Sheri Polster Chappell
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:
Fort Myers, Florida
Email address (only for proposed orders or jury instructions):
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?
Do you permit contact with chambers regarding the status of pending matters?
May counsel contact chambers to speak with your law clerks(s) on procedural matters?
May counsel contact chambers to speak with your law clerks(s) on the status of pending matters?
Attorneys may contact the law clerks with the understanding that responses from law clerks may be limited. Law clerks, for example, will not provide legal advice, recommendations, and will not disclose when a motion will be ruled on. Law clerks, however, will disclose if a motion appears pending before the Court.
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?
See Chief Judge Conway’s Standing Order In re Possession and Use of Personal Electronic Devices in Federal Courthouses in the Middle District of Florida at 6:13-mc-00094-ACC.
Is there a designated court staff person to contact relating to the use of electronic media or other audiovisual needs?
Yes, Courtroom Deputy Leslie Friedmann.
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)?
Contact the Clerk’s office. See CM/ECF Procedures.
Do you have a preferred method governing the filing of sealed documents?
Yes, pursuant to CM/ECF 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)?
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?
Do you prefer that (non-trial) exhibits and depositions be filed conventionally as well as on CM/ECF?
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 to Chambers email in Word format.
Should proposed orders be submitted in a format which can be edited, or is a PDF version acceptable?
Pretrial Procedure (Criminal)
Do you conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases?
If YES, what matters do you typically discuss during a preliminary pretrial conference?
The Court conducts status conferences each month to discuss whether the cases set for the trial term in the coming month is ready to proceed, how many days the trial is expected to last, and/or whether a plea is contemplated.
Do you require the defendant to be present at status conferences?
Do you conduct suppression hearings or do you refer them to a Magistrate Judge?
Motions to Suppress are normally referred to a Magistrate Judge for hearing and on a report and recommendation.
Do you conduct hearings on pretrial motions to dismiss or to sever?
Do you take the plea or do you regularly refer plea hearings to a Magistrate Judge?
Plea hearings are normally referred to a Magistrate Judge on a report and recommendation basis.
If you regularly refer plea hearings to a Magistrate Judge, what circumstances would permit the parties to have a plea hearing before you?
It depends. Counsel may make a request by oral or written motion. The Court will take the plea depending on the timing of the request, e.g. morning of trial.
Do you have a regular plea deadline?
If YES, when is that deadline?
Wednesday prior to the beginning of trial term, unless otherwise ordered by the Court.
What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford pleas?
The Court will not accept these pleas.
Do you have any special procedures regarding plea agreements for individuals who are cooperating with the government, e.g., sealed plea agreements, etc.?
No, however, the Court may entertain requests by Counsel depending on the circumstances.
What is your policy as to plea agreements that involve sentencing recommendations?
Recommendations are permitted as long as they are not binding on the Court.
Pretrial Procedure (Civil)
Do you issue a standard pretrial order?
Do you conduct preliminary pretrial hearings, e.g., pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 16?
If YES, what matters do you typically discuss during preliminary pretrial hearings?
The schedule of the case and anything else deemed appropriate.
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?
If YES, what do you require?
Requests are encouraged to be filed prior to the day of the deadline and are not as emergency motions if filed late due to lack of diligence of one or more party.
Other than as required by Local Rules, do you prefer that the moving parties submit proposed orders along with non-dispositive motions?
Do you have any requirements, beyond those found in the Federal Rules and the Local Rules, as to ex parte temporary restraining orders?
Upon filing, the motion will be considered. If it is granted, the Court may impose a bond, direct service of process, and set a hearing for a preliminary injunction.
Do you hear preliminary injunction motions?
If YES, do you permit evidence to be introduced?
If NO, do you routinely refer preliminary injunctions for report and recommendation by a Magistrate Judge?
Should copies of published cases cited in motions and memoranda be forwarded to chambers?
Should copies of unpublished cases cited in motions and memoranda be forwarded to chambers?
If copies of cases are submitted, do you accept copies that have portions highlighted by counsel?
