Paul Courtney Huck
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:
Southern District of Florida
Location of Chambers:
Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. US Courthouse, 400 N Miami Ave, Miami FL 33128
Courtroom 2, 13th floor
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 not discuss the merits of any matter.
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?
Law Clerk assigned to the particular case
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 Clerk's Office
Do you have a preferred method governing the filing of sealed documents?
Contact Clerk's Office
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?
Should proposed orders be submitted in a format which can be edited, or is a PDF version acceptable?
Please see the S.D. Fla. CM/ECF Administrative Procedures for additional information on e-mailing proposed orders.
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?
Not usually, it depends on the case.
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?
I conduct them
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?
Do you have a regular plea deadline?
If YES, when is that deadline?
Usually prior to the calendar call
What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford pleas?
Generally, not accepted.
Do you have any special procedures regarding plea agreements for individuals who are cooperating with the government, e.g., sealed plea agreements, etc.?
What is your policy as to plea agreements that involve sentencing recommendations?
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?
Not usually in the formal sense. However, if the case is going to trial, I will have some form of pretrial proceeding where I will hear motions in limine, use of depositions at trial, the order for presenting evidence, scheduling of witnesses, unresolved motions, jury selection procedures, and other related trial matters.
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?
The moving party must comply with the meet and confer local rule.
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?
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?
Hearings are set on a case-by-case basis usually before and after regular trial time each day.
Under what circumstances do you allow telephonic hearings?
Under all circumstances where the parties require it and usually on non-dispositive motions unless the parties prefer to appear in person.
What is your practice concerning oral arguments on referred dispositive motions?
Oral arguments are granted on case-by-case basis depending on the complexity of the motion and novelty of the issues raised.
Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
If YES, how far in advance should they be filed?
This deadline is established in the trial setting order. The deadline is generally two weeks before trial.
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?
FLSA and ADA cases. See attachments below.
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 is generally required in all cases in accordance with the trial setting order.
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, it may be done on an ad hoc basis
Do you have any special procedures for the settlement of FLSA cases?
Yes, the cases are referred to the magistrate judge early in the proceedings.
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?
But, generally, only to the extent that the trial will occur in a specified two week trial period or one particular week of the trial period. Judge Huck does not necessarily wait for the Rule 16b scheduling conference and report to set a case for trial. Therefore, if you receive an order setting trial date and pretrial deadlines, counsel need not file the Rule 16b report.; A trial date certain will be granted for unusually long cases or in special circumstances involving witness or interpreter availability. Counsel should advice the Court of special circumstances as early as possible.
If NO, what is your policy regarding notice for trial during a trial docket (e.g., will you give at least 48 hours' notice)?
Counsel are advised at calendar call of approximate time for trial and are given several periodic updates as other cases proceed through the trial docket.
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 Court generally consults with counsel and resets the matter to a future trial docket, which may be the 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 parties are free to use all but should make sure they have working equipment and that it will be reasonably accommodated by the size of the courtroom. Counsel must obtain orders allowing them to bring necessary equipment into the courthouse. Counsel should discuss those issues before seeking to use them to avid any unnecessary surprises, delays or problems. Judge Huck has a preferred procedure for ruling on deposition objections prior to trial, which he discusses when advised that deposition excerpts will be offered at trial.
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?
Prior to calendar call.
Do you have any requirements for trial briefs?
No special requirements.
Do you permit counsel to perform voir dire?
