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Judicial Practice Survey

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William Calvin Sherrill Jr.

Magistrate 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.


Court: Northern District of Florida

Location of chambers: U.S. Courthouse, 111 North Adams Street, Tallahassee, Fl 32301

Assigned courtroom:2nd Floor

Phone: (850) 521-3621

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



Judicial Assistant/Secretary: Barbara Everett


Email address:

Courtroom Deputy: Angie Maxwell

Phone: (850) 521-3516

Email address:

Court Reporter:


Email address:

Docket Clerk: Several clerks are assigned to the docket. Attorneys docket motions and other documents electronically.


Email address:

Law Clerk phone number(s), only if you permit law clerk(s) to receive calls:

Communication with chambers:

Do you permit contact with chambers

      regarding questions of procedure? Yes

      regarding the status of pending matters? Yes

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

      on procedural matters? Yes

      on the status of pending matters? Yes



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? No

Is there a designated court staff person to contact relating to the use of electronic media or other audiovisual needs? Courtroom Deputy, Angie Maxwell

*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.


(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, the Clerk has procedures

Do you have a preferred method governing the filing of sealed documents? No, the Clerk has procedures.

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.) Yes

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? Email. See the Northern District Website for instructions about proposed orders.

Should proposed orders be submitted in a format which can be edited, or is a PDF version acceptable? PDF is not acceptable. WordPerfect is preferred, but Word is acceptable.

Comments: I often change proposed orders. The usual proposed order is an agree general protective order.


At bond hearings, do you permit the government to proceed by proffer or do you require a government agent to be present to testify? Proffer is acceptable, but the agent may be needed depending upon argument from Defendant.

If a proffer is permitted, can the defendant’s counsel call the government case agent and cross-examine him/her? Yes

If a proffer is permitted, do you prefer that defense counsel present the family of the defendant as witnesses by proffer instead of calling individual witnesses? No

What criteria do you apply in determining whether to impose a financial assessment on a defendant for the services of appointed counsel? A financial assessment might be made if there is a source of cash in sufficient amount beyond the needs for family support.

Do you conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases? No

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

Do you require the defendant to be present at status conferences? Yes

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

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? Nolo contendere pleas usually not accepted. Alford pleas are strongly disfavored, but may be accepted in some cases.

Do you have any special procedures regarding plea agreements for individuals who are cooperating with the government, e.g., sealed plea agreements, etc.? Yes.

What is your policy as to plea agreements that involve sentencing recommendations? In misdemeanor cases, while I do not participate in the plea agreement, the Government often agrees to pursue only a particular sentence and that sentence is often imposed. The Government in this District never enters into any agreement to recommend a particular sentence in a felony case.



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? No.

Do you hear preliminary injunction motions? Yes

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

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? No

Do you regularly set aside time during a given week/month for hearings on motions? No

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

Under what circumstances do you allow telephonic hearings? Telephone hearings are useful when a hearing is needed. Usually, though, the written documents are sufficient to resolve the issues. I schedule telephone hearings where one or more of the attorneys are out of town, and when the issues might be resolved in a hearing of an hour or less. Also, a telephone hearing is useful when the parties are in the middle of a deposition. I conduct these in my courtroom since the sound equipment is better there than in chambers. In civil cases where both parties are represented, I will usually have a court reporter in my courtroom to record the telephone hearing. I prefer not to allow local counsel to attend these hearings in person so that there is a level playing field, that is, both attorneys appearing by telephone, but there can be exceptions. If the parties have had a history of difficulties in the case, I will often opt for a hearing in person.

What is your practice concerning oral arguments on referred dispositive motions? Oral argument often is not needed because the memoranda of law cover the issues completely.

Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial? Yes

      If YES, how far in advance should they be filed? This should be resolved at the pretrial conference.



Do you receive referrals on discovery matters from a District Judge? Yes

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? The Magistrate Judges of the Northern District of Florida have discontinued the "special report" and limited discovery procedure for pro se prisoner cases. Prisoner cases currently have a discovery period much like other civil cases.

When a dispute arises during a deposition, is it appropriate to call your chambers (if the case has been referred for discovery) to seek an immediate ruling? Yes

Comments: I usually have my cellphone with me. I have held discovery hearings in parking lots in remote exotic places. It is very important to me to be available to the parties during discovery so that discovery does not become bogged down.


What is your preference regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration or mediation? The Northern District of Florida has Local Rule 16.3 on this subject.

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

Do you have any special procedures for the settlement of FLSA cases? No. I do not handle FLSA cases.



Do you automatically set consent cases for trial or do you wait for counsel to propose a time period in which a case should be scheduled for trial? I set cases for trial when I approve the final scheduling order. My schedule is very flexible, and while I believe an early firm trial date is the single most important way to move a case to a fair disposition, I try to work with the parties.

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

      If YES, under what circumstances will you grant trial dates certain? My calendar is open because I do not do felony criminal trials. I have no need for a trial term. I will, however, establish a date certain for the trial, one way or the other, as I believe that an early firm trial date is the best way to resolve cases.

      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?

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? None.

Do you require trial briefs

      in jury trials? No

      in bench trials? Yes

If you require trial briefs, when are they due? After the trial in a bench trial.

Do you have any requirements for trial briefs? None.

Do you permit counsel to perform voir dire? Yes

      If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire? The attorneys must not ask questions that are thinly disguised as final arguments in favor of their client, or seek to elicit inappropriate sympathy, or that are redundant. Questions that seek to find out relevant information about the background of prospective jurors are permissible.

      If NO, can counsel submit proposed voir dire questions? Yes

            If YES, when should such questions be submitted? At the pretrial conference. I still will allow some latitude even though a question has not been discussed at the pretrial conference.

What are your peremptory challenge procedures? Alternating beginning with the party with the burden of proof. If there are no peremptory challenges, and if any challenges for cause are overruled, that particular juror is deemed to be seated, with no backstriking.

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

      If NO, do you limit each side (i.e., plaintiff/defense) to a total of three peremptory challenges to be shared? Depends on the identity of interest of the parties.

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? No

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

Do you permit jurors to

      take notes? Yes

      ask questions? Yes

      If YES, under what constraints and restrictions? Notes are collected at the end of the day and destroyed at the end of the trial.

What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial? The basis for the objection should be stated without further argument. If further argument is needed, I will often conduct that argument at the bench or will excuse the jury.

When do you require counsel to file proposed jury instructions? Soon enough so that I have jury instructions ready to give to the parties by the day of trial. I try to avoid a lengthy instruction conference at the end, while the jury waits.

Should jury instructions also be submitted to chambers electronically? No

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? No

      If YES, when do you require the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed? I ask the parties at the end whether they wish to conduct final argument or submit written final argument. It is up to the parties.

Should the proposed findings and conclusions also be submitted to chambers electronically? No



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”? Do not refer to a witness or a party solely by a first name. Do not repeat the answer given by the witness before asking the next question. No grimaces, muttering, or other nonverbal argumentative behavior in front of a jury.

Do you have any other practice pointers, advice, observations, or suggestions for members of the Bar appearing before you? If any of the above is unsuitable for a particular case, or unsuitable for cases in general, I welcome suggestions from the attorneys.


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


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

Final Scheduling Order
Final Scheduling Order.pdf
Pretrial Conference
Pretrial Conference.pdf

[Revised: 06-30-2010]