Virginia Maria Covington
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 Gibbons Federal Courthouse
Email address (only for proposed orders or jury instructions):
Call Clerk's Office
Law Clerk phone number(s), only if you permit law clerk(s) to receive calls:
Kelly Keller Landkammer: Case No.: 0-33 and 97-99; Marci Britt: 34-70; Caycee Hampton: 71-96
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?
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?
Is there a designated court staff person to contact relating to the use of electronic media or other audiovisual needs?
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. Contact assigned law clerk.
Do you have a preferred method governing the filing of sealed documents?
Yes. See Local Rule 1.09, M.D. Fla.
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?
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 it to Chambers at [email protected]
Should proposed orders be submitted in a format which can be edited, or is a PDF version acceptable?
PDF is not acceptable because it cannot be edited. Please submit proposed orders to Chambers email in Word format.
Pretrial Procedure (Criminal)
Do you conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases?
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?
Refer to Magistrate Judge.
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?
Refer to Magistrate Judge.
If you regularly refer plea hearings to a Magistrate Judge, what circumstances would permit the parties to have a plea hearing before you?
If there are time constraints or other unusual circumstances.
Do you have a regular plea deadline?
If YES, when is that deadline?
The Friday before the beginning of trial term.
What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford pleas?
Do you have any special procedures regarding plea agreements for individuals who are cooperating with the government, e.g., sealed plea agreements, etc.?
None. Government will move to have sealed if necessary.
What is your policy as to plea agreements that involve sentencing recommendations?
Non-binding sentencing recommendations are fine.
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?
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?
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?
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?
Under what circumstances do you allow telephonic hearings?
Emergencies and if counsel is out-of-town.
What is your practice concerning oral arguments on referred dispositive motions?
File a motion, and if appropriate, it will be granted.
Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
If YES, how far in advance should they be filed?
Normally 4 months.
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?
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?
Please call Magistrate Judge's Chambers if deposition issues arise.
What is your preference regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration or mediation?
Both are excellent. The court refers all civil cases to mediation except those listed in Local Rule 9.03(a).
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?
No. If the parties desire to mediate with a Magistrate Judge, they should file an appropriate motion.
Do you have any special procedures for the settlement of FLSA cases?
Yes. The court's FLSA scheduling order describes these procedures.
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 NO, what is your policy regarding notice for trial during a trial docket (e.g., will you give at least 48 hours' notice)?
Normally several days notice, at a minimum, is provided.
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?
Moved to the next month.
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?
Contact Courtroom Deputy for instructions.
Do you require trial briefs in jury trials?
Do you require trial briefs in bench trials?
Do you permit counsel to perform voir dire?
If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
Must submit questions to court for approval.
If YES, when should such questions be submitted?
Ten days before the trial term commences.
What are your peremptory challenge procedures?
These challenges are heard after challenges for cause.
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?
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?
Normally thirty minutes is sufficient.
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 and state reason for objection.
When do you require counsel to file proposed jury instructions?
One week before pretrial conference.
Should jury instructions also be submitted to chambers electronically?
When standard jury instructions are available, do you prefer that attorneys submit condensed versions of the standard instructions?
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?
Thirty to 60 days after trial.
Should the proposed findings and conclusions also be submitted to chambers electronically?
Send to Chambers email address.
Do you require sentencing memos from the parties?
If NO, may parties file a sentencing memo?
If counsel anticipates a contested or extensive sentencing hearing, should counsel notify the court?
Yes, and contact should be made with Courtroom Deputy. Thirty minutes is normally the amount of time allotted for the hearing.
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?
Personally conduct hearing.
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"?
Lawyers should not cut off witnesses before they have had a chance to finish answering the question.
Do you have any other practice pointers, advice, observations, or suggestions for members of the Bar appearing before you?
Civility and professionalism should rule the day.