If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
The nature of any particular case obviously will affect the scope of jury voir dire. However, the general ground rules of jury voir dire in this Court are as follows: 1. The Court will first explain nature of case and burden of proof and will give some preliminary instructions to the jury. 2. The court will then conduct general voir dire covering knowledge of case, acquaintance with participants, importance of following court's instructions on law and impartiality in general. 3. The court will first ask each juror in the entire panel to stand and give her or his general background. The Court will then ask questions of the entire panel regarding the jurors' prior experiences. These questions are contained in a form questionnaire which is distributed to the panel members before they enter the courtroom. The court will ask follow-up questions as appropriate. 4. Counsel will then have an opportunity to ask questions that the court has not already asked or to follow up on an answer to the Court's questions. Counsel are usually allocated 20 to 30 minutes each side for this purpose. 5. Counsel should not ask questions which: a) have already been asked. b) ask a juror to speculate on his verdict if certain facts are proven. c) solicit a juror's opinion as to law or legal terms. d) are clearly irrelevant and seek to embarrass. e) questions that are in the substance arguments of the case. f) questions which are grossly unfair or embarrassing to the juror and questions where the average juror cannot possibly know the answer. 6. The Court may not wait for opposing counsel to object but will on occasion interrupt voir dire and rule out questions which violate any of the foregoing ground rules. After the voir dire examination is completed, counsel will come to side bar to select their jury. Challenges for cause to the whole panel will be taken first. Thereafter, the plaintiff/government will accept or reject the first member of the panel. If the plaintiff/government accepts the first member, then the defendant accepts or rejects the member. The defendant will then accept or reject the second member. If the defendant accepts the second member, then the plaintiff/government will accept or reject the second member. Plaintiff/government and defendant will continue to alternate until a jury is selected or a party exhausts its preemptory challenges. There will be no backstrikes. Unless otherwise ordered, all plaintiffs and all defendants combined shall have three preemptory challenges in civil cases, ten in criminal cases; Defendants and the government have ten and six, respectively, plus one or two additional challenges for the alternate jurors. Unless otherwise ordered, the civil case jury shall usually consist of eight jurors, all of whom will deliberate unless excused by the court.
If YES, when should such questions be submitted?
At calendar call. However, in some circumstances, the parties may submit questions to the Court to ask. (e.g. a particularly sensitive area of inquiry).
What are your peremptory challenge procedures?
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?
The time limits are discussed with counsel and determined based on the nature and complexity of the case.
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, make non-speaking, succinct objection. The Court allows sidebar conferences as appropriate. However, sidebars will be limited to those issues that would prejudice the parties if discussed in open court. To the extent reasonably possible, the Court requires the parties to anticipate and discuss potential evidentiary problems prior to putting a witness on the stand and to bring the issue to his attention in the morning prior to the jury coming in, during breaks and in the afternoon after the jury leaves so that he may rule on the matter. The Court will always be available for hearing these matters outside the presence of the jury if the parties timely advise him or his staff. The Court encourages and expects counsel to confer beforehand on such matters to the extent reasonably possible. Counsel should also attempt to agree on the admissibility of exhibits prior to offering them. This too, should be done before the jury is brought into the courtroom.
When do you require counsel to file proposed jury instructions?
Proposed jury instructions and verdict form must be submitted at least ONE WEEK prior to the beginning of the trial calendar. The parties shall submit a SINGLE JOINT set of proposed jury instructions and verdict form, though the parties need not agree on the proposed language of each or any instruction or question on the verdict form. Where the parties do agree on a proposed instruction or question, that instruction or question shall be set forth in Times New Roman 14 point typeface. Instructions and questions proposed only by the plaintiff(s) to which the defendant(s) object shall be italicized. Instructions and questions proposed only the defendant(s) to which the plaintiff(s) object shall be bold-faced. Each jury instruction shall be typed on a separate sheet and must be supported by citations of authority. Each disputed jury instruction shall also state the basis for the objection(s) at the bottom of the sheet, before the citations of authority. In preparing their requested jury instruction, the parties shall utilize as a guide the Pattern Jury Instructions for Civil Cases approved by the United States Eleventh Circuit, including the Directions to Counsel contained therein. A copy of the proposed jury instructions and verdict form shall be delivered to chambers at the time of filing, together with a computer disk compatible with Corel WordPerfect version 8.0.
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?
One week in advance of trial.
Should the proposed findings and conclusions also be submitted to chambers electronically?
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, well in advance of 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?
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 of counsel to talk to one another about potential evidentiary problems, including admissibility of exhibits, before those problems arise in the middle of trial, in front of the jury.Attorneys who are late and unprepared for hearings or trial. If an attorney realizes he/she will be late, the attorney should promptly advise the court's staff so the Court and opposing counsel know when to expect counsel.
Do you have any other practice pointers, advice, observations, or suggestions for members of the Bar appearing before you?
Yes, see the attached Advocacy Tips PDF for "Some Friendly, Random Advice On Federal Court Advocacy"