial date be automatically rescheduled on your next trial docket? The parties are allowed to propose a new trial date.


Do you conduct pretrial conferences? Yes


      If YES, and you have a standing order regarding pretrial conferences, please attach a copy at the end of this survey.


Do you conduct Daubert hearings prior to trial? Yes

What, if any, procedural requirements do you have regarding the use of videotapes, trial graphics, depositions, and demonstrations? Depends on Circumstances. Any reasonable use is allowed.


Do you require trial briefs

      in jury trials? Yes


      in bench trials? Yes


If you require trial briefs, when are they due? See standard order for pretrial conference.


Do you have any requirements for trial briefs? See standard order for pretrial conference; not to exceed 25 pages.


Do you permit counsel to perform voir dire? Yes


      If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire? Must file proposed voir dire questions not later than 10 days before trial.


      If NO, can counsel submit proposed voir dire questions?

            If YES, when should such questions be submitted?


What are your peremptory challenge procedures? Jurors are addressed one at a time, in order, with the two sides alternating which goes first. No back strikes.


In multiple party cases, do you grant each party three peremptory challenges? No


      If NO, do you limit each side (i.e., plaintiff/defense) to a total of three peremptory challenges to be shared? Depends on circumstances as provided by 28 U.S.C. 1870

Do you allow back striking during jury selection? No


Do you impose any standard time limits on counsel's opening statements? No


      If YES, what are the time limits?

Can exhibits be used in opening statements? Yes


Do you allow plaintiffs to make a rebuttal during opening statements? No


Do you permit jurors to

      take notes? Yes


      ask questions? No


      If YES, under what constraints and restrictions?


What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial? No speaking objections. No responses unless requested. May call counsel to side bar.


When do you require counsel to file proposed jury instructions? Joint proposed jury instructions are due by noon the day before closing arguments.


Should jury instructions also be submitted to chambers electronically? Yes


When standard jury instructions are available, do you prefer that attorneys submit condensed versions of the standard instructions? No


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


      If YES, when do you require the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed? See standard order for pretrial conference.


      Should the proposed findings and conclusions also be submitted to chambers electronically? Yes


Comments: In Microsoft Word format.


SENTENCING

Do you require sentencing memos from the parties? No


      If YES, what is the deadline for filing a sentencing memo?


      If NO, may parties file a sentencing memo? Yes


If counsel anticipates a contested or extensive sentencing hearing, should counsel notify the court? Yes


If you are considering an upward departure under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, do you provide notice orally or in writing? No.


In a proceeding for a violation of supervised release conditions, do you personally conduct the admissions/findings of fact hearing or do you refer this to a Magistrate Judge? I conduct hearing.


Comments:


GENERAL ADVICE

What should lawyers avoid at all costs when appearing before you (other than the obvious: don't be late, do be courteous, etc.), i.e., do you have any “pet peeves”? No particular policy.


Do you have any other practice pointers, advice, observations, or suggestions for members of the Bar appearing before you?


LINKS

Links to your court's webpage with information about your practices or other links you recommend for practitioners:



ATTACHMENTS

Sample orders (please include a sample of any scheduling orders), biography, etc.

Sample Pretrial Order
sample pretrial.pdf

[Revised: 10-23-2017]