Michael G Williamson
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.
Name of Court:
Middle District of Florida
Location of Chambers:
Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse 810 N. Florida Ave. Tampa, FL 33602-3899
Mary Maddox (non case-related matters)
Marti Malone (scheduling matters)
Communication with Chambers
Do you permit contact with chambers regarding questions of procedure?
If YES, what do you require?
Do not assume that a motion for continuance filed at the last minute will be granted. Be prepared for the denial of a last-minute request. If you represent the party with the burden of proof, you should be ready to go forward or suffer the consequences of being unprepared. Refer to Local Rule 5071-1 prior to filing your motion for continuance. Importantly, a motion for continuance must recite that you have discussed the proposed continuance with opposing counsel and whether there is any objection to the continuance. Remember to submit a proposed order along with your request for a continuance. Also, if it is a last-minute request, call and let the courtroom deputy know before filing the motion that you are seeking a continuance. A first request for a continuance where the opposing party consents will typically be granted ex parte, depending on the nature of the continuance being sought. A second request may be set for hearing, again depending on the nature of the continuance being sought.
What is your practice or policy when counsel fails to serve opposing parties with motions within the times set forth in the rules or your orders?
It depends on whether an opposing party is prejudiced. In some circumstances, sanctions, such as attorney fees, may be appropriate.
What do you consider to be an emergency matter?
Situations involving imminent loss of property rights; first-day motions in chapter 11 cases.
How does one request emergency relief?
It should be handled in accordance with the local rules. Submit a motion and certificate of necessity, and the Judge will review them. See M.D. Fla. L.B.R. 9004-2. You will then be contacted by the Courtroom Deputy.
What are your procedures concerning ex parte temporary restraining orders?
Generally, requests for temporary restraining orders are treated as motions for preliminary injunction, and an evidentiary hearing is scheduled on short notice to affected parties. However, in rare instances where conducting a hearing on notice is impossible, I will consider ex parte temporary restraining orders if they are in compliance with Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For guidance, I find the Middle District of Florida's rules to be very comprehensive and encourage attorneys to follow them when seeking temporary restraining orders. U.S. Dist.Ct.Rules M.D. Fla., Rules 4.05 and 4.06.
When a dispute arises during a deposition, is it appropriate to call chambers to seek an immediate ruling?
For which matters is the use of negative notice acceptable?
The use of the negative notice procedure is highly encouraged. See M.D. Fla. L.B.R. 2002-4 for matters that are acceptable.
What is your preferred method for a party to request a hearing date?
In most instances, upon filing of a motion, parties will be notified by a court-generated notice or order setting a hearing. In the case of emergency hearings, the courtroom deputy will contact movant's counsel; counsel is typically instructed to proved notice by telephone and fax.
When you schedule a hearing, do you state whether the hearing will be evidentiary (if Fed.R.B.P. 9014(e) has not been implemented)?
Except in unusual situations, typically emergency in nature, the initial hearing on a motion will be noticed as "preliminary." If a hearing is noticed as "preliminary" the court will not permit the introduction of testimony or documentary evidence. However, if it appears from discussion with counsel that there are no material facts in dispute, the court, if otherwise appropriate, will enter dispositive rulings, to include the summary judgment on the court's own motion, at the preliminary hearing. Typically, hearings that are not noticed at preliminary are noticed as evidentiary.
Under what circumstances do you allow telephonic hearings?
Yes, if there is a good reason. (See my Policy on Telephonic Appearances , posted at www.flmb.uscourts.gov.)
Under what circumstances do you require the debtor's attendance at a hearing?
All hearings when the debtor is pro se; hearings on reaffirmation agreements when debtor's counsel has not signed the agreement; all evidentiary hearings; initial status conference and significant hearings in chapter 11 cases.
Do you grant pro hac vice admission on oral request at hearings?
Yes, but prefer motions to be filed. See M.D. Fla. L.B.R. 2090-1.
What is your practice or policy when counsel fails to provide opposing counsel with copies of proposed exhibits prior to hearing or trial?
It depends on potential prejudice, which may result in a continuance and possible imposition of sanctions. The Court may also deny admission of exhibits in some circumstances.
If YES, how far in advance should they be filed?
As far in advance as possible and appropriate.
What is your preference regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration or mediation?
Mediation (but not non-binding arbitration) is encouraged. I will readily grant motions by either party and, at times, order mediation sua sponte.
Do you grant specially set trial dates (dates certain)?
What, if any, procedural requirements do you have regarding the use of videotapes, trial graphics, depositions, and demonstrations?
Call the Courtroom Deputy no later than 48 hours prior to trial or final evidentiary hearing to coordinate.
Do you require proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed?
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"?
When there are significant legal arguments and cases you want considered, file them in advance with a notice of filing. You can plan that I will rule at the hearing; if you want certain authorities taken into account, I need them before the hearing. Call Chambers when a matter is settled. Otherwise, valuable time is expended by the Judge and Chambers staff, which is wasteful of court resources. Sanctions may be imposed if Chambers expends considerable time preparing for a hearing or trial after the parties have reached a settlement. Have your exhibits prepared in compliance with M.D. Fla. L.B.R. 9070-1. See my Procedures for Introduction of Exhibits posted at www.flmb.uscourts.gov. For further guidance, see my Practice Pointers for Lawyers , also posted at www.flmb.uscourts.gov.