Do you regularly set aside time during a given week/month for hearings on motions?
If YES, when is your normal hearing date/time?
Under what circumstances do you allow telephonic hearings?
Upon motion by the parties, the Court will consider such a request liberally.
What is your practice concerning oral arguments on referred dispositive motions?
Oral arguments are not normally conducted.
Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
If YES, how far in advance should they be filed?
The motions should be filed by the deadline set forth in the Case Management and Scheduling Order.
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.)?
If YES, what types of cases and what are the deadlines or procedures?
ERISA; Hague Convention and ICARA; and IDEA. Deadlines vary with the type of case.
Do you routinely refer discovery matters to a Magistrate Judge?
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?
What is your preference regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration or mediation?
Mediation by a certified mediator is required in all cases.
Do you require counsel to submit a proposed order referring the case to mediation?
Do you have a procedure for counsel to request referral to a Magistrate Judge for settlement conferences?
File a joint or stipulated motion. The Court strongly encourages parties to seek the assistance of a Magistrate Judge to facilitate settlement conferences.
Do you have any special procedures for the settlement of FLSA cases?
Parties are required to conduct mediation in accordance with FLSA Scheduling Order and notify the Court as to the status of the mediation.
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?
Do you grant specially set trial dates (dates certain)?
If YES, under what circumstances will you grant trial dates certain?
Only if there are issues of unavailability will a case be set for a date certain or just prior to the beginning of the trial term.
If NO, what is your policy regarding notice for trial during a trial docket (e.g., will you give at least 48 hours' notice)?
See Case Management and Scheduling Order. The Courtroom Deputy endeavors to provide as much notice as possible.
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?
Do you conduct Daubert hearings prior to trial?
What, if any, procedural requirements do you have regarding the use of videotapes, trial graphics, depositions, and demonstrations?
The courtroom is equipped to aid in the presentation of evidence. Any additional electronic equipment must be approved by the Court.
Do you require trial briefs in jury trials?
Do you require trial briefs in bench trials?
If you require trial briefs, when are they due?
As set forth in the Case Management and Scheduling Order.
Do you have any requirements for trial briefs?
Trial brief should be succinct, organized, and supported by appropriate authority, i.e. Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit.
Do you permit counsel to perform voir dire?
If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
The questions must be limited to follow-up questions to the Judge's conducted voir dire or otherwise be pre-approved.
If YES, when should such questions be submitted?
Prior to Pretrial Conference and pursuant to Case Management and Scheduling Order.
What are your peremptory challenge procedures?
They are done at side bar.
Do you allow back striking during jury selection?
Do you impose any standard time limits on counsel's opening statements?
If YES, what are the time limits?
Determined on a case-by-case basis.
Can exhibits be used in opening statements?
Do you allow plaintiffs to make a rebuttal during opening statements?
Do you permit jurors to take notes?
Do you permit jurors to ask questions?
What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial?
Stand when making an objection. Await ruling from the Court before further proceeding.
When do you require counsel to file proposed jury instructions?
Pursuant to Case Management and Scheduling Order.
Should jury instructions also be submitted to chambers electronically?
Do you require proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed in bench trials?
If YES, when do you require the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed?
Pursuant to Case Management and Scheduling Order.
Should the proposed findings and conclusions also be submitted to chambers electronically?
Do you require sentencing memos from the parties?
If YES, what is the deadline for filing a sentencing memo?
7-days prior to the sentencing date.
If NO, may parties file a sentencing memo?
If counsel anticipates a contested or extensive sentencing hearing, should counsel notify the court?
Yes. Parties should notify the Court 14-days prior to the hearing date.
If you are considering an upward departure under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, do you provide notice orally or in writing?
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?
These hearings are typically referred to a Magistrate Judge.
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"?
The failure to cite to appropriate authority, e.g. published Eleventh Circuit case law.
Do you have any other practice pointers, advice, observations, or suggestions for members of the Bar appearing before you?
Last name is pronounced like “chapel.”
Links to your court's webpage with information about your practices or other links you recommend for practitioners: